Q & A with Kylie's Heel Author Susan K. Perry
Read about one writer's psychological journey from nonfiction to fiction.
Posted Aug 17, 2013
Q: You've already made a name for yourself as a successful nonfiction writer. What influenced you to want to write fiction?
To tell the truth, I was getting bored with the limitations of the kind of how-to and service articles and books I was writing. I've read some great creative nonfiction books, but many of those require more intensive research than I want to do (and I'd done so much for Writing in Flow and for Loving in Flow anyway). Fiction offered me a chance to learn something new; it was a kind of writing I figured I was capable of "mastering" with enough effort. It's good to stretch if you're going to enter that lovely flow state.
Q: What inspired you to write Kylie's Heel? Where did the idea for this story come from?
Well over a decade ago, I began taking notes for what I was calling Baby Dreams. The whole year prior to my second son leaving the nest, I had so many dreams about babies. I wrote a lot of them down. I thought maybe this might become a nonfiction book about how women feel about their empty nest. Then I went back to school for my doctorate, studied human development and creativity and flow, and wrote Writing in Flow based on interviews with authors and poets.
That's when I decided, hey, I want to try that making-up-stuff for myself. So I took my old journals and notes and allowed myself to imagine a good life overturned by a mother's most horrifying fear. I didn't know how it would end until I got close to the end. And I think all this writing was a kind of catharsis for me. It helped me see that, sure, having one's kids grow up is a bit sad, a bit like a death (certainly a death of a way of life), but it's not nearly as bad as what my character had to endure.
Q: How has your extensive knowledge of psychology influenced the story you're telling in Kylie's Heel?
My psychology background helped a lot. Some of that was due to my knowing about certain aspects of human behavior, and some of it was more intuitive. I was able to imagine grief in a way I hadn't experienced, but others have told me I got it absolutely right. I was able to contrast the two sisters in the novel, though I've never had a sibling.
Because I'd learned to be open-minded while studying psychology, I could let myself perceive the world through a variety of lenses, including that of a born-again Christian. Some things, of course, I had to look up to verify, such as how many molecules of a scent are required to smell something across the house, or what some autistics focus on when they watch a couple kissing. The much-used "Emotion Away Spray" is my own invention.
Q: You have said that the novel was several years in the making. What kept you motivated not to give up?
I simply don't give up when something's important to me, whether a relationship or a book. I sent queries out to agents and publishers, and each time I got a batch back (many with encouraging specifics, but no sale), I went back and revised and tried again. I suppose the fact that I'd used my own old journals, and had set it in my own neighborhood, and had "used" everyone and everything I know in one way or another, made this especially hard to turn my back on. I did begin another novel while waiting to sell this one, but I kept coming back to Kylie. Her life is very real to me, and I couldn't let her stay in my computer forever.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about your novel, where people can learn more about it, and where they can get it.
Kylie's Heel is about how a woman who calls herself rational, and in fact writes a column for her local newspaper called "A Rational Woman," copes when all the worst of her fears actually happen.
Readers can get a head start by reading an excerpt on the publisher's site; you'll also find a Reader's Guide and some of the novel's cool pre-publication praise. Buying info is also there (paperback from the publisher, or ebook from online sellers such as Amazon.com). The ebook has photos and a way to share comments with other readers.
Q: Is there anything you'd like both readers, both atheists and theists, to get from the book?
What I hope is that humanists and atheists and other freethinkers will feel a sense of connection to Kylie, to me, and to other non-theists. Not a lot of literary or women's fiction (both of which this is) seem to have outspoken female non-believers as a main character. I hope, too, that some open-minded believers will gain a better understanding of non-theists from reading Kylie's Heel.
And I would certainly love it if both women and men came to realize that one can be intensely connected to family and profoundly emotional, while at the same time be of a scientific and skeptical bent. For me, that's the best way toward a sane future, and that's why I've "come out" with Kylie's Heel and my new blogs.