Please welcome Kathleen Heady, author of Hotel Saint Clare and other novels.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day begins with coffee and my cats, and ideally it would be followed by a walk on the beach. I would spend some time writing in the morning, and later in the day cook some good local, fresh food, have dinner with friends, and laugh a lot. An alternative perfect day would happen when I am traveling. After a delicious breakfast with coffee or tea (you can see I am a caffeine fan), I would take off, either alone or with a friend, to explore something new. It could be a castle, a hike in the woods, a museum. And then back for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
No, I don’t. I am always trying new things, and I like to surprise people. If someone says to me, “You always . . . .” I will do my best to change what I do.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
In chronological order of their appearance in my life, the first would be Mrs. Inez Galbreath, my kindergarten and piano teacher in the small town in Illinois where I grew up. She was patience personified, but at the same time always pushed me to do better than I thought I could do at the piano. The second is my dear friend Julie Horst, whom I met when teaching in Costa Rica. She is full of imagination and laughter, and is also a thoughtful reader of early drafts of my stories. The third is Peter Murphy, who facilitates writers’ retreats and workshops in New Jersey, near where I live, and in Europe. He has a knack for stretching the imagination and opening my mind to new ideas.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I rarely listen to music while I write. It distracts me. My brain wants to sing or play an instrument instead of write. The exception is when I have worked on stories set in the 1940s. I have listened to Big Band music to set the mood.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Since my latest novel is set in the tropics, it would be chocolate nibs with macadamia nuts.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
The setting of Hotel Saint Clare was inspired by my years living in Costa Rica. I especially love the Caribbean coast of that country, and the story I wrote is loosely based on that area. My main character, Nara, was based on a young woman by that name whom I met in Costa Rica. Of course, after I began to write the book, my character Nara took on a life of her own and has nothing in common with her namesake other than the name.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Almost everything I have written features a strong, young woman conquering obstacles, whether the obstacle is part of herself, a situation (such as Lydia during World War II in Lydia’s Story), or other people who are stifling her independence and sense of self. In my latest project I am touching on the theme of materialism and what is truly valuable in life.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Nara Blake, the protagonist in all three of my novels, is a bi-racial woman in her twenties, whose father is a British businessman and her mother, who died when Nara was three, was a native of the Caribbean island of Saint Clare. Nara’s personality reflects both worlds. She is intelligent and feisty. She has the practicality of her British background as well as a spirituality and mystical nature from the islands. She appears fragile, but is not someone to trifle with.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I’m sorry. I couldn’t do this. Nara Blake has been a part of my life for so long that she is only herself. She has some similarities with Hermione in the Harry Potter series, a little bit of Maisie Dobbs in Jacqueline Winspear’s wonderful series, and maybe the third one is myself, although I am neither famous nor a fictional character.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, Agatha Christie, Langston Hughes, J.K. Rowling, and Winston Churchill. Although Churchill is not known primarily as an author, he wrote enough to include, and I think would add a fascinating dynamic to the group.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a young adult historical fantasy set during the time of King John of England in the early thirteenth century. This is something a bit different for me, but still with the British connection and a strong female protagonist.
Kathleen Heady is a native of rural Illinois, but has lived and traveled many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain and seven years living in Costa Rica. Her third novel, Hotel Saint Clare, was released in June, 2014. She is also the author of Lydia’s Story and The Gate House, which was a finalist for an EPIC award in 2011.