|Andrea Bobotis, photo by Amanda Tipton|
Andrea Bobotis is the author of the new novel The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Victorian Studies and the Irish University Review, and she lives in Denver, Colorado.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt?
A: My novel is based on a murder that happened in my family two generations before me. It was a story I'd heard all throughout my childhood, and I think I had to write it down in order to free myself of it.
Q: The novel takes place in a South Carolina town--how important is setting to you in your work?
A: Very important! I would go so far as to say that setting is a separate character in my novel. The fictional town of Bound, South Carolina, is small and insular enough to provide a perfect breeding ground for the secrets and intense family dynamics that drive the plot.
What's more, my novel is set in the late 1980s, when the textile industry is beginning to collapse in the South, with flashbacks to the onset of the Great Depression, when dependence on cotton deepened economic loss. Ultimately, the decline of the textile industry mirrors the decline of my book's central family, the Kratts.
Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book? What did you learn that especially surprised you?
A: I was lucky to inherit several short histories—published, self-published, and unpublished—of Sharon, South Carolina, my mom's hometown. Those histories were a special part of my research in that they provided personalized, detailed, ear-to-the-ground perspectives of Depression-era South Carolina.
Reading those histories, I was surprised to see how honest the writers were about their hometown—the dark parts of their town's history as well as its successes.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: In early drafts, I was attempting to write a faithful retelling of the murder that occurred in my family. But those drafts kept falling flat because I knew how that story ended. Without a sense of discovery, that version of the manuscript lacked the propulsion it needed.
Once I allowed myself to diverge from the real-life story, my manuscript found its legs. In other words, not knowing the ending was essential for my writing process.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My next novel is set in Florida and focuses on the friendship and betrayal of two teenage girls.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I like to remind novelists that they should be reading a lot of poetry! Poets are masters of rhythm and demonstrate incredible dexterity with language. My prose is always stronger after I read poems.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb