Friday, August 12, 2022

Q&A with Kate Brook




Kate Brook is the author of the new novel Not Exactly What I Had in Mind. She lives in London.


Q: What inspired you to write Not Exactly What I Had in Mind?


A: I’d always wanted to write a novel. At the time I started this one, I was working on a Ph.D. thesis in literature, and while I was enjoying it, I felt a bit disillusioned knowing that I was pouring huge amounts of time and energy into something only a few people would ever read.


I really wanted to write something that would have widespread appeal, and that was why I decided to write a love story in particular, because love is one of the most universal topics – the polar opposite of the very specialised topics I was researching for my Ph.D.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the novel says, in part, “Brook’s enjoyable debut tackles the messiness of love and family.” What do you think of that description, and how would you describe the dynamics among your characters?


A: I think it’s highly accurate! The love and family depicted in the book are probably messier than most, but it’s precisely that messiness that leads to some very strong – and unique – bonds between the characters.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had no idea! I’m very much not a planner. There were certain events and plot points I’d thought of in advance, and I was working towards them but didn’t necessarily know how I was going to get there – sort of like road trip, when you’re aiming for a particular place but don’t know exactly what route you’re taking or what the scenery will be like on the way.


And – if you’ll excuse the extended metaphor – I didn’t know what the final destination was until I reached it. There was no epilogue in my first draft, and I honestly didn’t realise I’d arrived at the ending until just after I’d written what was, at that time, the last sentence. It was a great feeling, realising I could finally type the words “THE END.”


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope it makes them feel a broad range of emotions, that they can recognise something of their own experience in it, and that it speaks to the moment we are living in now.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m in the very early stages of a new novel, but I can’t tell you what it’s about because I don’t fully know yet myself! I’ve also got quite a few short stories and essays on my laptop in various stages of completion, so I’m aiming to get some of those finished over the next few months.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The novel has had three titles in total. The working title was The Age of Anxiety, which got changed to Everybody Loves Alfie at submissions stage. I thought of dozens of (mostly rubbish) alternatives before finally settling on Not Exactly What I Had in Mind – to my great relief, because it was starting to drive me crazy!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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