Friday, November 18, 2022

Q&A with Catherine Adel West




Catherine Adel West is the author of the new novel The Two Lives of Sara. She also has written the novel Saving Ruby King, which features characters from the same family. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Black Fox Literary Magazine and Five2One. She lives in Chicago.


Q: Why did you decide to return to the King family in your new novel, The Two Lives of Sara?


A: Strategically and creatively it was the best option for me. I knew I wanted to write The Two Lives of Sara before I finished my debut novel, Saving Ruby King. But at that point in 2017, I didn’t even have a literary agent, let alone a publisher, so I didn’t invest too much into how I’d do it or what the story in its depths would even be.


However, this book (or its remnants) was always in the back of my mind. When the time came to pitch some ideas to Park Row/HarperCollins for Book 2, I went with the story I had a passion for and a character I loved. I don’t think you can go wrong with that!


Q: Without giving too much away, how do you think this new novel illuminates the actions of your characters in Saving Ruby King?


A: The Two Lives of Sara is a companion novel to Saving Ruby King, not necessarily a prequel, so the books can be read in any order.


The Two Lives of Sara mainly focuses on Sara King (the mother of Lebanon King, Ruby’s grandmother) so I think we get to see what shaped and ultimately solidified her character. We also get to see Sara as a friend, a reluctant, adopted daughter, a hopeful person, and a young mother. And while Sara is most certainly guarded, she’s not the hardened woman introduced when you meet her in Saving Ruby King.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The Two Lives of Sara was originally titled “Becoming Sara King,” but the publisher felt it was too close to Saving Ruby King (but that was my intention). I think the decision was made to try and differentiate the books from one another by title.


There were a lot of ideas, but when I posed the option “The Two Lives of Sara,” I think it was seen by myself as a way to draw a line between who Sara was both before and after her time in Memphis and how her decisions and those decisions made around her had reverberating repercussions for generations. That’s powerful. Thankfully, the publisher agreed, and we had a title!


Q: The novel takes place in early 1960s Memphis--how did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: As I’ve said in interviews before, I originally intended to go to Memphis and do some research there, but the pandemic halted that plan. So, a lot of the research I did came from books, newspaper articles, academic papers, and personal interviews I conducted over Zoom.


As I only had a cursory knowledge of Memphis, I learned so many things about the city’s history including discovering additional civil rights icons like Robert Church and Maxine Smith and I also learned about boarding houses and hotels catering to traveling African-Americans.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I’m working on a book that blends a few genres including speculative fiction, urban fiction, and literary fiction along with religious elements used in a somewhat satirical way. I’m really excited about it. That’s all I’ll say. 😊


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love interacting with my readers. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter under @cawest329 and my author website


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Catherine Adel West.

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