Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Q&A with Holly C. LaBarbera




Holly C. LaBarbera is the author of the new novel All I Know. She also is a psychotherapist, and she teaches at Santa Clara University. She lives in the San Francisco area.


Q: What inspired you to write All I Know, and how did you create your character Kai?


A: The early inspiration for this story started with a crush I had on a family friend in my childhood. Our families are entirely different from those portrayed in All I Know, but the idea of what it would be like to end up with someone who knows your whole life intrigued me.


Kai felt less like a creation by me and more like a gift to me. She simply came to life in my head, and the more I got to know her, the more I loved her.


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


A: I knew the basic brushstrokes of how the story would end pretty early on, but I did play around with the details of how things would settle between Kai and Josh. I experimented with a neatly tied up bow of an ending and with a very ambiguous one, eventually settling on something in between.

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


A: Kai’s last line in the book is, “That’s all I know. And it is enough.”


Almost from the start, I envisioned the book in three parts, Certainty, Doubt, and Faith, representing Kai’s journey from a precocious child who is sure of everything, through a turbulent and traumatic childhood where she no longer feels she can rely on anything.


Eventually, Kai finds faith in herself and in the idea that although certainty is elusive, what she does know is enough to move through a beautiful, messy, unpredictable world.


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


A: This is a story about strength and resilience, rising from devastation to build and rebuild a life, over and over again.


It is about the power women contain within themselves that is often buried and needs to be discovered. It reminds the reader of the power of female friendships, which can sometimes be more significant than romantic partners.


It explores the heartbreaking truth that as much as we try to help the people we love, we can only truly save ourselves.


I hope readers will get a sense of hope, inspiration and empowerment from reading All I Know.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My current work in progress is a departure from All I Know, more of a psychological thriller.


The story opens with the main character, Tess, watching as her ex-husband is killed according to a plan she has choreographed. Yet the story actually begins two years before the opening murder scene as the reader learns all that has happened to drive Tess to such an extreme act.


The novel is told through trios of chapters, alternating viewpoints between Tess; Derek, her doomed ex-husband; and Laney, their teenaged daughter.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: This story is a way for me to honor all the difficult stories I’ve heard from the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with over the years as a psychotherapist, not to mention the personal experiences of friends and relatives who have been challenged in ways similar to the characters in my book, loved ones who have struggled with depression, addiction, trauma, codependency, and grief.


I have been inspired by their strength, courage, and resilience, and wanted to create a story that shows all of the hardship and sadness and beauty and hope that are a part of life.


I also love a good love story and wanted to write something that was romantic, yet went beyond romantic love to encompass the many forms love takes: exploring the depth of sibling bonds, the power of female friendships, the complexity of parent-child relationships, and the importance of loving oneself.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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