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Monday, November 4, 2013

This Much Is True, Katherine Owens

 Q & A with Katherine Owen, author of This Much Is True
Tell about yourself; who ARE you?
Dark. Edgy. Contemporary. Romantic.

Were we describing me? Or my fiction? Sorry. I drink too, not enough water.

I swear too much for God and my mother, and I slip these into my fiction. Sorry.

I'm impatient, a perfectionist, a wordsmith, a dreamer, which ends up being good and bad. I'm a workaholic; ask my fam-dam-ily.

I've written four novels in as many years: Seeing Julia, Not To Us, When I See You, and my latest release This Much Is True.

If you love angsty, unpredictable love stories, I'm yours.

Give us the short version for This Much Is True
A challenge right away because this is a long novel (432 pages in print).

Fate brings them together.
Fame & lies keep them apart.
One truth remains…

She’s become the Paly High girl with the most tragic story…
His only focus is baseball, but he can’t forget the girl he saved on Valentine’s Day…
They share this incredible connection, but fate soon tests these star-crossed lovers in all kinds of ways...
And yet, despite the lies being told to protect the other, and the trappings of fame that continually separate them, and in lieu of the deception by those they’ve come to trust the most; one truth remains.
This much is true. 

Where does the story come from?
I took classes with The Writer’s Studio a few years ago, and this novel developed from a two-page assignment we did for one of my advanced fiction classes. Tally Landon evolved over time. Lincoln Presley was set in my mind from the beginning as this star athlete on the verge of fame and the girl he meets who mirrors his dedication and intensity in her own right for her artistic talent. And yet, their passion tests them both in different ways along with everything else that transpires in the story.

How is this a story that only you could have written?
I created this entire story in my mind. I started out with the what-if questions.  What if you had everything? Or thought you did and then life happened and changed up everything in a single instant? This happens to both characters in different ways more than once. One of the things I came to realize with this novel—my fourth one—in which I think I finally got it—my process—is I live and breathe with these characters for so long I really do know them by the time I’ve completed the story. It’s true. I know how they would say things and think about them and what they would and would not do. It’s uncanny. When I’m finished, I miss all these characters because they’ve been such an active part of my psyche for so long.
This story took a year and a half to write. I’m pretty sure my writing process drives my family crazy because I am in another world much of the time while writing and thinking through the story line.  So? Who else could have written it when it comes together like that?

What was the hardest thing about writing This Much Is True?
I battled a lot of self-doubt with this one. I thought writing When I See You was hard but This Much Is True was harder still. Part of it is me with some noticeable perfectionist tendencies. I put pressure on myself to ensure the story was better than my last which When I See You was pretty damn good and my readers were anxiously awaiting another book, and I still wasn’t done with This Much Is True. The story was going long, and I debated upon doing two books, which would have been the easy way out but I really felt committed to telling their whole story in one. So it’s two books in one, literally. Still the other day one of my newest readers on Goodreads took a star off of her 5-star rating of TMIT because she wanted a longer ending. It’s 432 pages already; go figure that one out.

What do you LOVE about This Much Is True?
This is a great story. It has everything in it from the coming of age angle with Tally starting out at seventeen to the older amazingly talented baseball player in Lincoln Presley and these two confronting and battling the trappings of fame and lies and what love is really all about. It’s a masochist read as one reviewer put it. The truth is I’ve had some AMAZING reader reactions to this book that have put me in tears because they get me and this book. It is the ultimate gratifying experience for this author, let me tell you.

Give us your favorite passage from the story:
I love this one because it is the epitome of Tally and what she struggles with within herself…
Tally Landon’s POV
Marla announces she wants babies. Three babies in five years. She looks at me. I start to feel nauseous and must turn a little white. I look away from her and allow myself to think all these nasty thoughts. Three babies in five years with Charlie? Are you fucking kidding me? That doesn’t add up on any girl’s wish list. Charlie Masterson. A father? Say it isn’t so.
Yet she lays out this family plan the way you’d say, “After yoga, I’ll go to Lia’s for the mani-special and then wax on about hairstyles and hemlines until dinner.”
If I were gifted at making long-term plans, which by now we all know I’m not, and if I was at all hopeful, which we all know that I can never be, although it crosses my mind that it’s entirely possible these are all just huge, fucking, temporary setbacks and nothing more, even though it’s been going on for over three years now, since Holly died, and I met Lincoln Presley. Events that could be construed as somehow inevitably related. Yes, perhaps there’s an expiration date on the said pursuit of unhappiness. Perhaps, things will eventually go my way after I actually discover what that way is supposed to be.

And this one because it is the epitome of Lincoln Presley and my writing of him.
Lincoln Presley’s POV
Yet, in the light of day, at half past eight, all I have left of her is this note. Her fucking note. A note that doesn’t tell me anything and simply thanks me. Thanks me. She didn’t even sign her name. For some reason, this bothers me on a whole separate level. I stand still for a long time, holding the note, and let it all sink in. Her leaving is almost palpable like a gale-force wind that’s rolled into my life in the span of a single evening and left behind all this incalculable destruction, both inside and out. Yes, the tempest has passed, but the air around me feels different. I can hardly breathe. Nothing is the same without her. As the lone survivor of her particular storm, I begin to wonder just exactly what I’m supposed to do now.
It’s only later, after wandering listlessly around the guest house for another hour, after I eventually resign myself to the unenviable task of cleaning everything up and throwing away the empty champagne bottle we shared; after I wash the wine glass smudged with her lipstick; after I purposefully pick up and look through each and every one of the DVDs she touched and so casually left in a forsaken heap stacked precariously at the edge of the great room rug so clearly forgotten by her, which seemingly represents this wry reflection of myself that even I can admit to; it’s only after I pushed the heavy furniture pieces back into place and, in essence, effectively erase all genuine evidence of her incredible presence from the night before; yes, only after all of that, do I realize I have absolutely no way to get in touch with her.
I’m practically paralyzed with equal doses of disappointment and despair at the cruelty of this one indelible fact. Yes, this hits me hard because I want to see her again, need to see her again; and yet, I have no way to get in touch with her. I begin to wonder if that was her intention with me all along.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I have two different WIPs going on in my mind competing for thoughts and time. Saving Valentines which I hope to finish by the end of the year and another yet-to-be-named WIP that is about four girls graduating from high school and reuniting years later and seeing the unexpected changes in all of them and how tragedy unites them, changes them and threatens to tear them apart in different ways. All complex stuff told from multiple POVs and gender. Damn. Why do I come up with this stuff?
One of my readers did a board of This Much Is True ~ amazing:

BUY THE BOOK/eBook/Kindle here:
Barnes and Noble:
Apple iBookstore/iTunes

Print Trade Paperback 6”X9” at Amazon & Barnes and Noble

Two different excerpts to choose from…
Excerpt from Chapter Six of This Much Is True

Another interested guy tops off my glass with more of the red bubbling punch. This one is definitely older with a striking resemblance to the iconic said host of this party.
In need of a distraction from Marla’s love situation, I profusely thank this latest interested guy for the top-off. I’m overzealous. I check myself and strive for nonchalance with him, strive for the sophistication bestowed upon me by my dead sister’s designer clothes, Marla’s application of flawless make-up, and the general personification of Holly’s lively personality I’ve managed to perfect over the years. We make idle chatter about the holidays, the break from school, the lame red punch, and the limited food offerings—the opened chip bags haphazardly strewn about. I attempt to keep a keen eye on Marla, who has returned from upstairs, and now gyrates to some love song with the same more-than-casually-interested guy from before, while Charlie watches her like a self-appointed chaperon intent on saving her virtue.
The effects of spiked punch begin to descend upon me. I again glance over at covetous actions of Charlie Masterson, who is now having a heated discussion with my best friend on the other side of the room, gesturing this way and that towards the more-than-casually-interested first guy, who gyrates on the dance floor by himself.
I start towards Marla, but she waves me off. Unsure of what I should be doing, I find myself in the middle of the dance floor. Alone. To hide my embarrassment at being caught up alone in the middle of the room, I pretend to take an ever-increasing interest in the sparkling lights that someone has meticulously trailed along the ceiling’s edge. A little glazed now, the lights shimmer at me; I swill my drink in salutation. The interested guy from earlier stands in front of me again.
Tall. Dark. Handsome.
He is the clich√© for sex on a stick, but he’s kept me company during the past half-hour. I brazenly take in this male-model look he has going on with his dark-brown wavy hair and his devastating, too-white smile and his tall lean body. Sure. Okay. Bring it on.
“I’m Linc,” he says during a respite from the loud music.
“As in President Abraham—”
“Not funny.” He sighs and shakes his head side-to-side and gets this disconcerted look. “Lincoln Presley.”
“Elvis is in the building then,” I deadpan.
He looks taken aback now. “What did you say?”
“I said…” I lose my train of thought because he is stunning—so good-looking, in fact—that these warning bells seem to go off in my head. I shake it to try to shut them off. “Never mind.” His look is weirding me out as if I know him from somewhere. “You remember,” I say softly. “Elvis?”
“I remember,” he says slowly and gets this expectant look. “Do you remember?”
I’m just staring at him open-mouthed. “No. My mom loved him when she was a teenager. I like a few of his songs…” My voice trails off because he looks disappointed by my answer, and I’m not sure why.
“Don’t you remember?” he asks again.
“Remember what?” I look at him blankly and then break his gaze and start toward the punch bowl for a fifth round.
He takes the glass from my hand and then hands me bottled water. “Drink this. That stuff has Everclear in it. You shouldn’t have any more of that unless you’re going for anesthetization.”
“Gallant. How noble of you,” I say with as much sarcasm as I can. Then I shake off his concerned hand on my arm, uncap the bottled water, and drink it down. “Happy now?”
He nods slowly and eventually smiles and then proceeds to take me in from head-to-toe in one long, practiced, seductive move. Smooth. I laugh because he’s so blatant about his interest in me now.
“How are you?” he asks when the music stops playing for a few welcome seconds.
An odd thing to ask of a stranger.
“I’m fine.” I give him a bewildered what-the-hell-are-you-asking-me-that-for? look.
He leans in. “Who are you?”
“Oh.” I half-smile. “Holly,” I say with an airy wave of my right hand. The lie comes so easily to my lips that I surprise myself with the ease in which I tell it.
It is true, when you want to, you can be someone else. Seuss-like.
“Let’s dance, Holly.”
I don’t know why I say yes to him. I don’t dance at parties. I save that for my training, usually, but there’s something about him that has me gyrating out on the dance floor, getting bolder with every song they play. All kinds of things are being communicated between us, the least of which is this overriding uninhibited sexual attraction for one another.
We both know where this is going.

Excerpt from Chapter Seven of This Much Is True

The lies have just built upon one another. One follows the other like connected dots on a road map; but this path leads me to him, and I can’t stop now. Not yet. I hold my breath and take quick inventory one by one of the lies I’ve told him. Name. Age. Birth control. What am I doing? Why am I doing it?
He shakes his head. Then he walks over to his night stand, blithely opens the drawer, and holds up a foil packet in triumph. I take in air and slowly exhale with relief and nod with approval of his Cracker Jack prize. When it comes to contraception, I’m normally better prepared than this—but then nothing is normal anymore.
“Oh, good. Yes, let’s use that, too.” Then my nerves get the better of me and begin to take over. I’m shaking. What the hell is wrong with me? This is standard operating procedure. I attempt to affect a casual air, slip off his bed and out of his arms, and resume my innocuous tour of his room. The top two rows are filled with books. I finger each one and read the names aloud. “Shakespeare, Hemingway, Cheever? Have you read any of these?”
“No. I’m pre-med at Stanford, but the major leagues are interested. The draft is coming up. We’ll see what happens with baseball soon enough,” he says, looking a little uneasy.
“Stanford. Nice. My dad went there. He’s a doctor—a surgeon. They’d like me to consider Stanford, but I like NYU…” I shrug with nonchalance and have to hope he won’t ask me anymore and wonder why I brought all this up to him in the first place. I’ve sent in registration papers for NYU, but I won’t have time to go there. But isn’t that what a twenty-year-old would be doing? Going to college? Desperate at my over-sharing ways, I switch topics. “Dad saves a lot people—most of them anyway.” I turn, look at Linc, and frown. I’m momentarily stopped by all these thoughts of Holly that unexpectedly come rushing back at me in saying this. We can’t save everyone, now can we? “Is that what you want to do? Save a lot of people?” I can’t keep the sadness out of my voice.
“Saving people is the ultimate,” he says with this disquiet. His grey-blue eyes darken, and he gets this intense look.
I’m not completely sure what I’ve done or said to upset him as much as I have myself. I automatically step back from him, intent on fighting the demons plaguing me from the inside alone. Our unsteady breaths begin to match up, and I look at him in growing bewilderment.
“I don’t need saving.”
“No one said you did.”
“Really? No one said anything to you at the party? Marla didn’t talk up my particular assets? Lay the Landon girl because she fucking needs it.”
“Who’s Marla?”
Oh shit.
“I’m Holly and definitely not the one you want to get involved with.” I start toward the door. For some unknowable reason, he scares me. I feel out of control. This whole scene has become too much, and all I want to do now is leave. Then I remember my bag. I put it on his bed at one point. I close my eyes for a second, willing myself to get it together. I turn around and face him. “My bag. I need it. It’s got my stuff.”
He’s just staring at me—wary, of course—because I’m sure I sound like a flipping lunatic.
“Stay. I’m scared, too, because baseball is my sole focus.” Then, he shakes his head and gets this apologetic look. “Med school is a plan B. I’m trying to finish early with an undergraduate degree in biology, but it doesn’t really matter. My dad is intent on me having me play in the Majors…Baseball is my sole focus. If all goes according to the plan, I’ll get drafted in the first or second round, play in some minor league working up to triple-A ball and eventually make my way up to Major League Baseball in the next couple of years. Baseball. That’s all there is. That’s the way it has to be.”
He gives me this quizzical look as if to ensure I’ve heard all he’s said. Then he slowly appraises me just like before. It’s disconcerting as if I’m auditioning for some kind of part. He shakes his head and slowly smiles. “We should go.”
“We should go,” I echo his words, defiantly lift my chin, and look right at him. “Most definitely.”
He doesn’t say anything for a few minutes. He seems to be wrestling with indecision. Frustrated by his silence, I turn and start toward the door again.
“You’re an incredible dancer,” he says from behind me. “But you know that.”
I glance back at him again with a little smile and then turn to face him more fully. “I’ve been told…I have talent. I’m expected to be the next Polina Semionova.” I smile wide and laugh at his confused face. “And you don’t even know who that is.” He gets this sexy half-smile and shakes his head side-to-side, looking apologetic. I nod and flip my hand toward him. “That’s big, like Major League Baseball kind of big, Elvis.” I shake my head at him. “Look, I don’t want anything from you.”
He looks relieved at what I’ve said and I battle this distinct feeling of crushing disappointment at seeing it. “And you shouldn’t expect anything from me, either,” I say more unkindly than I intended.
Now he looks surprisingly disconcerted by what I’ve just said. I take a step back from him because, for some reason, I’m on edge again. As a counterbalance for feeling so mysteriously out of control, I put my hands on my hips and breathe out, daring him to come closer, daring him not to.
I hesitate and weigh my options—leave or stay.
I’m not really sure what I’m doing here any longer. Seducing guys is normally the easy part. I get what I want. They get what they want. We move on. One night together, here or there; sometimes not often, a party or two afterward together; and then there is the inevitable ending. Because nobody gets that I have dance class. All the time. That I don’t ever have a night off. That I don’t eat often. That I rarely drink. That I do little else but dance and train.
Sure. People admire the dedication but then they resent it. And me.
So. There are no promises. No phone calls. No texts. No birthday cards. No love notes. No flowers. No dates. No prom. There is only dance class and training; and rehearsals and performances. A decade of those. A decade of life on a stage or in a class. Five picture albums capture every performing moment and every starring role I’ve ever had, but little else, because there has been nothing else in all that time. Because when you’ve got the talent you have to constantly train for it and perfect it in order to reach and remain at the top—the most exceptional level of high achievement. Always.
Surely, the baseball player knows this.
It was easier to conduct these superficial encounters in New York last summer. Marla and I soon discovered after our arrival there that everyone was on their way to being someone else. The superficiality of it all was not lost on anyone in that town; there, everyone seemed to know that relationships were deal-breakers on the way to fame and fortune. Surely, Lincoln Presley knows this, too. Because who has time for such a distraction? The rules—in perfecting a God-given talent and ultimately seeking fame—are known, followed, and kept. Things are casual, however physical, and definitely noncommittal. The way things are.
Even so, here in Palo Alto’s hometown sphere, the moral considerations for casual sex and no commitments have become strangely confusing. I’m caught between who I was before Holly died and who I am now. Is there a difference?
The old Tally needed casual sex; wanted it, in fact. I was noncommittal, detached and uninvolved. That’s all I asked for and needed. Then.
And now? I steadfastly hold on to the belief that there can be no commitments of any kind beyond ballet because I don’t want any complications. I still say no to: most phone calls, to most texts, to most movies, to most parties, to all school dances, to all Friday-night football games, to all prom and dinner dates. What’s the point of going to dinner with someone who is just going to end up questioning why I don’t ever eat anything?
I don’t need them. I don’t want them.
I am so right about this.
“Would you like to go out sometime? Not this weekend.” He shakes his head side-to-side and looks hopeful. “I fly out to Tempe, Arizona tomorrow, after my game. And then we have Regionals next weekend, but I know this great Italian place we could go to sometime and maybe we could catch a movie or something afterward.”
It takes a full minute to comprehend what he’s just asked me. I take a step back and eye him in disbelief. “Are you asking me out? On a date? To dinner and a movie?” I’m incredulous that he’s somehow guessed at my most recent and truly errant thoughts.
“That’s about the safest thing I can think of…to do…with you.” He half-smiles and looks a little dazed and unsure of himself at the same time.
“The safest thing?” I wave my hand around his bedroom. “I don’t do dinner or go to movies. And this is a strange conversation to be having here in your bedroom.”
“How about now? Did you eat dinner?” He moves swiftly past me, opens the door, and starts down the hallway.
“No.” I follow him more out of curiosity than anything wondering why we’re talking about a future date and dinner.
“Did you want to go back? To the party?” he asks, turning back to me briefly.
I don’t answer. No. I just slowly trail after him and watch him make his way to the kitchen.
Yes.” I finally say, with this discernible, petulant whine. “I want to go back to the party.” I cross my arms across my chest, but he essentially ignores what I’ve said and keeps on walking. “I don’t eat, actually,” I say airily.
He turns back to me again, shakes his head, and gets this secret smile as if I just presented him with the ultimate challenge. And maybe I have.
“Bring it, Elvis.”
He laughs.