Kait Nolan gives us raw, bold and inspiring novels that empower us, teach us to be brave and remind us that it doesn’t make us weak to ask for help. Her books provide sweet romances and friendships whilst showing the difficulties in finding yourself and how to overcome these difficulties in order to be yourself. She teaches us to follow our own hearts, and not to let anyone else carve our path for us.
Not only does Nolan an author, but she also juggles three other jobs. This Mississippi native has a story for everyone, whether that’s an action-packed paranormal, a Southern contemporary romance, or a nice short story. When she’s not working or writing, Nolan’s hanging out in her kitchen cooking and wishing life were a Broadway musical.
In a recent and exclusive interview, Nolan talks about her writing, her Wishful series and if her books have a “deeper meaning”.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration for writing, and why did you choose writing for a career?
KN: I considered about eleven thousand snarky responses here because this is not a simple question to answer. The fact is, inspiration is everywhere. I get bunnied with new ideas literally every day—from stuff I read or see or overhear or sometimes just like a lightning bolt to the brain. Non-writers will sometimes ask “Aren’t you afraid you’ll run out of ideas?” and I just start laughing maniacally because, no, that will NEVER be a problem. I literally have enough ideas at any given moment to keep me occupied, full-time, for the next fifteen or twenty years. And I chose writing because nothing else was going to make me happy.
Q: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
KN: I suppose the answer to that would be Nora Roberts. She was my introduction to romance. I was fourteen and the book was Montana Sky. Up to that point, I’d been a hard-core mystery reader, and I stumbled into Montana Sky because it was supposed to have a mystery and suspense. What it also had was three romances for each of the sisters involved—and not what I had imagined romance to be (you have to understand that I grew up in the 80s when the God-awful bodice ripper covers were a thing). I was IN LOVE, and I spent the next decade or so inhaling her entire, voluminous backlist. I expanded my horizons, of course, but I always come back to La Nora because she hits on certain things that are catnip to me as a reader—the family you make yourself, the glorious wonder of close female friends, and she generally writes about everyday people, who generally have their crap together, who don’t need to be somehow fixed to find their happily ever after—they just have to figure out that the other person makes them better and stronger.
Q: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
KN: Oh, I’m a hard-core plotter. I outline extensively before I begin, and even when I get into things, I sometimes stop and have to re-outline if something changes the thrust of the story.
Nolan also went on to talk about her contemporary romance novel, To Get Me To You.
Just a city girl, living in a lonely world.
Displaced Steel Magnolia Norah Burke doesn’t know the meaning of failure. But when she threatens to blow the whistle on some shady business practices at her Chicago marketing firm, she gets fired fast as all get out. Licking her wounds, she heads back below the Mason-Dixon for a little home-grown Southern comfort.
Just a small town boy.
With his iron-clad Mississippi roots, Councilman Cam Crawford is a man who values tradition, preservation, and the love of a good dog. When a big box warehouse store tries to capitalize on his hometown’s economic downturn, it seriously burns his biscuit. He’s not about to let anyone’s ambition destroy what he holds dear.
A David vs. Goliath story with a side of grits.
This unlikely pair just might be the perfect allies–in war and out. But as the battle to stop GrandGoods heats up and sparks of attraction turn to something more, will Norah’s bigger-picture perspective go with Cam’s “keep it as it is” attitude? Are they meant to be like biscuits and gravy? Or are they just as wrong as unsweetened tea?
Q: How did you come up with the idea for To Get Me To You?
KN: I’ve spent most of my life in Mississippi—not in towns quite so small as Wishful, but I’m surrounded by them. The economic realities are that small town life is, in a lot of ways, dying. But there are these little pockets trying to revamp and revitalise. That really appeals to me. So I combined that, with a fervent desire to write something that showcases all the things I love about Mississippi and the small town South. We never get good press…it’s always them finding the DUMBEST person imaginable to describe how the tornado sounded when it ripped through the trailer park or the most racist, bigoted asshat talking about why he’s right and this or that group should be marginalised. In fact, those folks are in the minority. They just have the loudest voices. But I digress. I didn’t have a full appreciation for home until I left it (that happens a lot, I think) and came back, so I really wanted to play with a shero who had done that, who had Mississippi roots that she came back to honour. Throw in a nice automatic conflict of big city girl vs. small town boy and a fight against an evil big box store and bake at 375 for approximately nine months.
Q: Are there any characters in To Get Me To You that you feel as though you can particularly relate to?
KN: Norah, for sure. There’s a lot of me in her (although she’s far more politic and tactful than I). I absolutely have that kind of drive and excessive academic achievement, along with that need to Do All The Things myself.
Q: Did you always know you were going to carry the book on to make your Wishful series or did that idea come later?
KN: To Get Me To You actually didn’t come first. I started with Be Careful, It’s My Heart, which was just supposed to be a lark (I wrote paranormal romance at the time). I love White Christmas, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to do a sort of retelling of the story against a backdrop of a community theatre production of the show. I mentioned Cam and Norah peripherally in that book, with sort of vague hints about the events that had brought Norah to Wishful, but beyond knowing she was something of a transplant who was marrying a hometown boy, I didn’t know much about them. It didn’t matter for Be Careful. Then I went and fell in love with the town, and I knew I had to go back and start at the beginning.
Nolan also went on to talk about the idea of her stories having a “deeper meaning”.
Q: You’ve said that you believe that authors rarely intend for a deeper meaning to their stories, is there a reason you particularly think so?
A: Okay, so I have to qualify this with some background. My attitude on this comes from a long string of English classes forcing me to analyse the books we read in a wholly nonsensical manner. I was the student who got the Cliff’s Notes, not because I didn’t read the book, but because I didn’t “see” what I was “supposed” to see and I got absolutely enraged about it because I was a straight A student. I’m STILL bitter about the B I got on my essay on The Great Gatsby. I was convinced that there was some massive conference every summer, where English teachers got together, picked the books we were going to read, and then opened to a page, pointed to an arbitrary sentence, and then collectively made up whatever the hell they thought it was supposed to mean.
My favourite evidence of this comes from a story about William Faulkner. Now Faulkner is one of the most famous Mississippi authors, and this particular story comes from a time when he was still among the living. There was a college class in California studying his story The Bear and they got into this huge debate about what he intended to say when he wrote the story. So they called him up in Oxford, Mississippi and asked him. There was a pause on the other end of the phone and he said, “I meant to write a hunting story.” And hung up on them. This has always delighted me. The fact that he had a reputation for being a drunkard and an a-hole is neither here nor there. Now, none of this is to say that authors don’t include subtext or theme in their work. Many absolutely do, particularly the good ones, even in purely commercial fiction (which is 100% what I write). But the kind of BS attributions that seem to be made by English teachers or pretentious posers, who are trying to look intelligent, about how the blue curtains symbolise the hero’s long-term struggle with depression are just crap. The curtains are just effing blue. Either because blue is the author’s favourite colour or that was the colour shirt he was wearing or it was the colour crayon her kid scrawled with on the wall. The author wasn’t trying to say anything with the curtains.
My point, I suppose, is that authors write the stories they want to write. They may or may not plan deeper layers to things, but more often than not, any “deeper” meaning found in the text wasn’t laid in by the author, but is something seen by the reader, based on whatever lens of experience they’re looking through. So it really says more about the reader than the book.
Q: Would you say that if a reader was to take a “message” from one of your stories that it would be completely coincidental?
A: Oh, I have all kinds of messages in my work. That being strong as a woman doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t ever accept help. That if you come together as a group, you can accomplish great things. That supporting a woman and helping her doesn’t mean taking over and making decisions for her or otherwise invalidating her agency. I’m all about empowering women and leaving readers with a feeling of hope. But I don’t feel like any of that is hidden. It seems pretty well loud and out there. As I said before, readers bring their own experiences to a work, so if they find something beyond all that that speaks to them…great. But that says more about them than about my work.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
A: Read. Read far and wide in your genre and out. Read and digest every craft book you can get your hands on. Listen to the advice of those who have more experience. And understand that their experience may not be yours and their word is not holy writ. If it doesn’t work for you, toss it. Understand that writing as a career is a long-haul game, and don’t ever lose sight of the fact that the next step is always the next book. And never stop learning and trying to improve your craft.