Blog

Welcome to my Food, Fitness & Fiction blog! You can subscribe to my blog via RSS feed. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger or would like me to take a look at your book or product for a possible review/feature on the blog, please email me at elisa@elisazied.com. Enjoy!

IMG_1831

The First Time She Drowned: Q & A with Kerry Kletter


The First Time She Drowned (Philomel Books, March 15, 2016) is a moving and beautifully written debut book by Kerry Kletter. Although it is classified as a contemporary young adult novel, the themes are very mature and the psychological twists and turns and subject matter are, at times, heavy and unsettling. But these elements make it a worthwhile read and a perfect crossover novel for both older teens and adults.

The book resonated with me on SO many levels, and I have no doubt the complicated and complex dynamics between Cassie, the protagonist, and her family will be relatable to many even if your life and circumstances are far different from theirs. Just be prepared!

 

IMG_1802

 

Here’s a description of The First Time She Drowned from Kletter’s website:

Cassie O’Malley has spent the past two and a half years in a mental institution — dumped there by her mother, against her will. Now, at 18, Cassie emancipates herself, determined to start over and reclaim her life. But when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is the truth, and whose life must she save?

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Kletter at her book launch party in New York City (photo below) after devouring her book over a 24-hour period. (Thankfully, I absolutely loved it, so there was no awkwardness when we met lol.)

 

IMG_1826

 

Kletter was also kind enough to answer a few questions about her book and writing life for Food, Fitness & Fiction via email. Read below for some insight about this very talented debut author.

EZ: Was there a moment when you knew you had to write this book, to tell Cassie’s story?

KK: I think as soon as I wrote the first sentence there was no turning back. I suspected there were a lot of people, both teens and adults, who might resonate with Cassie’s story and I felt compelled to tell it in the hopes that it might hold up a validating mirror. People say it’s a sad book but I don’t think of it like that. To me it is so hopeful. It’s about survival. It’s about learning how to be okay.

EZ: Can you share your process in writing this book (from beginning to end) and how long it took?

KK: Oh boy, my process. Yep, long! It took me about ten years give or take. I can’t even remember when I started! And so many drafts. I love to revise. I could revise one book forever. I started looking for an agent once I had enough feedback from very honest friends that it was ready. At that point I got notes that I was close but it needed some adjustments, so I took them and tried again and then I got some offers. So much of writing and publishing, for almost everyone really, is tenacity. You submit. You get notes. You revise. You try again. I remember people tried to tell me that was how it usually went but I still felt like such a failure when everything didn’t happen right away for me. Of course now I see how necessary those steps were and how it made me such a better writer.

EZ: Is there a particular space/place in which you like to write? Do you like noise/music or silence, to be alone or surrounded by others, is there any particular work space and/or view that inspires your creativity?

KK: I write in my bed a lot. I need perfect quiet. I wear earplugs AND noise-blocking headphones and I look at a blank white wall in front of me. It’s a way to clear my head of all the world’s noise I guess. The only “view” that inspires me really is the pages of a good book with great writing.

EZ: Your book was exquisitely written. But I’ll admit that while reading it there were several  instances during which I wanted to punch the mom. How difficult was it for you to write the book and especially the very dark scenes? (Kudos to you for really digging deep and creating a powerful, and at times maddening story that readers like me can get swept up in.)

KK: Oh thank you! I think every author has their own process with this kind of thing but for me, I sort of jump down into the emotion and then jump right out. One thing I learned in my former career as an actress is that holding back emotion is sometimes more powerful because it leaves room for the audience’s emotions to happen. So as I write I try to be a bit removed from my own feelings—I keep them small and tucked back—available to plug into as needed but not to indulge in.

EZ: Did you write the book linearly or did you jump around?

KK: Start to finish. The other way would drive me mad though I know some people do it that way to great success.

EZ: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given, or a quote about writing that you love?

KK: Read books on screenplay structure. That’s advice I got very early on and I have never had any writing advice that even comes close to that. It’s really hard to write a good book if you don’t understand story structure and that’s the easiest way to learn it in my opinion. SAVE THE CAT is my personal favorite book on it.

EZ: What are some recent fiction reads that you’d recommend?

KK: Well in YA my love for THE SERPENT KING which just came out is widely known so I’ll say right now I’m reading Amber Smith’s THE WAY I USED TO BE and it’s so powerful and heartbreaking. The last adult title I read and loved was WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR which I found to be life-altering, riveting, profound, beautiful. It’s one of those books I’m trying to push on everyone I know. Oh and another nonfiction, THE TERRORISTS SON which was written by the former book editor of Entertainment Weekly and now YA author, Jeff Giles. I cried my way through that. Finally I’ve got a book of poetry coming my way that I check my mailbox for constantly because I read an excerpt and it was good on a level I didn’t know existed—it’s called NIGHT SKY WITH EXIT WOUNDS.

EZ: Any writing advice you’d like to share based on your experience for new or aspiring novelists?

KK: Hmmm. Read a ton. Learn how to take criticism. Always strive to be better than you are. Understand that it’s a process. Play the long game. Support other writers (that one should be first really.) You are not in competition with other people, only yourself so please don’t compare—that way lies misery. Expect rejection. Lots. Keep writing anyway.

EZ: What’s next for Kerry Kletter?

KK: An adult book that I hope teens will like as well.  Still finishing it.

A sampling of reviews for The First Time She Drowned:

Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

Caught Red Handed

Germ Magazine

LA Review of Books

To learn more about Kerry Kletter and her work, visit her website. You can read an excerpt of The First Time She Drowned here.

The First Time She Drowned (Philomel Books, March 15, 2016) is a moving, beautifully written debut book by Kerry Kletter. Although the book is classified as a contemporary young adult novel, the themes are very mature and the psychological twists and turns and subject matter heavy (and upsetting) at times. But these elements make it a perfect crossover novel for both older teens and adults.

The book moved me on SO many levels, and I have no doubt the complicated and complex dynamics of the protagonist Cassie’s family will be relatable to many even if your life and circumstances are far different from theirs. Just be prepared!

 

IMG_1802

 

Here’s a description of The First Time She Drowned from Kletter’s website:

Cassie O’Malley has spent the past two and a half years in a mental institution — dumped there by her mother, against her will. Now, at 18, Cassie emancipates herself, determined to start over and reclaim her life. But when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is the truth, and whose life must she save?

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Kletter at her book launch party in New York City (photo below) after devouring her book over a 24-hour period. (Thankfully, I loved the book, so there was no awkwardness when we met lol.)

 

IMG_1826

 

Kletter was also kind enough to answer a few questions about her book and writing life for Food, Fitness & Fiction via email. Read below for some insight about this very talented debut author.

EZ: Was there a moment when you knew you had to write this book, to tell Cassie’s story?

KK: I think as soon as I wrote the first sentence there was no turning back. I suspected there were a lot of people, both teens and adults, who might resonate with Cassie’s story and I felt compelled to tell it in the hopes that it might hold up a validating mirror. People say it’s a sad book but I don’t think of it like that. To me it is so hopeful. It’s about survival. It’s about learning how to be okay.

EZ: Can you share your process in writing this book (from beginning to end) and how long it took?

KK: Oh boy, my process. Yep, long! It took me about ten years give or take. I can’t even remember when I started! And so many drafts. I love to revise. I could revise one book forever. I started looking for an agent once I had enough feedback from very honest friends that it was ready. At that point I got notes that I was close but it needed some adjustments, so I took them and tried again and then I got some offers. So much of writing and publishing, for almost everyone really, is tenacity. You submit. You get notes. You revise. You try again. I remember people tried to tell me that was how it usually went but I still felt like such a failure when everything didn’t happen right away for me. Of course now I see how necessary those steps were and how it made me such a better writer.

EZ: Is there a particular space/place in which you like to write? Do you like noise/music or silence, to be alone or surrounded by others, is there any particular work space and/or view that inspires your creativity?

KK: I write in my bed a lot. I need perfect quiet. I wear earplugs AND noise-blocking headphones and I look at a blank white wall in front of me. It’s a way to clear my head of all the world’s noise I guess. The only “view” that inspires me really is the pages of a good book with great writing.

EZ: Your book was exquisitely written. But I’ll admit that while reading it there were several  instances during which I wanted to punch the mom. How difficult was it for you to write the book and especially the very dark scenes? (Kudos to you for really digging deep and creating a powerful, and at times maddening story that readers like me can get swept up in.)

KK: Oh thank you! I think every author has their own process with this kind of thing but for me, I sort of jump down into the emotion and then jump right out. One thing I learned in my former career as an actress is that holding back emotion is sometimes more powerful because it leaves room for the audience’s emotions to happen. So as I write I try to be a bit removed from my own feelings—I keep them small and tucked back—available to plug into as needed but not to indulge in.

EZ: Did you write the book linearly or did you jump around?

KK: Start to finish. The other way would drive me mad though I know some people do it that way to great success.

EZ: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given, or a quote about writing that you love?

KK: Read books on screenplay structure. That’s advice I got very early on and I have never had any writing advice that even comes close to that. It’s really hard to write a good book if you don’t understand story structure and that’s the easiest way to learn it in my opinion. SAVE THE CAT is my personal favorite book on it.

EZ: What are some recent fiction reads that you’d recommend?

KK: Well in YA my love for THE SERPENT KING which just came out is widely known so I’ll say right now I’m reading Amber Smith’s THE WAY I USED TO BE and it’s so powerful and heartbreaking. The last adult title I read and loved was WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR which I found to be life-altering, riveting, profound, beautiful. It’s one of those books I’m trying to push on everyone I know. Oh and another nonfiction, THE TERRORISTS SON which was written by the former book editor of Entertainment Weekly and now YA author, Jeff Giles. I cried my way through that. Finally I’ve got a book of poetry coming my way that I check my mailbox for constantly because I read an excerpt and it was good on a level I didn’t know existed—it’s called NIGHT SKY WITH EXIT WOUNDS.

EZ: Any writing advice you’d like to share based on your experience for new or aspiring novelists?

KK: Hmmm. Read a ton. Learn how to take criticism. Always strive to be better than you are. Understand that it’s a process. Play the long game. Support other writers (that one should be first really.) You are not in competition with other people, only yourself so please don’t compare—that way lies misery. Expect rejection. Lots. Keep writing anyway.

EZ: What’s next for Kerry Kletter?

KK: An adult book that I hope teens will like as well.  Still finishing it.

A sampling of reviews for The First Time She Drowned:

Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

Caught Red Handed

Germ Magazine

LA Review of Books

To learn more about Kerry Kletter and her work, visit her website. You can read an excerpt of The First Time She Drowned here.

 

Print Friendly

About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked