Anne: Today's interview is with Catherine West, author of Hidden in the Heart, which I reviewed yesterday on this blog.
Hi, Cathy. We have a bunch of questions for you today. The book I reviewed yesterday is about a woman who had been adopted. I know you are also adopted and that inspired your book, but did you feel God prompting you to write it? How long between the prompt and the writing? Did you stew over it a lot?
Catherine: I never actually intended to write my story. The search and reunion journey was quite a difficult time in my life, and honestly, there were things I just didn’t want to re-hash. But there were also many miracles along the way, and friends kept telling me what a great story it would be. In the end, I knew that it was a story I had to write, but I created a fictional tale rather than give a blow-by-blow account of my own experiences. So while Claire’s story is a little bit similar to mine, it isn’t my story per se. There are a couple of things that are pretty close to what I went through, and of course all the emotions Claire experiences from an adoptee’s point of view are written from first-hand experience.
Anne: I love how well developed your characters are. Do you develop character sketches before you write a book?
Catherine: Thank you. I’m a seat of the pantser, but yes, usually my characters come to mind before I start giving them a story. I usually have a pretty good idea of who’s who and what their roles are before I begin, but of course, this is all subject to change once I get going!
Anne: Which point of view was the most difficult for you to write? The easiest?
Catherine: The easiest character? In this book?? LOL! The dogs.
Because of my own experiences, this was a very difficult book to write. I struggled with a lot of the scenes, and I still can’t read through some of them without tears. I think the hardest character for me to really flesh out was Michelle. Claire was pretty easy because I knew a lot of what she would go through. The miscarriage was not something I have ever experienced, but I’ve known deep pain and loss and felt that sense of rejection.
So while I say she was ‘easy’ to create, it was also difficult for me to really dig down deep and tap into those memories again. Michelle, Claire’s birth mother, was harder for me. I wanted to be sure I painted her in a light where in the end, the reader would connect with her and understand what she went through as well.
A lot of times it’s too easy for adoptees to point the finger and blame all their issues on the fact that their birth mother relinquished them. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted Michelle to have her own story, to have experienced just as much pain and loss as Claire did, but it was also important to me that she be given a chance for redemption.
I was never able to establish a relationship with my birth mother, as she passed away five months after our first and only meeting, so I wanted to give Claire and Michelle the opportunity to choose whether or not to step into a relationship. I really enjoyed creating Rick though. He was a fun dude.
Anne: Have you know adoptees whose parents never told them they were adopted?
Catherine: Not personally, but I have heard stories of this happening. I think it’s very hard to find out you were adopted late in life. And sad. I don’t know why a parent would ever choose not to tell their child that they were adopted.
Anne: What would you do if you had adopted kids? (or do you have adopted kids and how did you deal with it?)
Catherine: I don’t have adopted children. Honestly, while on the one hand I think adopting a child is a great thing to do, I don’t know that I would have done it. I think it would have been really difficult for me to know the experiences that they would go through growing up, especially if I wasn’t able to give them any background on their biological family. Of course I know that if God had laid it on our hearts to adopt, we would have, and I am sure I would have been okay with it, but He didn’t.
Anne: How would you advise parents to talk to their kids?
Catherine: I think honesty is really important. You’ve got to allow your child to ask questions, even if you don’t have all the answers. Let them know it’s okay to be curious, to want to know where they came from. Open dialogue from a young age is really important to the adoptee. We can often feel irrational guilt about wanting to know things about our biological families, and sometimes feel like we’d be betraying our parents if we searched or even indicated that we might want to.
Being adopted is a complicated thing, there are a lot of emotions we go through at various stages of life, and it’s really important to know we have a safety net, parents that love us no matter what and will never leave us.
Anne: Would you like to tell us a little about your next book?
Catherine: Well, I have a couple of projects that my agent will be shopping at some point. One is a family saga story that takes place in Nantucket, called Reprisal. The other is a romance called Bridge of Faith. I’m not sure where they’ll end up, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
Anne: Thank you so much for joining us today, Cathy. I'll be watching for your next book!