I’ve been writing since I was a child, whether it was stories, poems, articles for schools newspapers, or in university, plays. After I had my first child and was staying at home, I decided to venture into writing short stories for commercial magazines—mainly for money, as my husband was a student and we needed the income.
As I wrote, however, I moved from a no-nonsense ‘writing what sells’ to choosing to write what was important to me. I still always have one eye firmly on the market, because writing is my job and I want my books to sell, but 20+ years on from the start of my career I find myself able to explore issues that are close to my heart, as well as ones I am grappling with as a person, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend.
Sometimes I don’t even know I’m struggling with an issue until it finds its way into my writing. This was the case with my most recent contemporary fiction, When You Were Mine, about foster care in the United States. When the foster mother, Ally, struggles with feeling as if she’s done what she believes are all the right things to guarantee her children don’t rebel, I realized I had experienced that anger and confusion without even being aware of it. Writing her character, and more importantly, her character’s process to acceptance and understanding, helped me to achieve the same journey.
Similarly, in my latest historical fiction, The Girl From Berlin, I found the emotional conflict that emerged was one about how challenging and frightening it can be to do the right thing, something I realized after I wrote the story that I was thinking about in regards to my own life. The process helped me to understand what my fear was, and how to overcome it. So not only has writing fiction helped to give me more self-awareness and understanding of the issues I face, it has enabled me to deal with them directly. Furthermore, I believe it adds a depth of honest emotion to the stories I tell. Double win!
Of course, it’s not as easy as thinking ‘what am I feeling?’ and then putting it onto the page. In some ways, the delving happens on a subconscious level, as I plumb the depths of the characters and my own emotion. Writing fiction, for me, has become an almost visceral process where I bypass the logical part of my brain and write from my gut without analysing or even really thinking about what I’m writing. Admittedly, my writing often needs to be tidied up or expanded on afterwards, but reaching that gut level of intensity and honesty helps, I believe, to make the story more authentic and compelling.
What are some ways to achieve this as a writer? I think it is important to write without stopping to reread or edit, so you can get into that ‘deep work’ mentality. There will be plenty of time to go back and shape and fashion the words to your liking. I try to write in twenty minute bursts without stopping to reread or even think. Sometimes it is gruelling, and other times it flows. It’s hard to know which it is going to be, but I do my best to keep at it.
I’ve told friends writing fiction is better than therapy—and it’s free! But to do it I’ve had to be honest with myself, and as we all know, that can hurt. It can also be a powerful instrument of healing and change. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way—the rewards are that great, in both my fiction and in my life.
(c) Kate Hewitt
About The Girl from Berlin:
“I want to be free,” Rosa said quietly. “Even if just for a few minutes. It might be all I have.”
Berlin, 1936: From her beautiful new home Liesel Scholz barely notices the changes to the city around her. Her life is one of privilege and safety thanks to her father’s job working for the new government.
But soon a chance encounter with Rosa, the daughter of their Jewish housekeeper, leaves Liesel in no doubt that something isn’t right. That the rules this government are making aren’t fair and that others aren’t as safe as she is. When Rosa begs Liesel to help—pressing her grandfather’s golden pocket watch into Liesel’s hand—Liesel recklessly agrees. She will help hide Rosa and her family, even if it means risking everything…
Frankfurt, 1946: An idealistic American captain, Sam Houghton, arrives in Germany to interrogate prominent Nazis on trial and to help rebuild a battered country. He hires an enigmatic and damaged woman named Anna as his interpreter. But, as sparks fly between them, the question of what Anna did in the war raises its head.
Because Anna has secrets—ones that link her to the Nazi party, the darkest days in Europe’s history, and the story of a golden pocket watch and two girls who became friends even when they were told it was impossible…
A compelling and haunting story about courage, love and betrayal set in war-torn Berlin. Fans of The Alice Network, All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale will be not be able to put this down.
Order your copy online here.