She is a veteran journalist and former Ms. Magazine editor. She is author Kate Rounds. In this interview, we talk about her novel Catboat Road, the fictional family it centers around, and who inspires her. Let’s get to it!
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Interview with author Kate Rounds
I was immediately curious about where Catboat Road gets its name from. And also about the Ragsdale family that this book of fiction centers around. So I was sure to ask about both topics during the interview.
First, though, I inquired about Kate’s career. Her answer had me thinking about my use of language… and how much I share her love of writing.
You have an impressive career in journalism and editing. Can you please share a bit about your professional accomplishments?
“Professional” is the operative word. I don’t know that I have any particular “accomplishments” other than having been a professional journalist for a very long time. The internet made everyone a writer, which is good thing. Everyone born into a language can be a writer, whereas most of us can’t be astrophysicists. So why not sharpen your driving skills on the Information Superhighway?
That said, being a pro means something. Since age 25, I’ve been paid for putting words to paper. My satisfaction comes from finally being able to break the rules and to fully appreciate what I’ve known all along—that everything’s a story.
What inspired you to begin then writing a book?
There wasn’t a moment since I’ve been a sentient being that I have not wanted to write a novel, not just a book. As the critic Randall Jarrell famously put it, “A novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.” I seemed to have been born knowing that.
My first story was about a blade of grass that had been murdered by a lawnmower. I was five. It was graphic novel.
(Chuckling) You are a lifelong writer! How did you come up with the idea for Catboat Road?
The opening scene is autobiographical. As a teen, I’d been eavesdropping on my mother and her friend. The friend was crying because her husband was having an affair, and my mother was trying to comfort her.
Seeing adults cry is monumental for young people. I’d had a crush on this woman, so everything in the novel followed from that incident and that circumstance.
The novel centers around the fictional Ragsdale family. Can you share a bit about what they’re like and whether they’re based on anyone you know in real life?
The character of Dad is based on my own father, a sweet, sometimes absent-minded, but always loving dad. The rest of the characters were made up. In general, the Ragsdale are an easy-going, nonjudgmental, well-meaning bunch. Anything goes on Catboat Road.
What does the title mean? Is it a real location?
The catboat is a beautiful style of sailboat, and Catboat Road takes place on the Massachusetts coast. I don’t know of an actual Catboat Road, but I chose the title for its poetry, for its evocation of other novels with Road in the title: Tobacco Road, Revolutionary Road. But mostly, I chose it for its insularity. The Ragsdale and their intimates never leave the town of Horton, and the Ragsdales feel safe on Catboat Road.
Their ancestors were like the relatives of the rich and famous. They didn’t arrive on the Mayflower but were passengers on the doomed Speedwell, which sprung a leak before it even left Southampton.
What has been the feedback so far for Catboat Road?
It was only published on September 6, 2022, so it’s hard to say. It’s gotten quite a few fun blurbs and Amazon reviews.
Some readers are a little shocked that a 17-year-old girl is having a sexual relationship with a grown woman. But I wanted the novel to be edgy, and the overall warmth of the book blunts that criticism, I think. It never occurred to me while writing Catboat that this might be an issue.
What was an unexpected challenge you had during the writing process, and how did you overcome it?
There was nothing unexpected for me about the challenge of plot. In my own reading, I don’t really care about plot or what happens. I mainly care about style.
So, I’ll agonize over words and sentences, while forward motion goes by the wayside. There’s an old saw that dialog is character. From that, you can extrapolate that character is plot; you hope that your characters will tell you where to go next.
That’s an interesting take on character. Let’s change topics a bit. Who inspires you?
Billie Jean King inspires me because she almost singlehandedly transformed an entire culture. Dolly Parton inspires me for her humanity and professionalism. She’s never arrogant or lazy, despite her exalted place in our world.
I’m inspired by the works of many authors. Mavis Gallant said something I’ll never forget: “Don’t describe it; remember it.”
What advice would you give someone thinking about writing their first book?
Do it because you can’t help doing it. The publishing world is tough. I queried 67 agents before one “got me.”
Also, find a good editor. Don’t even think of putting your work out there without the trained eye of a trusted professional.
Well said. Thank you for being here today, Kate! Is there anything else you want to add?
Writing a book and promoting a book are two wildly different skills. In the modern publishing climate, authors have to do both. It’s hard for most of us to be out peddling our wares like we’re hotdog vendors at Yankee Stadium. We are forever grateful for anyone who sees their way clear to buying a book.
Reach out to Kate Rounds online
Find out more about Kate Rounds at her self-titled website. Read her bio, contact her to schedule a book talk, get the book, and more.
Get your copy of Catboat Road now
Catboat Road is available at Amazon, Kobo, Bywater Books, Barnes & Noble, and Target. It may also be at some independent bookstores.
I have a copy and look forward to reading it! I will be sure to write a book review after I’m done.
Top photo: Kate Rounds in The Little BOHO Bookshop, Bayonne, NJ. Photo by Sandra Dear. Used with Kate’s permission.