Interview with Kate Hart
About the Book
Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together.
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What inspired you to write this specific story?
My first attempt at a book was a far-too-Twilight-inspired paranormal, and agents rightly shot it down but encouraged me to keep trying. The problem was that I had no idea what else to write, so I literally made an “I want” list, which ended up being “I want to write about hiking, the Ozarks, being ‘one of the boys,’” etc. That led to a rock climbing scene, which is still the first first scene in After the Fall, and the story developed on its own from there. It wasn’t until I finished the story that I started to think about what I actually want to say with it, and many, many drafts to actually achieve it.
What made you want to take on so many of the tougher topics in one go? How do you think these all relate to one another within the story?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision, at least until I had to defend it editorially. It’s a choice a lot of reviews have criticized, but the fact is that teenagers, like adults, are dealing with all of these issues all the time. Real life doesn’t just hand you assault and say, “Here, see if you can get over this, then we’ll tackle class, and maybe racism when you’re up to it.” Whether I dealt with it effectively is totally up to the reader, but real life is messy, and making the characters’ lives anything else felt artificial.
Several people are very standoffish about sex in young adult literature, consensual and not, did you ever have a fear that Raychel’s sexual history would be judged harshly?
It wasn’t a fear so much as an expectation, because I’d already seen it from editors when the book was on submission. Several houses cited concern about Raychel’s “problematic” sexuality, and even some I worked with were disturbed that she continues to claim her own sexual agency after an assault. Those criticisms were difficult to deal with early on, because a lot of Raychel’s response to assault is informed by my own experiences, but the upside was that by the time the book reached readers, I’d developed a fairly thick skin about it.
Is there anything you wished you could have added to Raychel’s story or changed in the slightest?
In earlier versions, Raychel’s mom was a bigger mess and had less of a redemption arc, and making her more likable was sort of a bargain in order to keep other elements that were more important to me. But I still like the original version, where Raychel was forced to rely more fully on herself to survive.
This being your debut, is there any one thing a reader said upon reading it that made your heart absolutely swell with joy?
I’m not sure joy is the right word, but when fellow assault victims who couldn’t pursue justice tell me that they feel seen by this narrative, it makes me feel like the book was worth writing.
Can you describe your ideal writing environment and or any tips for new writers?
My ideal writing environment is basically anywhere that I can be alone. I’m the kind of person who hates to stop once I get started on any kind of project, so I work best when I can have a chunk of uninterrupted time. It’s easier to stop and start if I’m editing, but for drafting, I need long stretches to focus.
As for tips, I always suggest that authors start making connections as soon as they start writing. I don’t mean networking, though it certainly doesn’t hurt, but start making actual writer friends as soon as possible. My family couldn’t be more supportive, but only colleagues can really understand the challenges of writing and publishing.
Lastly, are you currently working on anything new and is there anything you can share with us?
I’m working on two manuscripts, one YA and one adult, but they’ve been slow going due to some health issues that are finally starting to improve. However, last year I had a short story called “The Well Witch” in the anthology Toil and Trouble, and an essay called “Wings and Teeth” in Hope Nation. This month, I polished up my contributions to two 2020 anthologies: “A Road of One’s Own,” about an all-girl road trip, will be in All Out Now, and “Cry Like a Girl,” an essay about those aforementioned health problems, will be in Body Talk.
I want to thank Kate Hart for allowing me to interview her about After The Fall. I've got my copy and I hope you'll grab one too! Have you read After the Fall? What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments below. Happy Reading!