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Interview: Kathryn Shay, Author of The Perfect Family

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Kathryn Shay has been a lifelong writer. Though Ms. Shay spent much of her adult life as a high school English teacher, she published her first book in 1995 for Harlequin Superromance.  Since then, she’s written 25 Harlequins, eleven mainstream romances for the Berkley Publishing Group and several online reads.  Kathryn Shay’s lastest mainstream novel, The Perfect Family, was released September 14th, 2010 from Bold Strokes Books. 

In addition to her many successes, one of Ms. Shay’s books was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine and she has been featured in People and The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Shay has won five RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards, three Holt Medallions, four Desert Quill Awards, the Golden Leaf Award, and The Bookseller’s Best Award.  Kathryn resides in upstate New York with her husband and two children.

Be sure to visit Kathryn Shay online.

Please tell us a bit about your book: The Perfect Family.

The Perfect Family follows the Davidsons who are an average American family with a good life. They consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their 17-year-old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being unable to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. The story is full of both conflict and love, ending on a redeeming note.

If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Jamie. I love that kid. He’s kind and sensitive and so good-hearted, it made me cry to put him in such difficult situations. In some ways, I patterned him after my own son, Ben. And we have a gift for my readers. Ben is a singer/songwriter and made a CD in high school about “loving a boy” and other adolescent issues. We’re offering it free at the publisher’s website when you order a book from them – Bold Strokes Books – and it will also be offered on my website, while copies last.

If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any job, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?

I like strong women characters. I might put myself in a job I’d never do in real life, something dangerous and exciting. A female Secret Service agent. A firefighter on the line. An anti-gang specialist in New York City. I truly admire women who take on such risky professions.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?

I write all my books on my laptop and save the desktop for business. I usually write in my office, a space we built over the garage when I got published. It’s beautiful with skylights and windows to let in a lot of light, a custom made desk, a leather chair in a bay and a pull-out couch. In the summer months, though, I write out on our glassed-in porch overlooking the woods. I need quiet, no music, sometimes drink coffee but never eat while writing. What sets my mood is reading previous scenes in the book.

What are you reading right now?

Garden of Lies by Eileen Goudge. Then I’m starting Pat Conroy’s South of Broad for our September book club. (A little note: the whole book club is reading The Perfect Family for our October meeting.)

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

Judith Guest’s Ordinary People; John Irving’s The World According to Garp; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In genre fiction, my favorites are Nora Roberts, Linda Howard and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Since I’ve met the three genre writers above, I guess it would be Guest, Atwood and Irving.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

Definitely the day my daughter was born. I couldn’t believe the miracle of this little child. She was perfect — big blue eyes, dark hair, smiling. She never cried those first minutes, just stared at me as if thinking, “Hey, I know you.” I’ll never forget it.

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

Lobster tail, asparagus, baked potato, Caesar salad and tart white wine. My husband would be present, and I’ll make you all jealous by saying he prepares this meal for me often.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

Yoga, walking my little Yorkie, Hattie, going out to eat with my family.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

You know, this is hard to answer. I’ve traveled a lot: to Italy and loved Rome, especially. I’ve gone to Santorini and was awed by its beauty. I like the hustle and bustle of Barcelona and the plays in London. And Paris is so romantic. But truthfully, I want to be where I am right now because both my kids live ten minutes away, my best friend is right around the corner and I have a church I love down the street. What can really compete with that?

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.

Seriously, I can’t answer that. As an English major in college, an English teacher and a writer, I love all types of literature.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

One dream I had was to have a happy home life: a loving husband and great kids. Yes, I have that. Another was to be a teacher. I did that too, for decades, and loved the job so much, when I got published, kept it for ten years before retiring just to write. And writing novels was my other dream. I’d like to go further in this career, writing different kinds of books like The Perfect Family.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Watching television. While I was writing and teaching and raising kids, I had no time for TV. Now I watch everything: the SyFi channel, cop shows, the news. I’m sure people would say I watch too much, but I’m making up for lost time.

And, of course, chocolate. The dark kind.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

To help other people. To those who have much, much is expected. I believe we should all take care of each other on this planet.

Can I just add here that many people ask about my next book. I’m working on new projects now, but I’d also like to say here that if readers are interested in my backlist, I’m making plans to put nine previously published in print books up on Kindle and Smashwords by the time The Perfect Family is released.

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