Sunday, June 8, 2014

Interview: Kate Moretti, NYT bestselling author of "Binds That Tie"

Today we're pleased to feature our KBoards interview with New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti. Kate recently released her latest novel, Binds That Tie, which we highly recommend. Here's the book's blurb:

Love ties. Murder binds.

Maggie never felt as though she belonged until Chris Stevens showed her what true happiness meant. Ten years into their marriage, miscarriages and infidelities have scarred them both. Despite their perfect-couple image, Maggie can’t look at Chris with anything but resentment. When a charismatic stranger offers the opportunity for a little harmless flirtation, she jumps into the game.

But charm soon turns to malice, and a deadly split-second decision forces Maggie and Chris onto a dangerous path fraught with secrets, lies, and guilt. With no one else to turn to—no one she dares trust—Maggie will ultimately learn just how binding marital ties can be.


The blog tour for Binds That Tie wraps up in a few hours! You can enter for prizes with the form at the bottom of this post.

Now, on to our conversation with Kate!

Hello, Kate, and welcome back! And congratulations on your new book. We're excited to talk with you about Binds that Tie... but let's start with some recent big news. Your first novel, Thought I Knew You, recently hit the New York Times bestseller list. What does that feel like, to see your name and book up there with the hottest-selling books in the country?

Oh, it’s so surreal and crazy. I’m very level headed about the whole thing, I have no delusions of grandeur. I appreciate the new attention that the list has brought the book, of course. But nothing about it seems real or permanent. I fully expect it to sink back down to obscurity any day now. Except then, I’m at the post office and someone says, “You wrote this book? I’ve heard of it!” and I want to just die.

We were one of the first sites to feature Thought I Knew You, and so we share in the excitement of seeing you, and that book, doing so well. How has having a NYT-bestseller under your belt changed things for you?

I think you were one of the first reviews I ever received, and I remember your Thought I Knew You interview as being the most thoughtful interview I’ve ever done! How has it changed me? I’m busy now. I thought I was busy before! I have unpublished writers emailing me asking about my path to publication. I have indie writers emailing me to ask how I hit the list, what are my marketing strategies. I’ve been asked for blurbs (BLURBS! WOW!). I have an agent because of it (Mark Gottlieb from TMG). I’m not prepared for any of it. I want to reply to everyone, I want to pass on what I’ve learned. I need to write blog posts about both topics so that I can just refer people there. But again, time…

In a few words, how would you describe your latest book, "Binds That Tie," for our readers?

Binds That Tie is about a marriage that’s further tested when the couple jointly commit a crime. To me, it’s about trying to run from your past and avoid taking responsibility for your mistakes.

How do you feel you've grown as an author between your first book and this latest one?

I read the negative reviews and take them to heart. Not in a way that I cry or beat myself up about it, but I think “Okay, I see that. I can do better.” The negative reviews about Thought I Knew You involve some level of distance from Claire, the main character. When I re-read the book, I get that. I think it’s hard to bring readers right into a character’s head. In order to do that, you, as the writer, have to be in your character’s head. That’s quite a bit of background work. I think for Binds That Tie, I did that a little better. I also think I did more telling than showing, which again, has a distancing effect. Showing is so much harder. I think I got better.

In the story, Maggie and her husband Chris go through some anguishing -- and realistic -- strains on their marriage. Small steps lead to daunting consequences. We're tempted to describe your book as a "cautionary tale" for married couples... would you agree with that label?

Ha, I’m not sure! They end up killing someone. But yeah, prior to that, they have strains. I don’t think the average couple has that level of strain though. I think I really took the adage “torture your main characters” to heart, here. I do think that both Maggie and Chris give up too easily. They make these half-hearted attempts to fix their relationship and then when it falls flat, they say “Well, I tried, it must be you.” There’s wisdom in that. Don’t stop trying.

Let's talk about your female leads. In Thought I Knew You, you introduce us to Claire, a fascinating lead character who goes through a progression of tumult and discovery when her husband disappears. In Binds That Tie, we meet another intriguing character in Maggie. Tell us what you see as the key traits that differ between Claire and Maggie. 

Maggie and Claire are very different, although both are victims of their own choices. I think Claire is stronger than Maggie, although Maggie has been through more. They’re both just doing what they can to get through the situations they’re in. I think Maggie has more depth. Maggie is described as objectively beautiful, while Claire is more of a girl-next-door plain Jane. Claire is social, with support and family and friends, while Maggie is sort of a lost ship. Both are more passive than they should be and I think they have similar character arcs: they eventually say "enough."

You are clearly a gifted observer of couples and relationships. 

I like people. I like relationships, not just couples, but friendships and family, too. I’m particularly fascinated by marriage, the idea of saying: Okay, let’s live in the same house forever. That’s the most basic level. Let’s love each other forever. Let’s be partners in raising kids, paying bills, doing home renovations, pumping the septic tank. Let’s put up with each other’s bad moods and worst, stressed out selves. It’s fascinating! Who would want that? Mostly everyone.

What words of advice would you offer to a young couple who are early in their marriages? 

No marriage is perfect. A wedding is just a party. We celebrated eleven years yesterday and we did some reminiscing. We’re closer and happier now than we were on our wedding day. Aim for that.

We enjoy your ability to draw fully-dimensioned characters, with appealing as well as appalling traits. That's different than the route some authors take, where the main characters are "Mary Janes" with completely likable and unchallenging personalities. Tell us about that... is your "broken heroine" approach to characterization a conscious decision on your part?

Oh, I love broken people. I love the darker side of human nature, when really honest, good people are not so honest or good. So yes, it’s conscious. Likeable characters, to me, are boring. I’m trying to write one now. I like her, but she’s boring to me. There’s a higher burden for women in fiction: Be strong, but not overbearing. Be vulnerable, but not whiney. Be pleasant, but not airheaded. Brooding men are attractive. Brooding women are annoying. I don’t know why that is, but even I feel it when I read. So it's always a risk to create someone who challenges the reader.

Binds That Tie has gathered some high praise from readers and reviewers. Is there a particular review that surprised you or otherwise stands out for you?

Truthfully, not yet. I think Binds is a better book than TIKY. It has deeper characterization, more tension, a faster moving plot. So far the reviews have beared this out. I did have someone tweet me that they just read Binds and liked TIKY better. I didn’t know them, so I was hesitant, but I finally asked her why. She said that Binds was too dark, and Maggie was too shallow for her. I can respect that. Both are true.

Your books are often categorized as "Women's Fiction." That often seems like a weird book category. (I'm a male and have loved both of your books!) What are your thoughts on that genre designation? What is Women's Fiction, anyway?

This is a constant debate. Women’s fiction to me is simply a female protagonist whose internal conflict is as important, or more important than the external conflict. Typically, the main character is 25-40 years old, and the conflict is relatable to many women in this category (married, kids, relationships, friendships). It is a weird book category, because many women’s fiction books are extremely literary, but not marketed or recognized that way. I prefer a mystery or thriller element to my wom fic, although I’m always hesitant to classify Binds as a thriller because I think that negates the internal conflict. I recognize that calling my books Women’s fiction could turn off male readers. It’s not a perfect fit either way. Genre is a weird and tricky business.

Binds That Tie would make a super movie script, with its rich characters, unexpected twists, and fast pace. Who would you envision playing Maggie?

I wrote her with Gwyneth Paltrow in mind. She is often seen as chilly in the media, and that was something I really wanted to bring out in Maggie, but with a level of understanding behind it. Yes, she’s cold but this is why. I don’t know if that came through.

Now that you say that, we can totally see Gwyneth Paltrow nailing the Maggie role. Let's talk a bit about process. Your writing accomplishments are inspiring because we know you have a full-time career, a killer commute, a young family, and all that goes along with those things! What advice or encouragement would you give an aspiring author who's "too busy" to write? 

I think you’re never too busy for something you have an internal drive to do. I have zero internal drive to exercise. I shove writing into every crack in my life, but I’m magically “too busy” to get my butt on a treadmill for a half hour a day. I get up at 5:15 in the morning to write for an hour or so before the kids wake up and I go to work. I dictate into my phone when I’m stuck in traffic. I carve out 2 hours every weekend at some point. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find the time. It’s all about what you’re willing to give up.

We are certainly pleased that you find the time to create these wonderful stories! What's next on your writing plate?

Thank you! I’m working on a project, tentatively titled The Vanishing Year, about a woman ten years out of witness protection who locates her birth mother, only to discover that someone will stop at nothing to keep them apart. The main character, Zoe Whittaker, is strong, sassy, likeable, and a victim of circumstance. It’s much harder for me to give a likeable person depth, so I’m struggling with her. I wish she would do something terrible. She’s a gifted floral designer who helps orphaned children. She’s smart. She’ll solve her own mystery. I’m in new territory.

We look forward to that... and in the meantime, we wholeheartedly recommend Binds That Tie to our readers. Kate, thanks so much for talking with KBoards today!

Thanks for having me! What a fantastically thoughtful interview, as usual.

~~~

Binds That Tie is available now to download to your Kindle! And be sure to enter below for a chance to win SWAG from the book's publisher, Red Adept Publishing!

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