Falling for Katharine Grubb: author Q&A + giveaway

Falling for Your Madness
image courtesy of Katharine Grubb

I met Katharine a couple years ago at REUNION. Ian and I fell in love with her family (she and Marc have five amazing kids), and she and I bonded over our writing adventures (and Midwest roots and love of Big 12 football). I had the privilege of serving as part of a focus group for her second manuscript, which has now become her first published novel! I could gush about it, but since I already have, I thought it would be fun to hear from Katharine herself.

What's your elevator pitch for Falling for Your Madness?

Boy meets girl. Boy is looking for a bride. Boy has fake English accent, loads of charm, and strict rules concerning a counter-cultural relationship. Boy claims he is bound by the laws of chivalry both body and soul. Girl falls for him but suspects he is mad. Girl finds out secret of why he does what he does, a secret filled with magic. Does she release him or marry him? (And then, in a elevator pitch, I would give the spoiler, because an agent or an publisher would want to know. But for the sake of this interview, I’ll stop there.)

Have your own experiences with love and romance influenced this book?

My husband and I met online in 1995, back when you had to explain e-mail to people. So, like David and Laura’s, our courtship was unusual and there was an intentionality to it. We were both looking for a spouse, not a fling. We both understood God’s vision for marriage and agreed on how to go about courting each other in a respectful, honest way. I moved to Brookline, Mass in 1996 to be closer to Marc, and the neighborhood that we fell in love in is the same neighborhood of Laura’s apartment and all of the teas, lunches, and dinners she had with David.

That's so sweet! So what would you consider a perfect date? (Confession: whenever I hear this question, I think "April 25th. Because it's not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket." Thanks, Miss Congeniality.)

HAH! After you are married for 16 years, your expectations are a little lower and you’re always thinking "can we afford this?" But I will say this: the perfect date to me is eating a meal that I didn't cook. Laughing a lot. Maybe a hike. I have five kids, so I would probably just be thrilled with a little peace and quiet.

If you were in Laura's shoes, would you take a chance with David?

I would! Because I find respect and good manners attractive. I created him to be someone I would have dated—smart, funny, not afraid to be goofy, gallant, and not caught up in society’s expectations of what men should be. My husband is like him in many ways. Not the hair in his eyes part. My husband does not have that problem.

Poetry, specifically Tennyson's poetry, is generously sprinkled throughout the book. Why poetry, and why Tennyson (besides the fact that David is a quasi-British English professor)?

David’s obsession with chivalry had to have a cause. He had to be well-read and smart (plus, I think those qualities are very attractive in men). And a literature professor would be more fun than a history professor, in my opinion. In my research, I found out that Tennyson’s Idylls of the King were instrumental in keeping Arthurian legends alive. Honestly, I didn't know that much about Tennyson before I wrote this book. So, I looked at his other poems. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" is one I made my kids memorize. Once I put that one in, at the beginning, I realized that David would use poetry to convey his most passionate feelings. Tennyson had a ton of poetry to choose from and I had a lot of fun figuring out which was perfect for David’s big moments. Tennyson was a great fit for David. It kind of makes me want to sit in on his classes.

Tell me more about your journey as a writer.

One of my earliest memories is when I was about four years old and I had a blank piece of paper and a pencil and I remember thinking that I should put a story on the paper! But then I got very frustrated because my penmanship skills were far slower than my brain. I've always created stories in one form or another. But I've also been plagued by crippling self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Failing college journalism courses didn't help.

Six years ago, right after the birth of my youngest child, I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God what to do with my desires to write. It was a slow beginning—blogging, an article here or there, then I started a novel. God was faithful. Not only did the opportunities to write show up, but he revealed to me the root issues of my self-doubt and fear. Over the last six years, I've never written more, never been so free to be myself even though the journey has been, at times, very painful.

I know writing this book was a very different experience from that first novel. Tell me more about the process, and what that was like.

The first novel, The Truth About the Sky, came about because I wanted to challenge myself to write a novel. It took me five years to complete it. I’m hoping to release it next fall. I had just assumed that all of my novels would take this long. Falling For Your Madness, however, came to me in a flash. I had the entire story in my head over the course of a weekend, a workable draft in three weeks, a finished draft in six, and most of what is in the finished project within eight weeks time. This is unusually fast for anyone. I wrote like a madwoman. I barely spoke to my family. I barely stopped to eat and sleep. It was an obsession. I loved it! But at the same time, I've never been so obsessed with a story and it was a little scary!

Laura's father said to "fill up and look" so as an artist she overflows with creativity and unique perspectives. How do you do this?

I came up with this idea because I was trying to explain to myself why, all of a sudden, I was so obsessed with writing this story. It was like I was overflowing with words. One of my explanations of this was that earlier in the summer I read a LOT of fiction, all different genres. Perhaps I just filled up and overflowed. The idea of filling up on others’ creativity is good for everyone, artist or not.

Let's talk about self publishing. It's amazing: countless best sellers almost weren't because publishers passed them over; how many more are out there waiting? It's frustrating: I lament the exponential growth of poorly edited fiction that comes with the lack of systematic quality control. It's scary for writers: most self-published authors don't have the experience and knowledge a publisher would provide. How did you decide to take the plunge? What resources have you used to deliver a high quality book and navigate the world of marketing thus far?

I had never considered self-publishing because I thought that there was safety and credibility to sticking with traditional publishers. However, Falling For Your Madness changed everything. Because this is a romantic comedy, it was far more marketable than my first book and I believe that it will open doors for me that The Truth About The Sky won’t or can’t. I wasn’t convinced to self-publish though, until an early reader-stroke-college buddy, Kate, who loves indie authors and reads voraciously, strongly encouraged me to do this. Kind of like, “DO IT NOW! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!”

Luckily for me, I know a few indie authors and I've been watching how they did it. I went with Amazon.com’s self publishing venues, Kindle Direct and Createspace. It was ridiculously easy. Kate’s daughter, Bree, designed my cover. My church friend, Christina, did my editing. I have no marketing budget, but I’m relying on my indie author friends, blogs like this one and my social media presence (@10MinuteWriter and www.10MinuteWriter.com) and some unexpected, enthusiastic word of mouth sales. We’ll see what happens. Publishing is a slow, slow business. My goal now is to grow a reader base who’ll want to read my books in the future.

You present a variety of views of women, and what it is to be a woman. An object to be toyed with and conquered. An equal, nothing less but nothing more. A lady to be wooed and honored. (And the contrasting fear that chivalry reduces a woman to a barefoot, child-bearing homemaker.) While you explore this with much more finesse in the book, how would you explain in shorthand your own views on womanhood?

Contrary to the way I was raised in the 70s, I believe being a woman is a beautiful thing. God did not make us to hate ourselves, compare ourselves to men, or to cheapen who we are. Chivalry is just an orderly way of looking at God’s purpose for men and women. This is based on reverence and respect. When men and women view each other this way, it enhances them both and frees them to fully embrace all of who they are to each other. I never understood this until I was in college. Many of the things David says in the Arboretum came right out of my college ministry’s guidance to me in the 80s, which shaped the wife and mother I am today.

Several moments in the book made me laugh out loud. What role does humor play in the book, your writing style, and your life?

Which ones??? Oh my, humor is just a part of me. My family of origin used humor for good reasons and bad ones and I learned as a child that humor was a powerful force. I joke around when I’m nervous. I joke around to get people to like me. I joke around to diffuse a stressful situation. I joke around to teach my kids big concepts. I wouldn't know how to live without doing this. I’m also drawn to funny and I only write books that I would enjoy reading, so my books have to be funny. At least funny to me.

I wish I had noted them for you, but most if not all of them involved David and Merle—they make quite a pair!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, AND for generously offering a digital copy of Falling for Your Madness to one lucky reader!

To enter to win a digital copy of Katharine's book, leave a comment with the most recent thing that made you laugh out loud by Sunday, January 20 at 10pm (EST). I'll select a winner at random and announce here on the blog Monday. Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed, but you can still enter the Goodreads giveaway!

If you prefer paper, Katharine is giving away three SIGNED copies via GoodReads. It opens Wednesday and runs through Valentine's Day.

Katharine Grubb
image courtesy of Katharine Grubb
Katharine Grubb was born in northeastern Oklahoma. She was raised in the Tulsa suburbs, attended OU, taught school, wrote stories, and then shocked everyone by moving to Boston to be with a man she had been e-mailing for nine months. She married that man, and with him had five boisterous children. She still lives in Massachusetts, homeschools her children, bakes bread, does ridiculous amounts of laundry, and sets her timer to write stories in ten minute increments. Her favorite type of books to read and write are quirky, imaginative tales of romance, faith, and humor.