Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview with contemp women's fic author Kathleen Varn

Contemporary women’s fiction author Kathleen Varn is here today. She’s doing a virtual book tour with Goddess Fish for her novel Ameera Unveiled.

Kathleen will be awarding a $10 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To be entered to win, leave a comment below (and a way for Kathleen to get in touch with you). To increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments there, too.

Kat Varn’s love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. 

As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. As the oldest daughter in a transient Navy family, words fed her imagination to embrace adventure and magical worlds. Kat was drawn to the strength of little girls in The Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Eventually, Kat dove into journaling between the pages of beautiful leather notebooks, recording her children’s infant landmarks. Journaling also helped her find solace in the grief of a toxic relationship. Throughout her journey to extract her family from an unhealthy relationship, she explored the idea of freedom through allegorical short stories. In the midst of angst and soul searching, she retained a sense of humor that gave her the resilience to pursue the search for her true self.

Kat is now very happily married to her soul mate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. With her two children settled in adulthood, she is exploring a beautiful world, from scuba diving in Fiji or photographing from Alaska’s frozen tundra.

Welcome, Kat. Please tell us about your current release.  
Ameera Unveiled was released by Boutique of Quality Books (BQB) Publishing on July 25, 2013. My book has been described as a creative path to genuine inner growth. Ameera Unveiled explores the restricted existence of an empty nester woman who wants to face a forbidden zone—dance. My character, Kat, discovers a newfound freedom through belly dancing. Eventually, while traveling a week with a glittery ensemble of zealous belly dancing women, Kat/Ameera weaves strong friendships as she faces her fears of stage freight and vulnerability. The bottom line was becoming part of a larger and lifelong evasive experience, the bonding of women.

What inspired you to write this book?
I believe in facing issues resulting from being human and trying to get through a day—with as much humor as possible. I don’t like sticking my head in the sand or holding back because something is intimidating or might be difficult. When I decided to take up belly dancing, I found a journey to a real belly dance troupe. For three years, I was embraced and bonded with an eclectic group of women from careers and family changes. They are such a gift in my life. When we travelled to Jamaica for a week, it was a test of respecting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It was a surreal experience that inspired me to share and amuse other women joined through some commonality other than being women. Borrowing the words of Garth Brooks: “I could’ve missed the pain, but I would have missed the dance.” I want my life to be tested by fire to remove the dross and leave a pure heart. I hope Ameera Unveiled inspires others to face their forbidden zones.

The year 2006 was my year of change. According to the Chinese calendar, it was the Year of the Dog, the same sign under which I was born in 1958. Specifically, it was the Year of the Red Fire Dog—I thought of it as the Year of the Hotdog.

In 1982, I was a Pentecostal wife and a young mother and everything I knew about the Chinese zodiac came from discreet glances at paper placemats at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets.

On one of these placemats, I’d read, “The Dog symbolizes responsibility, loyalty, compatibility, and kindness. Dogs frequently offer kind words and useful advice, always listening and lending a shoulder when necessary. Ensuring others are happy is more important to the Dog than wealth, money, or success. Dogs can benefit by learning to relax and being more rational.”

Pondering this description, I’d looked at my four-year-old daughter Isabella and then-husband Chris, a Pentecostal preacher’s son, and thought, Nothing new to me.

But that was then . . .

Now, twenty-four years and a new husband later—we’d married in 2002 after a five-year courtship—I was standing at the front door of a beautiful home that my husband and I had built together, looking out at the wetlands. The sun was rising, highlighting spider webs heavy with dew among the marsh grass. I’d no reason to be up early, since I’d retired from running a sole practitioner’s legal practice shortly after my remarriage, but my mind was still cluttered.

My late-stepfather’s estate had closed and our new Italian restaurant had opened in a problematic building downtown—part of a real estate legacy left for my soul mate, Steve, to manage for his family.

Early in the summer, my son Aiden had graduated high school. As we neared the end of August, I’d packed his bags for a trip to Europe with his father—my ex—and bade him good-bye.

With parental responsibilities waning, I had turned my focus to . . . me! Yet, even as I was preparing to send Aiden on his adventure, I’d stumbled on a goal for myself when I pulled out the local high school’s adult education class schedule and found a beginner’s belly dancing class. Course description: Basic introduction to belly dancing. No dance experience required: six weeks for $55. First class starts September 12. Register online. After I had found this, in no time at all, I was staring at the registration website, stressing and resisting the urge to say a few bad words throughout the online ordeal.

I’d toyed with the idea of enrolling in a dance class for more than a year. I’d dreamed of dance classes for what seemed a lifetime—ever since I completed the arduous commitment to homeschool my son Aiden during his junior year of high school. Aiden had argued to be homeschooled for at least a year since my retirement in 2004. I’d allowed my daughter Isabella to do it until she enrolled in high school, but after my 1994 divorce I wasn’t able to homeschool while working full time and heading a single-parent household.

So I’d agreed to his request. Not only had I taken on a teaching role that had put my new life on hold, I had to teach chemistry, which was anything but fun. Before and after his instruction time, I’d spent hours studying elements and stoichiometry. Together with extra knowledge, I’d gained extra pounds as a deskbound parent. As a fortyish mom who was only five-foot-three, I didn’t distribute those twelve extra pounds well. They attached to “the sisters” and found residence in the love handles that were not so fashionably referred to as “muffin tops.” That added smidgen to my waistline made my love handles scream, “Surrender to the idea of wearing elastic waistbands!”

I wanted to return to my fighting—excuse me—dancing weight. I’d always wanted to find my Red Shoes and dance, dance, dance. Instead, adult education and the realities of being in my forties were leading me to consider bare feet, a hip scarf, and a choli. All I had to do was click on “Register Now” and I’d be on my way to instant shimmyness.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve toyed with several scenarios that had marinated before I conceived Ameera Unveiled. I’m researching some historical facts of the 1960s and 1970s from the perspective of military baby boomers. I’ve been asked if there is a sequel to Ameera Unveiled. I may be collaborating with one of our troupe member’s battle with breast cancer. There are so many stories just from having travelled through five decades of amazing American history.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I grew up in the days of snail mail and diaries. Writing was a natural extension of communication. Even telephone communication had limitations and to some degree considered a luxury. As I left friends behind on the next move, we stayed in touch with a two cent postal stamp.

After high school, I worked for an attorney for twenty-three years and edited his correspondence while transcribing his dictation. I journaled and wrote long descriptive letters to my one hundred year old aunt for her amusement. As I explained above, retired and with more free time, I consulted with a book coach. I met Shari Stauch of WhereWritersWin and she saw a glittery seed in my book pitch. She pushed me to find my writing cadence and pushed me when I tried to soften my character’s journey. It was Shari’s faith in my words that made me dare to call myself a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I feel like I write full-time! I spend a lot of time in my media room with computer in my lap while listening to television shows. If I remember to grab something to eat, it is usually Ramen noodles with hot sauce. When I hit a tough spot, I’ll spend time researching or scouring my photo files to assist in rounding out the scene or character. I don’t usually find time to formally write if my husband and I are travelling. But, I do try and file away something someone said or capture a beautiful building with my camera.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I embrace spinning a humorous twist in the midst of a conflict or relationship. Growing up with an Irish twin with the same sense of humor, we’ve poked fun and made positive spins on some very hard situations and losses. I love when I hear someone tell me: “I felt and saw what so-and-so was doing in chapter…”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in a transient military lifestyle that exposed me to many States and types of communities. The social climate of women breaking into professional male-dominated careers was in its infancy stage. For many reasons, including financial restrictions, I did not have a college option. Because of Hollywood’s influence, I assumed I would find work in some type of clerical office but I was attracted to a counselor type job.

Inadvertently, I accepted a job with a private adoption attorney which honed my natural propensity for social work. I feel blessed to have found a niche that suited me in spite of not having a lot of guidance or education while women’s rights tried to progress.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope Ameera Unveiled inspires readers who may be holding back from jumping through their own rings of fire. I respect anyone who will at least try, struggle and even have to re-group—and try again. Surround yourself with respectful, good natured friends who know when to step in and give you a big warm hug and willing to get a little dirty in the trenches.

Ways to connect:

Thanks, Kat. Readers, don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win the gift card! 


Emily said...

Loved the interview, thanks for sharing!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Kathleen Varn said...

Thanks Emily... I think some of the interview shows my age! I'm thinking of adding a coin scarf to the card as well!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a good read.

Kathleen Varn said...

I hope readers will enjoy how Ameera gets her groove back!! Her new friends have very eclectic personalities and backgrounds joined at the hip by a coin scarf!

bn100 said...

Nice interview

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Kathleen Varn said...

Thanks. It was a lot of fun to answer Lisa's questions. Last week someone asked me, "what about the hard questions?" I didn't even pause: There is no such thing as a hard question. All I can do is tell them how I feel or felt.

Catherine Lee said...

Charleston is a great setting for a book. Have you used it? I live up the coast a bit--just over the border into NC.
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

Chelsea B. said...

This was a wonderful interview!


Mary Preston said...

Thank you for sharing today. A great interview thank you.


Unknown said...

The interview was awesome! This book looks like a wonderful read. I love belly dancers and always wanted to be one when I was little.

Kathleen Varn said...

Thanks to each of you. As my character expresses throughout the book as she faces her 'forbidden zone' (dancing)-- I no longer press my nose on the window pane and watch. I love Lisa's questions and her website made me think about my reading in the room at Green Apple Bookstore in San Francisco last week. Very vintage and Indie!