Tuesday 8 May 2018

Interview: Kelly Wittmann

Last Updated: 2 January 2023

This week's interview comes courtesy of Kelly Wittmann, author of An Authentic Experience. Interested in finding out more about the author behind the book? I've got a full Q&A to share with you, below!

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
I’m an author and educational writer who lives in Chicago. I love the diversity of this city; getting to know people from all over the world (and getting to know foods from all over the world, too) is wonderful!
How did you first become interested in writing?
Well, I wanted to become an author from a very young age, but I finally became one out of necessity: I was unknowingly living with a brain tumour for many years and was repeatedly misdiagnosed as being mentally ill. It got to the point where I couldn’t even really hold down “real” jobs. Trying to work in a loud, crowded office or restaurant was a nightmare for me. I just couldn’t do it anymore. But I could write.
an-authentic-experience, kelly-wittmann, book

Tell me about An Authentic Experience.
I wanted to write about how a brain tumour changes the life of the individual who has been diagnosed, but also about how it affects those around them. By making the protagonist the teen daughter of the patient, I was able to get a little space and distance from my own tumour and not turn this into an autobiography. It’s the story of a family, not the story of a brain tumour.
Why did you decide to write for Young Adults?
I’ll be blunt: Because I knew I needed to get into a genre if I were ever to have any success in writing fiction, and I wouldn’t know how to write in any other genre. I couldn’t write a SciFi or Fantasy novel if you offered me a million dollars for it.
What drew you to writing contemporary fiction?
I love realism and writing about “little people.” My writing is very character-driven; I love taking tiny bits and pieces of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I’ve known (or known of) and creating my own, completely new human beings.
Did you find writing the book a challenge?
Yes. I have found every book I’ve ever written, whether fiction or nonfiction, to be a challenge, for the simple reason that I am a perfectionist. To a fault, probably.
How did you get inspiration?
Through my recovery. It is amazing, what the human body can recover from, and that inspires me every day.
What’s your writing process?
The first thing I do is write very detailed character descriptions. Not for every character, of course, but for maybe the most important five or six characters. I have to have a “feel” for them before I even start writing the actual novel. Then I’ll write the first, oh, maybe eight chapters and send it off to my agent to see what she thinks.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Starting. Starting a book, starting a chapter... It’s like you’re at the bottom of a mountain and you just don’t see how you can climb it. But the good part is that it gets better every day, and as you near the end, it is a truly awesome feeling.
kelly-wittmann, author

What do you love most about writing?
I guess I shouldn’t admit this, but I like it when I make myself laugh over a crazy/weird/strange character or situation. I just hope readers will laugh, too.
Which authors inspire you?
Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Alice Walker, Ba Jin, George Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, Boris Pasternak... I could go on and on. The YA authors who influenced me the most as a young person were Judy Blume (of course), M.E. Kerr, Norma Klein, and Rosemary Wells.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Getting an agent is harder than ever these days, but… Get an agent. It’s possible if you work hard at it.
What are you currently working on?
A novel about a young man who sees the world differently after becoming temporarily disabled.
What are you reading at the moment?
Doctor Zhivago. Not for the first time, but it’s been a long time. What a beautiful novel.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
The Age of Innocence.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would love to be a successful Young Adult author, so we’ll see how that goes.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Food! The restaurants here in Chicago are amazing! I also love doing cardio workouts (which are quite necessary because of said food) and yoga.
An Authentic Experience is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Got an author in mind for next week's Q&A? Let me know in the comments below!