It’s rare that you’ll come across an individual like Kathryn Magendie — in fact, I don’t believe you’re likely to find another. She is unique in many ways, a quirky little soul who is kind and full of laughter, bubbling with energy and a quick wit. She looks at the world (and believe me, she is looking) with a twinkle in her elfish eye. Don’t let her fool you. Her stories are described as unflinching, bittersweet, haunting and poignant. And I would say the same of this wise mountain woman, herself.
I’m delighted to share this interview with you because I love Kathryn’s spirit and I love the way that spirit inhabits her books.
What is your favorite quality in a person?
Honesty. And that word means more than first apparent, because, to me, honesty means being authentic and respectful, among other things. It doesn’t mean someone uses the word “honesty” to spout off hurtful words to others under the guise of “I’m just being honest with you because I’m just the one to do it; you know, dear, if you can’t take a little criticism why don’t you grow a backbone, bless your heart . . .”
Really, if one were to pick apart some “honesty” or “let me tell you what I think because apparently you aren’t aware of what everyone thinks about you” they’d find some hidden motivations—envy/jealousy, lack of respect, fear, etc.
You’ll know Respectful Honesty when it inspires you to be a better person, when you feel positive and alive instead of negative and discouraged.
What is your least?
Lack of respect/dishonesty. Dig into the words and find the truth/honesty of them and discard the rest as rubbish (I just love saying/writing “rubbish” – it’s such a British term and makes me grin.)
As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer?
Naw, I don’t really recall it. However, my mom says I did and if a mom says something, then it has to be true, right? I vaguely remember winning a first-place prize for a short story I wrote in eighth grade, but I do not remember what it was about. No one really said anything more about it, so I suppose I just shrugged it off. But I also remember somewhere around that time writing a horror story and the school called my parents, alarmed about its content—lawd! My parents called me into their room, all serious, and I was so baffled. I said, “It was just a story. I just made up some stuff.” I don’t write horror because apparently I can tap into some awful dark stuff *laugh*
When I was a child, it was all about books and libraries and the book-mobile. I was a reading fool. I lived for books—my sanctuary from a chaotic life was the library, and the books inside were my friends and comforters and the ones to take me away to places where I’d rather be with the characters than where I really was (and oft-times the characters were animals—I went through a mighty dog, horse, wolf stage!).
Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams?
My mother often said, “You can do anything. You can be anything.” But I didn’t believe that because . . . well, because of other influences in my life. Three things started me on this journey to believing in myself and what I do, even if I was in my forties before it all clicked.
The first were English instructors Barbara Gray and Robin Becker, who both strongly, emphatically, advised me to write fiction. So I did begin to pursue it, and something awakened in me long sleeping.
Then, I connected with a group of women writers who supported and encouraged each other. With the groups’ further encouragement, I began to think I may have some kind a “gift.” I am still friends with these women years later and we still support each other.
But I have to give credit to my best friend Angie Ledbetter, before we became besties, for kicking my butt repeatedly until I wrote my first novel, what would become Tender Graces—until she did that, I never thought I could write a novel, and now here I am working on novel four. Though I say this about her often, I don’t think she recognizes just how danged glad I am I met her and she kicked my sorry butt.
And all during this time, my husband GMR (Good Man Roger) has supported me in so many ways, and without that, I may not have been able to pursue this writing life.
What is your greatest love?
You know, always I used to say “the words, the language, the writing, the books,” because it consumes my life and I know with a bit of sadness and a bit of “you are so self-indulgent, Kathryn!” that I have sacrificed family and friends to do this thing. But when it comes down to it, if some Great Powerful Poombahdoo came down and said, “Choose between your books/writing and your family/friends! Choose Low-ling Human!” Well, one look at my loved ones faces would have me choosing right quick, even if I’d become Not Who I Am without my words. But since there isn’t some Great Powerful Poombahdoo from the Planet AngryArseButt, I don’t have to choose. I can have my books/writing and my family/friends too! Ain’t life grand?
What is your greatest fear?
Losing what and who I love:
Something interfering with my ability to write and/or read; I just can’t fathom that kind of loss.
But losing a loved one is my greatest fear of all. I’ve lost dearest loved ones, much too soon and unexpectedly (including a brother and half-brother), and it is terrifying. “Lost” sounds so strange, as if they are somewhere and I’ll stumble upon them, “Oh, there you are. Where have you been?” Well, if wishes were horses, I’d ride off to find them and bring them back home.
What is your favorite place?
I have three, if you don’t mind, because it is hard to separate them. One is where I live my life and find my peace when I walk amongst these mountains and nature and serenity: here in my cove at Killian Knob in the Great Smoky Mountains in Haywood County. When my friends and family I miss so much visit here, there is a hole patched in the universe.
But, a big poignant gigantic piece of my heart and longing remains in Oregon where my son, daughter in law, and my granddaughter live.
Writing is a safe place. Writing is sanctuary just as the library used to be. Writing is the only place my brain is quiet—as strange as that sounds, it is true, for when I’m writing, other “people” take over and my brain with its random swirly chaotic thoughts goes to sleep, thank gawd!
If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be?
Every time I write the answer to this question, it is several paragraphs long! *laughing* So let me try to be brief this time: Beware of published authors giving out advice—okay, not really, but kind of sort of really. We are giving advice from the perspective of having already been published, so we can be a little jaded along with feeling as if we can be big sisters/brothers to writers who haven’t yet published.
So take our advice and tear into it to see what fits you. As well, when we say something like, “Look, things aren’t going to be as much fun as you think if you don’t slip on a thick skin, if you don’t set the bar too high, if you don’t find a way to handle the stresses you don’t know about now but oh you will, hahahahhahaha!,” you just go on and have FUN and do your thang, because we all did/do that, we all had/still have, our FUN and did/do our thang, and whatever happens once that contract is signed, well, it’s icing on an already iced cake if you are doing what you love. Enjoy all the moments of wherever you are. Aw, lawd, this is becoming too long again! Dang my hide!
Thank you, Kimberly – I enjoyed this so very much. I love interviews because they most always show me some insight about myself I hadn’t realized until I answered a question.
Kathryn Magendie, a West Virginia native and adoptive daughter of South Louisiana, lives in a little log house with two dogs, a husband, and a ghost dog, tucked in a cove in Maggie Valley, western North Carolina Smoky Mountains. She spends her days writing prose and poetry, photographing nature, and as co-publishing editor of The Rose & Thorn. Her short stories, essays, poetry, and photography can be found in online and print magazines.Visit her website at http://www.kathrynmagendie.com/
or Twitter at @katmagendie
Her Books From BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books:
The Firefly Dance