Published December 11, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – Storyteller, weaver of words, ink slinger, wordsmith – young adult (YA) author Kate Hart is no stranger to the art of creating fiction.
Hart, a Chickasaw citizen, debuted her novel “After the Fall,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, in January.
“After the Fall” tackles issues many teenagers face, from sexual assault and consent to poverty and reputation, Hart doesn’t shy away from addressing heavy-hitting truths.
Told in dual perspective, “After the Fall” focuses on the lives of best friends Raychel and Matt. Raychel is dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault and Matt struggles to understand Raychel’s emotional and personal anguish.
As the story unfolds, friendships are tested and the threads that bind threaten to snap as grief and anger collide.
JOURNEY TO PUBLISHING
After working as a teacher and grant writer, Hart rediscovered her true creative passion – writing.
In 2009, she began truly devoting time to writing fiction, eventually penning “After the Fall,” while raising two young sons with her husband.
“I wrote in high school and felt very aware of my age,” she said. “I started researching and reading YA and I realized they are like adult books. There is great literary YA that can stand on its own with any adult book.”
After finding her niche, Hart only had to find the story within her … a story in the making since she was a young adult.
“When I started writing ‘After the Fall’ I didn’t have any goals for it. I was just doing a writing exercise,” Hart said. “At the top of the page I wrote ‘I want to write about’ and then made a list. I started listing and it was stuff like hiking, growing up in this region – the further I went I realized it was a lot of stuff from my growing up.”
Inspired by the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hart was compelled to draw from her own life experiences, including assault, high school and her environment growing up. From there, “After the Fall” was created. It was published eight years later.
Publishing a novel isn’t as simple as counting to three.
It takes patience and dedication to the work in progress. Hart had the gumption and it paid off when she received a book deal in 2014.
“Writing is hard. Publishing is exhausting,” she reflected. “You’ve got to have your support team who can help you learn, help you be a better writer and help you navigate the business.”
At last, in January 2017, release day arrived and “After the Fall” hit book store shelves. Her novel was public, intriguing readers with its eye-catching cover and gripping contemporary story.
WORLD OF WRITING
Characters made from thin air filled with life and depth; twists and turns form a plot keeping readers guessing; the journey in creating a novel is no easy feat.
Hart knows this firsthand.
“Characters and plot are equally important,” Hart said. “An interesting plot will keep you reading but only if you care about the people involved in the plot.”
When taking on the mission to write a novel plot and characters are at the forefront of a writer’s mind, but several other components must be considered to move the story along such as dialogue and setting.
“Dialogue is easy for me to write,” Hart said. “It is hard to make it sound convincing. It’s tough and then there’s the added pressure of ‘do they sound like teenagers?’”
The characters in “After the Fall” aren’t based off anyone Hart knows, yet she does include quirks and personalities from people she has met into her characters.
“I think writers interject a little of themselves into every character,” Hart said. “For characters to really feel alive, you’ve got to use some of your personality and if not yours then you’re stealing little bits from other people you know in real life.”
Hart said once she began editing “After the Fall” it became important to figure out what is telling or illuminating to readers.
“There’s a lot of debate about whether it’s YA’s job to teach a lesson or to tell a story,” she said. “I fall on the ‘tell a story’ side personally.”
With any novel, the story being told is the backbone of the content. Readers should come away learning something, but feel as if they were transported to a different world while doing so.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
For Hart, the future is full of endless stories waiting to be told.
Whether it is a historical story or another contemporary novel featuring real-life situations, Hart’s storytelling captivates readers with believable characters and circumstances.
Her love for storytelling goes hand-in-hand with her Chickasaw heritage and culture, something she has been researching for years.
She feels closely connected to the history aspect of the Chickasaw Nation and hopes to dig deeper into her Native American heritage.
“I knew growing up about my heritage and I’ve always had an interest in it,” Hart observed.
In early 2018, she will have an essay introduced in “Hope Nation,” an anthology featuring stories about hope and how to stay hopeful.
Hart said her essay will touch on how to keep hope while being a cynic.
Through each sentence she crafts, Hart puts a little of herself into each story. She powers through the odds stacked against writers to reach readers who will connect with her through her story.
“Stories shape who we are as people, as a community and as a country,” Hart said. “I think stories, both true and fictional, are important to identity on all levels.”