Interview: Josie Laird talks about All About Kate
Josie Laird is a self-sufficiency enthusiast who lives on a lifestyle farm outside Auckland. She trained as a scientist and worked as a laboratory assistant, pharmaceutical rep, and in the medical publishing world.
She has three adult sons and a bewildered husband who have all accepted her devotion to books, whether she is writing or reading.
Josie talks to NZ Booklovers about her debut novel that is publishing on 11 March, a beautifully-crafted, warm and wise debut novel from a new voice in New Zealand mainstream fiction.
Tell us a little about All About Kate.
It’s about a young woman who hates her body so much that it drives her to do things she otherwise would never consider. It is also about family and belonging.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was doing a lot of reading about dieting and the self-loathing our society encourages. Fatness seems to be the ultimate sin these days, and our toughest critics are ourselves.
What research was involved?
As well as further reading on dieting and body image disorders, I also learnt a lot about adoption and addiction, through reading and discussion.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I wrote this book while attending a creative writing course at The Creative Hub in Auckland. Some of the scenes in the book came directly from exercises we did on the course. The storyline evolved as I wrote. The direction of the book changed as I got to know my main character, Kate, and felt more empathy for her.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Calliope! by The Veils, for the lines ‘you’ve come such a long way, with no one to comfort you or to tell you you're needed’
Nadia Reid’s I Come Home To You. ‘We see things in a different light.’
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
I hear that Hayley Westenra is moving into acting, and she’d make a good Kate. For Luke, her boyfriend, Domhnall Gleeson would be a good fit, although he’d have to do a Kiwi accent!
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
I loved all the learning – about writing, about the writing community, about how characters become real people in your head, about aspects of the dilemmas Kate faced.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I meant to treat myself to a full day’s spa package, to unwind all the knots that had formed from sitting over a computer for so long. But I never got around to doing it. Instead, I’m going to have a big book launch with all my friends and family.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
The Heart of Jesus Valentino, by Emma Gilkison. This is a moving account of Emma's own baby, who was born with a fatal heart condition. Emma writes beautifully, poignantly, and lets us share her experience. I felt grateful that she could do so with such grace and honesty. While sad, it was also hopeful somehow.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I have another book at draft stage, about a woman with poor literacy and the difficulties she faces. I volunteered as a literacy tutor for some years, and there is the perception that someone who can’t read must be stupid. I found that isn’t true – often it can be a combination of circumstances beyond your control when you were a child.