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Interview with Catherine West

Before we talk about your book, let’s talk about writing! Describe your writing routine.

On most days when I’m home, I’ll get up, feed the dog, run him around, do a 20-40 minute workout, and try to be at my desk by 10 a.m. I tend to edit as I go, so I’ll usually spend time going back over my most recent chapters, and then pick up where I left off.

I break for lunch then write a few more hours in the afternoon. Usually around 3 p.m. it’s time to take Noah for a walk and we’ll head out and then I’m pretty much done for the day, but I can usually sneak in another hour in the evening if there’s nothing going on. It’s a good day if I can get in 6 hours of writing time, but of course not every day works that way!

Describe your favorite place to write.

We have an office at the far end of the house. It has sea foam green walls, an emerald green patterned rug, and a fireplace we’ve never used. My desk is an antique that I’m in love with, and I use an ergonomic swivel chair that helps my posture and back as I sit for long stretches at a time.

There’s a view of the ocean, which is very helpful when the words won’t come and you simply need to stare off into space.

How does your faith in God play into your storytelling?

I believe it is vital to my writing that God put His fingerprint on each of my stories. I may not quote Scripture or have characters pray frequently, but their faith will always be part of their journey. Some of my characters have a lot of faith, some have none, and some are trying to find their way back.

It’s important to show that God is always at work, always with us, even if we don’t see or feel that, and this can be shown through events that occur, through something another character says or does or even through the unexplainable. Just as God is sometimes a mystery in real life, so He is in my books—but He is always there.

Let’s talk about The Things We Knew. Where did your story and character ideas come from?

I’ve always wanted to write relational family drama, so I knew I wanted to write about a large family. I wasn’t sure how many POV’s I would end up with at first, but as we got into the story, once I had fleshed out Nick and Lynnie, Gray really spoke to me—I knew he had to have his own story as well.

How much time did you spend writing this new novel? If you dealt with writer’s block, how did you push past it?

The first draft probably took a few months, but there were many drafts after that. This particular book went through many changes along the way until we got it just right. Thanks to some brilliant editors, I think the end result is exactly what we were looking for!

Writer’s block happens with every book—I usually just try to keep writing. If it’s really bad, I’ll take a few days away from the story and do other things. This generally helps and I come back with a fresh perspective.

Describe your book’s heroine. What makes her strong? What makes her likeable? What draws her to the hero?

Lynette Carlisle has been taking care of her father, who’s showing signs of Alzheimer’s, by herself, for many years. Her four siblings are off living their lives and not too bothered by what she’s going through. She also works full-time and has financial worries, so I think she’s a pretty strong character to begin with.

She’s the baby of the family though, so she needs to grow up a bit when it comes to confronting her older siblings, but we see her growth through the story. I think we can all relate to some of the feelings and experiences Lynette goes through.

Her greatest struggle is realizing that she must deal with the past in order to move into the future. She’s haunted by her mother’s death, an event that occurred when she was 12, and she can’t remember what happened that day. She knows she was there, and thoughts of what the truth could be keep her up nights.

Nick Cooper, the Carlisles’s next-door neighbor, becomes a good friend and someone she can depend on. He doesn’t pressure her like her siblings, and he believes in her. Aside from that, she’s loved him since she was a young girl, so it doesn’t take long for her to really fall for him.

What about Nicholas? What role does he play in this story?

Nick is a people pleaser. He never wants to hurt anyone and always tries to do the right thing. This sometimes works against him. It’s also his best feature because he is kind and caring.

He is truly concerned about Lynette and the things she struggles with. He sticks up for her around her siblings, and wants to see her happy. He also wants to protect her, and walks a fine line in doing so, because sometimes keeping the truth from someone, no matter your intentions, is not the best idea.

Why did you choose Nantucket as the setting for The Things We Knew?

I thought a small island setting would be dramatic and Nantucket appealed to me because of living on an island myself. I thought I would relate to that kind of life and be able to describe the weather with some accuracy. Being able to incorporate elements like the weather, using storms in certain scenes, added to the mystery of the story. Although Nantucket is very different to Bermuda, the atmosphere is very much the same.

What was the most challenging part of writing this book? What was the most rewarding?

I used quite a few flashback scenes throughout, so although that was fun, I had to be careful to make them relevant to what was going on in present day, not just stick them in willy-nilly.

There are also a lot of characters, and each one needed to have their own unique voice without too much backstory that would take over the plot. The most rewarding part was seeing it all come together—and then hearing from readers that everything I set out to accomplish actually worked!

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Truth is the backbone of The Things We Knew. I hope the lesson learned is that keeping secrets of any kind is never a good thing. But there is always forgiveness, grace, and hope to be found in any situation.


Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and has released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing the next big story, she can be found listening to music, enjoying food, shopping at her favorite malls, and spending quality time with loved ones.

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