Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Not normally, though with this book I did because I needed to. There was so much information I never would have been able to keep it organized without an outline.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Mostly, yes. Sometimes, though, the theme comes quite by accident.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Thank you, Sally. How nice of you to say these things. With this book, because of all of the research I had to do before writing it, I ended up with a very concise outline. I also had an entire wall in my home office where I taped photos of the camp and the main character, a huge map of the camp and the surrounding area, and three separate timelines, one of the events which happened at Gila River, (which I got from microfiche, specifically, three and a half years of the Gila News Courier, which was the newspaper written by the Japanese Americans while at the camp), one with the major events of WWII, and one with the events of baseball and what was happening in the 1940’s. I carefully combined the three timelines and there was, basically, my story. So each day when I sat down to write, I picked up where I had left off the day before. Because I had done most of the work before ever writing one word, the whole book took only four months to write. I spent several months at the Laguna Niguel archives building reading through three years of the newspaper so I could better understand the camp and its culture. Of course it’s impossible to really understand living at one of the camp unless one was there, so I did the best I could and made copies of the pages that I knew I wanted to include in my story. I also discussed almost everything I included with the gentleman who was the pitcher for the team, whose name is Tetsuo Furukawa, now 87 years old. The one thing I did know well, however, was the setting because I had grown up in
. I knew the desert like it was my backyard. I knew what the sunset looked like and the Gila monsters and the snakes and the scorpions. I knew what it was like to get a piece of cholla stuck in my skin. Arizona
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: When I was interviewing Mr. Furukawa, he mentioned that many people, he specifically remembered the younger girls, had a hard time using the latrine because there were no walls. So for privacy, their mothers would give them a pillowcase they could slip over their heads. I couldn’t imagine this, having absolutely no privacy. That story really stuck with me, how the Japanese Americans had everything taken from them. I wanted the reader to understand this from the very beginning.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I remember looking through a commencement announcement from one of the senior classes at
Gila Riverthat Mr. Furukawa had sent me. They had school graduations, weddings, etc., in Gila River, and when I came across the name Horse, I called Mr. Furukawa and asked him about this boy. He told me he didn’t remember anything about him. But I knew he would be one of my characters. So I started writing about him, and he appeared instantly as a boy whose parents had been killed, and he couldn’t face what had happened to them.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Thank you, again. I wish, one day, I could write as beautifully at Kate DiCamillo. I tear up even reading her facebook fan page. How does she do it? I would love to have lunch with her someday and learn everything about her. I also really enjoy Gary D. Schmidt, Deborah Wiles, LaurenChild, and
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I thought a long time before writing about another culture. Because I am not Japanese, the only way I felt comfortable enough to write the book was by sending every single draft of the story to Mr. Furukawa. He would read them and call me and tell me which parts needed revision. He was a tremendous help. I could not have written the book without his careful consultations, of which there were many. He allowed me call him over the course of two years and was extremely generous with his time. He sent me many envelopes filled with information, photographs, DVD’s, so much of the story is his. I drove up to his house in northern
to meet him and his wife when I was almost finished with the story. I spent a lot of time with him discussing his experiences. It was remarkable. He gave me 1000 paper cranes that day. He said they were for good luck. I have them hanging in my home office. California
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I don’t have an MFA. I have an MA, Ed., a graduate degree in education, specifically, Curriculum and Instruction. Once, a few years back, I started to fill out the application for the MFA program at Hamline, but I never completed it. I wish I had one. I think it would be a great asset.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: With the exception of A Diamond in the Desert, all of my main characters have faith in God. It’s such an important part of my own life. I believe all things are possible through faith.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I’m probably not the best person to give advice, but my grandmother, who was also a writer (she wrote science fiction), told me to write what I know. She said that if the story you’re writing is true and people can see this, someone will understand it and maybe even love it.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I have a critique group that meets every other Tuesday. We submit pages by email, critique them, and then hand them back to each other. Each person/manuscript gets thirty minutes of discussion. We give general and specific advice on every story. The group has been together a long time. I’m their newest member.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I was extremely lucky to be able to work with Catherine Frank at Viking. The first letter I received from her was six pages long, single spaced with suggestions, in addition to her line edits on the actual manuscript. I finished those recommendations and then we went back and forth one more time before the manuscript went to copyediting. She made the story so much better than it was by tightening it up, etc. We also got rid of a couple of characters because there were a lot in the beginning, considering that it was a baseball team. One of our favorite sub plots was the story about Lefty. In the original manuscript, the reader didn’t know if he was reunited with his owners. I remember she wrote to me explaining that she would be tremendously relieved if Lefty got back to Tetsu somehow. I completely agreed and changed that part so Lefty found his way home. I have a dog named Holly. I can’t imagine ever losing her.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: My agent, Jennifer Rofe, at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, reads everything before she sends it out. She likes the manuscript to be near perfect. Often I will go though several revisions before we are both happy with the story. I met her at the Big Sur Writing Workshops. I was in a critique group with Eric Elfman, who is a wonderful screenwriter, and he said he thought Jennifer would like my Swallows story, so he introduced me to her. I sent it to her several months later and she had me do an extensive revision and then asked to represent me after that. She’s a great agent, very emotional and savvy, exactly what you’d want in an agent.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: When my youngest son was nine, we read Because of Winn-Dixie together. The part where Opal has her dad tell her ten things about her mother and then she goes off and memorizes them so she can recognize her mother when she sees her, that part right there made me think, “this is the loveliest writing I have ever read.”
But more importantly, when my grandmother died, she left me a box of her unpublished manuscripts. For years I’d go through them and wonder if I could do it, if I could write. One day, I decided it was time to try. I quit teaching and sat down on the first day of school after getting my own kids off and started writing about a little girl named Eleanor, named after my grandmother. It was the least I could do after all of the support she gave me while she was alive. I had written things while growing up, under my grandmother’s encouragement, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I became more serious in my efforts.
Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Yes, a kindle and an iPad, and an iPhone. Though, truth be told, I like real books best.