A Page Turning Protagonist
Kathryn Mattingly’s earliest memories are of reading. As a young girl she found Steinbeck’s The Red Pony to be a pivotal moment in her childhood. It affected her so deeply that to this day she remembers her reaction to the book. Thanks to Steinbeck’s genius, The Red Pony became something she could sink more than just her imagination into. It gave new meaning to literature. It gave it teeth.
According to Kathryn, it also sparked something in her that would begin the journey of a lifetime both reading and writing about the darker side of life, albeit flooded with light at strategic moments with highroad risk taking, ravenous do-gooding and genuine soaring of the human spirit, despite the wicked hand of fate interfering wherever possible.
Afterall, she says, isn’t that a fair assessment of everyone’s journey here on this earth? Tons of mundane days (left out of storytelling for obvious reasons) occasionally punctuated by life-altering moments (both good and bad) upon which we base the summary of our character and purpose?
Kathryn’s second novel Journey is no exception to her obsession with trying to understand human behavior, which she says is often affected as much by circumstance as self-direction, and ultimately defines us as individuals.
I asked Kathryn a few questions about her second, and even more controversial book than Benjamin (her very well received debut novel).
What do you have to say in defense of your complex protagonist in Journey (and Benjamin for that matter), who does not always take the high road or do the desirable thing?
My somewhat controversial protagonists are not unlike any of us. Tell me that you have never made bad decisions based on selfish desire and I will tell you to go back and reexamine your life- objectively. The difference between my protagonists and the typical main character of a book is my willingness to not just expose their human weaknesses, but to make them instrumental in the plot. Fighting our passions and desires for whatever it is that conflicts with doing the right thing is something we all struggle with.
What do you suppose makes this work with the reader, because your reviews have clearly established both novels to be quite the page-turners.
Look at Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Loving to hate a self-serving person is not new to fiction. We see courage and spunk beneath the self-involved tendencies of these characters, and we are rooting for them to bring the more desirable traits forward. Isn’t this what we want for ourselves and for those whom we care about? Aren’t we constantly inspiring one another to hang in there and do the right thing even when it’s difficult? We’d all rather take that low easy road with the tempting payoff in full view rather than tackling the higher, more difficult road with no obvious carrot dangling from the end of it.
If we were honest with ourselves, more often that not we head down the easy road first, and then rein ourselves in and change course. Why? Because in the end if we are fortunate enough to have a conscience, it will coax us toward the only path that allows peace of mind from doing what we perceive to be the right thing. The character-building road leads to greater and more lasting joy than the road that slowly crumbles both our perceived and real self-worth.
Does this pattern of flawed behavior on the part of your protagonists continue into the next couple of novels, which I know you have already written?
The flawed heroine is my signature theme, and so far has made for a page-turning protagonist. I find good people doing inappropriate things far more interesting than any other scenario, mainly because it is the reality we don’t want to face. It is the truth. Heroes without a dark side are quite one-dimensional, not to mention unbelievable, because lets face it- all the real life heroes have a dark side. Being human means we are flawed. Really flawed. Overcoming our human weaknesses is something we all deal with daily. And when we do, that is when we feel rich and powerful within, where it matters.
You have equally gained a reputation for creating settings that transport us there – first in Portland and then in Rome with your debut novel Benjamin and in Hawaii between the Big Island and Maui with Journey. Where will your next two novels take place?
I only use settings where I have lived or traveled. Olivia’s Ghost begins in Seattle and ends up in Cairns, Australia. The Tutor begins in San Francisco and ends up on the island of Roatan just off the coast of Honduras. All wonderful, fascinating places to have either lived or traveled, in my humble opinion.
Have you started a new novel, aside from the ones already written and waiting for publication?
I see my job right now as perfecting the novels already penned. They are like children I am slowly raising to be shining stars when finally set free upon the world. Once that is accomplished I will begin writing the novel that has been conceived (staying with the analogy) but is not yet born. More and more frequently its restlessness in my womb causes sleeplessness to the point of doing what all authors try to avoid and cannot- frantically spewing words on paper in the dead of night with only dark corner spiders and coyotes out the window for company.
What are you doing these days besides writing? I know you’ve moved a lot recently. Have you embraced and enjoyed these new adventures, or have they taken a toll on your sanity?
Besides writing I have created and teach a few noncredit courses for a local college a couple evenings a week. The courses are Novel Writing: Fiction & Memoir, Editing Your Novel, and The Art of the Short Story. As for the frequent moving I feel very blessed to have lived in some of the most prime locations this country has to offer- starting with the plush Willamette Valley which houses the University of Oregon, my alma mater. Next we lived on the misty and mysterious Oregon coast. We have also lived in Portland – a very endearing city that still seduces all my senses every time I visit. Recently we spent a decade merely a stones throw from San Francisco and Napa Valley. Currently we live an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park for a day trip and then there is Vail for a weekend getaway or Denver for a generous dose of mile high city events.
I am a survivalist and much like my protagonists, I find my main goal in life is to find an acceptable balance between choosing the high road and ohmygod what were you thinking?
Kathryn’s books are available on Amazon and through all major booksellers. You can read more about Kathryn and her books on her website, kathrynmattingly.com.
Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynmattinglyauthor
WGP page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/
All Winter Goose Publishing ebooks are currently only £1.99 on Amazon, for the month of December. It’s a great chance to discover a new author.