Kate’s understanding of her world is shattered when she learns of an uncle who died inexplicably in the hospital just days after his birth. Pamela Gwyn Kripke, the author of At the Seams, talks to Book Glow about her debut novel.
Describe the book in one sentence.
What led you to write it?
As the main character did, I grew up hearing about the baby who died in the hospital and later investigated the incident as a reporter. I began writing the story as a memoir but ran into key details that I couldn’t confirm, either with documents or interviews. So, after several months of research, I decided to fictionalize what I didn’t know to be true, which led to broader freedom to invent throughout the narrative. Once that happened, I wanted to create a protagonist who was deeply affected by the inciting loss, leading her to question everything she had previously believed.
How long did it take to write?
I’d say it took about nine months to complete once I made the switch to fiction.
Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
As a journalist for many years, I’ve covered breaking news and written features for numerous newspapers and magazines. Along the way, I came to write essays, which led to short stories, which led to this first novel. I love the essay form because of how the perspective emerges from the scene, often without planning for it. I’d say the same for fiction, which, coming from such strict adherence to the facts, feels fantastically misbehaved.
Where do you write?
These days, I write at home, either at my desk (a drop-front secretary from childhood) or the dining table. I’ll also write by hand in a notebook if I’m on a train or bus or something that moves without my driving it.
Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Truly, there isn’t. I love writing, to the point where I see sentences typed out in my head. I’m grateful to be able to do it and have readers who find something to relate to in my work.
Any advice for novice writers?
Put the ideas down the way that they come to you. Don’t think about how someone else might do it or whether what you’re doing is correct or saleable or worthy. Write the way that you think, innately, and you will develop a voice.
I’m finishing up a story collection called And Then You Apply Ice, which explores the subtleties and the power of human interaction and celebrates the complex resilience that is so much a part of women’s lives. It’s funny and poignant all at once, and the situations the characters find themselves in are weird and quirky, though, I think, entirely relatable.