Carrie Kabak Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Carrie Kabak
Author photo © Mark Kabak

Carrie Kabak

An interview with Carrie Kabak

Carrie Kabak discusses her first book, Cover The Butter, and shares a few highlights from her second book, Tarts and Sinners.

Where were you born, and where have you lived?

I was born in Bolton in Lancashire, in the United Kingdom. I've lived in Cefneithin and Cardiff in South Wales, Bewdley and Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, Leominster in Herefordshire, Ludlow in Shropshire, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands. And I spent some time in Southern Ireland and France. I now live in Kansas City, Missouri and I'm here to stay! I use the places and homes I've lived in as "backdrops" for my writing.

When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?

I want emotions stirred. I want the reader to LAUGH (very important,) cry, feel anger, be sympathetic. I want the protagonist to become the reader's friend. And I want to make sure my writing appeals to all five senses when I create settings. For me, writing makes all life's experiences: success, betrayal, obsession, loss and love have a real purpose.

Your story-telling ability is very reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, who's a master of crafting simple but heartfelt tales with a moral message. What do you think is the moral message behind Cover The Butter? Did your own religious upbringing have any bearing on the storyline?

I've read all of Maeve Binchy's books, mainly because I'm intimately familiar with Ireland and the Irish culture, and I can relate. The simple message in Cover The Butter is : "It's never too late to escape and start over." I'd like readers to form their own conclusions as to what the moral message might be for them. There could be several. I was raised a Roman Catholic (although I'm now labeled as "lapsed,") but yes, my past experiences came in very useful. I'm fascinated by all aspects of any religion.

In Cover The Butter, was Kate Cadogan's story something that had been brewing around in your head for a while, or did it just occur to you one day? Did you know how her life would unfold, or did you watch it happen as you wrote?

Thoughts concerning Kate's life swam around in my head for a couple of years, usually when I was illustrating. I'd debate whether I should be writing instead! I let the characters lead the way in Cover The Butter. There was no rigid plan.

Two major themes in this book are female jealousy and generational distance. In your mind, are those two themes related to each other?

Usually, no. In Cover The Butter, the two major themes are definitely related, but the very nature of the female jealousy involved isn't exactly "normal." The smothering situation Kate is in and the problems she faces as a result of the relationship with her mother Biddy can't be blamed on simple generational distance. I've received emails asking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder—many readers reckon Biddy suffers with this condition. (Although—it's her daughter who does all the suffering!) Readers detail their personal predicament and I'm asked for advice, but unfortunately I can't help, as I'm no expert. I observe and relate. I believe this is the definition—Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A pattern of traits and behaviours, which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

As a mother yourself, was it difficult for you to write Biddy's character?

Very sad at times, especially because despite everything, Kate had an intense love for Biddy.

Why does Kate remain in such a dull and sexually strange marriage for so long?

I think many women hang on simply because they think that's their lot. Why? Apathy, morals, society? I don't know. In Kate's case, her mother's behavior marrs, influences, affects her decisions in life. Kate becomes accustomed to accepting rather than retaliating. Such control can turn into an odd form of security, and is often mistaken for love.

Music and fashion have very specific ways of setting moods, and both play subtle, but distinct roles in Kate's life story. Why did you choose music and fashion to frame Kate's life?

I hope the songs play in the heads of readers as they turn the pages. I used music and fashion to set the mood, create a backdrop, give a sense of time. Kate's life was recorded as a journey, and music and fashion were the perfect tools.

Is Barry Finch based on a real person? And if so, do you know where he is now and what he's doing?

Yes, a Barry Finch type really was part of my life a good while ago. I don't know what happened to him, though! He was BAD. My writing is a fictitious blend of various elements from my own life and those of others. My characters are formed by mixing the personality traits of those I've met or been involved with—or just observed.

Kate loves to cook. Besides writing, what is your passion?

Spending time with family and friends. Doing and going to dinner parties, walking the dogs, watching films, painting canvas and walls, making curtains, cooking French stuff and drinking wine, single malt and the odd gin and tonic. Reading!

If you weren't a writer what would you be?

I'd own a restaurant, be an entomologist, or work in a zoo.

When and where do you find the time to write?

I usually write 3-4 days a week, and start typing after 11:00AM, and often keep going until 4:00AM in the morning, or if I'm on a roll, I'll work through the night, not wanting to lose the thoughts in my head. I change from my desktop computer to my laptop when my husband comes home, so I can follow him around. Otherwise, he feels neglected! He's a fantastic cook—so on my writing days, I don't have to stop to prepare meals. We both have a passion for cooking.

How do you deal with writer's block?

Thank goodness, I don't get writer's block, but I do procrastinate. I find all sorts of essential jobs I must do around the house. I have to force myself to sit down sometimes—but once I start writing, I find it hard to stop!

How do you deal with fan mail? What questions are you asked?

I answer all fan mail, and I LOVE receiving it! I'm asked about England, London, Ireland, Wales and France. I'm asked for recipes for some of the simple foods mentioned in Cover The Butter (I've put a few on my website.) Will there be a sequel? (Yes, and set in Provence.) I'm asked if I plan to base a novel in America—yes. I'm asked if Tarts and Sinners is anything like Cover The Butter—again, it deals with human relationships, but the themes are—more um, unusual. It examines sexual relationships.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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