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Katherine Center | 20 Questions: WHAT YOU WISH FOR

July 17, 2020

1–What’s the name of your latest release? 


2–What is it about? 

It’s about love, loss, and finding joy on purpose.

School librarian Samantha Casey gets the worst new boss in the world–and he just happens to be the not-quite-forgotten biggest unrequited crush of her life.

3–What word best describes your main character(s)? 

Resilient. Hopeful. Real. (That’s 3 words!)

4–What makes your story relatable? 

It’s a story about people who are trying like heck to find joy in the midst of all their struggles and hardships.


5–Who are the people your main characters turn to when they need help? 

Sam turns to her friend Alice, and Duncan turns to his sister Helen–but more and more, as the story goes on, they turn to each other.

6–What do you love about the setting of your book? 

It’s set on Galveston Island, on the coast of Texas, which is the historic beach town where I write all my books.

7–Are you a plotter (follow an outline) or a pantser (write by the seat of your pants)?

I’m a hybrid! I always start with a plot (more like a list of things I think will happen), and then, as the characters come to life and start driving the story, I change it. Sometimes completely reshaping it.

8–What is an ideal writing day for you? 

I tend to write the way I read–in obsessive bursts. When I’m hooked on a story, I don’t want to do anything else. At home, there are lots of distractions, so I often go away to Galveston to write. There, I can get up in the morning, make a pot of coffee, start writing, and the next thing I know, it’s dark outside. That’s my perfect writing day: Just getting utterly lost in the story and not having to stop writing until I’m all tuckered out.

9–Do you listen to music while you write, need total silence, or do you have the TV on?

Mostly, it’s silence for me–because writing is very much an act of listening. I hear the characters talking in my head. I hear the rhythm of the sentences. The words create a kind of music, and if there’s other music playing, it’s cacophony. That said, every now and then I find a song that captures a feeling I’m trying to create in a story, and I’ll put that song on repeat while I work on a scene. 

10– How do you approach research? 

I do a ton of research if I need to because I always want stories to feel as authentic and rooted in truth as possible. I’ll interview people, visit sites, read memoirs, take videos, watch documentaries, and anything else I can think of to get ready to write. I’ll fill up notebook after notebook. Then, at a certain point, I let all that go and just write the story.

11–What is your publishing journey story? 

Oh, God–how many hours do you have? It’s a long, twisting, twisting tale of delayed gratification, disappointment, and many, many opportunities for personal growth. If I’d known how hard it was going to be, and how much humiliation and disappointment it would involve, I never would have tried to be a writer. But by the time I knew what I was in for, it was too late. The only way out was through: I kept writing, tried to get a little better every day, and made a choice to be grateful for my writing life–no matter what. I got to write stories for a living, and that had to be enough.

12–Do you have critique partners/writing groups you want to give a shout-out to? 

I don’t really have a writing group or anything. Writing has always been a very solitary thing for me–something that happens between me and the page. That said, my mom, my husband, and my big sister are always great early readers and sounding boards for me. And my agent and my editor are also amazing, encouraging people.


13–What’re the most frustrating things about being an author? 

You never really know for sure if you’re any good. That’s true for anything audience-based: acting, singing, standup comedy. How “good” you are has a lot to do with what the audience decides. There’s no objective measure. So you have to become your own inner audience, and write to that–and that takes a long, long time.


14–What’s your favorite scent?

Hmm. The smell of onions sautéing in butter.


15–What movie will you watch no matter what if it’s on TV? 

When Harry Met Sally. I pretty much have it memorized.


16–Do you like breakfast, lunch, or dinner best? 

Dinner for sure! The grand finale of the day! I’m the cook at our house, and my husband and kids and I eat together every night. I cook with the window open, singing along to music, or listening to podcasts or audiobooks, and then we eat–often out in our back garden–and joke around about the day.

17–What’s one thing you wish you knew more about? 

So many things! I wish I could juggle. I wish I could play the ukelele.  I wish I could speak Korean. I wish I had a better sense of geography. I wish I could throw a boomerang. I wish I knew all the recipes to all my favorite foods. I wish I knew the constellations. I wish I could read music. I wish–especially now–that I had traveled more and seen more of the world’s nooks and crannies and wonders.

18–What’s the silliest thing you’ve recently done?

A dance party in the kitchen involving many humiliating dance moves. But that happens almost every night.

19–What can readers expect from you next? 

I have a new story that I’m just starting to piece together, and I don’t exactly know what it’s going to be yet. What I do know is that my books are always both funny and sad. Half-comedy and half tragedy, “Laugh and cry” stories. I always write about people who’ve been knocked down and have to figure out how to get back up. I always write about resilience–and how we bring joy into lives, even during hard times–and how our struggles lead us to our strengths. So whatever’s next, I hope it will do all that for everybody, including me.

20–How can readers reach you?

They can email me through my website,–and definitely sign up for my newsletter, Three Good Things, which is full of great recommendations (for fiction, non-fiction, podcasts, audiobooks, songs, binge-worthy TV) and other joy for your inbox. And Instagram is my favorite social media! 

WHAT YOU WISH FOR by Katherine Center

What You Wish For

From Katherine Center, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas–the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter–a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security–and turn it into nothing short of a prison–Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

Women’s Fiction [St. Martin’s Press, On Sale: July 14, 2020, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250219367 / eISBN: 9781250219381]

About Katherine Center

Katherine Center

Katherine Center is the author of several novels about love and family. Her books and essays have appeared in RedbookPeopleUSA TodayVanity Fair, and Real Simple–as well as the anthologies Because I Love HerCRUSH, and My Parents Were Awesome. Katherine is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. She lives in Houston with her husband and two sweet children


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