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Kathryn North Interview
Review: Proud Mari

Proudly Stated, Proudly Put
An Interview with Kathryn North
By Suzie Housley
November 2001

Kathryn Awe writes under the pen name Kathryn North. She told me her mother told her she taught herself to read before she began school. Her dad was an avid reader and a great fan of westerns, so by the time she graduated from high school she had read almost every pulp western ever written, plus nearly every bit of fiction in the high school library. Everything from Riders of the Purple Sage to Nancy Drew to Wuthering Heights. Soon she found she wanted to write her own stories. The first one was a shoot 'em up western, written when she was about twelve. You could see the influence of her Dad's literary choices: the men all had square jaws and carried their six guns strapped to their hips and the saloon girls wore daringly low-cut dresses. She still has that story, written in pencil on lined tablet paper.

After high school graduation she married her high school sweetheart. They recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. While raising their sons and working at a variety of jobs and attending college when she could scare up the money, she continued to read voraciously. One year in which was spent overseas; she wasn't working and the boys were both in school. With time on her hands, she wrote her first complete novel, a romance. It made it to the Mills and Boon editors in England before being sent back with a long handwritten letter, turning it down because her hero was "amoral." Today he'd be bland, bland, bland, but that was twenty years ago. "I was too stupid about how publishing works to immediately follow up with another story." she said. Instead she tearfully put that one in a box in a dark corner of her closet, where it has resided in dust-covered solitude ever since, and then she quit writing. But the need to communicate through the written word kept nagging at her.  She switched her college major from Accounting to English and immersed herself in all the literature and writing courses she could work into her schedule. She studied books on writing, attended writing workshops. In one workshop her writing was savaged because she was working on a romance type short story and the instructor thought anything that wasn't "literary" was contemptible and a waste of his wonderful class. She stuck it out and kept writing and eventually placed some short stories in "little magazines." Then, one day, she decided it was time and she began the story that eventually became Proud Mari, her first published novel.

Suzie Housley: How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

Kathryn North: More than I'm sometimes comfortable with revealing! Writers write from their personal well of self, ich includes our emotions, all previous personal life experiences and knowledge gained in whatever fashion. Including eavesdropping. Writers are accomplished eavesdroppers! I doubt I could write a good story that promoted a set of values that are repugnant to me personally.

Suzie Housley: Why did you decide to write romance novels?

Kathryn North: I enjoy reading romance novels. I'm addicted to stories about families and love and stories with happy endings. Romance novels provide all three. I'm an optimist. I believe most people can work through their problems and realize their goals and find some personal happiness.

Also, at the time I began writing novels, romance novels were a booming part of the book market and I thought my best chances of a book-length sale were with a romance. At that time I'd already placed some short stories in small magazines.

Suzie Housley: Would you like to write in a different one than you do now?

Kathryn North: Many genres besides romance interest me. I'm an avid reader of mysteries and biographies, so-called mainstream fiction, and also non-fiction. I just read In the Middle of Nowhere, by Terry Underwood, which is the story of Ms. Underwood's life as a rancher/rancher's wife on an Outback cattle station in The Northern Territory, Australia. It's a fascinating book. 

Ooops, I've gotten off the track here. The answer is Yes, I do write in more than one genre and I plan to continue to do so. One of my works-in-progress is a comedy--or at least I certainly hope it is. The working title is The First Annual Frostbite Falls Frolic and the story revolves around the convoluted social life of a small town. I've written short stories that have many kinds of story lines and protagonists, including a few with male protagonists. Sometime in 2002 I will have a short story anthology published by Hard Shell Word Factory. The final selection of stories hasn't been made yet, so I'm not sure what the overall theme of the collection will be. 

Suzie Housley: What does your husband think of your writing? Do you ever ask his advice on one point or another?

Kathryn North: At first my husband thought of my writing as a hobby. Over the years, he's become supportive, as he's seen the effort and sheer volume of time I've put into learning to write and then learning to market that writing. A former teacher, his experience with young adults and also his interests in hunting, fishing, and the outdoors make him an excellent "in-house" authority. Also he's a good proofreader as he's very good with grammar. One instance where his expertise was useful was a short story I wrote that appeared in Thema Magazine. I needed to know how to get someone with a broken leg out of the forest during a snowstorm. 

My two sons have also been supportive and have provided me with background information about sports and historical events, as both are/were history buffs. My younger son, who died recently, was an English teacher and he and his wife, a journalist turned computer guru, have served as experts when I had a knotty grammar question. Fortunately both my elder son and my daughter-in-law know more about computers than I do and have come to my rescue more than once.

Suzie Housley: Could you tell us about your latest novel?

Kathryn North: Besides Frolic, which I mentioned earlier, I'm working on a mainstream-type romance, or maybe that should be romance-type mainstream novel. The protagonist, a thirtyish single mother, is a strong, sometimes abrasive, not always sympathetic character. Her life, especially as a child, has been hard and painful and she's still recovering. She would never be acceptable to the big print romance publishers, but I have every hope she will find a home with the e-publishing houses, who allow their writers the freedom to write the stories of their hearts. 

My first novel, Proud Mari, was published under my pseudonym, Kathryn North. Since then I've decided to revert to my legal name, so from now on I'll use Kathryn Awe. 

Suzie Housley: What do you believe are the three most essential ingredients in writing a Romance novel?

Kathryn North: In the novel itself, three essential ingredients are hope for a better future, learning to solve one's own problems, and finding love/a loving companion for life's journey. 

As a writer, besides the necessary writing tools, I believe a romance writer needs to believe that a happy fulfilling life is possible and that people can learn to achieve that. I think a romance writer is an optimist about the human race.

Suzie Housley: You are a member of EPIC, could you tell us what role you play in this popular group?

Kathryn North: This year I'm EPIC's treasurer. In one of my former lives I was a bookkeeper, so I thought that was in area in which I could serve the organization. My friend and writing partner, Kate Moore (writes as Kate Douglas), and I dared each other to put our names on the slate, with the result that Kate is EPIC's secretary this year. 

Suzie Housley: Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing? 

Kathryn North: Hmmm, that's a toughie. I've been blessed with a few good writing teachers. Or should I say good writers who also can teach? A workshop I took from Carol Bly, a well-known Minnesota writer and essayist, challenged me to set my personal writing goals and expectations higher and to stretch myself. And my friend, writer Jackie Buie, from whom I took a short story course, has been a source of sound, practical advice. Good critique partners are essential and I highly value mine, Kate Moore and Vivyan Connolly.

Suzie Housley: What is your writing schedule? Could you briefly tell your fans about a typical day in your life?

Kathryn North: Ouch! I'm not exactly a model of tight scheduling and efficiency. In a typical day, I deal with my email and EPIC work, edit manuscripts for Hard Shell Word Factory, hopefully get time to work on my own writing, and maybe-just maybe-I do some housework. If I have to! 

Music is also a big part of my life and I sing in my church choir and enjoy performing or listening to music. And of course read. I'm an avid reader and read every day. I enjoy photography, as well. My family and friends are very important to me and I treasure time spent with them. 

Suzie Housley: Almost every author at some point or another, suffers from writer's block. Have you ever had that problem? How do you deal with it?

Kathryn North: Yes. Not well. I know people who can psyc themselves out of writer's block, but I just have to keep plodding along until finally something clicks and I'm back in the groove. Writing every day is essential. Sometimes I change from whatever I was writing to a different story and that helps. 

Suzie Housley: Have you dreamed of writing a particular type of story or even a story in a different genre that you haven't done as yet?

Kathryn North: Oh, yes. A sci-fi/fantasy story has been lurking in my mind for years and I'm also working on a children's story in verse. I would also like to see if I can write a mystery. 

Suzie Housley: How can fans get in touch with you?

My email address is and I love hearing from readers and other writers. Also, you can visit my web page:


PROUD MARI by Kathryn North
Hard Shell Word Factory - July 2000
ISBN: 1-58200-583-4 - Ebook - $5.50 US

Reviewed by  Suzie Housley, MyShelf.Com

Kathryn North's book PROUD MARI deeply touches one's emotions. It's a powerful story which will project the reader into the lives and hardships of her characters. The way she slowly weaves this story into her reader's imagination is truly magical. 

Marigold Adams, owner of Fisherman's Paradise, must come up with enough money to pay off an eight thousand-dollar debt left by her late husband. With the help of her three children and a few close friends, she is determined to establish a plan to acquire the money. She is unprepared for the offer of help from her handsome guest Tom Sobieski. She is wary of accepting Tom's help because she realizes his stay is short lived. 

Tom Sobieski has arrived at Fisherman's Paradise to enjoy a relaxing summer vacation. The resort is the perfect setting to provide him with an isolated and quiet atmosphere. It's just the type of place he needs in order to come to terms with his divorce. He didn't expect to become interested in the widowed owner, Marigold Adams. Now he finds himself trying to solve her financial crisis. 

Kathryn North's tale is very warm and inviting. Her portrayal of a family dealing with life's everyday problems is realistic and written in straight-forward, unadorned language. Mari is a strong and determined character, a wonderful mother who is trying to save the family business. She struggles to give into the emotion which will allow her to accept Tom into her life. Tom, having been hurt in the past, is almost reluctant to start a relationship with Mari. But his warm and caring heart will not allow him to turn his back on Mari in her time of need. This story is so life-like; you will almost believe it took place down the road from where you live.

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