SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Kathryn Craft, the author of the novel The Art of Falling is our guest today, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am!
(Full disclosure: I used to be an editor at Dance Magazine and just finished a binge reading of ballet books: Sophie Flack's novel Bunheads (about a young women questioning her place in a company similar to Flack's own New York City Ballet), Jenifer Ringer's memoir
Kathryn's The Art of Falling is a sister book to these, as well as a mystery — as all-too-human dancers measure themselves against the standard of impossible perfection ballet demands of them. But it's not just about the world of ballet — we all "fall" regardless of profession and we all (at least we all try) to pick ourselves up.
Here's a brief description of The Art of Falling:
Penelope Sparrow was fourteen when her body first betrayed her—when her ballet teacher took her aside and said she didn’t have the right build to be a star. All Penny ever wanted to do was dance, and after a lifetime of trying to perfect her body, she’s about to make her international debut despite the odds. Everything seems set for her big break.
But that chance is taken from her when she wakes up in a Philadelphia hospital, unable to move after a death-defying 14-story fall. With a second chance at life and through an extraordinary friendship, Penny begins a journey toward self-acceptance—while piecing together the dark mystery of what happened on that ledge.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Welcome, Kathryn!
I Am the Mystery
I Am the Mystery
When it comes to understanding my own motivations for acting in a certain way, or for making certain decisions, I can only offer my best guess. My wording betrays me: “Maybe I went shopping alone because I was sick of waiting for him to have time. Or maybe it’s because he always pays, so he gets to pick out the gift, and I wanted a chance. Or maybe, for once, I just needed to follow where my nose led, and not be held accountable for that.”
Maybe, maybe, maybe. You’d think I’d know the answer—I’m talking about me, after all!
But there are so many versions of me beneath thisskin. A short list: woman, daughter, wife, lover, sister, mother, lifelong learner, U.S. citizen, dancer, critic, author, biologist, philosopher, believer, optimist, summer home owner, and survivor, each of which influences me in some way. Each suggests its own characteristics; each is the result of different preparation or previous decisions. Any one of these inner folk might respond differently on any given day, and who knows how any two, in combination, might affect one another.
This is proof that the people who say I’m a real character are all wrong.
I am a character set.
As such, it would be asinine to presume that I could analyze the complexities of my behavior in any given moment well enough to come up with one irrefutable answer.
God I love that.
As a matter of fact, I could people several novels with the characters that live inside of me—and have. The way they contribute to the story allows me a prismatic view of its premise, which in turn creates great fodder for book club discussions. Why do these characters act the way they do? That mystery is always hiding beneath the skin of the story.
Each novel I write teaches me more about a woman who is a living, breathing function of her many selves. Nothing excites me more than when someone discussing my book intuits a character motivation that I hadn’t picked up.
To that I say, Welcome to my inner life.
I’ll respond, “Or, maybe she did it because…,” at which time the reader laughs and says, “Don’t you know? You wrote it!”
And to that I say, Yes, I wrote it. All of me did.
I am the story. In The Art of Falling I am the woman who believes she should be more accepting of her body and the woman who still thinks, at middle age, that she can maximize her body’s potential. I am the woman who declares she will eat less and the woman who sneaks a Snickers. I am the woman who loves unconditionally and the woman who expects only the best. The one who holds on tight, and the one who lets go.
KATHERINE CRAFT: Now tell me, Reds and readers, in no less than five listed characters: Who are you?
Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, which went back for a second printing six days after its January release, and a second novel, based on the true events of her husband’s suicide standoff, due Spring 2015. Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com follows a 19-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. A member of the Philly Liars Club, she lives with her husband in Doylestown, PA.