Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we taleked to Kerriann Macdonald about her writing career and her second novel Good Enough, which is inspired by her real life experiences of being in an abusive relationship.
Kerriann Macdonald (now Ostlund) is a native of Massachusetts and resides just north of Boston. Since before she could remember, Kerriann has always enjoyed reading, and by first grade, she was writing small novels and short stories based off her favorite toys, books, and TV shows. At the age of seventeen, she self-published her first novel, We Are, which was turned into a play and was performed at the Northeast Drama Festival of Massachusetts in 2011. Her most recent novel, Good Enough, was published in 2018. Since its publication, Kerriann has spoken at middle schools, high schools, non-profit agencies, hospitals, and symposiums providing preventative education on her experiences being emotionally abused in order to raise awareness on this prevalent issue. Kerriann is currently working on her third novel, which is a fictional account of her adoption story. When not writing, Kerriann works full-time as a social worker in the Massachusetts area. She lives with her husband, dog, and two cats and enjoys yoga, reading, running, and home decorating in her spare time.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success matters less to me about the amount of books I sell and more to do with impact I’ve made. I’ll admit that I am a terrible self-promoter, which is typically what you need in order to sell books. For that reason, I’ve had to re-focus my writing goals on selling a certain amount of books to focusing instead on the readers I’ve been able to inspire and connect with. Because I work a full-time job, I unfortunately don’t have the time I wish I could have to dedicate to promoting, networking, etc. Therefore, by focusing instead on how my writing impacts others, that’s still allowed me to feel the success that most authors would maybe gain from how many books they sell. I can definitely say that hearing feedback from readers and having them inspired enough to share their own stories with me has been very humbling.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It honestly depends. For the most part, writing energizes me, especially when I’ve gotten a good chunk of writing done, or am able to power through a really intense scene. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, and sometimes that energy almost inspires me to keep going in writing further. However, if I’m writing a really intense, emotional scene, sometimes I can feel emotionally drained or exhausted and may even need to take a few days off from my writing.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best money I ever spent as a writer was on getting a professional editor. I’ve found that having peers read your work can often lead to biases where they might not catch certain mistakes that an editor would. Even with beta readers, while they may be reading for quality of the story, they’re not necessarily reading for the quality of the writing. Spending the money on a professional editor made all of the difference in making sure that I got the best of both worlds and was able to provide a high-quality book in terms of grammar and plot.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
If I could, I would give up my full-time job to become a better writer. That’s not to say that I don’t love my full-time career as a social worker or the agency I work for. I love all of my co-workers, my managers, and all of the work that I do. But if it were possible to fully concentrate on just writing full-time without the worry of the financial implications involved in focusing on such a career, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Tell us some more about your book.
My book is based on my real-life experiences being in an emotionally abusive relationship. Initially, the very early stages of this book was supposed to be called The Scrapbook Project and was going to be the “love story” of me and my abusive ex finally getting back together after years of back and forth. However, once I realized that the relationship I was in was extremely toxic, I had initially scrapped the idea of writing anything about it. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could still tell my story, even if it didn’t have the initial ending that I had been anticipating. In writing my book, I found it to be cathartic to re-hash the entire history, and to also come away with a book that I feel could really make a difference in the lives of others. My hope in publishing is that enough people read my story to make an impact in preventing future teenagers, like I once was, falling prey to an abusive relationship.
Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
I think there were many scenes throughout the novel that were difficult to write. While I took a lot of creative embellishments in the story, there are many scenes that are actually true. There were a lot of scenes where I would call a close friend of mine crying after reading, asking how I couldn’t have seen these warning signs until now after the relationship was over nearly six years from when it started. Yet whenever I felt like I couldn’t keep going, I pushed myself to move forward so that no other person could feel the way I felt. Tying closely to that, the hardest scene overall that I think I had to write was the scene in which the main character, Lisa, attempts suicide. I remember myself feeling that low and that desperate while I was in that relationship, and trying to be empathetic to Lisa’s plight brought up some many hard, emotionally draining memories for me from my own feeling of being totally depressed from feeling I wasn’t “good enough” for my ex.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
What I hope readers will take away from my story is that your self-worth is not based off whether or not you’re in a relationship. Secondly, your self-worth should never be based off of what other people think of you, especially if they’re your intimate partner. So much of my self-worth was based off what my ex thought of me because he was my first real relationship. Therefore, I felt he could truly give me an “unfiltered” version of me where anyone up until that point I felt was “biased” in their opinion or their love for me because they were my family. When my ex first started to criticize me, I truly believed that it was because he was just trying to help improve my quality as a person and as a partner. But when it quickly became a pattern where everything I did had some sort of critique, or I was made to feel guilty for things that just made me, me, my self-esteem started to quickly diminish. In reading my story, I hope anyone who may be in a similar relationship will be able to see those same patterns playing out in my story and take the necessary steps needed to leave that relationship. One thing my story also teaches you is that things will definitely get better once you’re out of that toxic relationship and toxic environment, and it’ll be so worth it once you actually find the true person you’re meant to be with.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
A lot of my experiences from being in my toxic relationship shaped my writing, and many of my other writings are based largely on my own personal experiences as well. For instance, my most recent novel that I’ve been working on is a story on adoption, and that’s largely based on my own adoption story and my experiences learning about my biological family. I’ve tried to write works of fiction solely from my own imagination but have found my strengths largely seem to fall under my actual experiences where I have the best knowledge base.
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