Dreamgirls: Kathryn Hogan
Are you ready to get to know another fabulous Dreamgirl? If you’re not inspired after meeting Kathryn Hogan, then you’ll never be inspired that’s for sure! Not only did Kathryn write that book we all dream of writing – she wrote a killer novel too! And then she self-published it. After reading her novel, I’m so impressed I’m almost (almost, just almost!) speechless. I’m not going to say much more, other that you have to read her book. Ladies (and gentlemen), let me introduce you to *Drumroll* the wonderful Kathryn Hogan!
So, Kathryn, where did your dream to write and self-publish a novel come from?
The first book I wrote was called the Quests of Various Morons, a collection of silly short stories which was co-authored by my best friend Veronika when we were twelve. It wasn’t masterfully crafted, but we loved it. It was a fun new way to explore the beauty of preteen best-friendship. Eventually, I started writing my own short stories even when she wasn’t around. When I was sixteen, I did a year-long student exchange to Germany, and writing poems and short stories helped me to work through the difficulties of being a young person away from home.
I kept on writing until all of a sudden, I had Wild Land sitting on my hard drive. It was good. It could sell. I did some research and decided that I wanted to publish Wild Land myself because that way I could keep all of the rights, learn a lot about the publishing industry, and get my name out there at the same time.
How did you make the decision to just go for it?
A year and a half ago I had a nervous breakdown. Shocking, I know! It is actually becoming more and more common among go-getting young women. One in three Canadian women on a university campus has the same disease that snuck up on me and debilitated me: anxiety disorder. One day I was a happy, healthy person who happened to push herself to perfection all the time. The next day I was covered in hives head to toe, getting anxiety attacks, being rushed to the hospital for inexplicable pain in my torso. After a few months of medical tests that all showed me to be healthy, my symptoms had just gotten worse. I could barely get out of bed, I was always itchy, I was nauseous everyday, and weirdest of all, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t concentrate to the extent that I couldn’t read. Seriously. I would look at words and my brain just didn’t get it.
At the time, I was studying full time, working part time, and writing part time. I had also just gotten engaged, and we had just bought our first home. When the diagnosis finally came, I was actually relieved. It made sense. Suddenly, so much of my life made sense. For the first time, I allowed myself to rest, to relax, and to get better.
Getting better felt like learning to walk again after a car accident that leaves you immobile. I was learning to be a healthy, anxiety free human for the first time: everything was baby steps. At first, even making phone calls was scary! But I learned to be patient with myself. To find the balance between pushing myself and not pushing too hard. My fiancee got me a dog so that I would feel safe going for long walks and runs through the forest near our house, and I continue to go for at least an hour every day. I started watching and reading Science Fiction again – which I hadn’t since I was a teenager, due to putting pressure on myself to only read ‘important literary stuff’.
Ultimately, I had the amazing opportunity to rediscover what it meant to be me, and how to be happy. In spite of the pain that led up to that opportunity, I would never trade it in. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
One fine morning, I sat down and wrote the first page of Wild Land. Talk about anxiety!!! What if it wasn’t perfect? What if it wasn’t GOOD ENOUGH?!?! What would that say about me as a person? Anxiety threatened to destroy my writing, just as it threatened every other part of my life. But I was learning how to fight anxiety. I saw writing Wild Land as a chance to put what I was learning into practice. I refused the urge to plan everything in the story. In fact,
I wouldn’t let myself even think about the book when I wasn’t writing. I never let myself ask “is this good?” or “does this work?”. Instead, I figured that it would be easier to fix a bad book than it would be to fix no book. Turns out I was right.
By the time it was finished, I was healthy.
How did I decide to just go for it? Easy. I knew that it was a decision between going for it, and giving up.
Did you experience set-backs and obstacles – and how did you deal with them?
Setbacks! Obstacles! Yes! Everyday!
Well, not everyday. I do enjoy being hyberbolic though.
I consider myself very lucky, looking back at the process of writing and publishing Wild Land. Because I saw it as a learning process, every setback was sort of… expected. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing! This is my first time doing it! I would say to myself.
Another reason that I’m really lucky is that a few of the symptoms from my anxiety still hang around to remind me of the lessons that I learned over the last year and a half. When I push myself too hard, I break out in hives. That means that all I can do is my best: if I put more pressure on myself than that, I get itchy.
Mostly, I just tried to have fun with it, and I continue to do so. I hired friends for everything from website design to photographing me to editing. Then it didn’t seem like setbacks or obstacles at all, just fun and learning.
How do you feel about writing right now?
I love writing! I’m really excited about a project I’m working on that is tentatively titled Book of Shadows. It’s about a young woman who becomes mysteriously pregnant. Trying to find the father of her baby puts her in the middle of a cosmic struggle between human nature and human destiny that will decide the fate of all life on earth.
Plus, the main supporting character is ridiculously hunky and I really enjoy writing about his bulging muscles and naturally perfect hair. Mee-ow!
Kathryn, what is your next big dream?
My next big dream is Permaculture! In Wild Land, I describe a lifestyle in tune with nature. It sounds idyllic, but it is possible and it’s happening all over the world. Permaculture design is when you turn gardening, horticulture, and agriculture from descriptive/reactive sciences into prescriptive, predictive and proactive sciences. There is now evidence showing that most of earth’s cultures relied on some form of permaculture, or ‘forest gardening’, for their food, before totalitarian agriculture took over. In North America, for example, it is now estimated that the population density pre-European expansion was more than that of Europe at the same time. Unlike the Europeans invaders, however, the Native North Americans supported their population with a complex and sustainable permaculture practice that was an integral part of the forest cycles of this continent.
Permaculture offers anyone with a bit of land the opportunity to plant their own self-sustaining garden of paradise, where they can grow delicious and healthy food in a way that helps the environment, instead of hurting it.
This summer I’m designing and installing my first permaculture gardens, and next year I’ll complete two separate landscape design certificates: one in permaculture, the other in traditional horticulture.
From there, I hope to design and install beautiful, sustainable and productive forest gardens in the summer, while continuing to write exciting eco-fiction in the winter. I also hope to write some non-fiction about the role that permaculture can play in filling our lives with meaning, happiness, and the goodwill of future generations.
Finally, I hope to continue speaking at schools about following your dreams, how to pursue a life in the arts, entrepreneurialism in general, and of course, permaculture!
Kathryn Hogan is an author and environmentalist living in the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains with her two dogs, cat, and handsome forest-tending husband. Her first novel, Wild Land, was published in 2011 and is available on amazon in paperback and for Kindle. Kathryn also has a rollickingly hilarious website and fascinating blog!
Do you have any questions for Kathryn? Or maybe you just want to wave and say hi?