Kristin Bair is the author of Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything. As Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, she has published two novels, The Art of Floating and Thirsty. Her words have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Poets & Writers Magazine, and many other fine publications. A native Pittsburgher, Kristin now lives north of Boston with her husband and two kiddos. Give her a wave on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
In this post, Bair shares how her latest novel changed structure during the writing process, what launching a book during a pandemic taught her about the publishing industry, and so much more!
Name: Kristin Bair [O’Keeffe]
Literary agent: Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman
Title: Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything
Publisher: Alcove Press
Release date: November 10, 2020
Genre: Domestic fiction
Previous titles: (writing as Kristin Bair O’Keeffe) The Art of Floating; Thirsty
Elevator pitch for the book: After discovering her husband in flagrante delicto with their town’s most beloved dog walker, Agatha Arch finds herself, for the first time ever, alone with her innumerable fears. As she dons a pair of spy pants, embraces her Bear Grylls bobblehead, joins the search for a missing dog named Balderdash, and provokes the Kumbaya Queen, the question that reverberates through her Facebook mom group is “Can this train wreck of a woman grow from fear to flight?”
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What prompted you to write this book?
A somewhat morbid fascination with the intersection of fear, empathy, Facebook mom groups, and modern-day parenting.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
It took nearly six years for Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything to go from lightbulb moment to book launch day. The core idea of the story didn’t change as I wrote, but the structure did. I first wrote it as a kind of handbook for Facebook mom groups. When I realized that was a bust, I was devastated and almost walked away. All that energy and time. But after a short break, I found myself dreaming about Agatha’s journey, waking up and taking notes in my journal. That’s always a sure sign I’m still committed to a project. I’m so glad I stuck with it.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. As businesses and schools across the country closed their doors and we moved into lockdown, each piece of the publishing process became a question. Will pub dates change? What happens if your editor gets sick? Are people going to buy books despite the nosediving economy? Will I be able to get through 1st pass pages while also doing my day job at home and helping my kids manage remote school? (And will I stay sane while doing so?) Will there be paper ARCs? Will books actually be printed? How will bookstores and authors produce virtual events? Will readers attend virtual events? How do you screenshare in Zoom? What is a ring light? OMG, what if we run out of toilet paper? How will authors sign books from afar? So many questions.
Thankfully, publishing has proven itself to be both resilient and inventive. I’m ever grateful that Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything is now in bookstores everywhere.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Aside from the structural dilemma, the greatest challenge was giving myself permission to create a character that readers might not like at the beginning. One early reader described Agatha (in the beginning chapters) as a car crash you can’t take your eyes from. With that truth in my pocket, I knew I needed to give readers a glimpse into who Agatha could become; I knew I had to give them just enough to make them want to go along for the ride.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Mostly I want them to laugh and cry. After everything that’s happened in 2020, we all need to let the big feelings out. I’d also love them to recognize a bit of themselves in Agatha and remember that because each of us is on a unique journey through this thing called life, empathy is everything.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Writing begets writing. It’s my mantra as both writer and teacher. (Also, don’t hoard toilet paper. There will be enough to go around.)