Author Interview: Kathryn Betts Adams

What inspired the idea for your book?

I’ve been a social worker and a social work professor and academic researcher, specializing in aging and working with older adults. My book started as a couple of essays I wrote about 10 years ago when I began to help my mother with Parkinson’s disease issues and I found it very challenging, despite my knowledge about older adults and eldercare! And from there, I took a look at my family history and thought: “You’ve been a caregiver of one sort or another to your parents for your whole life,” and it seemed I had a lot to write about!  

When did you first call yourself a writer? 

Since this is my first book and first lengthy writing that isn’t an academic article, I’m not especially used to calling myself a writer – yet.  But I have spent the better part of four years writing and I definitely believe I’m a writer when I see my book in print!

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?  

I think it’s good to join a writing course, class or group to help you get started and keep going. Not everyone needs that, but for me it really helped me to have a weekly reason to keep writing and I loved getting feedback to make my work better.  

What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?

I write creative non-fiction or memoir, and currently I love Elissa Altman, among others. Altman’s book “Motherland” about her difficult relationship with her mother and handling her mother’s aging was an inspiration to me as I was writing my book about my own parents’ aging.

What do you think makes a good story?

To me, a good story is one with writing that allows the reader to picture what’s happening and that evokes emotion without banging the reader over the head with them.  A few surprises are fun in stories, but even a predictable story can be a good one if it’s well written. 

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I like to write during the day, and I’m fortunate that I no longer work full-time, or even part-time at the moment, so I have a flexible schedule. I’ll get up, get breakfast, do all the puzzles on my phone, then settle down to write for a couple of hours, and maybe pick it up again in the afternoon for another couple of hours. It’s a good day when I’m in the flow and barely notice that it’s getting towards dinner time because I’m so engrossed. 

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?

My book started as a few essays about challenges we faced when my parents had health crises in later life. I started from the point of view of wanting to share how aging is hard and our healthcare system is not always adequate for what older adults need. Then I realized I had more of a story to tell about my whole life essentially caring for my creative, emotive parents, so I had to go back to think about my childhood and teen years – and that was the hardest part. 

What part of the book was the most fun to write?
Some of the parts about my mom and me when I was a young adult, in the 70s, were fun to remember and write about. And the very last few months with my dad were fun in some ways because he became calmer and quite sweet as he was very frail.

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?

They say never design your own cover, but I did!  I used the program CANVA and it worked out quite well. If I needed some particular artwork, I no doubt would have hired someone because I’m not an artist, but the graphics, colors, and simple figures available with that program worked well for this book. 

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

My spouse and I now have two cats, Smokey and Billie, and they do indeed like to come to the laptop and settle right on the keyboard!