Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author of the best-selling memoir, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. She lived in China for almost five years, spending her time working with abandoned children. Her experiences were the platform that launched her memoir and furthered her writing career, resulting in 10 published works.
Why I write
The reasons why I write change like the seasons. Years ago, I wrote to keep my sanity in times of turmoil. At this moment in my life, I write because I enjoy it and also because I’d rather make my living doing something I love than work at a job I despise. The first few writing years were rough, but I would encourage every family to make sacrifices to enable their loved ones to do what they love, and love what they do.
What sort of writing habits do you keep?
I treat writing like a full-time job except it is harder in some ways, because it is a seven-day-a-week commitment of 10-14 hour workdays. I always start first thing in the morning and write until I stop for lunch and a short play time with the pets. Then I get back to it until it’s time to prepare dinner. After a few hours of family time, I usually return to my office and write or market until midnight or so. I try to crank out at least 2,000 words a day but I don’t force it. If it’s not coming, I use my time for other writing tasks like marketing and answering emails or messages.
Describe the physical domain of your writing space…
We’ve recently moved (and down-sized due to our youngest going off to college) and now I spend my days in a small office in our cozy lake cottage, at my desk overlooking the lake and listening to nature as I work. Because I write Asian-inspired fiction, my office is decorated with Asian pieces of inspiration. My walls are draped with hand-carved Chinese wooden screens and wall hangings, and the floors boast beautiful pottery found on the back streets of Suzhou, China. At my feet you will always find my little dog, and in the windowsill sits my serene cat.
Worst source of distraction and best source of inspiration?
My only distraction is when I have to step out of my writing cave to take care of regular life. I try to limit my appointments and errands to one day a week so I can use big blocks of time to truly get into the heads of my characters. My best source of inspiration comes from reading other books. Sometimes I am totally engrossed in a story and think, “Cool idea, but in my story my character will… ”
How often do you get writers’ block and how do you overcome it?
Writers’ block is not something that haunts me often but when it does, sometimes a good book or movie will inspire my muse. Other times long drives can trigger a new idea or solution to a problem. And if I’m really desperate, I put on my famous writing sweater, the garment I wore constantly while writing my first book. Those first years I donned it, I thought the book would never sell. However, the sales numbers for Silent Tears have squashed those early doubts and the sweater is a reminder that I can do it again.
Do you ever doubt your own ability as a writer?
I doubt my abilities as a writer all the time! It’s usually when I’m reading a masterpiece, like the novel titled When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin, that I doubt I could ever produce something so lyrical and magical. I remind myself that I am improving with each book, and I try to mark passages that evoke the most emotion from me, then study them to try to determine exactly how the author did it. I aspire to be that kind of writer — one who can stir a reader’s heart with simple words.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I was born loving to write but since early adulthood I’ve dreamed of publishing a book. When I moved to China and took a break from ‘regular life’, it was on my list of three goals; work in an orphanage, learn the language, and write a book.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve always used writing as therapy to deal with hard circumstances in life. When I lived in China, my journal became my only outlet when the grief and shock of what I was witnessing in the orphanage each day became too overwhelming. That journal later became my first published work, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
Wow! I’d have never dreamed that a promise made to tell the story of the neglected children I’d met in China would result in such a huge opportunity. I expected to possibly sell a few copies but the book has sold thousands and to this day remains my best seller.
Does writing change anything?
Writing can change many things. Words are power. When my memoir made it into the hands of others, I was shocked when I received emails from readers claiming it prompted them to build their family through adoption, or to support children in need — or even to take the leap of faith and step out of their protective bubble to pursue their own passions. I have no notion that I can change the world with my words, as I am a simple woman with limited resources. However, my stories can possibly help a few people change their perspective and maybe even empower them to follow their own dreams.
Favorite Chinese writer?
Favorite China book?
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China.
My favorite book changes occasionally as I discover new titles. Currently, it is Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey because the author uses amazing imagery to put the reader into the head of a couple so desperate to have a child they are willing to set aside logic and reason to make it happen. Reading her book, I felt the mother’s anguish and the father’s helplessness. It moved me immensely.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
Not really. I only read for enjoyment and inspiration. I don’t read only to claim I’ve read the classics. If something doesn’t appeal to me, I don’t waste my valuable time on it. Life is short and I have a stack of books just waiting on me to devour them. I’m a loyal fan, too. If something a writer has written appeals to me, I’ll read everything else they have done in that genre.
What are you working on and when is it out?
Currently I’m working with my publisher on the final touches on my new trilogy, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters. Inspired by a true story, the series is about a man in China, who escape the Cultural Revolution, bruised but driven, and despite a life of poverty rescues and raises many abandoned girls as his own. It is a story of history, courage, and the impact one good deed can have on many generations. The first book was launched on August 13.
Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013