Five on a Friday with Amy Watson

One perk of being a published author is how many other authors I get to “meet.” We all hear about the big, flashy books by big-name authors, but there are a host of gems that may never cross our paths. (So many books… so little time!) I get to see some of those books these days as I help other authors, and I thought I’d use my little platform to feature some stories I’ve really enjoyed.

Today, please welcome Amy Watson, author of “Closer To Okay,” which releases on September 7!

About the book:

Weaving culinary delights with an honest, appraising look at how we deal with the world when it becomes too much, Closer to Okay is the comfort food we all need in these, well, crazy times.

Kyle Davies is doing fine. She has her routine, after all, ingrained in her from years of working as a baker: wake up, make breakfast, prep the dough, make lunch, work the dough, make dinner, bake dessert, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a good routine. Comforting. Almost enough to help her forget the scars on her wrist, still healing from when she slit it a few weeks ago; that she lost her job at the bakery when she checked herself in as an inpatient at Hope House; then signed away all decisions about her life, medical care, and wellbeing to Dr. Booth (who may or may not be a hack). So, yeah, Kyle’s doing just fine.

Except that a new item’s been added to her daily to-do list recently: stare out her window at the coffee shop (named, well…The Coffee Shop) across the street, and its hot owner, Jackson. It’s healthy to have eye candy when you’re locked in the psych ward, right? Something low risk to keep yourself distracted. So when Dr. Booth allows Kyle to leave the facility–two hours a day to go wherever she wants–she decides to up the stakes a little more. Why not visit? Why not see what Jackson’s like in person?

Turns out that Jackson’s a jerk with a heart of gold, a deadly combination that Kyle finds herself drawn to more than she should be. (Aren’t we all?) At a time when Dr. Booth delivers near-constant warnings about the dangers of romantic entanglements, Kyle is pulled further and further into Jackson’s orbit. At first, the feeling of being truly taken care of is bliss, like floating on a wave. But at a time when Kyle is barely managing her own problems, she finds herself suddenly thrown into the deep end of someone else’s. Dr. Booth may have been right after all: falling in love may be the thing that sends Kyle into a backslide she might never be able to crawl out of. Is Jackson too much for her to handle? Does love come at the cost of sanity?

Amy, thanks for being here! This book was a delight because of the way you take humor and drama and pathos and toss them in a bowl and mix them together so thoroughly, it leaves you breathless. It’s messy and beautiful and oh, so real. Can you talk about why you chose to make this book both humorous and gut-wrenching? Was it a conscious choice, or just the way it came out?

I’m so thrilled you like the book. It was truly a labor of love and, in a nutshell, the book is me. I am honest to a fault so I didn’t know any way to approach writing about a woman with depression without making it real. It was also a mission of sorts since I suffer from depression and anxiety like Kyle. The manifestations of her depression are the same as mine. At first I wanted to put less of myself into her character, but as I wrote I realized that I couldn’t do that– I couldn’t describe someone else’s illness without being in their head – and I needed an accurate portrayal of mental illness since it’s underrepresented in media without being sensationalized. I hope people laugh and cry and hurt and smile as they read because I wanted Kyle to go all the same ups and downs that life has. Because that roller coaster is what makes it feel real.

I so admire your willingness to be open. I’m a huge believer in de-stigmatizing mental health struggles. But that’s a whole different blog post (maybe I should have you back for that one!).

Moving on–I am also a huge sucker for good characters, and your book is chock-full of vivid ones. I still can’t believe they aren’t real! Can you pick a couple of supporting characters you’re particularly proud of? How did you create them, and how did you make them so, well, real?

Eddie and Joey are my favorites. I loved Joey’s scenes with Kyle so much. They way they communicate so open and honestly without speaking left me glowing after every scene. I also wanted to present OCD in its most acute form. Very few people know how debilitating it can really be. It’s heartbreaking to see any of these illnesses at their worst.

Eddie is more of a caricature. I know a psychopath who’s a functional human being other than the fact that he gets a kick out of saying, and sometimes doing, really disturbing things just to watch people’s reactions. So, I just let Eddie say or do the first worst thing that came to mind. I also had to watch my language after I wrote his chapters since I work at a children’s store and I would sort of become Eddie for an hour or so after writing him.

I almost forgot Dr. Booth. He is totally one of my husband’s former psychiatrists. When my husband read the book, the first thing he said was, “how could (insert his doctor’s name) do that to Kyle?”

My oldest son would probably say, “That’s cringe!” 🙂 Moving on–talk to me about food. Can you make everything Kyle creates in this book? Any recipes you’re willing to share?

I can absolutely make all the recipes in the book. Here’s a recipe for the Vanilla Shortbread dusted with coarse sugar:

Vanilla Shortbread
1 ½ c salted butter, room temperature
¾ c granulated sugar
1 ½ t vanilla extract
3 c all-purpose flour
Coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9×13” baking pan with parchment.

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and mix on low until the mixture is well combined and is just starting to come together, 30 to 45 seconds.

Using your hands, press dough into a 1” thick large rectangle on the prepared pan. The dough will not take up the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and press down to lightly into the top of the dough.

Bake until the edges are golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool completely in pan, about 1 hour. Lift cookies from pan. Cut into squares.

Thanks for sharing that! I may have to play with it and see if I can do it gluten-free for my girly-girl.

Closer To Okay is marketed as a romance, but it doesn’t feel like romance to me—it feels deeper and more substantial. Did you intend to write a romance?

It’s definitely not a textbook romance. It’s more women’s fiction with a romantic thread. I intended to write a romance when I first started writing, but really quickly abandoned that plan. If anything the whole point of the book is Kyle developing a relationship with herself first, then she’s able to get a little romancing in there too.

Last but not least: Tell us one random thing we should know about you!

I’ve travelled all over the world as a fashion designer and Chicago is still my favorite place. Paris is a very close second, though.

And there you have it: Closer To OkayBuy it, request it at your library, get it however you can!

Liked this post? Click here for more Five On a Friday posts!