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Interview: Rachael Herron

Welcome to Knitting Scholar! Congratulations on your second book, “How to Knit a Heart Back Home.” You’re the first novelist I’ve interviewed here—that doesn’t worry you, I hope?

Well, I wasn’t worried until you asked that… Should I be? *peeking over my shoulder*

Your second book revisits the town of Cypress Hollow. Did it feel strange writing about the same town, but different characters?

It felt great. I came to really love the town and its quirky residents, and getting the chance to hang out there longer was really enjoyable. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes I feel like I’m actually there, sitting at the Rite Spot or having breakfast at Tillie’s.

I was happy to see Abigail and Cade from “How to Knit a Love Song,” though, and they made more of an appearance than I see in a lot of other series. Did you have trouble finding the right balance of giving your readers a taste of the “old” characters while focusing on the new ones?

That was more difficult than I’d imagined. I didn’t want to bore readers of the first book with too much explanation, but I knew they’d need some, and I didn’t want to put in too little of it, either. In a way, though, it’s a relief when an “old” character walks on scene — I know them better, and they don’t surprise me with their actions as much as the brand new ones I’m still getting to know.

About those quotes from Eliza at the head of each chapter—I know some authors who started doing that and then hated being tied into it after a few books. Do you enjoy writing the quotes? Or are they a necessary chore?

You’d think I’d be tired of doing them, but really, they’re one of my favorite things to write. I write the whole book first, and then look at each chapter, one by one, trying to think of the scenes as Eliza would, trying to get into her head. It works so well that several times I’ve come back to an epigraph and can’t even remember writing it.

Is it possible that Eliza is just a little too meddling in the lives of the younger generation?

Oh, yes. Definitely. She always worked with the best intentions, but yes, Eliza always knew best when it came to love and didn’t mind saying so.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and thought it was even stronger than your first one. Did you find writing it, publishing it, easier the second time around? Harder?

Thank you so much! And I found it so much harder to write this one than the first one. Exponentially harder, actually. I didn’t know how to structure it, and I fiddled around for a long time before I finally found the form that it wanted. I rewrote it from the ground up four times. I think it shows, though — all those drafts built what had been there the whole timed. I hope that’s true, anyway.

I understand you have another book coming, a memoir. What can you tell us about it?

Yes, in October, I have a collection of essays coming out from Chronicle Books called A LIFE IN STITCHES: Knitting My Way Through Loss, Love, and Laughter. I’m really excited about it. It’s a look at my life through the sweaters I’ve knitted, where I was at the time, what was happening around me. I worked really hard on it, and I can’t wait for its release.

With two published books under your belt and a third on the way, does it change the way you think of yourself? How you look at the world?

Actually, by the end of the year, I’ll have four books total out there, wandering the world. HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME is the new one, and WISHES AND STITCHES, the third Cypress Hollow Yarn, is coming out in October, as well as the memoir. It has changed the way I look at myself (I finally feel like I can call myself a writer, something I wrestled with for a long time), but it hasn’t changed much about the way I see the world. It just keeps on turning, same as it ever did, neither impressed nor dismayed that I’m now published. I kind of like that.

You have so much knitting in your books, so many characters seem to walk around with needles and yarn at all times, which just proves that you are a ‘real’ knitter yourself (as if we didn’t know). Do you find your knitting has changed since you started seriously writing? I’m guessing there’s less time for it, but how about less creative energy for it?

Good question. Yes, I have less time, but I still manage to knock out projects, so I find the time somewhere, but as to less creative energy, YES. I have so much less of it. I like simple things now, miles of stockinette, simple socks. I designed and test-knitted the two sweaters that came with the first and second book, but I didn’t have time for the third book’s design, so I hired a friend to design the shawl pattern that book will come with.

The sweater pattern at the end—is that your pattern? Can we see a picture?

Yes, it’s mine. Picture attached.

I know that the publisher had designed a cover that showed the sweater, but redid it because they wanted to go in “another direction.” Authors rarely get a say in their covers, and I like them both—were you sorry to see the sweaters go?

I was really sorry to see the sweaters go, and I didn’t think they could possibly design a cover I liked better, and then they did. I love the new cover even more than the prototype.

Would you rather be a knitting designer or a writer? (Which sounds like a stupid question since you’re clearly doing more writing, but …)

Oooh, a writer, for sure. I’m not the best at math, and I hate jiggering for different sizes.

Since I’m always looking for new recommendations, who are some of your favorite authors?

I love anything Sophie Littlefield writes (her new book AFTERTIME is dark, frightening, and amazing). And Barbara O’Neal is who I want to be when I grow up — I find all her books to be lovely and so very beautifully written, with what seems like no effort (but I follow her blog, so I know that’s not true….)

What’s your favorite breakfast food?

Favorite? Cadbury Creme Eggs. I guess that’s not reasonable, though, most of the time. Most often eaten breakfast? Plain old scrambled eggs.

My dog Chappy would be crushed if I didn’t ask you about your pets…

I LOVE THEM! Three dogs (a chihuahua, a pit/beagle, and a border collie), and four cats, all of them crazy and fiercely cuddly. Digit, the cat of my heart, is a huge jerk and hates everyone and everything, and I love him all the more for it.

If you had an extra two hours in the day, what would you do with them?

Lie in bed and read. Well, that’s what I’d want to do. In actuality, I’d probably work somehow. I can be a workaholic if I’m not careful.

Name one yarn you’ve never tried but would love to knit with.

Qiviut! Although I’m sure it would be too warm for me ever to wear.

What is the one thing you would want to say to a new knitter?

Baby steps! Take your time. All those people who say knitting is meditative are full of crap. Knitting is stressful until you get the hang of it! But then one day it really will click, and you’ll be flying.

If you could have a superpower (knitting or otherwise), what would it be?

Is it cliched to say the ability to fly? Because I’ve dreamed of that ever since I was a kid.

Since this IS a site for book reviews–two questions: What do you look for in a book review?

I look for objectivity. Of course, we’re human, so that’s an impossibility, but I love reviews that can look past what they adore to point out what might have been improved, and in the same vein, I love it when reviews look past a theme or plot-point they might hate to what’s strong about the writing.

And, since I’m slowly working my way through my knitting book collection, are there any particular books–other than your own, of course–that you’d like to see reviewed? Maybe I could bump something up the list for you?

I adore anything by Barbara Bretton — she’s a lovely writer, and a true knitter. I’d recommend her books highly, and I bet you’d like her, too. (How’s that for objectivity?)

Any questions that you WISH someone would ask you? If so, what’s the question–and what’s the answer?

You did such a great job that I can’t think of a thing. Thank you so much for having me!

Thanks so much,

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