The following is an interview with Kathleen Willett regarding the upcoming release of her novel, Anything for a Friend, through Lake Union Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Willett about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, how she feels that the story may connect with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Anything for a Friend! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Kathleen Willett: The book is about a woman who receives an unexpected visit from her long-estranged college best friend, and her friend’s teenaged daughter. As soon as they arrive, troubling things start happening in the house—and the true, complicated nature of their friendship and rift between them is slowly revealed in flashbacks to their college days as the novel progresses. All of the characters have something to hide, and secret agendas that they aren’t revealing to one another, which are begging to be exposed.
As someone who doesn’t necessarily love hosting guests, the original spark for the story was simply a “houseguest who won’t leave” trope—not a literal locked room, but a suffocating environment for the main character, especially since this particular guest knows all her deepest, darkest secrets. But the more significant ruminations for me, while writing, had to do with the fact that as I’ve gotten older, my college memories have stayed really vivid, and I’ve found it remarkable how well-preserved those four years are in my mind, and how meaningful those friendships still are, especially now that my college friends and I are mothers and can relate on that level, too. This book explores why college friendships are so significant, and how they stay significant in adulthood—even after having been irrevocably fractured, as in the case of Maya and Carrie.
BD: The novel expertly maintains a heightened suspense throughout its entirety. What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this story to life?
KW: Thank you! I tried to include a lot of events that were only debatably creepy—things that might be no big deal, but might be sinister, to keep the reader (and the characters) guessing. I tried to end each chapter on a foreboding note, and include some scenes that made it easy for readers to step into characters’ shoes and feel truly, viscerally uncomfortable, like when Maya reorganizes Carrie’s kitchen, or when Carrie and her husband’s Google calendars accidentally sync. I was trying to make readers cringe from time to time!
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Carrie’s story may connect with and impact readers?
KW: I think readers will be able to identify with Carrie’s feelings of self-doubt—both as a teenager in college, and as an adult. She’s a very imperfect character, but her shortcomings and failings hopefully make her more human. I think Carrie and Maya’s friendship also highlights power imbalances that may occur when one friend feels less-than, for a number of reasons. The story also deals with loss of a loved one, and the lasting, crushing impact that has.
BD: What makes Lake Union the perfect home for Anything for a Friend?
KW: Lake Union’s fiction is the perfect balance of bingeworthy and thought-provoking. The books they publish are page turners, but they also highlight issues and experiences that allow for amazing book club discussions. My hope for this book is that it’s both a creepy, fun beach read, and also that it affects the reader on an emotional level.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
KW: I don’t plan to write a sequel, but this book did give me an idea for another book! There’s a small part of Anything For A Friend that deals with religious fundamentalist characters in Vermont, and the book I’m working on now is about a woman who grew up in a cult in Vermont. As for other mediums, that would be a dream come true! Personally, I think the book would make a great limited series, and the tension and doubt in the story would play out really well on the screen—but, of course, I’m biased!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
KW: I’m a high school teacher, so my biggest project right now is settling into the school year! But I am excited about the aforementioned cult story that I’ve started chipping away at.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Anything for a Friend and your other work?
KW: I’m active on Instagram (@kathleenmwillett), and update my website regularly: www.kathleenmwillett.com. I love hearing from readers, so if you ever want to get in touch, please do!