Q&A with Kathleen Gerard about the writing of IN TRANSIT
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How did you come to write IN TRANSIT?
IN TRANSIT was the second novel I ever wrote. I started writing it in my early twenties. My first book (a cozy mystery) was being shopped to publishing companies and my literary agent (at the time) had an "in" with a romance line that was looking for "women in jeopardy" stories. I was not a big reader of romance novels, but being young and wanting to bust open the door into the world of publishing, I took on my agent's challenge. 

At the time, I had had surgeries on my feet and ankles that kept me housebound for months at a time, so I decided to use my imposed hibernation to craft a novel according to the spec sheet provided by the book company.  They were looking for contemporary stories about women in danger. One of the books they recommended that authors read was Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938), a story about a girl's transition into womanhood.  It's a great story about innocent intentions that grow into something much larger - as well as duplicity, secrets and lies. But what appealed to me most about Rebecca were the bold characterizations of a very powerful man and a woman who is not quite so powerful and the surprises that befall their relationship as a result.  

With that in mind, I brainstormed, searching for my own unique story to tell. A very dear friend of mine, whom I'd known since high school, had been working as a New York City Police Officer. She had wanted to be a teacher of early childhood education and when she couldn't find work that would sufficiently pay her bills, she decided, on a whim, to take the police exam. It was a remarkably sudden turn of events, and I marveled at how her life had switched gears so quickly and profoundly. 

During several years of surgeries, my cop friend visited me regularly - often en route to work the 12 midnight to 8 a.m. shift.  It was hard for me to fathom that while I was confined to bed with my feet in casts, iced and elevated above my heart, she was prowling about the New York City Subway System all through the night. If that didn't epitomize a "woman in jeopardy," what did?  When I planted that seed in my imagination, a story began to emerge.

I was intrigued - and even more in awe of my friend's courage. However, whenever I tried to get her to talk about life in the NYPD, she was tight-lipped and downplayed the importance and perils of her job. She was more willing to share the laughs she'd had with coworkers and the pranks they'd pulled, rather than what it was really like to fight crime in the greatest city in the world. 

Police work is often over-dramatized and glamorized in books and on TV. The reality is that those who carry the badge, day-in and day-out, are just ordinary people who have passions, hopes, fears, flaws and insecurities like everyone else. That's why personal dynamics and the psychology of those who wear the NYPD uniform became as intriguing to me as the details surrounding police work, and I wanted to explore those aspects creatively on the page. And while the most common adage in fiction writing is, Write what you know. In this case, IN TRANSIT was borne of the adage, Write what you don't know about what you know. 

How long did it take you to write IN TRANSIT?
It took me about four months (8-10 hours per day) to write a very rough, first draft of the novel - Rita's (the protagonist's) story was central, but I had yet to develop strong subplots. I worked on the novel over the next year and then my agent finally started to shop it. The book received favorable response. However, the consensus was, it did not have a strong enough romance plot to success as a full-fledged "romance novel." 

Upon the advice of my agent, I restructured the book to fit more along the lines of a mainstream novel.  But even after those efforts, I still had no takers. That's when I decided to put the novel away and begin work on another book...then another...and so on.

Seventeen years later, an editor who heard me read something more "literary" at a writing intensive approached me and asked if I had any genre fiction "in the hopper." I sent her a sample of IN TRANSIT. When she expressed interest, I decided to resurrect the novel and completely overhaul the book - updating facets of the plot for a post 9-11 world. IN TRANSIT finally found a home at Five Star/Gale-Cengage/Thorndike Press.

How different is the finished product of IN TRANSIT from the book you first wrote seventeen years ago?
The overall structure and plot are the basically same. And so, too, are the essences and challenges that each character faces. The big difference is in the writing and the structure of the story itself. All those years the book sat in my basement, I worked on other projects that helped my writing and storytelling skills. Also, I wrote the first draft of this book prior to the terror events of 9-11. When I resurrected the book, I made sure that 9-11 figured prominently into the landscape--physical and psychological--of each character.

How similar is Rita (the protagonist) to your real-life friend who is a cop?
I have great respect and admiration for my cop friend and for Rita Del Vecchio. Both are police officers. (My friend is actually a retired cop now.) Both are very strong, independent and determined women. And both share a passion for dance and ballet. But that's where the similarities end. Rita is a fictionalized character of great contradiction who inhabits a fictionalized world.
How much research went into the book?
I did a lot of reading and research on police life and police corruption. I also read a lot about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the psychology behind spousal abuse.

I live in a suburb of New York City and felt is was essential to anchor the book in Manhattan and the outer-boroughs. I am fairly well acquainted with places in the city--I love to visit and explore. However, because IN TRANSIT is a work of fiction, I have taken liberties with many of the locales and geography of the NY-Metro area. Places (and populations) in New York City are constantly changing - much faster than books are published. At this writing, even the restaurant Tavern on the Green is no longer a restaurant but a visitor's center and a gift shop - although I understand there might be a buyer to recreate it into another restaurant very soon. (I hope so!) Therefore, some things about New York City and the culture are products of my imagination.

I notice from your blog that you do not profile a lot of mystery, suspense, romance or mainstream genre novels?  Why is that?
I am a voracious reader who reads across genres--everything from children's books to memoirs, poetry, plays, biography, and commercial/literary fiction. I mostly read as a writer, always keeping a critical eye out to learn more about craft. I'm most enamored of stories that appeal to cross-over audiences, stories that don't necessarily fit into specific genre categories.

For years I struggled, searching for a way to pigeon-hole my own writing into one category or another. I kept asking myself, is my work mainstream or commercial?  Is it more literary?  Am I more a romance/mystery writer or a writer of quiet domestic stories? Where do I fit?  I finally concluded (and made peace with the fact) that I'm just a storyteller - and that is my most important aim, to keep getting better in telling stories and honing my craft. I write the kinds of stories I want to read and stories I have a need to explore and understand more fully. I think I am most drawn to stories about people, strong characters, and how life experience can change people - sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I feel that most stories are essentially mystery stories (something is solved or discovered) and most characters change because of a choice that is forced upon them due to life experience. People have the ability to transform events or succumb to them. It is all that resides behind such transformations that fascinates me and drives my writing. 

Who are your favorite authors and why?
That changes on any given day - and my mood.  Since college, I try to read at least one short story a day or one novel per week. The best way to gauge my interests would be to read my thoughts about the books I've posted on my blog http://www.kathleengerard.blogspot.com/