Author Interview: Kelly I. Hitchcock, author of Portrait of Woman in Ink

Publisher: Bird Brain Publishing

Publication Date: July 28, 2013

Book Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Twelve women, twelve tattoos, and a narrative thread that weaves them all together, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of stories that answers that lingering question in the back of your mind when you see an inked woman: what does your tattoo mean (or perhaps – what were you thinking)? From a parent’s suicide to the birth of an unlikely child, the stories behind why women tattoo themselves are literally worn on (and sometimes under) their sleeves, and retold on these pages.

Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by Dr. Marta Vicente, one of academia’s foremost voices in Women’s Studies, this series of literary vignettes celebrates real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are. These stories explore the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how these worlds might not be as far apart as they think.

Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?

Because I really wanted to learn the stories behind women I already knew who had tattoos, I really felt like I formed a closer bond with them because the stories behind why they got their tattoos were so deeply personal. I was also amazed by how willing they all were to share their stories with the world and really made me feel a new level of respect for them.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Making time to do it. Between having a ‘real’ job, a dog, a family, and all the other responsibilities that come with life in general, it’s easy to make excuses and never find time to write. For me, I just have to make the time and give it priority over other things.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

Right now I am working on a book about a young woman who compulsively steals from people at her gym, which is really just an excuse to give plot to a humor piece on all the archetypal figures I meet in my gym. I haven’t ruled out writing another installment of Portrait of Women in Ink, and I’ve even entertained the idea of writing a Portrait of Men in Ink collection. We’ll see.

Q. What are you currently reading?

I’m between paperbacks (just finished Orange is the New Black), but I am reading Crime and Punishment on my Kindle and A Death in the Family on audiobook.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

I am excited that I have an upcoming local author event at Austin’s coolest and largest independent bookstore, BookPeople, on May 1st. I run a 12-mile obstacle race the next morning, so it will be a big week.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I like to do really unique things with dialog tags. Why just say ’“I’m not sure,” he said’ when I can say ‘”I’m not sure,” he said, staring at a spot on the floor to avoid her steely gaze, nervously jingling his keys in his pocket.’? I promise, it’s not because I suck at writing dialog.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

I once helped choreograph and be a backup dancer for a routine a drag queen performed in local pageants.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?

I decided to honor my mother’s request to leave her out of my future works after my first book came out. In the distant future, I’d like to explore this complicated relationship much further in my writing.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’d really like to learn to play the guitar or the piano, just because every now and then I hear a song that I wish I could reproduce in the privacy of my own home, for my own personal satisfaction.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?

Hearing from readers who genuinely enjoy reading my work. No one’s writing is for everyone and reading ‘meh’ reviews can be soul-sucking, but hearing from someone who really connected with my work more than makes up for it.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?

Probably Hallie Herbstreet, from the chapter “Hallie’s Initials” in my book. She’s such a strong character but still one that everyone can really root for. Plus, she’s kind of a bad ass.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?

Living in the live music capital of the world has its perks; we spend a lot of time checking out upcoming bands and even ones staging a good comeback. Naturally, I need to spend more of my free time writing.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

I really wanted to focus on the tattoo as an art form, so I picked a title that could also be the title of a work of part: Portrait of Woman in Ink (tattoo ink as opposed to pen ink). I drew a lot of inspiration from Rembrandt’s works for both the title and the cover.

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?

I’m pretty sure it’s what I was always meant to do. When I was a little kid, I used to write stories and bind the books with old bread bag twist ties. I’ve always talked to the voices in my head. Even in college, I abandoned studying a more practical pursuit and changed my major to creative writing because I knew it was the thing that would ultimately make me happy.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

If you’ve ever wondered about the story behind someone’s tattoo (whether it’s ‘I wonder what inspired that’ or ‘What were you thinking?!’), then you should check this book out. More generally, always share books that touch your heart! Thank the author or send the used copy to a friend.

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