A brilliant generational family comedy for fans of Curtis Sittenfeld and Nora Ephron, and television's This Is Us, Offspring and Parenthood.
Kate Hilton is the bestselling author of THE HOLE IN THE MIDDLE and JUST LIKE FAMILY. Her forthcoming novel, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, will be published in Canada in 2020. Before settling on fiction writing, Kate pursued careers in law, university administration, publishing, and major gift fundraising. While she rarely uses her law degree these days, she's delighted that her English degree has turned out to be so useful. Kate's non-fiction writing has appeared in The National Post, Canadian Living, and The Huffington Post, on topics ranging from working motherhood to creativity to reinvention. She lives in a blended family - including a husband, two sons, a stepdaughter, and a rescue dog - in Toronto.
Better Luck Next Time
Allen & Unwin
Author: Kate Hilton
What originally inspired the idea of Better Luck Next Time?
Kate Hilton: Originally, I envisioned the book as a simple divorce comedy, an updated version of Nora Ephron's classic novel/memoir, Heartburn. There's a great axiom that comedy equals tragedy plus time, and I was trying to get to a place where I could see the humour in my own change in circumstances. Over time, though, the book evolved into an intergenerational family comedy, where each member of the extended family is grappling with a separate problem relating to identity and reinvention. I think that shift made the book much funnier in the end.
How much of your inspiration in your writing comes from real life and real people?
Kate Hilton:All of it! Which is not to say that the events of the book actually happened to me, or that the characters represent people in my own life. But I always start a novel with a set of questions that I want to explore, either about the world around me or about my own psyche or experience.
For example, watching the international women's marches, I got curious about the evolution of the feminist movement over generations, and how women my own age feel about the legacy of the first wave of feminism. What would it be like to have a mother who was also a feminist icon? What if your complicated feelings about your mother were both personal and political? That felt like rich territory for fiction to me. As another example, I'm raising a teenaged son, mostly on my own, and even under relatively normal circumstances, it's tough. As a writer, I wanted to examine the mother-son dynamic, so I turned up the pressure by having the boy discover a secret that relates to his own unfolding sense of self.
Most of all, I wanted to explore the question of how different people go about rebuilding after a life-altering event (which many characters in this novel must do). Since I was recovering from a shattering divorce myself, I was quite preoccupied with this question of beginning again.
Are the characters based on anyone you know, in real life?
Kate Hilton:Not specifically, no. Although the ghastly date that Zoe endures is based on some of my own post-divorce adventures in online dating. I'm remarried now, so all's well that ends well, but those were some strange times.
What challenges did you face while writing Better Luck Next Time?
Kate Hilton:I always find first drafts extremely challenging. I much prefer the editing process. Editing is about fixing all of the existing problems, so every time you sit down to work, the manuscript improves. I taught an online writing seminar recently, and each class featured a different panel of writers. So many of them talked about having to overcome the fear, while writing the first draft, that the whole project was absolute garbage, that they had no talent and were wasting their lives, etc. First drafts can be a dark place. With experience, you come to accept that books are made in the editing.
Who do you hope reads Better Luck Next Time?
Kate Hilton:This is a book for anyone who has had a life-changing experience and then has to figure out what comes next. In 2020, I think we are all having that experience, collectively. At its core, Better Luck Next Time is a book about hope and resilience, but one with a good sense of humour.
What did you learn, about yourself, whilst writing Better Luck Next Time?
Kate Hilton:I think I learned to trust my writing process with this book. Related to my comments about first drafts versus editing, this book took longer than my previous two. It had more drafts, and it evolved more over time. Characters that I hadn't expected to play as large a role at the beginning moved into the centre of the story as time went on. And I learned to be patient with this book in a way that doesn't come particularly naturally to me. I'm very happy, both with the resulting book, and with the confidence I gained while writing it.
What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Kate Hilton:I think I was born with a love of stories and storytelling. I was a voracious reader from a young age, very much encouraged by my mother, who is also a great reader. I had a string of exceptional English teachers in high school who encouraged my writing, although I didn't make any serious attempt at creative writing until just before my fortieth birthday. That project turned into my first novel (Better Luck Next Time is my third). If you think you have a book in you, it's never too late to start. I know so many terrific and successful writers who were late bloomers. (And I'd love to be the one who inspired someone else to start writing.)
What's next, for you?
Kate Hilton:Well, I juggle a lot of plates. So first off, there's surviving the pandemic and getting three kids through their online school year – no mean feat. I'm in the process of studying to qualify as a psychotherapist as well. But book-wise, I'm about a third of the way through the first draft of a dual-timeline historical mystery. I have a longstanding interest in archaeology, so part of the book is set in the early twentieth century on an excavation. I'm finding it very soothing to spend parts of every day in a different historical period, if only in my imagination.