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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, screenwriter and author Heather Hach shares the inspiration behind her new book, The Trouble With Drowning.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Heather Hach about her life and career, what inspired her to write her new book, The Trouble With Drowning, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Heather Hach, and I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years. I originally hail from Colorado and my first job out of college was a research assistant at the New York Times Denver Bureau. Later, I ended up working at some magazines and was also a member of Comedy Sports improv troupe for four years during the 90s.
Writing, comedy and movies have always been my passion, and when I went through a very ego-lifting divorce years ago (cough, cough), I decided to combine the three loves to try my hand at screenwriting, so I moved to Los Angeles. There, I won the Walt Disney Screenwriting Fellowship, and I’ve been lucky enough to write ever since.
I am a screenwriter (FREAKY FRIDAY, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING), a Broadway librettist (LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL) and author (FREAKY MONDAY and the upcoming THE TROUBLE WITH DROWNING).
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I wanted to write a book as soon as I could read! In fact, I insisted on signing my papers in elementary school Dr. Hach so I could be like Dr. Seuss (who I figured wasn’t a doctor, either). It became apparent early on I was a voracious reader, often downing a Nancy Drew a day. I marveled at stories and language and desperately wanted to be Judy Blume when I grew up. I wrote a ton of godforsaken short stories and incomplete novels, usually about me living in the woods with my dog (you can see the plot limitations here).
When did you take a step to start writing?
Early on. In second grade, we had to write and illustrate a book, and the teacher even got the school secretary to type up everyone’s manuscript so the book looked professional. Most people wrote a few pages, and my tome was 32 pages with chapters. I was so proud of “Sylvie the Chickadee and Frank the Dwarf” and knew writing was my calling.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
During Covid, I fell into a malaise along with the rest of the globe. It was just such a disconcerting, confusing time. In response, I started inhaling books. I checked out endless books from the library and filled my already full bookcases. I couldn’t get enough and it was the perfect escape; the whole time reminded me of when I first fell in love with reading. And so, I decided I’d try my hand at crafting a novel myself, so I re-explored an old idea and dove in. It took about two years from the start of writing to the release. Maybe a bit more.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write this book?
I’ve had the idea for THE TROUBLE WITH DROWNING for three decades, and I realized it was the perfect vehicle for today’s world and our obsession with social media. Psychological thrillers are such fun to inhale, and they’re equally fun to write. I absolutely fell in love with my characters and wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. I got to work out my pathos through Kat’s instability and my aspirations through Eden. I believe as people, we all have great duality, and I hope everyone sees themselves in all of my characters, no matter how flawed they may be.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Trouble With Drowning?
As a screenwriter, I am used to being more literal with my writing, and I had to change my mindset and writing style to serve a novel as opposed to a screen. I kept breaking the “show, don’t tell” rule, and had to force myself out of my entrenched habits.
I also struggled with the ending and to make sure the pacing built to a thrilling climax. I retooled the entire section so many times, and hopefully it lands.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Eden is the person on some level we all want to be—ridiculously talented and successful, creative, gorgeous, kind. When describing her, I always say, “She’s the person you do not want your ex to date, ever.” She’s absurdly aspirational but I didn’t want to make her untouchable or unrelatable. She is an amalgamation of what society tells us we should be, if we lived on a higher plane, we’d all be Eden. Despite this, I do believe Eden is human.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
It’s funny, I don’t think of Kat as the pure antagonist, as she’s been so challenged in life and thus, her decisions can be poor. Kat is all heart, wildly imaginative and a bit of a mess. I had an equally wonderful time bringing her to life—I actually enjoyed writing her more than Eden. I battle my own demons and got to work through them via this flawed character. Kat aches for her life to be different, to be complete, to be something other than what it is. I hope that longing is relatable to most readers.
What is the inciting incident of The Trouble With Drowning?
The inciting incident is when Kat meets Jacob, the first real love of her life. He also happens to be the son of one of her literary heroes, so Kat attaches all her hopes for life onto the family and onto Jacob.
What is the main conflict of The Trouble With Drowning?
There are so many brewing conflicts across the board, but the main conflict is between Kat and herself. She is struggling to manage her mental health and expectations for life with little to no guidance. Kat does not have an easy path in life, and she can be her own worst enemy.
Did you plot The Trouble With Drowning in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I’d say a combination of the two. I knew where I was going and where I wanted to end up, but I also had the freedom to let the characters take me in other directions. That spark of the unknown makes my writing more spontaneous and fresh, and brings an edge to the whole process. I love letting the characters live in my head and dictate where they want to go. For example, Eden proved to be truly forgiving and empathetic beyond words, and her actions surprised me in the end.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Trouble With Drowning need?
I hired a professional editor to help me shape the novel. It helped SO much to have outside eyes see what was working and where I needed to make cuts. I resisted some of her guidance but she proved in the end to be right.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Read these two books: On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott. Those for me are literary how-to gold, and I re-read them all the time.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m working on a family dramedy called RELATIONSHIP GOALS and it’s about halfway done. It’s loosely based on my own parents who my sister, brother and I always joke had the most perfect marriage, we are all emotionally scarred by it.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Writing THE TROUBLE WITH DROWNING not only saved my mental health during Covid, but it also gave me such joy during a challenging time. I am very proud of the end result and thrill when someone reads it, intending to read a few pages and then ends up reading it in one sitting. I wanted to craft something compulsively readable but smart and fun. I hope I have delivered, and no matter what happens, it was worth the effort.
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