We’re back with our Behind the Book segment with the amazing Katharine Pollock, for her highly anticipated debut book- Her Fidelity!
Katharine Pollock worked in independent record stores in Brisbane and Sydney for many years. She was a Writer in Residence at Varuna, The Writers’ House in 2020, and Visiting Writer at the National Young Writers’ Festival in 2019. In 2021 she won the Queensland Writers Centre’s GenreCon short story competition and had another short story published in ZineWest. Her work has also been published in various Australian magazines.
When did you decide to write Her Fidelity? Did you always know that you would make a fiction debut?
Katharine- I had never written a novel or even much fiction before I wrote Her Fidelity. I did write a chapter of something approximating Her Fidelity as part of an undergraduate subject years before. However, I abandoned that project and definitely didn’t have designs on being a novelist. Then in my PhD, after debating writing a collection of personal essays, I returned to that old idea. Now I’m very comfortable writing long-form fiction. I have always loved writing, but I didn’t arrive at novel-writing until I had the confidence and experience.
How did you decide on the title? Was the book written first or the title?
Katharine- The place-holder title was Her Femininity: what a clunker! I came up with Her Fidelity before too long, but I was in two minds about it for a while. I did not want people to think I was either condemning or copying Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. I’m glad I resolved to keep the title, however, as it feels memorable and cheeky. Now I can’t conceive of calling it anything else.
You’ve been working in record stores since you were 14. How hard/easy was it for you to form the story that involves a similar-looking resume as yourself?
Katharine- Drawing on that part of my life made it easier to write with accuracy about the finer points of record shops. However, the specific situations and characters are all fictional. In the early days of writing it, it resembled my life to some extent, but once I moved away from that, I felt uninhibited and free to tell a story that is not just reminiscent of aspects of my life but many women’s.
Her Fidelity is a beautiful sum-up of how a woman gets treated in the record world and how she should get treated there. Do you think the audience will have a changed outlook post reading the book?
Katharine- I hope that the industry is already changing. Female-owned and operated record shops are emerging, and women are taking up space in the industry where previously there was a dearth of female-held positions. However, it is a slow process, and some of the old guard will be resistant to change. I hope that readers who didn’t previously know will realise how endemic these issues are and how the micro aggressions and casual misogyny can be just as detrimental as the bigger picture issues.
Did you have to go through some initial rejections while getting your book published?
Katharine- I am no stranger to failures and rejections in my writing career. I write in a style which is accessible but also literary, and comedic but with serious undertones. This hybridity can make it difficult to elevator-pitch! I had begun sniffing around a handful of agents and competitions early on and wasn’t having much luck, but I hadn’t pitched it to many publishers. Penguin understood and appreciated me and my novel immediately, and I was lucky that it didn’t take too long from finishing the novel to getting published. So, yes and no is the honest answer!
How does it feel to see the labour of your love at the bookstores?
Katharine- I have been visiting a lot of bookshops lately just to see Her Fidelity in the wild! It’s surreal and thrilling. I’m like a kid at Christmas. For a while I was halfway convinced I’d dreamed it, so seeing it as a tactile object confirms that it’s actually real. Cue endless selfies of me in various shops clutching my novel and grinning ear-to-ear.
Apart from sharing the same name and profiles, how much of Kathy are you in reality?
Katharine- Kathy’s resume keenly resembles mine, and a lot of the broad emotional experiences she goes through I can closely relate to. We share a deep love for an eclectic array of music, love and admiration for our friends and family, and an obsession with 90s TV, but she is not me. She’s (hopefully) more selfish and immature than me, although perhaps it’s fairer to say she’s just at a different developmental stage to me. I certainly drink a lot less than her! Also, I’m vegan and she eats a worrying amount of cheese.
What has been your biggest takeaway from writing Her Fidelity?
Katharine- To trust my gut that my eccentric tastes and writing style will resonate with readers. Don’t give up, and don’t stop speaking your truth, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.
What drew your attention to the world of writing?
Katharine- I have written on and off since I was a kid. Ever since I attended a sleepaway writer’s camp in primary school, I’ve been hooked. I didn’t know if I wanted to be an author or a journalist, but I have always loved words. This stems from being a voracious reader. I will read any and every genre, just so long as the story is compelling and there’s an emotional core.
Looking back at your journey, is there anything you’d want to say to your younger self?
Katharine- It’s okay not to have it all figured out: and it’s okay not to have it all, period. Things will take as long as they need to, and figuring yourself out is a lifelong journey. Have faith in yourself, and live in the moment.
Now that you’re a published author, what’s next in store for you? Is there any unfulfilled dream?
Katharine- I’m midway through my second novel, which I’m very excited about. It turns out I’m a novelist, after all! As far as dreams go, so many of my personal and professional dreams have come true recently that I wouldn’t dare ask for another.
Her Fidelity was published on 5 July 2022 by Penguin Books Australia. You can purchase the book here.