Interview with Kathryn Brettell

The Olive Picker starts out with a gripping opening chapter. Did you plan it that way, or did you do some shuffling once the book was finished?
Both. I wrote an outline before I got started and once all the pieces on the outline were written, I shuffled the chapters around until I was happy with it.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I’ve always loved to write. I love how I can put words together to succinctly say the things I can’t speak.
What encouraged you to write about your experience in such detail?
I recognized fairly soon after The Event that people had a lot of questions about what had happened to me. I didn’t avoid them, but I felt uncomfortable with my answers, primarily because the little I could tell over a cup of coffee didn’t adequately tell the story. Also, I believed there were other people who would relate to my story and in finding common ground it might give them strength.
Some people never quite get over the self-esteem issues that arise as a consequence of childhood abuse. Did you overcome those issues and, if so, what helped you rise above them?
Hmm, well, I’d like to say I have overcome all my self-esteem issues, but that would be a lie. One can’t overcome that which they deny exist. I don’t believe I saw the world through healthy eyes until I was nearly killed. In fighting back and surviving, I experienced an awakening where a lot of the old insecurities fell away like an outgrown shell. It was really quite something.
Do you find it hard to trust people?
I thought I would have trouble trusting again, but I don’t. The big difference is I no longer tolerate anyone whose behavior confuses me. I have no tolerance for being yelled at. I remove myself from those people immediately, permanently, and without remorse.
Do you have any advice for others who may be trapped in abusive relationships?
Yes. But, precisely because those people are ‘trapped,’ my advice is most often directed at the friends of those in the abusive relationships. I tell them to identify the behavior. Call it out and talk to those affected. Peeling the curtain back and talking about it openly takes away a lot of its power. Encourage them to join a group, and attend with them if possible. We all need a tribe; and we need to be offered safe haven. Sometimes it may appear the person isn’t listening-but they are. The most important thing they need, is to know they have options.
Have you used your experiences to help other women in similar situations?
Yes, that’s been the most rewarding aspect of writing this book. I’ve learned that there are many, many people who, like me, have trouble identifying abusive behavior. It’s not an easy leap to think that emotional and/or verbal abuse might escalate to physical abuse. The Olive Picker has been a great “conversation starter”, at book clubs, women’s events, and just one-on-one discussions.
What kind of woman were you before The Event, and what are you like now?
The old Kathi lacked self confidence. She felt undeserving; someone who picked up shit, picked olives, i.e. the least of us. Now, I am not afraid to meet and speak with anyone, I smile easily and often, I stand taller. It’s like getting a new pair of glasses – I see things now that were previously hidden from me.
What would you say is the most fulfilling aspect of having written The Olive Picker? And, what advice can you offer writers who are on the fence about writing a memoir?
The most fulfilling aspect is the reaction of readers, both male and female. I never expected it would resonate with so many people. I have received loads of personal stories from readers, so I know they recognize the truth and honesty of what I wrote. That’s very satisfying.
I was on the fence about writing my story, frankly, I felt really presumptuous thinking anyone would want to read about me. I had good friends who asked me about what had happened, and it was their encouragement that made me believe it was a story worth telling.

The feeling that my story can help others-that’s gold.
Is there anything you left out that you wish now you had included?
Many people use writing as a therapeutic device. Did writing The Olive Picker give you a sense of release, or closure?
I don’t believe in closure. Stuff happens, and there’s nothing you can do to ‘forget’ or ‘close those chapters,’ in my opinion. What has resulted from my writing The Olive Picker, has been a deeper understanding of what caused me to make the decisions I made throughout my life. The bigger picture of what it means to be truly loved by and bonded with another person, and how the lack of it stunts a child’s psyche-that vision is the gift I’ve received from writing the book.
You don’t really talk of your families reaction to what happened, what does your mother think and has she read your book?
My sisters all read the manuscript prior to publication and are all very supportive. We are very close. My mother declined to read it before, but has since purchased a copy. Her only comment after reading it was that she always knew I was a writer. I believe she did the best she was capable of during those years. She gave me life, and more, and has finally confirmed all the incidents I wrote about in my childhood as true. My former sisters-in-law have read the book and are 100% supportive. The response from extended family and friends has been all positive.
Do you have plans for another book? If so, can you tell us about your next project?
I do believe I will write another book, and I have several snippets saved. However, I have no idea what direction I will go.
Is the Kathi of today happy and healthy?
Oh my gosh, yes! I've been travelling extensively and seeing countries I only imagined, I’ve made lifelong friends with women all over the world, and I am married to the love of my life. I was fortunate enough to work with kids from the slums while I lived in New Delhi, trying to teach them English and that was both heartbreaking and rewarding. Life is VERY full and good.
What next for Kathryn Brettell?
I’ve recently moved to Singapore. I plan to explore all the Asian countries that I am able to during the years I’m here; Cambodia, Thailand, China, etc. I have a few ideas for a second book but right now they are just a mass of short stories. And I’m looking forward to returning to Colorado in a few years when my Englishman retires. I will always be involved in some sort of women’s or girls education program, and/or domestic violence awareness groups. There are a lot more hero’s than bad guys in my rear view mirror, and I strive to pay forward all the gifts I’ve been given.
Published 2015-08-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

An Unlikely Santa
Price: Free! Words: 1,830. Language: English. Published: September 1, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Holiday » Christmas
An unlikely Santa, and a lonely boy meet in this quirky, short, Christmas story.
The Olive Picker
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 62,060. Language: American English. Published: August 24, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Relationships and Family » Abuse / domestic partner abuse, Nonfiction » Inspiration » Personal inspiration
A step kid, Kathi grows up with all the confidence of a road flattened squirrel, She marries for all the wrong reasons, and deals with a variety of challenges with wit and determination. Kathi allows life to drag her along in its wake until she is faced with a near death experience. Then, everything changes.