Thursday, 16 January 2014

Interview with Kari Aguila, author of "Women's Work"

Today I'd like welcome Kari Aguila, author of "Women's Work" to the Thursday interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!

Kari Aguila was a geologist before taking on the challenge of raising her three beautiful children. She has lived in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Idaho, New York, Texas, and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. She loves to travel and believes that every primary school should have a vegetable garden. Though she has several scientific publications, Women’s Work is her first novel.


1. Would you break the law to save a loved one and why?

This is an easy one. Absolutely. It could be a law as simple as jaywalking (I would run out into the street to save my son before he was hit by a car), or it could be a big law like stealing (I would take a loaf of bread without paying to feed my starving family). It seems that laws should be made for the protection of people. If a law would prevent you from saving anyone, loved or not, perhaps that law should be suspended. The key word here is ‘save’. As in ‘save their life’. It would be a very different answer if the question were “Would you break the law for the general convenience of a loved one.”

2. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?

My husband is a veterinarian, so maybe I have an odd opinion here. When a dog or cat comes into the hospital, broken and suffering, the doctor can tell the owner that, yes, we can save your pet’s life, but she will never walk again, will be incontinent, will have to be on heavy pain meds and groggy for the rest of her life, and won’t ever be able to run and play. With a pet, most owners feel that this isn’t any sort of life and will choose to euthanize. Now, without getting into any really heavy ethical and moral discussion here, I think most people would agree that they wouldn’t want to simply be left alive at all costs. But for me, to be truly living means that I can use my mind, communicate with people, express my love, and feel fresh air and sun on my face from time to time. Truly living doesn’t mean being happy and healthy all the time – it isn’t some commercial for Viagra or a Ski Resort where everyone is smiling and laughing. Living is taking the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the highs and the lows and learning how to navigate this life.

3. What motivates you to write?

When my oldest daughter started Kindergarten and the two younger children were in pre-school on Tuesday mornings, I found that I suddenly had three whole hours to myself each week! After nearly six years completely surrounded by and focused on the kids, I didn’t know what to do with so much free time. I could clean the house, do laundry, exercise, or finally write that novel. Well, I certainly didn’t want to do some of those, so I dove into writing. I’ve always kept a journal, written poems and long letters to friends, so writing was a wonderful pastime for me. But when I sat down to write my book, I found a new aspect that I hadn’t known before. I could be dark and mean and argumentative through my characters. I could be sexy and flirty and free. You see, I am happy and upbeat and kind around my little children all the time. I sing and smile and dance with them. In my writing, I could swear and plot and deceive. What a lovely release!

4. Why do humans want children?

Biologically, humans want to pass on their genes. Chemically, there is an endorphin rush when you have a baby that bonds you to them and makes you happy (most of the time). Emotionally, you want to feel like something you have done in this life will live on after you are gone. Sociologically, most women in the world don’t have any choice in the matter. It is just what is expected and demanded of them. Physically, most people like to have sex and children are often the result of that. For me, I wanted to surround myself with love. I wanted to create three individuals who would have the courage and support to go out into the world and help people. I wanted to do better than my own parents did, and prove to them that they couldn’t ruin me. And now that I have these three brilliant children, I realize I was a fool to ever think it was all about me and what I want. Maybe their little souls were out there someplace before I even knew them, and they chose me.

5. What was the biggest challenge in creating your book Women’s Work?

I loved writing Women’s Work. The story just flowed out of me and I cherished the time I had to work on it. It was ‘me’ time. However, once the first draft was done, I found it difficult to give it to anyone else to read. I kept re-reading it, finding new places to fix and modify and change. It would never be perfect, and I was terrified of letting anyone see it. It was a big leap of faith for me to find an editor and send my book to them. I had worked on it for so long, and I LOVED the story, but what if the editor wrote back and told me I just shouldn’t bother? That no one in their right might would ever read this? Of course, this didn’t happen, and each editor and reader I gave it to thought it was a fabulous concept and well written, but I still struggle with that self-doubt. My book became such a part of me that it was easy to be really protective about it.

6. What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?

Wow. Ever? I suppose each person will have a different answer for this question, since we have all travelled on different paths to get to where we are today. For me personally, I have learned to try to see both sides of an issue. This is something my husband has really helped me with. Before we were married, we had to do a pre-marriage counseling class at church. One of the games we played was to stand along a long tape line on the floor. On one end was written Agree and on the other Disagree. The moderator read a dozed or so statements, and we would position ourselves on the line based on what we thought about the statement. For each statement, I would either run to the edge of Agree or edge of Disagree. After a while, I noticed my future husband seemed to hang out in the middle of the line the whole time. That used to drive me crazy, but after ten years of marriage, three children, and a lot of life lessons, I am finally starting to understand that nothing is as black and white as I used to think. And putting yourself in the other person’s shoes can really help you be a better person.

7. How did you come up with the title Women’s Work?

When I was a child, my father worked a full-time job and my mother was a housewife. When he got home in the afternoon, he would sit in a chair with a beer and watch television until dinner, then sit back in his chair until bedtime. If my mother ever asked him to bring a dish to the table, wash anything, help with homework, get kids ready for bed, etc, he would say, “That’s women’s work.” Even after he was laid off from his job and she was working two jobs to support us, those housewife duties were still considered “women’s work”. I think a lot of fathers from that generation would have had a similar attitude, and most of them were still kind, loving fathers and husbands, but the idea that there were such specific gender roles ingrained in society always puzzled me. In my book Women’s Work, society has changed, and women are now the head of the household. Their new “Work” is to maintain peace and to educate the children in the new ways. They think they have finally established gender equality, but it can never be that easy, can it? Once a group gains control, it is interesting to see what they will do to keep it.

8. How do you handle personal criticism?

Better than some, worse than others. If the person giving the criticism is someone I trust and respect in the field they are talking about, I am usually fine listening to their opinion. After all, I don’t know everything, and there is always room for improvement. For example, my book editors had many comments and critiques about my manuscript, and I really didn’t mind reading them after all because I could see that they were speaking from experience and were really trying to help me. But if someone is criticizing me because of their own feelings of inadequacy, I don’t have much patience for that. I have seen that a lot in parenting. Everyone thinks the way they raised their children is the best way – the only way. There are ‘experts’ who have books and degrees and awards who will swear that their way is the best way. I’m happy to say that I am the only expert on my children. No one else is with them 24/7 and has been attached to them since before they were born. No one else has their wellbeing and interests at the center of their mind all the time. So before you give me that look in the grocery store when my daughter cries over the colorful cereal I won’t buy her, take a moment and go jump in a lake. Please.

9. Why should people read your book?

I don’t think my book is for everyone. Women’s Work is thought-provoking, suspenseful, exciting, and emotional, but to be honest, some men might not be into it. It is a story full of strong women and a deeply-rooted sisterhood, but it also questions traditional gender roles and the mirage of control. I truly believe that most women will find Women’s Work to be a fascinating novel, both relevant and provocative. The reviews I’ve gotten so far have all said that the story blew them away, and that they couldn’t put the book down once they got into it. I would love for this story to start conversations in book clubs all over the world about relationships and family life, but it is also just a great story. The main character, Kate, is forced to face her fears and evolve. The women of her neighborhood are her friends, and she has to risk everything to help a man she knows very little about. She trusts her instincts, but struggles with finding the courage to open up a discussion with her friends about what she is doing. Well, maybe everyone should read Women’s Work. After all, we can only progress in society if we keep the lines of communication open, and this story will really get people talking.

10. Why is there something rather than nothing?

How do you know there is? Ok, this is a rather deep question. I don’t know why we are here. I don’t know how we are here. All I can tell you is what I believe, and belief is trusting in something without having any proof. I believe there is light and darkness in the universe, and we should be ever striving to make more light. When I look around and see all the hatred and violence that still plagues our world, I have to wonder if we will ever evolve to a place of peace as a species. But I don’t have control over the whole species. All I can do it my best. So even if the smartest astrophysicists sit me down and explain string theory and the god particle, I will still try to take a deep breath and let that lady with 15 items go in front of me in the 10-item express check-out at the grocery. And I will still try to find that middle spot on the tape line at the pre-marriage counselling class.

Thanks Kari for taking the time to answer my questions & 
the best of luck with your new book! 
Check out her new book "Women's Work" on

“So when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.” It wasn't hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighbourhoods as best they could and tried to establish peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s porch one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help? Women’s Work follows Kate on a morally complex journey that will change her life forever. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this! I'm looking forward to reading this book!