K. L. Anderson has worked as an ecologist, wetland scientist, and technical writer and editor. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Seattle with her husband, her son, a cat named Jack, and a dog named Kali. Her debut novel, But First You Need a Plan, won the Leapfrog Global Fiction Prize and was published in December 2022. You can find her on Threads @klandersonland. About me: I grew up in Chicago, after the moon landing and before the internet. I lived in a huge city but was afraid to talk to people, so I spent my time with books and befriended every stray dog and cat I met (there were more than you might expect). Most of the books I loved were about heroic animals or kids who discovered secret places, but my favorite was A Dog's Book of Bugs by Elizabeth Griffen. Maybe it's no surprise that in college I declared two majors and split my time between literature/writing classes and biology/natural resources classes. Both have stuck with me ever since. So far only one pays the bills.
About But First You Need a Plan:
The original idea for this book was to tell the story of a couple who learn how to communicate after the husband nearly dies. I wanted to write about the bad decisions of youth and dark secrets coming to light, but for me that was secondary to the journey of this couple, regular people with kids and jobs and maybe not living the American Dream but still doing alright and convincing themselves that alright was enough.
When I started writing the first draft (way back in 2012), the falling woman was as much a mystery to me as she was to Cassie. After working out who the woman was and how she ended up on a roof, I realized Cassie and Danny’s story was different than the one I’d planned for them. It’s not a simple love story. It’s about how complicated love is. It’s about the many levels of dishonesty that can damage a relationship. Not just colossal, life-altering secrets but also the quiet dishonesty of pretending everything is okay when it’s not. Once I understood this, I went back to the beginning and rewrote the entire thing.
A note on the elephant tusk—I don’t remember how it found its way into the story. I like the idea of magical-not-magical objects and the superstitions people create around them and how much it says about the characters, who believes and who doesn’t. Having a poacher for a villain was also an easy way for me to make him immediately unlikeable without having to say much else about him. In the course of writing the book, I looked at so many heartbreaking photos. They have stayed with me, just as incomprehensible now as they were then.
Content/trigger warnings: cheating, animal harm (poaching), addiction, domestic violence, possible suicide, alcohol, homelessness, guns, fire, cancer