A book launch for the novel was held at Snug Harbour Books in Lane’s Privateer Inn Saturday Dec. 18. Prior to the launch, the now New Glasgow resident says she is excited to be back in the area where she was raised.
“I grew up in Milton, it's nice certainly to be back in my hometown,” says Hatt. “I don't get a lot of reasons to come back anymore. If I get to see some people that I know, and meet some people that are interested in the book that will be a bonus for sure.”
In this day and age, Hatt says she asked herself whether or not a story can make a difference. With the busyness that comes with every day life, she wondered if people would take the time to lose themselves in her story.
“Certainly in this era where everyone is very very busy, where there's not a lot of time or brain space to do a lot of deep reading, I wondered is there still a need for books?” she says. “Is there still a need for a story you can crawl into and enjoy?”
As her novel unfolds, the story answers this very question.
Ultimately, Hatt says the novel is a love story from the point of view of a man in search of the perfect love. The story begins with Jack Brandugan, who thinks he has done everything in his life he is supposed to. As he coasts towards the end of his life, he is paired with a writer through his corporate obligations. It is meeting her and exploring the writing process that unlocks a whole other part of him.
“As he relives things in his life he had forgotten about, they are assembled not just as little snapshots or pieces that he kind of discarded in the past, but actually put together into a bigger picture that then shows him what he needs to do and what he’s been looking for,” says Hatt.
Hatt has been a full-time freelance writer for 13 years. Interestingly, she says writing a novel was something she vowed to never do.
“The whole thing started just with conversations and a short story that I'd written for a friend,” says Hatt. “That short story led to a second story, which led to a chapter outline, and suddenly I realized well, I'm looking at a book here.”
The words of Hatt’s novel were officially put to paper about four years ago. She says the writing process had many ups and downs, including three separate rewrites of the story.
The first time novelist says she encountered many of the regular obstacles most writers experience, such as balancing her full-time work, her family, and her novel. However, she also says the transition from journalist writing to a novel style was something she had to overcome.
“As journalist and a non fiction writer I loved the ability to sort of breeze in, do a story within a day, a week, or an hour even, then move onto something new,” says Hatt. “A novel is no such creature. It's with you all the time, even if you turn off your computer and close your office door, it's still there.”
Hatt says as a journalist, she found there was a clear line between work and life outside of work, but as a novelist she couldn’t have that clear distinction. She also says her first draft of the novel reflected her journalistic writing style, and read much like a news story with facts, dates and events.
“I just let myself go and wrote whatever came into my head, and it was good. I was really proud of it, and thought it was probably the best thing I'd ever written.” - Jennifer Hatt
“News can be very entertaining to read, but there's a sense there should be a little bit more like getting a bit more inside the character,” she says.
Hatt finished her second draft last November, and says she allowed herself to fall completely into the world of fiction.
“I just let myself go and wrote whatever came into my head, and it was good. I was really proud of it, and thought it was probably the best thing I'd ever written,” says Hatt. “But when I read it again from a readers perspective, it just had too much in it and it was a little too complicated.”
When Hatt realized she would have to do rewrite number three, she says she remembers thinking “I can’t.” She put the draft away and didn’t touch it all winter.
“I figured if it saw the light of day, it would be years from now,” says Hatt. “But in the spring I picked it up again and just started picking at it again. Back at it I went, and probably Labor Day I had the draft where I knew, “this is it.’”
By Remembrance Day the novel was off the press and in the hands of its author. Hatt says she lives 15 minutes from where the book was printed, so she was able to actually see the pages coming off the press, and watch the book assembled and packed.
“It's pretty surreal. It's a little bit overwhelming when you realize that once the press starts, there is no going back,” says Hatt. “But at the same time you hold it in your hand, and you realize, ‘you know what? All those hours and months and years I've spent working on this, actually turned into something.’ It is a very good feeling.”
The novel was officially launched Nov. 24. Finding Maria can be purchased directly from Hatt, and is also available in various retailers throughout New Glasgow, Pictou, Antigonish, Truro and Chester.
Over the next couple of months, Hatt says it will be gradually available in a number of stores.
“We hope to at least have it in Halifax and along the South Shore,” says Hatt.
“We're also going to have an online option as well, so you can order it directly online. That's in the works as we speak, by the New Year we'll definitely be able to sell it online.”
Having completed her first novel, Hatt says she already has some new ideas kicking around in her head. She expects to be writing more books, some of which will involved characters from Finding Maria because “it seems they still have a little more they would like to say.”
Although she plans to write more in the future, she also says there are no specific timelines as to when readers can expect another novel from her.
“I would love to say I'll have another book out in a year or two, but it's been my experience that will depend on everything else going on in my life,” says Hatt. “It's good to have goals, but there's a need for flexibility too. It's not the type of thing I find I can force.”
More information on the book and author can be found on the novel’s website