Four Questions with Katherine Center

by Wendy Gabriel

Katherine Center is an author, wife and mother. Her second novel, Katherine CenterEveryone Is Beautiful, was featured in Redbook and got glowing reviews from People magazine and USA Today. Kirkus Reviews likens it to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and says, “Center ’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way.” Booklist calls it “a superbly written novel filled with unique and resonant characters.”

Katherine’s first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, was featured in People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title at Target. It was also optioned last fall by Varsity Pictures.

Katherine’s essays about motherhood have appeared in Real Simple Family and in the anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

We are big composters. We compost everything–bread, tea bags, coffee grounds. I even dump out my old coffee in the garden. We keep a mixing bowl on the counter and just fill it up as the day goes along, then dump it in the mulch pile before dinner and wash it with the dinner dishes. This summer, I went out of town and saved a bag of compost to drive back with me in the car because I just couldn’t throw those banana peels and egg shells away! I love knowing that I’m keeping our scraps out of the landfill, and I love the idea that it all just magically turns back into soil.

We also have a garden with lots of native Texas plants and herbs in it. It’s fun to think about plants not just as decorations but as functioning parts of our yard’s ecosystem that attract wildlife to the garden. We have hummingbirds, tons of bees, and many monarch butterflies. The kids love it! Though we’re very laissez-faire with the garden and never put chemicals on it or even water it much!

We also do lots of little things, like take re-usable bags to the grocery store and try to use re-usable stainless bottles for water instead of plastic. I have many things I’m not yet doing that I’d love to do, too. I’d love to paint our roof white–it’s so hot down here in Texas!–and I’d love to have a rainwater collection system to save rain runoff for later. I also love to fantasize about keeping chickens in the backyard.

You mentioned that you recently watched Food Inc. How, if at all, has this changed how you look at food?

A lot. It confirmed a lot of things that I suspected about what’s going on with the food system in our country, but it also shocked the heck out of me with very vivid things that I hadn’t even imagined. I was especially horrified by the industrial system’s treatment of animals. The idea that we are voting with our dollars for local food or not, organic or not, has really stayed with me. I’m very mindful at the grocery store about supporting organic and humanely-raised food.

We’re also not eating at restaurants as much anymore. Houston is a huge city with every type of cheap, delicious food you can imagine. But ever since seeing Food, Inc. (and also reading the companion book), we’ve really tried to eat at home as much as possible, cook from scratch, slow down, take our time with food and meals. My kids are very interested in gardening, and we’re looking into joining a Community Supported Agriculture group, too, at some point.

I have read all of your books and have loved every minute of them. As an author what is your view of devices like the Kindle?

Thank you! I’m undecided about all the changes going on now with books. I have an affection for tangible objects, like books and pages, but people sure do seem to love their Kindles! We’re definitely in the middle of a revolution that will determine how people find, read, and experience stories. In theory, anything that makes it easier for people to access books and stories is probably good, but I have no idea what things will look like–for authors, for the publishing industry, or for readers–on the other side…

What have you found is your biggest challenge to living a sustainable lifestyle?

Living in Texas! Three things in my home state put me at odds with mother earth on a regular basis. One, it’s hot as blazes here a good 6 months out of the year. Two, Houston is a sprawled-out, driving town. It’s almost impossible to get anywhere or do anything without a car. And three, the mosquitoes are so bad down here they make you want to slather yourself in poison. That said, we are trying! And the older the kids get, the easier it seems to get!

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  1. Adam’s avatar

    Great interview Wendy!. Living on the East Coast, it’s interesting to hear about some of the challenges of people who live in hot climates like Texas.

  2. Melissa’s avatar

    This is a great interview! I haven’t seen Food, Inc yet but after reading this interview, and Robin Shreeves’ posts at Mother Nature Network, I realized I really need to see it.

    I have similar challenges to living a sustainable lifestyle – I’m in Arizona and so it is hot here plus I’m in the metro-Phoenix area and it is the epitome of urban sprawl. It is good to know that others face a similar challenge.

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