I realize we’re less than a month in, but Kathleen Hale’s debut novel No One Else Can Have You is the best novel I’ve read so far this year (and in the waning months of 2013). Set in a small Wisconsin town, No One Else Can Have You is the story of protagonist Kippy Bushman who—when local police prove woefully inept—works to find out who brutally murdered her best friend, Ruth.
Using Ruth’s diary, her own fierce determination and wit, and the help from a group of unlikely characters, Kippy faces some seriously harrowing and hilarious situations. That’s correct: it’s a funny murder mystery. I reached out to Kathleen about the book, and she was nice enough to answer some questions about the novel, and some other random and weird questions I had for her.
Why did you decide to set the novel in Friendship, Wisconsin? Have you ever visited the town, and have you received any feedback from its residents since the book hit the shelves?
I decided to set the book in Friendship because it’s called Friendship and the book is about friendship, and because it looked really cool in all the Google Street View tours. So far, everyone who’s gotten in touch with me from there has been really supportive. Granted, most of them have been getting in touch to say they’re ordering the book, which means they haven’t read it yet. But I’m hoping they still like me after they realize I’ve depicted their town as a place people go to die.
“…I once got my arm caught in a tampon dispenser in middle school…”
No One Else Can Have You is labeled as Young Adult Fiction, but I feel like it can be enjoyed by people of any age (like, say, Hunger Games—and I apologize if that comparison seems like an insult). Did you consciously try to make the book entertaining and appealing to a broad range of readers?
How could that comparison possibly seem like an insult? Hunger Games is one of the best books ever written.
And no—the fact that No One Else Can Have You has proved entertaining on any level is a complete accident. I actually wrote the novel in a made up language, so I’m really surprised that anyone was even able to decipher it. [Ed note: This book is in English.]
This book is hilarious, but also very psychologically intense and gruesome at times. How did you find a balance between humor and human-induced horror? And how important was it to you to have humorous stuff in the book, as opposed to writing a more run-of-the-mill murder mystery?
I think that psychological intensity and gore create a lot more opportunities for comedy than one would expect. When an audience is scared or grossed out or uncomfortable, they want to laugh. They want release from that feeling.
I’m always interested in how much of a writer goes into his or her main character, if any. Is Kippy reminiscent of you when you were her age? How so?
I pulled a lot of the stuff Kippy experiences or reminisces about directly from my own life. For instance, I once got my arm caught in a tampon dispenser in middle school, I had a van named Rhonda, and throughout my life I’ve grappled with mental health issues.
I’ve read and heard multiple comparisons to FARGO and Twin Peaks. How do you feel about No One Else Can Have You being mentioned in the same vein as those classics?
I’m completely flattered to even be mentioned in the same sentence as these classics.
At what point in your novel writing process did you know who the killer was going to be? Without spoiling anything, can you talk a little bit about what went into the decision when you were, well, creating a murderer?
I knew the identity of the killer before I started writing. When I was creating said murderer, I basically tried to ensure that everyone who hadn’t killed Ruth was as much of a red herring as possible.
If somebody is going to buy No One Else Can Have You, do you have a preference whether they purchase the digital or print version?
Many people who read this have thought about writing a novel of their own. Do you have any advice for someone vis-à-vis how to get started and keep going?
Outlines have proved increasingly helpful for me, personally. After that, finding a trusted reader and writing a fixed amount every day is a great way to keep going.
What are you working on now?
A new book about murder.
Congratulations on your engagement to writer Simon Rich. How does it feel to be 50 percent of a literary power couple?
Better than being 25%, because foursomes are logistically tricky. Also thanks so much for the congratulations. I’m overjoyed to be engaged to Simon. He’s the best person in the world.
What are your thoughts on the nickname Hale Storm?
Hale Storm was actually my first choice for my derby name back when I was on the Southern Illinois Roller Girls. But this girl named Haley had already taken it, so I went with Hale Razor.