Welcome to another interview in my series on creativity in non-fiction writing which I kicked off a month or so ago. Today we meet Caitlin Hicks, who writes for the theatre, having started out in journalism and has recently blended non-fiction and fiction in her new project, which started with a true story and expanded outwards from there. Let’s say hello to Caitlin and hear her opinions on creativity, non-fiction and fiction. Over to you, Caitlin …
First of all, please tell me a bit about yourself and your books.
My life and work have been profoundly affected by the central circumstance of my existence: I was born into a very large military Catholic family in the United States of America. As a child surrounded by many others, I wrote, performed and directed family plays with my numerous brothers and sisters. I graduated Cum Laude with a double major in French and English (with a writing emphasis) from Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles. Here, I wrote weekly columns as Feature Editor of the Los Angeles Loyolan. My first job out of school was a writer of Camp Fund stories at the Los Angeles Times, and my writing was published every day of the summer. I worked in radio for several years in San Francisco for CBS and NBC, where I was Manager of Advertising and Promotion for KYUU-FM and where my writing was heard on-air. When I was 26, I dropped out of the corporate world to follow a lifelong dream to become an actress. At the same time, I met my creative soul mate in an Improvisation class — an accomplished artist from Canada named Gordon Halloran.
In Toronto, I began writing for the theatre when, as an actress working on a solo show, The Tarragon Theatre invited me to be a member of the Playwrights Unit there. My first play Six Palm Trees, co-written with Gordon Halloran, came out of that effort. As a playwright and performer I toured with my partner Gord Halloran, in my original theatrical plays in Canada and internationally to standing ovations and excellent reviews. One of my plays was adapted to a feature film called Singing the Bones. While Gord worked as dramaturge and director to my theatre work, I have promoted his work as an artist ever since I met him over 30 years ago.
My path as a writer has always been a personal spiritual journey, although my work is not religious. I am drawn towards stories that I don’t hear often in the mainstream culture. I enjoy bringing to life personal, pivotal stories which have the kernel of transformation and which connect us all to each other.
How did you start writing, and which came first, fiction or non-fiction?
When I was in 4th Grade, I wrote a story called “An approaching storm” . . . the following week, the teacher read it aloud in class, but I wasn’t there that day, I was sick. But the thrill of writing that story is what got me hooked.
Did you always want to write or was this a relatively late development?
I also wanted to be an artist (as I loved painting and drawing) but my older sister chose to be an ‘artist’ . . . So I decided , I’ll be a writer!
I recently blogged about finding that writing non-fiction was still “creative”. Do you agree, or is only fiction writing truly creative?
Absolutely. It’s a genre: Creative Non-Fiction. I write fiction as well as non-fiction and I approach writing a non-fiction story in the same way I approach writing fiction. Use of vocabulary, language, emotional investment in story, plot, characters, editing, etc. It’s largely instinctive at this point. For me, I must have an emotional connection to the idea inherent in the story before I am even interested in writing it. Right now on my website there is a non-fiction story called NEXT OF KIN, a true story that inspired an aspect of my debut novel A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE. That’s why NEXT OF KIN is a great example of what I’m talking about. It could be fiction, but it’s not. It packs an emotional punch, but it’s tightly edited, has a structure, a plot, an arc, etc.
I’ve heard it said that memoir should be considered as “creative non-fiction” – do you agree with that description?
Not all memoirs are Creative Non-Fiction, I guess. I’m thinking that the care with which one writes a fiction story ought also to be in any non-fiction piece.
How do you think writing memoir differs from writing fiction?
Well with memoir, you don’t have to do as much research. You know more about what you’re writing from the get-go.
If you use your own life in your fiction, was writing a memoir different from doing that?
Yes, a memoir is more difficult because you can always offend real people . If it’s fiction, then . . . it’s their choice if they want to insert themselves into the story. I love that I wrote NEXT OF KIN first and was true to the experience. I also love that I could use that experience to inform what happened in A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE.
Have you got anything else you want to add about creativity and writing (with particular regard to non-fiction)?
You’re either using the creative side of your brain, or you’re not. Fiction or non.
Tell us where we can find your books!
Light Messages is publishing A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE. It comes out in May, 2015. My website is at www.caitlinhicks.com/wordpress and you can find NEXT OF KIN there as well as other information and writing.
Watch out for more interviews, either by subscribing to this blog (see the links in the top right if you’re viewing on a PC or on the drop-down menu if you’re reading on a phone or tablet) or clicking on the “non-fiction creativity” tag.
2 thoughts on “Fiction, non-fiction and creativity – an interview with Caitlin Hicks”
I enjoyed reading this! It’s interesting to read what Caitlin says about using elements usually associated with fiction writing in creative non-fiction. In a previous job I wrote case studies about people whose attitude toward the digital TV switchover had changed as a result of our work with local community groups, and I think it’s true that the best ones were those with well-developed characters, an emotional connection and a ‘plot’. Looking forward to the next post!
Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. That is a good comparison, and it applies to things like longer-form blog posts, as well, I think.