The novel by a South African author selected for the “Good Morning America” ​​book club

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When San Antonio writer Katie Gutierrez needed a way to calm her nerves as a novel she had written sold out to publishers, she decided to start work on a second book.

This project did more than just soothe his ragged nerves. Although the first manuscript received a lot of positive feedback, it did not sell, but this second book did.

“More Than You’ll Ever Know” was released this month by William Morrow. It generated a lot of buzz and was named June’s pick for the “Good Morning America” ​​book club, guaranteeing it will be a best-seller.

Gutierrez was among the writers who took part in the San Antonio Book Festival in May, and his book received strong reviews, including one on CrimeReads, a crime, mystery, and thriller site that described it as ” an auspicious beginning for a daring writer”. .”

“Fortunately overwhelming, that’s how I described it,” Gutierrez, 37, said.

“More Than You’ll Ever Know” follows two women: Cassie Bowman, an Austin-based true-crime blogger, and Lore Rivera, a banker married to two men, one on either side of the Texas-Mexico border. . Bowman encounters an ’80s affair that seems juicy enough for a book that could boost his career.

The case centers on Rivera. In Laredo, she and her high school sweetheart were raising their twin sons and struggling to stay afloat financially amid the recession. In Mexico City, her affair with a sexy teacher turned into something much deeper, eventually leading to an improvised marriage after the 1985 earthquake.

The discovery of his secret by the men turns the lives of everyone important to Rivera upside down. One husband is shot and the other goes to jail for his murder. Bowman offers to tell Rivera’s side of the story, a trickier task than either woman is banking on.

Except for the earthquake, the story is fictional, although it was inspired by real events.

“I read the story of a man who had been married to his first wife for over 50 years. They had three children together and she died unexpectedly one night,” Gutierrez said. was ruled an accident. But two weeks later he married another woman. This obviously raised a few eyebrows. And it turns out that 20 miles from where they lived in Florida, he had been splitting his time with this other woman for 30 years.

In this case, she says, the man had two children with the other woman and lived his life with her under a different name. All the children attended the same private school and the two wives sat on the school board together.

“I was really struck by how long he kept this lie and this double life going between these two families,” she said. “I was both fascinated and disgusted, in that, was it worth it? What did it take to keep this secret from both the women in his life and the two sets of children? »

She was also struck by the fact that when these sorts of secret lives are revealed, the person at the center is usually a man. And so she started thinking about what it might look like if it was a woman instead. She wondered about what might be different in this circumstance – how a woman’s emotional life might be different from a man’s and whether it was possible to understand how someone could put themselves in this situation.

“I liked the idea of ​​framing it with this journalistic narrative and exploring the friction between two people – one who wants to hide the truth, or at least part of it, and the other who at least tells herself that she wants to find out the truth,” she said. “What is the power dynamic between these two people? What is revealed and what cannot be in this kind of relationship? It was the spark.

She jotted down the idea in a notebook, then put it away for about seven years. By the time she picked it up, she was married and pregnant with her first child, experiences that helped shape part of the book.

“I was entering this new phase of my own life, and the story felt even more compelling to me,” she said. “And I felt like maybe I could do it justice now in a way that I might not have had I started trying to write it back then.”

This is especially true of the section in which she writes about Rivera’s experiences as a first-time mother dealing with the physical discomfort, emotional intensity, and often mind-numbing boredom of caring for newborns. born.

The publication of the book is the realization of a lifelong dream. The Laredo native grew up wanting to be a writer. Her parents gave her a big Dell laptop when she was 15, and she spent that summer carrying it around, munching on her very first book. After earning her MFA, she focused her professional energy on working with other writers, helping them tell their stories for a storytelling company. Five years later, she decided she had to get back to her own writing.

“It was my dad who gave me the initial boost,” she said. “He said, ‘You should do this. You should just walk away for a year, try to write your book and see what happens from there. My husband was also very supportive.

Even with that encouragement, it was hard to make up my mind to do it. She loved her work and she feared that if it couldn’t be published, she would be back to square one professionally. But she also felt that it was the best time for her to try to fulfill her childhood dream. So she quit her job and devoted herself to writing a book, treating it like a job.

She’s thrilled “More Than You’ll Ever Know” is in stores, but she also thinks it’s worth talking about the book that didn’t sell.

“I think it’s important to let other up-and-coming writers know that this is a common part of the process,” she said. “If your first book doesn’t sell, that’s not all, or it doesn’t have to be. It’s actually not something I’ve heard very often.

She knows how rare it is for a first novel to receive the kind of attention hers got, especially the endorsement of the “Good Morning America” ​​book club. She had to keep it a secret for about six months and was happy to finally be able to share this good news.

“Every time I thought about it, I let out that laugh, because it’s still so amazing,” she said. “It’s like winning the lottery in terms of rarity, but also the chance of letting readers know about a first book. I feel incredibly lucky.

[email protected] | Twitter: @DeborahMartinFR

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