"Things You Save in a Fire" with Katherine Center

Author photo: Katherine Center: Credit Karen Walrond

“Fiction can change your life,” says Katherine Center. “It gives you something to hope for.”

The New York Times bestselling novelist is telling me about how her career as a writer began when she was in sixth grade, writing fanfiction about how all the members of Duran Duran had fallen in love with her.

“It was kind of genius if you think about it. I was so mean, so critical of myself, yet these world-famous rockstars said the nice things I needed to say to myself,” she says thoughtfully. “Even now, I’m still trying to capture some of the magic we created then.”

Center’s work is thoughtful, inspiring and powerful. Her latest novel about a female firefighter is what she calls “a shout-out to women doing unexpected things in the world.” And it resonates in a big way. Things You Save In A Fire covers a lot of ground—sexual harassment, broken family bonds, complicated relationships—but most of all, it’s a siren song for every woman who just wants to do what she loves and what she excels at.

The story almost didn’t come to life, mostly because Center’s husband is a firefighter and she says she just couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to do the job, as hot, sweaty, smelly and difficult as it was. But she said once she had it figured out, it became almost a fun marital exercise because her husband was her main consultant.

“There was a lot of research,” she says, “because I knew just enough to know I didn’t know enough.”

It was also important to her to keep a thread of hope running throughout the story. She says she writes hopeful, optimistic stories because she likes having something good to look forward to.

“We’re all half depressed anyway,” she laughs. “We need to hear these things, to be encouraged.”

BEFORE YOU READ THE BOOK: The main character in Things You Save In A Fire originated from Center’s previous novel, How To Walk Away. Center wrote a short story that bridges the two novels, which is available online as a free audiobook: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250753328