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Houston Matters

Why Houston Writer Katherine Center Didn’t Want To Write About A Firefighter

Center discusses her latest novel, Things You Save in a Fire.


Things You Save in a Fire, by Katherine Center
Houston writer Katherine Center is the author of several novels, including Happiness for Beginners, How to Walk Away, and her latest, Things You Save in a Fire.


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Things You Save in a Fire BookThey say to “write what you know.” And, in the case of Houston author Katherine Center, she knows about firefighters — a little too much, maybe. That’s because her husband's one.

For a long time, she thought she was far too close to the subject to write about it — until her latest novel, Things You Save in a Fire.

The book tells the story of a firefighter named Cassie who’s great at her job. She has no fear of running into a burning building — but dealing with her own past is another subject.

Because of some changing life situations, she has to move to another fire station where the crew members are all men. Cassie is forced to fight for her place on the crew and for acceptance while simultaneously dealing with her own personal issues.

Katherine Center poses in the Houston Matters studio with her novel, Things You Save in a Fire.

The idea came from a brief scene in Center’s previous novel, How to Walk Away, where the main character is involved in an accident and is rescued by a female firefighter. That character’s brief appearance caught the attention of Center’s editor, who implored her to expand on her story.

“But I didn’t want to write about that firefighter,” she said.

That’s because Center writes in the first person and likes to try and embody the character whom she’s writing as. But she’d seen up close what it’s like to be a firefighter — all the gear they have to wear and how dirty and sweaty her husband often was coming back from calls.

“I’m not really a doing-things kind of person,” Center said. “I’m much more of a curl-up-on-the-sofa-and-read-about-doing-things kind of person. I’ve never really been able to relate to that component of his personality.”

MORE: Katherine Center’s short story, The Girl in the Plane

The story recounts the plane crash where the main character from How to Walk Away interacts with the main character from Things You Save in a Fire.

But, after she sat down with her husband and had him retell many of the stories she’d heard from his career, she realized she could relate to a different aspect of this character. Just like Center felt about trying to become a writer, Cassie just wants the world to give her a shot at doing what she loves.

“Suddenly it was about being good at something,” she said. “And it was about finding a way to do the thing that you love to do, and that’s a story I could get really excited about. And so everything shifted after that.”

In the audio above, Center tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the book and about getting over her apprehensions over writing about a firefighter.

Center will hold a book launch at Brazos Bookstore on Monday, Aug. 12.

Plus, she tells us about her experience as an extra in the film adaptation of her novel, The Lost Husband, which stars Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb.

Photos from production of The Lost Husband movie: 1. Star Leslie Bibb in overalls as main character Libby with actresses Carly Pope and Georgia King during filming of the farmers' market scene. 2. Star Josh Duhamel doing research in Texas for his part as O'Connor. 3. O'Connor's pickup truck. 4. Star–and producer—Leslie Bibb. 5. Josh Duhamel rocking a cowboy hat on set with director and screenwriter Vicky Wight. 6. Actress Callie Haverda, who plays Abby, on a Texas road. 7. Leslie Bibb, Vicky Wight, and Josh Duhamel on set at Aunt Jean's birthday party. 8. Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb.
Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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