More Than I Thought I’d Know
Have you ever wanted to meet the author of your favorite book? Perhaps you’re reading such an intriguing novel that you feel obligated to ask the writer some questions…or maybe you are reading this and thinking, “um, no not really.” While it could be just me, I highly doubt that is the case. Usually, such an opportunity is either limited or not a possibility. However, recently Southwestern alumna Katie Gutierrez visited and fulfilled the dreams of nerdy wannabe writers like me!
This semester, I decided to take a class called Great Reads: Identity Crisis, taught by Dr. Michael Saenger. I figured this would be your typical English class, with reading materials such as Shakespeare, select older literature, and different classics. But when I saw the syllabus, an unfamiliar book popped up: More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez. When I received the book in the mail the week before classes began, I discovered it was published in June of this year.
The story follows a true crime writer, Cassie, discovering the double life of a woman named Lore; it is told from both perspectives, and the setting has wonderful descriptions of Austin, Laredo, and Mexico City. This is all I can truly reveal without spoiling it, but I must emphasize how powerful the writing is, and how jaw-dropping the imagery fabricated on the pages is.
As it turns out, author Katie Gutierrez graduated from Southwestern in 2006, and was a former student of Dr. Saenger; she loved his Shakespeare courses and the intimacy of the small class sizes. She received her MFA from Texas State University, opening many doors and writing opportunities for her. During her time at Texas State, she was able to intern for People Magazine in Austin, and she described the great relationships and connections she made. Soon, her internship evolved into her full time job where she became a freelance editor for the next few years. After working there for some time, her father encouraged her to write a novel, showing support for her childhood dream that she had not yet accomplished.
So, in 2015, she stopped her full time job to begin writing her debut novel. She began a different book than More Than You’ll Ever Know, but chose to scrap it after two years. In 2017, she created the story of Lore and Cassie, drawing her ideas from a true crime story she read about a man living a double life. Gutierrez decided she wanted to explore a true crime, double life story of a woman rather than a man and thus, the magnificence of More Than You’ll Ever Know came to life. Her perseverance while writing the novel truly inspired me; during the process, she gave birth to her firstborn, therefore having to not only write a 431 page novel, but caring for an infant as well. Her hard work definitely paid off, and the novel became June’s “Good Morning America” pick.
In my Great Reads class, Dr. Saenger proceeded to inform us that Gutierrez would be visiting SU in October. During her visit, we would have the opportunity to meet her and discuss the novel. I anticipated this moment and had been looking forward to it the entire semester so naturally, our hour and fifteen minutes with her was exhilarating (at least for me!). She discussed her internship and previous job in more detail, described her writing process (which consists of an intense focus on character building and a bunch of sticky notes), and more. Her personality was wonderful; she seemed extremely down to earth, thoughtful, and genuine.
I stayed after class to ask questions and of course asked her to sign my book. As an English major, I have a slight obsession with literature, so I like to thoroughly annotate everything I read. Holding my copy of the book, my excess amount of blue tabs peeked out from the side of the novel while I fangirled over her. As soon as she saw them, she began to fangirl over my annotations. Sparks flew between us as we began to share our excitement and love for words and great sentences. She made sure I knew where to find her contact information on her website, ensuring I could reach out if I ever needed anything.
The opportunity to meet Gutierrez was a phenomenal experience, and has inspired me further to continue in pursuit of one of my life goals: to write and publish a novel. Southwestern presented not only a fantastic opportunity, but also proof that the university’s students are on the path to great success and prosperity as a result of our dedication to our work.