We interview local vicar Kate Wharton about her new book Single-Minded, an honest account of living life to the full as a 'single' follower of Jesus. Whatever your single situation is or even if you aren't single there is definitely something for everyone to learn from this book.
Tell us a bit about yourself; being a local to us here at Eden?
I grew up in Southport; which is fairly local, but I was born in London. I pretend to be a northerner and think of myself as a northerner. Then I moved to Leeds and Oxford for a while; but I've been back in Liverpool for 8 years. I got ordained 8 years ago and I did a curacy over in the West Derby and Huyton area of the city. I've been vicar of St George's, Everton for the last 4 years.
How did you juggle your time writing a book and being a full time vicar?
Lots of people - mostly other vicars - have asked me that! People keep asking me how long it took to write and it's a really hard question to answer. There was a period when I literally sat down and tried to write; but then there's everything leading up to it; the planning and thinking about it. The actual period of writing from 'I'm going to write a book' to finishing it was about 9 months. But there was a lot of time before that; thinking about it and doing the talks.
Originally I thought I'd have to take a sabbatical; but I spoke to a friend of mine who writes lots of books. He said: "Don't do it that way… put a day in your diary; even if it's only one day a month. Spend the whole day on it and then forget about it at the end of the day." It was good advice because it meant I kept going on with it and I did get it finished, which I probably wouldn't have done. I did more than that in the end; particularly right toward the end when the deadline approached. I did work pretty late – it was like being a student again!
Did writing Single-Minded feel like the natural thing to do after leading seminars on the subject?
I never sort of saw it coming. And to be honest, if I had, I probably wouldn't have done it! I think it was meant to be - that it was God's plan - but I wouldn't have signed up for that at the beginning. I agreed to do the first couple of seminars, and that was that. Then I agreed to do a couple more. And to be honest, if my friend hadn't said to me: "You've got book chapters there", I wouldn't have thought about it.
You just think writing a book is something other people do; I couldn't do that - partly I wouldn't have time, partly I wouldn't know what to write. But once she'd said it, the thought was planted. I started to think what books I'd read that were helpful. It felt like there was gap in terms of the sort of thing I was looking for: an every day 'this is how to live your life' type of book. So in the end it did feel like a natural thing.
Was it difficult to work out how much of your own personal experiences struggles to include in the book?
In one sense, I'd faced those questions before in the talks; but my journey has changed. What I would say now has changed from what I would have said 5 years ago when I first started to speak on the subject; partly because my own journey has moved on, and because I've come to realise what's helpful for people from the feedback from the talks. I know from books I've read that sometimes you feel you want more of the person and it feels a bit superficial; but it can go the other way. And sometimes it becomes unhelpful because it's so much their story that it doesn't feel like I can relate to it. I was particularly careful and I hope I've got the right balance! Chapter seven was never going to be as personal as it ended up; but that felt right in the end.
I found the real-life stories gave a good insight into how different people feel about being single. Did you want to do more with the stories you heard?
People were so generous in their responses when I formulated the questionnaire. I wanted it to be not just my story. I wanted to have views from people who have never been married, people who've been divorced, widowed, men and women, people who are desperate to be married and those who weren't bothered. I didn't want people to pick up the book and think there was nothing in there for them. People were really honest, I really appreciated their responses.
I had so many more questionnaires I could have used – so you never know.
You tackle some tricky and often controversial subjects relating to singleness. Was it difficult to know how to go about addressing them?
There's no point in reading a book on singleness and thinking: "the one question I've got is…" or, "the one thing no one mentions is that…" One word that has come up a lot in response to the book is 'honesty'. It's important. We're all trying to deal with this topic honestly. I didn't think there was any point doing it and not being honest.
What would you like readers to take away from the book?
For single people - I hope it'll be relevant to all sorts of single people - I hope the book will help them live their lives. Whether or not they're happy about being single I hope it'll reassure them, help them live a godly life and seek what God wants for their life.
For married people - as I hope married people will read it as well, I hope it'll help them understand their single friends better and support them better.
I hope church leaders will read it as church often focuses on being a family - and that's great; but we haven't always made that church family a place where single people feel included.
Church family, at its best, is one where everyone is included; all ages and all stages.
Will you be speaking at any New Wine events this year?
I'll be at North and East doing a seminar about the book. I'm also going to be doing a seminar with a married couple - friends of mine - looking at some of the issues covered in the chapter on 'living together'. What we hope is that single people, married people and friendship groups will go, be open and honest, and engage with each other. I'll also be at London & South East conference speaking about the book.
What's next for Kate Wharton; are you taking a break from writing or are you already in the process of writing your next book?
The funny thing is, whatever I do, people keep saying to me: "well that can be your next book". I think if there is something else - other things I'm passionate about - maybe that passion will bring about another book. It was a process I really enjoyed - which was surprising - so I'm open to the idea. But I recognise how much time goes in to it. I've written a chapter for another book, coming out in September, with Awesome; a network for female clergy in the Church of England 'Awesome Voices'. For now, I need to focus on my church and ministry in Liverpool.
Finally, as the sun is shining, what's your favourite ice-cream?
On a really sunny day, it would have to be a Solero.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katewharton27
Read more on her blog katewharton.blogspot.uk
July 4th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Anna Hockley