I Think I’ll Make It: Kat Hurley Speaks About Being the Five-Year-Old Star Witness in Her Father’s Murder Trial

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Had I known I should have been squirreling away memories as precious keepsakes, I would have scavenged for more smiles, clung to each note of contagious laughter and lingered steadfast in every embrace. Truth is that I was just a regular kid before I was ever really asked to ‘remember.’ Up until then, I’d been safe in my own little world: every boo-boo kissed, every bogeyman chased away. I was my daddy’s darling and my mommy’s little angel. Then — without warning — I wasn’t. ‘Tell us everything you know, Katie. It is very important that you try to remember everything you saw.’

When she was five years old, Kat Hurley experienced a tragedy so horrific, it is hard to imagine how she could ever heal.  The same year she started kindergarten, she was the star witness in the trial that led to her father’s conviction in her mother’s murder.

Despite this horrific experience, Kat lives life with triumph, humor and attitude.  She turned that terrible event into the preface of her recently-published book, I Think I’ll Make It, and into an essay in Transitions, an anthology  my publishing company will be releasing early 2014.

I Think I’ll Make It is the story of a woman, nearly 30, pushed to the brink by life’s inequities.  At rock bottom, Hurley is forced to pick up all the pieces, including those from her jarringly interrupted childhood.

Her book takes place in Hawaii, where Hurley quite literally rides out the tides of her battle while learning the peace and promise in forgiveness.

I met Hurley on a recent trip to New York, and had a great discussion with her about I Think I’ll Make It, making sense of tragedy, and finding acceptance.

Why “I Think I’ll Make It“?

There’s actually quite a lot of significance to the title. I wouldn’t have chosen it otherwise. It makes for a crappy URL, for one thing, and you’d be surprised how many people say, “What’s it called again?… “How I Made It?”

So the significance stems from footage of a newscast that I’d watched periodically over the years, trying to make sense of it all. I was eight, in this particular reel, new discoveries had been made in the case that had finally prompted my dad’s confession. There was another funeral (this time with [my mother’s] remains) and a whole new wave of reporters and media. It was our final TV interview, as I recall. The reporter asked me if, now that it was all over, I thought I’d be OK. “Yeah,” I grinned, “I think I’ll make it.”

I’ll admit that it wasn’t my first title, but once I saw the direction of where the book was going I knew there wasn’t anything more fitting.

After reading your preface, I was surprised to find out that you don’t talk much about your dad or the case until chapter 10. Why is that?

I really didn’t want this book to be about that. Because in many ways my life wasn’t, or isn’t, about that. In fact, I set out originally to tell a story that didn’t include any of those details at all. I type-toed my way around it, essentially… My editor, Holly Franco, came back with, “there’s an elephant in the room that we all know is there; I see what you’re trying to do and unfortunately it’s just going to leave readers scratching their heads.”

I had to overcome the fear of what my family might think. I had to face the fact that some would see this as a way to sensationalize my story. Basically, I had to let go of my ego (which at that point I was no stranger to) and tell it like it was, for better or worse.

My story is by no means who I am, however it is an essential part of me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without having survived those circumstances. And for that reason, I’m glad Holly pushed me to tell the whole truth because I know readers will find greater benefit from that level of vulnerability. This book was always about them anyway, not me.

That said, what is it that you want your readers to gain from your book?

I want them to feel empowered. I want them to step out of the chains of their own victimhood and walk away lighter, freer. My hope is that they will set out on their own spiritual journey, of sorts, and question the beliefs that they may have inherently taken on as their own. Lastly, I want them to find acceptance and gratitude in their own lives, even in the deepest, darkest of corners.

Well, I just love your attitude, your presence and your spirit. I see you on Ellen or something in the near future. Where do you see yourself heading? What’s next?

Why thank you! I think I’d die if Ellen called. I’ve been dreaming about that dance-off for ages. I just love her.

As for me, what’s next? Definitely another book, but in the meantime, with all the positive responses I’ve gotten from I Think I’ll Make It so far, I’d like to share my lessons with a live audience. I know there are so many women still trapped out there, and the notion that my story could release them from even an ounce of their pain fills me with such purpose, I tear up at the thought. My mom was killed when she was 35. I’m 35 this year, feeling more driven than ever to live this dream for the both of us.

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Kat Hurley can be spied online at www.ithinkillmakeit.com, www.kathurley.com, and www.gratitudeisthenewsexy.com