For today’s interview I am excited to introduce my good friend, Kimberly Brock, and her debut novel, THE RIVER WITCH, a Pulpwood Queens Official Selection book and the SheReads selection for the month of June. Joshilyn Jackson calls Kimberly’s book, “One debut you should not miss.”
So, Kimberly. How do you feel about THE RIVER WITCH’s amazing success?
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about success. I don’t look at numbers. Really, I’m pleased with the good reviews, but I haven’t spent time reading them myself so much as I’ve been told about them. I’m focused on writing the next book, on responding to readers on blogs and at readings, scheduling appearances and festivals. Success for me will be that I get to keep writing and sharing stories.
But I will share this special experience: a reader contacted me after finishing the book to tell me that she’d suffered the loss of a stillborn child years ago. She’d never been allowed to grieve or to honor that child with a memorial or even a name. As an adult with other grown children, she was very moved by THE RIVER WITCH. She finally allowed herself to grieve, to memorialize and name her baby. To me, that is the story’s success – that it touched someone where they live. I don’t know if that’s got much to do with me, but I do know that it means the work has inherent worth. I’ll never forget that.
When did you first get the writing bug?
I’ve been a storyteller all my life. Ask my family, who endured many hours of reenacted Disney films or impromptu plays. Ask my childhood friends and teachers, who swallowed tall tales and ghost stories whole on the playground and paid the price later, afraid to sleep in their beds. They believed I had descended from an angry Cherokee Indian Chief. They believed I was going blind like Helen Keller. I was in trouble all the time for inventing and embellishing. And then, around the age of five somebody gave me a crayon and that was that. That’s when I became a writer.
Horribly. That’s how I went about research. Honestly, it’s not a very good process. I do it all the hard way, pulling articles out of magazines or printing them or bookmarking them on my laptop. Eventually, I had this pile of unrelated facts, stories and reports that grabbed my attention. Some of it came as I was writing – like the alligators. I read a lot about them and listened to recordings of their roaring. Other times, I went in search of a thing, like the Sacred Harp music. I watched documentaries and reads books and listened to recordings that I downloaded onto my iPod. Eventually, it’s a matter of having the knowledge in my head, the essence of a thing, so that when I write a scene, those facts and details appear there naturally. At least that’s what I hope happens – that the things I’ve learned and obsessed over will translate in the writing as setting and character and metaphor, give the story momentum and depth, but not sit there on display or seem like a regurgitated report on a subject.
How is your next project going?
Slowly. It is a story that began to take shape for me years ago when I stumbled across an obscure piece of history in my home state of Georgia. A lot of research has gone into this project, including some travel. I’m still fascinated with this idea and in the frustrating stages of waiting for it to take shape on the page. But I’m in love with it and eager to see what it becomes in the next few months.
I’m a writer, but I’m also a mother and wife and daughter. Time is always the challenge for any writer, finding a balance between living a full life and writing. I am impatient to go from the germ of an idea to a finished project and I want everything else in my life to fall in line so I can devote myself to that goal. But life doesn’t operate that way, and neither does the creative process. And by the way, unless you leave the writing long enough to live a full life, you find there’s nothing to write about. You have nothing to say. So, for me it’s always a challenge to leave the writing and know that when I come back to the desk, I’ll be better for it and so will my work.
What is your greatest victory?
My family – my marriage to my best friend and the home we’ve made with our three children. With the publication of my first novel, I saw my kids witness the fulfillment of a dream after years of dedicated work. That single moment, seeing their faces, was my greatest victory. Knowing that long after I’m gone, long after anything I have written is forgotten, they’ll have that memory to pass down to their children for courage.
You can visit Kimberly Brock at kimberlybrockbooks.com. Her list of books signings and appearances are listed there.