ABOUT THE BOOKMarch 1953. Nettie Gilbert has cherished her time studying to be a music teacher at Columbia College in South Carolina, but as graduation approaches, she can't wait to return to her family – and her childhood sweetheart, Brooks – in Alabama. But just days before her senior recital, she gets a letter from her mama telling her that Brooks is getting married . . . to her own sister.
Devastated, Nettie drops out of school and takes a job as live-in help for two old-maid sisters, Emily and Lurleen Eldridge. Emily is fiercely protective of the ailing Lurleen, but their sisterhood has weathered many storms. And as Nettie learns more about their lives on a trip to see a faith healer halfway across the country, she'll discover that love and forgiveness will one day lead her home.
INTERVIEW WITH KIM BOYKIN
Kim, how did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”
From as early as I can remember, I listened to my grandfather, who was a wonderful oral storyteller. From him I learned mechanics of story: sensory detail and pacing. Although at the time, I don’t thing I realized it.
But I fell in love with story as an extremely ADHD kid when the librarian in our tiny one-stoplight town took me to the stacks after I swore I hated to read and picked the one book that unlocked a love of reading that's lasted a lifetime. I wrote because I had to. I was good at it, and like many ADHD kids, I overcompensated for my poor math skills with writing.
About fifteen years ago, I finally finished a novel, not that I hadn’t finished others before, but I thought it was good enough to publish. I was so proud, I put writer in the “occupation” box on my tax return and our accountant told me to stick with “homemaker” because I hadn’t made any money as a writer. Ouch.
But I kept plugging away until I got frustrated enough to figure out I was never going to wow an agent who gets 4 or 500 queries a week. So I asked myself, who buys books? The answer is editors; there’s never been an agent in the history of agenting that I know of who has bought a book. So I went to the NY Pitch Conference, pitched directly to 4 editors. Three of them wanted to see the whole script, and that became the fist paragraph of my query. I sent out 167 e queries, had 60 agents reading the script, 20 reading the whole script, and I ended up with three offers of representation. I got to send out rejection letters, and let me tell you, some of those agents don’t take rejection very well.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I'm what's called a "pantser;" I fly by the seat of my pants. My process is much like when readers listen to audio books. I hear a voice in my head; she tells me her name, where she is, what year it is and the story takes off.
How long is your to-be-read list?
I read A LOT, so it's not that long, but I am always reading.
What books do you currently have published?
A Peach of a Pair, Palmetto Moon, and The Wisdom of Hair are all women's fiction novels. And I have 6 contemporary romance eBooks through the Tule Publishing group: Steal Me, Cowboy. Flirting with Forever, She's the One, Sweet Home Carolina, Just in Time for Christmas, and Caught Up in You.
Can you share some of your marketing strategies with us?
First and foremost, I try to get my face in front of as many readers as possible through speaking engagements, book festivals, and sometimes bookstore appearances if they are an event and I'm not just sitting there with a plate full of cookies while the customers avoid my gaze like they would a homeless person's. Facebook comes next. It is the best place for me to reach the readers I can't or don't meet at events. It's helped me grow my audience. When I see a bump on Facebook, most of the time that translates into a bump in sales.
How long have you been a writer?
Almost all 57 of my years. I became a published author at 53. I'm persistent like that.
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
It's not a station, but I would watch Showtime. They have the smartest, best written original series. It's really the only thing I watch other than football.
How often do you tweet?
Not very often. Maybe a couple times a week.
How do you feel about Facebook?
Too much. Every day, many times a day.
For what would you like to be remembered?
For making people laugh.
What scares you the most?
It shouldn't bother me so much but between aging parent responsibilities, a new book and a new grandson, I'm so afraid I'm going to forget some event and there'll be a luncheon with 80 people, a bunch of copies of A Peach of a Pair, and I'm passed out somewhere from exhaustion.
YouTube is . . . SO handy if you EVER want to learn how to do something or need to remember how to do something important, like swaddle a baby.
What five things would you never want to live without?
Coffee. Desserts. A computer. Cute shoes. An electric toothbrush.
Who would you want to narrate a film about your life?
3D movies are . . . a sure way to make me nauseous.
If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
A hybrid, but definitely more extrovert.
What's your relationship with your TV remote?
I can live without it.
Do you spend more on clothes or food?
It's a tie.
What's your favorite treat for movie night?
What is the most daring thing you've done?
Go to the NY Pitch Conference to sell my book.
What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Schedule 15 dates in August, travel 2500 miles (so far,) when I had a grandson on the way. It has just about killed me.
What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
Knowing what I know now, I probably would have self-published early on. The stigma I thought existed was almost nonexistent. It would have been more lucrative, and since I put every dime I make back into my books, I think I would have built my audience faster because a huge portion of this business on the consumer end is price driven.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
Audrey Hepburn--"I love people in life who make me laugh. I honestly thing it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person."
I agree! What would your main character say about you?
Nettie would say I treated her like I would my own children. As long as she didn't hurt herself or kill anyone, she could do whatever she pleased.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
A Peach of a Pair.
I write full-time at home alone, with the exception of the dogs I let in and out all day. Last year, my husband was home from March-August because of a dispute with his employer. It was good because his mother was in hospice and he got to spend a lot of time with her. It was terrible because he was noisy, constantly interrupting my work.
On the day we buried his mother, my dad fell. Five falls and two brain procedures later he’s in a memory care unit. He and my mom have been married for 64 years, so she was lost. By this time it was December and I had about 50 pages written and a January 5 deadline looming.
I know I could have asked for an extension, but I didn’t want to. Thankfully, in mid-December, the floodgates opened and I wrote the book in about 3 weeks. I’m a pretty fast writer, but that was ridiculous. And scary. Glad it all worked out.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
Wow. That's like asking me to choose between my children. I'd have to say the Richland Library in Columbia South Carolina. It is a thing of beauty on the inside and out and thrives with active patrons.
You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
I would be Nick in Gone Girl, and believe me there WOULD be a happy ending when I got done with Amy. Talk about throwing a book across the room because you hated the ending!
Have you ever been to a fortune teller?
What did she tell you?
She told me I would live to be very old. I would have 2 children. I would move to the west coast. I would be successful. All of that has happened so far, except I'd like to think 57 isn't "very old." I had a daughter and a son; we moved to the west coast of Florida a few months after the reading. I'm working on the successful part.
What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing?
They gave me 1 star and said Palmetto Moon was "depraved" because I had a gay character they didn't like. Then they got three or four of their friends to do the same, folks who'd never reviewed a single book on Amazon, only gardening tools or electronics, same verbiage.
How did you deal with it?
My son is gay, and it hurt, but I did what all my author friends said to do, I did nothing. But I did write a million responses, I just never sent them.
Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone in the world?
No contest. Meryl Streep. I love her outlook on life. Her take on story. She just seems really wise.
What's your relationship with your cell phone?
We are extremely close, but it loves to play hide and seek.
How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
On an average, six.
What is your favorite movie?
The Silver Lining Playbook.
Do you have a favorite book?
A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano.
Do you sweat the small stuff?
Try really hard not to.
If you had to choose a cliche about life, what would it be?
No matter how you feel. Get dressed. Show up. And never give up.
How long is your to-do list?
Nobody's created a word yet to describe its depth.
What are you working on now?
The Bridal Party, a series based on the Charleston wedding industry. It's a Sex in the City ensemble of five women. Steel Magnolias meets The Wedding Planner, but nobody dies. Due out 2017.
Cake or frosting? Cake
Laptop or desktop? Both
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? Bill Murray
Emailing or texting? Email (showing my age here)
Tea: sweet or unsweet? Gah! Neither
Plane, train, or automobile? Plane
A TASTE OF A PEACH
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.
As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.
Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of A Peach of a Pair, Palmetto Moon and The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley/NAL/Penguin; Flirting with Forever, She’s the One, Just in Time for Christmas, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.
Connect with Kim:
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