I first met Kimberly Brock through my favorite independent bookstore, FoxTale Books, in Woodstock, Georgia. We were both there to support another Author and I came across her debut novel, THE RIVER WITCH. The cover alone was beautiful and as I read her book, I understood why she won the “Georgia Author of the Year Award” 2013 for first fiction. It’s a wonderful novel that revolves around a broken young woman as she finds herself among the gorgeous, isolated, cultural world of Manny’s Island, Georgia. I am happy to have Kimberly on my website. I absolutely adored her debut novel and am so thrilled that she is now teaching Writing Workshops. See Interview below.
CL: Kimberly, I want to revisit your book, THE RIVER WITCH, because it has stuck with me over the last year…it is beautifully written and unforgettable. Tell me what inspired you to write this novel?
KB: Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I think the broader answer would be that, as most writers would say, my entire life inspired me to write this novel. But the seeds of the specific settings and characters came from observations of things that came into my daily life – just the way all stories come to be. I read this article about a couple of women who decided to open a pumpkin farm. The pictures were gorgeous. Everywhere, there was this beautiful, round, sumptuous fruit; such a compelling illustration of women and fertility and sustenance. I started sketching scenes of a woman longing for her childhood home and music and a bountiful table. This was Roslyn. Then I saw another report showing people floating down a river inside giant pumpkins and ten-year-old Damascus started talking to me.
CL: We’re both Southern…I like that. And the rich cultures represented in your book reflect the GA Coast and its inhabitants. What research went into this book?
KB: Well, nobody has to explain southern to me. But as far as the rest, I had at least limited experience in most aspects of the novel. The beauty of fiction, remember, is that you make it up. I did read a lot of books and do a lot of searching online to fill in any gaps where my own experience in dance, or the Sea Island and southern Appalachian culture and the environment on the island in south Georgia, fell short. I can tell you without shame that I listened to plenty of online recordings of alligators roaring! I was especially inspired by a PBS documentary on Sacred Harp music and compelled to use that bit of history because I’m very drawn to bits of culture or stories that get lost along the way. I love to discover something almost forgotten. Too much Nancy Drew as a child? I admit nothing.
CL: You won GA Author of the Year award a year ago…how did you feel when that happened? That is a wonderful accomplishment.
KB: It was surreal. To sit in a huge room, surrounded by so many writers I admire, people with amazing credentials and bodies of work – THAT was the award for me. Hearing that I won the really, actual award, I honestly laughed out loud. It seemed so ridiculous to me that anyone would chose my work for recognition. Like I said, I just made it up. NOT that I didn’t jump up and run right up to say thank you and grab that sucker! Winning really made me grateful after years of submissions and rejections. But believe me, it also adds pressure to do it well, again, just as it gives me a little boost of courage to continue writing. I still feel like I’m earning it.
CL: Tell me about your road to publication. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
KB: Long. Discouraging. Confusing. Like the Civil War. But I began with a short story and no idea what I was doing, so it’s nothing short of a miracle and a lot of hard, hard work that the whole thing turned out a novel in print. My advice to aspiring writers is always the same: do the work, do the work, do the work. Don’t expect someone else to do it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you how to do it. (And the Lord said, Let there be Google. And it was good.) Don’t wait for someone to call you up or seek you out. Don’t wait, period. Do the work now and every day and do it because you love it. The work is the pay off, not the publication. Because here’s the secret, if you do publish, guess what you get? More work. Everyone has a story to tell and the only difference between a storyteller and a writer is that the writer loves to write for writing’s sake. We’re insane that way.
CL: You wear many hats. You’ve been an actress, an educator, you’re a pilates instructor and a great activist in regards to your son’s nut allergies. You are a busy woman! Tell me a little about how all of this falls into your writing or writing schedule.
KB: Writing schedule. (She laughs, hysterically) Truthfully, I write during my life. People always ask me this question and I’ve talked to lots of other writers who will tell you the same thing, that writing doesn’t all happen at the table. You’re working in your head, all the time. I am concocting made up stuff every minute, waking and sleeping, I think. And really although it seems disjointed, everything in my life has been about story. Theater definitely informs my approach to story. Being a mother, just like teaching, is absolutely about managing behavior, constantly fighting to understand why and how and anticipate what comes next. Isn’t that how we develop our characters and themes? I use my background when I speak to students, book clubs, at libraries or civic groups, one of my favorite things to do. It’s all part of the mix and the mix goes into my work. It goes both ways, actually.
CL: What can we expect from you next?
KB: I keep it pretty close to the vest but my next novel is another story set in Georgia, this time in the foothills at the very end of WWII, and it was inspired by an obscure bit of history, a woman’s story that’s been shelved by American historians. It also involves an element of prejudice that isn’t often talked about. I’m in love with this story and these characters and can’t wait to share it. On a deeper level, the novel is about the things we believe are true in our lives and how we rely on those ideas to define us. It’s about what happens when none of what we believed, is true. How we recover and find courage to be authentic without the trappings of the expectations of others.
Something else I’m excited about is a writer’s workshop I’m pulling together based on all the things I’ve learned on this journey and all the writers who ask me questions or share their own experience with me. Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop was born out of my belief that everyone has a story to tell and that by telling our stories, we create the world in which we want to live. This workshop is for anyone who’s ever told themselves one day they would tell their stories. I want to support those voices. Your readers can learn all about it on my website here.
Check out Kimberly Brock’s Author page here.
Learn more about Kimberly’s Writing Workhops here.
Purchase THE RIVER WITCH here!