Kimberly Belle spend an amazing evening with us and our Traveling Sisters and Friends answering our questions in our Goodreads group Behind the Pages. It was such a fun time and we loved all the insight we got into herself, her books and her writing process. After our discussion a few of where say “Holy Shooty Balls” along with Norma and some of us were doing my famous book dance
As a group we have read three of her books and loved them all. We talked about most of Kimberly books with her. I am excited to share the love for one of our favorite author here with some Q & A from our discussion with Kimberly.
Brenda What draws you to write suspense thrillers?
Kimberly As for why I write suspense, I write the kinds of books I like to read, and about subjects that everyone can relate to: relationships. Parent-child, husband-wife, siblings. I love exploring the emotions that come along with these types of bonds, mostly because they’re so universally recognizable. Toss in the suspense angle—a lying spouse, a child gone missing—and it’s a what-if scenario everyone can imagine themselves in. That’s the appeal of the genre, I think, that people read it and think, that could have been me.
While I’m at it, can I just gush about how women are writing SUCH great crime fiction? We women are killing it (ha!) because we write stories that are realistic and reflect what’s happening in the world. As the ones who are all too often on the receiving end of the violence or crime, we bring a unique perspective to the table. Our stories are relatable. They’re real. And I love that women are taking control of the narrative and transforming the victims into heroes—women fighting back, getting even, saving the day, solving the crime, rediscovering their strength. Today’s heroines are no shrinking violets. They are strong and they kick ass, like Beth, and I love it!! 🙂
Brenda What does your writing day look like for you? Do you have a routine?
Kimberly I am best in the morning, so I typically am behind my laptop by 8 or so. I warm up by checking emails and socials, then get to writing as quickly as I can. I write with the program Scrivener, which counts down from my deadline and gives me a daily word count to guide me. Sometimes I hit it pretty quickly, and sometimes it takes all day. I typically lose steam around 3 or 4, then finish up with socials and emails. And I’ve found, if I ever get stuck, the best remedy is a workout or a walk with the dog, something physical. By the time I’m home, most plot knots have been unwound.
Heidi This was a good read and it would be really interesting to get some background!
Kimberly The Marriage Lie (TML) was really the product of a brainstorming session. I should probably start off by saying that I fly a lot (a lot), so when it came time to think about ideas for a new story, a plane crash was pretty front-of-mind, and it’s right up there with the worst possible things that could happen to a person. But then I started thinking about what that would be like for the people left behind, especially if there were some kind of deception involved on the part of the person who was killed. The action for the story filled in from there.
As for Dear Wife, that was a gift from the writing gods. I had just spent months putting a proposal together for another story when Dear Wife woke me up in the middle of the night. My eyes popped open and the story was right there, fully formed, playing in my head like a movie. I knew my characters, the major plot points, how the story began and ended. In the morning, I called my editor and pulled the proposal, then asked for another week or two to throw together a new one. Thankfully, she loved the story just as much as I did.
Brenda How do you come with ideas for your books?
Kimberly I find story ideas everywhere. In the news, on radio and tv, in snippets overheard at the grocery story or coffee shop. But what really inspires my writing—and the difference between and an idea and inspiration—is when an premise gives me a visceral reaction, a fluttering in my stomach or a tightening in my chest that tells me I’m on to something. With The Last Breath, it wasn’t the father coming home from prison to die that put me in knots, but imagining how that would feel for his adult daughter, Gia. For The Marriage Lie, that moment when Iris receives the note in her dead husband’s handwriting made me giddy and sick to my stomach at the same time. Once I’ve found my story seed, the bigger challenge is then translating that feeling to the page in a way that summons a similar reaction in the reader. Thanks for reading!
Brenda What comes first for you, plot/story or the characters? Has there been a character you just had to write about? Do you plan or does it all come together as you are writing?
Kimberly Plot is typically what I come up with first, then I spend lots of time thinking about what kind of person would best fit in the story. I want a main character who has something to learn, who will come out better on the other side, so they’re typically dealing with some kind of issue. Character is actually something that doesn’t come easy for me, and I have a degree in psychology lol. It takes time for me to really get into their heads.
My stories have a lot of moving pieces, so I spend months thinking them through before I write the first word. I start with the basics: character, major plot points, a one or two sentence synopsis, and then I take it from there. I brainstorm, add subplots and secondary characters, fill in and expand on the many blank spots. Once I have a fairly detailed outline, I’ll run it by my agent and editor, who are both brilliant at pointing out all the places it could be better. Crafting a story is a group effort, and their feedback and ideas really help me as I’m shaping the plot.
But even with the outline, I always give myself room for things to change and develop as I write. Sometimes that means adding characters (like Evan in THE MARRIAGE LIE) or rewriting chapters from another point of view (a couple of Jeffrey chapters ended up Marcus’s in DEAR WIFE). But I can make those changes because the bones are already there, both on paper and in my head.
That said, I’ve never – not once – changed an ending. I go into a story knowing exactly how it will end, and with I every chapter I write, I am moving steadily closer. All that goes to say: yes, this story ended exactly like I’d planned it
Lindsay I’m curious to know how long it took you to write Dear Wife. I imagine that storyline would have taken a lot of planning and rereading.
Kimberly The writing part was about six months or so, with a bit of plotting and thinking on the front end, and a couple months of edits on the back. This is pretty typical of my stories. Even though I write from an outline, it still takes me a good 6 months to get the story from my head onto paper.
Brenda I just read The Marriage Lie and I loved Iris. I wanted to be her best friend. I wanted to yell at her at times and other times I wanted to hug her. I also loved Beth in Dear Wife and loved the twisty road she took us on. She was a little harder to warm up to for me but wow, in the end, I loved her. How do you go about capturing your characters’ voices and getting into their heads?
Kimberly That’s IMO the hardest part of writing a story, making sure that the characters feel real and make decisions that fit their personality rather than just to move the plot. IT’S SO HARD, lol. But I do know I’ve gotten them right when they get really loud in my head, and start talking to me. Some of them are really talkative, too, like Dave. He had a LOT to say. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words – so thrilled you loved both books!
Norma This is something I have always wondered about while reading and thought I would ask you this question. I’m really curious in knowing how you choose your character names. Do you have some type of connection or relation to the names you choose?
Kimberly For me, it’s really a gut decision. I keep a list of names that I like, but a name has to fit my vision of the character. It’s not a science by any means. It just has to feel right.
Dorie Dear Wife was one of the only thrillers so far this year that was really well done, I loved it. My question for Kimberly is “was there anything that motivated to write about spousal abuse?”
Kimberly Thank you, Dorie! Dear Wife is my second book about spousal abuse (Three Days Missing also had this as a theme), and it’s a subject inspired by a dear friend whose backstory is similar to Kat’s in Three Days Missing. She’s is in the midst of a very messy divorce from a husband who beat her in a public setting—pretty much exactly what happened to my friend. It’s a fictionalized story crafted around a real-life one, and writing it helped me sort through all the emotions I felt, the sadness and helplessness and anger, while watching my friend go through her divorce. I thought I’d worked through all my emotions until the idea for Dear Wife popped into my head, and I realized I had more to say, this time through a woman who is fighting back in the most brave, kick-ass way. Beth is angry and determined and willing to risk it all for her freedom—all the ingredients for the best kind of heroine. My friend, btw, is doing great, and she was the one who encouraged me to write her story. She figured if it helped even one person change their situation, it was worth telling. She’s my hero!
Brenda I loved Ethan in Three Days Missing. Loved Beth’s strength in Dear Wife and Iris was just so likable. From all your characters, do you have a favourite and why?
Kimberly Hmmm, that’s like asking me to choose my favorite child. 😉 I love them all equally, but I do relate most to Gia in The Last Breath. Her wanderlust and wanting to save the world. I worked for nonprofits in a previous career, and a lot of her frustrations about that industry were mine, as well, as were her thoughts about her small-town Tennessee home (guess where I grew up lol). There’s a lot of me in her, or her in me. And I love and adore Miss Sally, too. I wish she was real so we could be BFFs.
Brenda Was there one character that was more of a challenge to develop for you?
Kimberly I think the most difficult (and the one who went through many rewrites) was Stef in Three Days Missing. I wanted her to be one way for the outside world but very different once you got inside her head so she would parallel one of the big themes in Three Days Missing, that you never know what’s going on behind another person’s closed doors. A lot of what people show the world is not who they are in private, and I definitely explore that – the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly – with Stef.
Brenda In The Marriage Lie, I loved the strong relationship and dynamics between Iris and her brother. What motivated you to write about such a strong bond between them?
Kimberly In all my books, I try to give my heroines a character like Dave in The Marriage Lie or Lucas in Three Days Missing, someone who is a strong and unapologetically on their side, an ally the reader will believe in and root. There were a couple in Dear Wife, too, though perhaps a little less obvious. But IMO we all need an ally in our lives, and that includes my fictional characters.
Kim I can’t tell you how excited I am that you are here with us today. You are one of my absolute favorite authors. I have read all your books and love them all! The Marriage Lie is my favorite though. I have read it twice, then my mom read it ( and loved it) then her cat tried to eat it…so that book has seen alot of love! LOL Also I want to say you are so involved with your fans on social media, I love it! I am sure it is very time consuming for you but I can tell you we really appreciate it!
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself that we don’t know?
Kimberly Well, if you follow me on social media, you’ll know I’m a little obsessed with all things Dutch. Not just because my husband was born in Holland and half my family lives there. Not just because strolling Amsterdam’s streets and canals feels like walking through a postcard. Not just because of the food and the shopping and the flowers and the museums, all of which are world class. Because of all those things and more.
I moved to Amsterdam a zillion years ago, when I was young and in love and life was an adventure, before there were babies and mortgages and sixty-hour workweeks. Maybe it’s nostalgia for that easier time, but that sense of freedom is what sticks with me the most when I think of that place, the feeling that everything and anything is possible there. You want to play your flute and pass out tulips on the street corner? Cool. Eat salted licorice and French fries with mayonnaise? Yum. Ride your bike naked through the rain? Um, you might be a little cold, but go for it. The Dutch are a little weird, a lot crazy, and always authentic, and Amsterdam will always feel like home.
Oh, and I speak Dutch like a native. 🙂
Jayme I have loved ALL of your books, Kimberly and eagerly await your next! Any idea what it might be about? Are you taking a break or currently working on it? How long does it usually take you to complete a book? In other words..how long do we have to wait!
Kimberly Thanks, Jayme! I’m always working on the next one (just ask my poor husband lol), am currently revising next summer’s book, a story about a newlywed woman who discovers a woman’s body under their lakeside home’s dock. The police show up, and in the stress of the moment, she follows her husband’s lead and lies about ever having met the woman. It’s not a big lie, and she doesn’t really think much of it at the time, but soon that one little lie turns into an avalanche. As the police close in on the woman’s killer, she uncovers dangerous truths about her husband and her marriage, as well as dark secrets that have been simmering below the lake’s currents for years. Current title is Stranger in the Lake (but that could change), coming (probably) June 2020.
Norma It isn’t no secret that I absolutely LOVED Dear Wife……it was awarded my favourite thriller saying….”Holy Shooty Balls!!!” lol – that means I was totally blown away with everything about the book….the writing, the storyline, the characters, the intensity…..everything
Kimberly I want “oh shooty balls” on one of my covers – love it!
What Kimberly had to say about us I can’t think of a better evening than being curled up on my couch with a glass of wine and my laptop, chatting about writing and books and life. The Traveling Sisters & Friends are so much fun, and the hour flew by. It was such an honor, thanks for having me!
To view the discussion and other Q & A or see who we have coming up, you can find the Behind the Pages Goodreads group here
#behindthepagesgroup #travelingsistersread #travelingfriendsread