Welcome to the two hundred and thirty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist and short story author Kimberly Todd Wade. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kimberly. Please tell us something about your writing, what genre you generally write for example.
Kimberly: I don’t consider myself to be a genre writer although most of my work could be classified as speculative. I tend to mix literary with fantasy and occasionally science fiction.
Morgen: I don’t fall into a genre either unless ‘dark’ and ‘light’ are and no-one told me. 🙂 The ones you listed are very popular. What have you had published to-date?
Kimberly: I currently have two books in print: Making Love In Madrid and Thrall. Both books are available on amazon.com. Thrall is also available on barnesandnoble.com, including nook, as well as most other major online booksellers.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Kimberly: My first acceptance came from L. Timmel Duchamp at Aqueduct Press. They published my novella, Making Love in Madrid, as part of their Conversation Pieces Series. This may be hard to believe, but I don’t have a clear recollection of my reaction. I remember reading the email over and over. After so many rejections, I must have been in shock!
Morgen: Just by reading the email repeatedly tells us something. So you’ve had ‘many’ rejections, how do you deal with them?
Kimberly: Oh my gosh, yes, hundreds and hundreds! I’m sure I’ve received rejections from every literary magazine in the US and some in Canada and England. So you’d think they’d just run right off me, right? Ah, I wish it were so. Every one still feels like a little stab in my heart. If that ever changes, maybe it will be time to stop, for it lets me know I’m still producing work that I care about.
Morgen: And that’s what it’s all about. If you really want to be an author you’ll keep going, and you did. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Kimberly: Both my books bear their original titles. Making Love in Madrid got a cover that fit the series in which the publisher decided to include it. I requested a specific color, and they came close to it. Thrall’s beautiful cover was done by my friend, artist and photographer, Gregg Cestaro. There’s no doubt that people have responded warmly to it. I get compliments on it all the time. Thanks again, Gregg! (Gregg also took the photo of me that accompanies this interview.)
Morgen: I’ve not interviewed a cover photographer yet, now there’s a thought. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kimberly: I just finished a novel with a first person POV. The protagonist’s mother was a rock star in the 70s and 80s, but now has Alzheimer’s disease. She has forgotten her former fame. It sounds like a downer but most of my work has an uplifting take on life. Fame and its implications is a recurring theme. My current project includes a down musician and a main character who struggles to understand his bitterness at never having “made it”.
Morgen: I’d say very relatable, and intriguing, stories. You sound very busy, do you manage to write every day?
Kimberly: I write everyday. I have a regular routine, starting with a silent sitting meditation that lasts from 30 to 60 minutes. Immediately after, I curl into bed with my old spiral-bound notebook and Zebra ballpoint pen. I’ve been using the same style of notebook for at least 25 years. I like it because it opens flat. I’ve been using a Zebra pen ever since my husband found one in a parking lot about 15 years ago. It fits my hand perfectly, and I like the smoothness of its ink. Refills are cheap, too. I begin by writing my dreams. This is an exercise I’ve been engaged in for about ten years. I get incredible insights and story ideas from my dreams. I’m in love with the surreal elements my subconscious serves up nightly. I try to incorporate them into my work as much as possible.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of Zebra but I do have favourite pens and I’m a spiral bound notebook fan (my aunt and uncle write books about their town so they’ve had all my non-spiral notebooks :)). Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Morgen: Me neither. I think you and I have enough variety to avoid it (touching my wooden desk and I type). Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Kimberly: At one point in my late twenties, I became so beaten down by the number of rejections I was receiving, that I decided to take a year off from writing and submitting prose, and only write poetry. I had some sense that writing poetry would make me a better writer. I think it did. I still write poems occasionally. I like haiku. I do write and submit short stories. I have about half a dozen short story subs out now, and one in the works. My story, “Space Out of Time,” was published in Kaleidotrope, #13 (Fall 2011).
Morgen: I love short stories and enjoy writing haiku (and Fibonacci poems). I’m no poet but I do like the short form and a structure helps me. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kimberly: Oh yes, a whole file cabinet full of them! In fact, I need to buy another file cabinet.
Morgen: Oh dear. Perhaps they’re not that bad? I have folders of stories I’ve written over the past six years that I need to go back through. Even if half of them are salvageable (now I’m a more practiced writer) it would be worth it. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Kimberly: Well, I have the greatest job in the world. I get to live in the world I create on the page. It’s hard to find anything to complain about, but one thing that has surprised me is how much I miss the social life I had when I worked at a “real job.” Always being a loner, work was my social life. I now see how I took it for granted.
Morgen: I’ve just left a job working with three people so not sure how social that was. I do love being solo (with a dog) but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out seven days a week. Fortunately I have a great coffee shop at the end of the road so I have a feeling I’ll decamp there from time to time, even if just to let the dog catch up on his sleep. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kimberly: Read, read, read! Write what you want to read. Trust your own judgement, and don’t let it be clouded by too much advice. Criticism is easy to come by. You can find it almost anywhere. Love and encouragement are rare. Treasure it when and where you find it.
Morgen: 🙂 This month’s Writing magazine (arrived yesterday, not read yet) has an article on writing like Kate Atkinson (my favourite living author – Roald Dahl being my other favourite) so that’ll be my first read. What do you like to read?
Kimberly: Literary fiction, especially when it includes elements of fantasy and science fiction. I like work that is bold and honest and takes risks with style. I would love it if every book I picked up was unlike anything I’d ever read before. I think every writer has a unique voice, and I want to hear it. Experimental fiction doesn’t scare me. Bring it on!
Morgen: Me too, I love quirky. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Kimberly: “Gratitude is heaven itself.” – William Blake. This quote is on my blog. I can’t explain it. When you know, you know, and everybody knows!
Morgen: 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Kimberly: I joined Live Journal a few months before Thrall was released. I’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other writers there. I recommend it. You can visit me at: www.kimberlywade.livejournal.com.
Morgen: Ooh, I’ve heard of Live Journal but not checked it out… yet. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Kimberly: I was drawn to your story, “The Dark Side”, because of its second person POV. (It’s a heart-pounder!) I understand that you are fond of second person POV. What do you like about it? Have you ever felt trepidation about writing in second person or have you always been a risk taker with your writing?
Morgen: Wow, thank you. It’s always lovely to hear from someone who’s read something of mine (especially when the like it :)). I can’t really remember when I first came across second person, perhaps it was reading something or on a course but had heard that Jay McInerney’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ was one of the few books written in it. I found it shortly thereafter in a charity bookshop and although it was quite hard going (I’m still reading it, despite it being a novella!). I love the POV. I do tend to have a dark side (pardon the pun) and because it’s quite an invasive viewpoint, it suits that part of me (I write humour as well and must put some online). I think because I enjoy writing it I’ve never felt trepidation although I did know that few editors (or readers) warm to it but took a risk submitting it to ‘Take a Break’ magazine because their stories are often risk-taking but sadly it was rejected.
I’m delighted you think I’m a risk taker, I’ve never seen myself like that – I just write what appeals I suppose and ‘The Dark Side’ was inspired by a photograph (a Take a Break one, I think!) from a selection offered by my then tutor Joanna Barnden (who also thought TaB would like the story). It was of a woman in a stark white room doorway looking at something out of camera so I wondered what she’d be looking at, and the story just lead from there. What a great question, thank you so much Kimberly.
I then invited Kimberly to include an extract of her writing and she tells me that the following excerpt is taken from her (as yet) unpublished novel, The Unbroken Circle, completed in 2009. Kwasi is a musician from West Africa living as a slave in 19th century Virginia:
For a few moments Kwasi lay still, staring up at the sky. The clouds were beautiful, and then they began to move in such a way, growing long and transparent, that they disturbed him. He forgot about the children and instead thought of his father, or rather his father’s hands. He’d seen his father’s hands countless times, of course, had probably spent years of his life examining their subtlest movements at the strings of the koni, and yet he’d never consciously noticed the hands themselves before they appeared in his memory. It was not the koni they extended to him, but a bowl containing a yellowish mound of pounded cassava; it sat in the middle like the yolk in an egg, but it was the nest of his father’s hands that drew his attention, their warm blackness, darker and more alive than the worn-smooth wood of the bowl. He was certain he’d never noticed his father’s hands in such a moment; in such a moment he had been too busy with thoughts of satiation to notice the pink beneath his father’s fingernails, the pale skin at his fingertips, and yet now, as he searched this memory, he grew certain that he would recognize his father’s hands as well as his own.
Although born in Virginia, USA, Kimberly Todd Wade spent the majority of her childhood years in Germany, Italy, and Greece. After earning a degree in anthropology from the University of Miami and performing graduate studies at Tulane University, she worked as an archaeologist for fourteen years, including field work in Belize, Hawaii and Palau. In addition to writing, she is a student of American finger-style guitar and a lover of blues and ragtime music. She currently lives with her husband in southern California.
This interview was posted on 1st January 2012 so a Happy New Year to you all! 🙂
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