Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Kimberly Belle

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including her latest domestic suspense, Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Six books in, and not one of my titles has ever stuck, so I’ve stopped spending energy thinking about what to call it until the story is finished. When I turned this one in, it was called “Book #6,” though admittedly, Stranger in the Lake is a much catchier title. An accurate one, too, since that’s how the story begins, with an unnamed woman floating in the lake behind my main character Charlotte’s home, in the same exact spot where her brand new husband’s first wife drowned. A coincidence? Maybe, but what the title also does is suggest that the stranger may not be a stranger at all—something that turns out to be true. Charlotte saw the woman talking to her husband the day before, even though he tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, and it digs up dark secrets that have been simmering under the lake’s waters for years.

What’s in a name?

I have a running list of names that I pull from when naming a character, but it has to fit both the character and the story. I’ve been known to change a name halfway through because it didn’t feel right. Sometimes something as simple as a name change can really make a character come alive in my head.

In Stranger in the Lake, my main character’s name is actually a plot device. Charlotte is a woman who has married way, way up to a man much older and wealthier, and somewhere along the way, she traded in her given name—Charlie—for the more refined Charlotte. But the name change is not fooling anyone, and it makes the people in town think she’s uppity. In the end, Charlotte/Charlie will have to decide which person she wants to be.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I’m not sure she’d be surprised by the story as much as that I had written one. I’m not one of those writers who penned her first novel in crayon. I’ve always loved getting lost in a good book, but for the longest time it never occurred to me to actually write one. My first career was in nonprofit fundraising, and it definitely helped me hone my writing skills. Fundraising letters, website texts, scripts for meetings and events…I learned very quickly how to drill down to a powerful, poignant message that tugs at the heartstrings.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings and endings are the easy part for me, it’s the stuff in the middle that takes most of the time and effort. I write from an outline, but even the most detailed plans can go sideways once I get into the weeds of writing. Sometimes the pacing is off, or a character’s actions don’t fit their personality. Sometimes a character I didn’t plan for walks into a scene and has something essential to say. I always give myself room to rework the story as I’m writing, but my beginnings and endings rarely change.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I’d like to think I have Charlotte’s tough skin and that I share her sense of loyalty, but I’m not sure I could have survived everything she has. My research for this story taught me that far more people follow in their parents’ tragic footsteps than break the cycle like Charlotte did, and I can’t say for certain which side of the equation I would have fallen on. I do also share her architect husband’s drive, his innate desire to create beautiful things, but I think (hope?) that’s where the similarities between us end. I guess that’s the answer here, that like most authors I put little pieces of myself into every character—the good, the bad, the ugly. My characters are the best and the worst of me.
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Wife.

Writers Read: Kimberly Belle (July 2019).

--Marshal Zeringue