I love reading books where I’m transported—and I don’t mean to another planet (although I’ve read some of those books too). What I love about reading women’s fiction is being plunked into the middle of characters’ lives, their worlds, their emotions. Author Kim Boykin brings us down South in her debut novel, THE WISDOM OF HAIR. It’s a part of the country and a culture, that can seem foreign to me—an East Coast Jewish girl living in Chicago. Yet, a good book—good women’s fiction especially—brings us together and reveals our similarities more than our differences. Can’t really ask for more than that!
Please welcome Kim Boykin to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Debut Author Kim Boykin Listens To Her Characters And Lets Them Tell The Story
Amy: Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, THE WISDOM OF HAIR. Would you share with us about your journey to publication?
Kim: I was TERRIBLE with rejection, but got better. Back in the day when everything went out via snail mail, I HATED going into the post office because the same woman always waited on me. Even during the years I wasn’t submitting, she’d say really loud, “So, did ever you sell that book you were always brining in here?” After I sold the book, I didn’t see that woman for about a year, but when I did, it felt really good to say, “Remember that manuscript you always asked me about, well guess what?”
But I didn’t sell it the traditional way, I went to the NY Pitch Conference in July, got a bunch of editors reading the manuscript and THEN I pitched agents. What a difference your query letter makes when you first paragraph says, “I have these editors reading, and I think I’m going to need an agent soon.” I sold the book that December.
Amy: Your website says you write Southern women’s fiction. What are the most important parts of that Southern culture to impart when you’re writing? What makes the South different from other parts of the country?
Kim: If you lined up all Americans and graded them on the quirkiness scale, you’ll find that southerners are off the charts. Quirky usually translates into interesting reading. As far as imparting culture, I don’t really think about it that way. It happens organically in my characters. Some things people understand and some things they don’t, but they’re still drawn to our stories.
Amy: Do you have a favorite scene in your book or a favorite line or moment? Why is it your favorite?
Kim: Publishers always want to know what your brand is, and, after some thought I realized mine is, women helping women find their happily ever after. It shows in my favorite moment and quote in the book when Zora, the protagonist, is rescued by her BFF, Sara Jane Farquhar, and Sara Jane’s mom.
There is so much in this world I’ll never know, that I’ll never understand, but one thing I know for certain, there is a bond of sisterhood and friendship that overrides all things. It came to me before sunup the next morning as a ready-made rescue with tears and hugs that drew me in, almost suffocating me with its warmth and safety. It came with a knock at the door, after I’d been asleep for a good while. The woman peeked out the little window and opened the door. Sara Jane and her mama came into the room like a whirlwind, with their coats over their bathrobes. They had not even stopped to dress.
We all stood there huddled up, crying, although they had no idea as to exactly why. They were crying for me because I hurt so badly, because they loved me and would never let me bear the pain I felt alone. The sisterhood had driven two hundred and twenty-five miles to my rescue in no time flat, and not even the Rapture itself could have kept them from getting to me.
Amy: Do you have any writing rituals? How about outlining? Do you do it, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Kim: I’m a morning writer, and I’m the type of writer who hears voices. They aren’t characters, they’re people. I have no control over what they do or say, and if I try to exert said control, it always turns out horrible. I usually just put them together in an imaginary box and see what they do. They teach me, they surprise me. They’re the real storytellers; I’m just the stenographer.
Amy: What’s your definition of women’s fiction?
Kim: To me, women’s fiction is character driven stories, usually about women, that unfold like an heirloom wedding dress. They evoke emotion and readers love to revel in the details.
Amy: What’s your best advice for writers of women’s fiction?
Kim: Never give up and find a group of writer who offer good, honest critique. And if you read any how-to-write books, take in what they say, but listen to your head and your heart. When you read your work out loud, you’ll know what’s right.
I was born in Augusta, Georgia, but raised in South Carolina in a home with two girly sisters and great parents. So when you read my stuff if there is ever some deranged mama or daddy terrorizing the protagonist, I want to make it clear, it’s not them.
I had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, for some reason, it’s very appealing that the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.
What I did have going for me was two things. One, my grandfather, Bryan Standridge, was an amazing storyteller. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the side of his yard, and people used to come by in droves just to hear him tell stories. He told tales about growing up in rural Georgia and shared his unique take on the world. As a child, I was enthralled, but when I started to write, really write, I realized what a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail he was.
The other major influence on my writing is my ADHDness. Of course when I was a kid, nobody knew what that was. Compared to my older sisters, I knew something was “wrong” with me, so I learned to multitask like crazy and excel at things I did well to make up for things I couldn’t do like math and sitting still.
Today, I’m an empty nester of two kids with a husband, three dogs, and 126 rose bushes. I write stories about strong southern women because that’s what I know. I’m an accomplished public speaker, which basically means I’m good at talking.
If this doesn’t tell you what you want to know, check out my blog for a few laughs and some good stuff on writing, gardening, food, and, of course, hair.
You can find out more about Kim at her website.