Do you know Kelly Harms? You should! I’ve spend the past year getting to know Kelly as one of the 2013 Debutantes on the Debutante Ball blog (where we’re celebrating her launch this week)! Kelly is a mom and author who used to spend her time as an editor and agent! So she’s done it all! And now she has written a charming debut novel that touches on something we all hold dear, the idea—and the reality—of home.
Please welcome Kelly Harms to Women’s Fiction Writers today!
Debut Author Kelly Harms Talks About Having A Home, Doing It All (Or Not), And Selling Fried Clams
Amy: Kelly, we have to stop meeting like this! 😉 Congratulations on the launch of your debut novel THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE. The title blows me away every time I hear it, read it, or type it. Was it a struggle to come up with such a perfect title or did it just hit you one day?
Kelly: Thank you, Amy! I wish I could tell you where that title came from. My brain locked in on it and since then I’ve tried, uselessly, to change it to something shorter. I mean, it is so stinking long. Still, it feels right to me. I have a huge file of alternate titles on my computer but I’m so glad I didn’t need them because this is the one the book chose for itself. Thank you to my lovely publishing team at Thomas Dunne and Waxman Leavell for letting that fly.
Amy: Would you share the premise of the book? And then, once we know the premise, what’s beyond that—what’s the takeaway (or what would you like it to be)?
Kelly: The book is about home. In the book, two women with the same first and last name both become convinced they’ve won a dream home giveaway from one of those big cable networks. They give them away once a year, and someone’s got to win, right? I’ve personally spent years of my life thinking I’m going win one of those houses if I can just fill out the entry forms enough times, so I come by this fantasy honestly. But when you strip away the daydream, what do we want when we think of home? People who love us? A safe place of our own? A family? That’s what my book is about. Also, it’s about a frozen duck.
Amy: What’s your favorite part of the novel, or maybe your favorite character?
Kelly: There’s a lady in the book who sells fried clams and eschews vegetables. She has a two page cameo. If they make a movie of the book, that’s who I’m going to ask to play, Stan Lee-style.
Amy: As an author and a working mom, I’ll ask you a question you probably ask yourself. How do you find time to do it all?
Kelly: I don’t, but thank you for thinking that I do! I rely on my son getting amazing care from his preschool, because despite every moronic fantasy I had going into parenthood, I cannot write a novel while my sweet cherub quietly entertains himself on a black and white puzzle mat and feed him peeled organic kiwi and kale sandwiches between my florid sentences. Instead I count on paid help whenever I can scrape two coins together and the rest of the time I let things go. I say this, I talk about my great childcare providers and my messy house and my sometimes bleary days because I want other women to know: I don’t do it all. Anyone who claims to is stealing her preteen’s Ativan.
Amy: How would you define women’s fiction, and does the label bother you?
Kelly: I’ve said in other spots that women’s fiction is a label that makes sense to me, because I came to it by way of the industry. It bothers me not at all. I’m a woman, and don’t feel that there’s anything out there I can’t read if I want to, or write. (Except, maybe, Star Trek slash fiction, and that has nothing to do with my private bits.) And women love to read; in fact, there are many reports that tell you that we love to read more than men do. Now, from time to time I do hear this label used as an insult. It’s usually preceded by a “just,” spoken or implied. That reveals to me much more about the speaker (or writer as is the case in some media outlets) than the book. To them I say, “phooey.”
Amy: Share your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction.
Kelly: You don’t have to be a die hard Amy Nathan fan like I am to know how much good advice is on this website already for writers. How can I dare to add to it?
So, let’s leave the sage advice for my second book. Or my forty-second. Here’s my not-so sage advice: when in doubt, end the chapter mid-scene.
Kelly Harms is the author of The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane. She worked with New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, Edgar, RITA, and Agatha award winners, and Indie Next List Picks in her time as an editor at a division of HarperCollins and later as an agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. She now lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her adorable and sometimes imperious toddler Griffin.