Sunday, October 5, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with 'Palmetto Moon' Kim Boykin

Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She 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, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.

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About the Book:

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

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Q: Thanks for joining us at the book club, Kim! Where did you come up with the idea to write your book, Palmetto Moon?

Like many writer, I hear a voice in my head, usually a woman. She starts telling me her story and off we go. I’m what’s called a “pantser;” I fly by the seat of my pants with no idea of where the story is going. I just listen to the voice and then the other voices as they join the story.j

The idea came from wanting to write about a situation that happened to my older sister involving a shyster, a show poodle and postcards. But when Vada Hadley started telling me her story, she had a mind of her own. There is a postcard and a very brief but cute appearance of a black poodle puppy.

Q: Do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

The book is told from four POVs, which seemed daunting at first, but was actually quite liberating. Vada, the protagonist, is in first person, the others’ stories are told in third.

There are a gazillion how-to writing books out there, and for writers like me who are newcomers, they are frustrating. Most of what we do comes from those voices. Of course, the work has to be copyedited and polished, edited if possible. But trying to fit yourself into one of those boxes some of the how-to books suggest can make you feel less, different, when all you really want to do is tell a story.

Q: Who is your publisher?

I publish women’s fiction with Berkley Books and contemporary romance with Jane Porter’s Tule Publishing Group. I met Jane at a party and she asked me to write a novella for her company. I’m on my fifth one for her and love every minute of it.

Finding a home at Berkley wasn’t so easy. I finished my first novel, The Wisdom of Hair, and was lucky enough to get a big agent. I loved her she was like an older me and had this wonderful Julia Childs voice. After the first round of submissions, she found out the chronic backache she’d had for two years was cancer. She died a few weeks after her diagnosis, but before she passed, we talked a lot. She assured me her partner would sell my work, not that I cared at that point. She was really special.

To say I was the proverbial redheaded stepchild with the new agent was an understatement, but I had representation, right? After two years of hoping this woman would sell my work, I called her assistant and asked if she thought that would ever happen. I appreciated her honest answer and divorced my agent that day.

I’m horrible at rejection and floundered submitting on and off for, I don’t know, five years? Ten? They all kind of run together. Then I asked myself, “Who buys books?” The answer isn’t agents. So I found the NY Pitch Conference and pitched directly to four editors and got three who wanted to read my manuscript. One from Hyperion, two from Penguin-NAL and Berkely.

That was the first line of the 167 query letters I sent out. Within in the week, I had 40 who were reading part of the script, 20 reading the whole script. I ended up with 3 offers of representation, and then I got to do the choosing. And the Berkley editor who requested the script at the pitch conference bought the book.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Marketing is all consuming. Palmetto Moon launches August 5, and the whole month is looming like a tidal wave. I asked NYT bestselling author Wendy Wax if it’s always going to be this crazy and she told me she’s published eleven books. And last summer’s While We Were Watching Downton Abbey was the first book she DIDN’T feel like she had to kill herself to make it successful. Oy.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I’m an email junkie and I love Facebook. I was a great smartass in school and even better as a mom. I thought I’d be really good at Twitter, but I’m not.

Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

Karen White said, “this book is guaranteed to entertain.” And to be honest, that’s all I want to do. But when Vada who I thought was just a fluffy blonde turns out to be a feminist in 1947 and Claire and Reggie enter into an extremely unconventional marriage, I think those voices are trying to teach lessons of their own.

Q: Do you have any final words?

NEVER give up. If I hadn’t stopped and started to publish my work so many times, it might not have taken twenty-five years.

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