Thursday, September 3, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Kim Boykin, author of 'A Peach of a Pair'

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 A Peach of a Pair, Palmetto Moon and The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley/NAL/Penguin; Flirting with Forever, She’s the One, Just in Time for Christmas, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule. 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.
Her latest book is the southern women’s fiction, A Peach of a Pair.

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About the Book:

Title: A Peach of a Pair
Author: Kim Boykin
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Berkley Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Southern Women’s Fiction

"Palmetto Moon" inspired "The Huffington Post" to rave, It is always nice to discover a new talented author and Kim Boykin is quite a find. Now, she delivers a novel of a woman picking up the pieces of her life with the help of two spirited, elderly sisters in South Carolina.

April, 1953. Nettie Gilbert has cherished her time studying to be a music teacher at Columbia College in South Carolina, but as graduation approaches, she can’t wait to return to her family and her childhood sweetheart, Brooks, in Alabama. But just days before her senior recital, she gets a letter from her mama telling her that Brooks is getting married . . . to her own sister.

Devastated, Nettie drops out of school and takes a job as live-in help for two old-maid sisters, Emily and Lurleen Eldridge. Emily is fiercely protective of the ailing Lurleen, but their sisterhood has weathered many storms. And as Nettie learns more about their lives on a trip to see a faith healer halfway across the country, she’ll discover that love and forgiveness will one day lead her home.

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Thanks for joining us at our book club, Kim!  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got your beginnings as a writer?

Kim: I fell in love with story as an extremely ADHD kid when the librarian in our tiny one-stoplight town took me to the stacks after I swore I hated to read and picked the one book that unlocked a love of reading that's lasted a lifetime. That love for story lead to writing some really bad poetry, then short stories. Novels were out of the question because my mind went a million times faster than I could ever write on a legal pad. The day I got my first computer for a freelance business out of my home revolutionized everything. By day I was a media buyer; by night I wrote a really bad romance, then a moderately bad thriller; by the time I finished my first novel, it still wasn't fit for publication, but I kept on writing, fingers flying across the keyboard as fast as my brain could think, which was pretty darn fast.

So, I wrote an awful romance; tried my hand at writing a thriller, and kept writing until I had something I thought was worthy of publication called Queen Anne's Lace. This was right around the time Nicholas Sparks became the darling of the literary world. While researching agents, I fell in love with his agent and was convinced she would love me too and make me a star. Coming from an advertising background, I thought it would be a great idea to pick a bunch of Queen Anne's Lace, put those little test tube things that keep flowers fresh, and sent my manuscript to her. Unfortunately, I didn't realize Queen Anne's Lace has tiny bugs--that flew all the way to NY with my manuscript. Needless to say his agent didn't fall in love with me
I submitted on an off for years, but got nowhere. I was frustrated until I asked myself, "Who buys manuscripts?" Well, it's not agents. There's not an agent in the history of agenting who's bought a manuscript as far as I know. Editors but scripts. So I went to the NY Pitch Conference, pitched directly to editors and one of them bought my script. And then I learned the most important thing about writing books. Write your next best book, and keep writing your next best book.

How did you get into writing southern women’s fiction?

Kim: I love writing stories to, for, and about women. While I'm all for a hot guy riding in on a white horse to save the day, the truth is, women are just better at it. We are nurturers, we are fixers, we set the world right. How we do that is what makes women's fiction stories interesting.

I love your bio where you say you had a happy childhood and had to create chaos to write your book, A Peach of a Pair!  Can you tell us a little about your childhood?

Kim: Almost everything I learned about writing,I learned from my 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. I owe him for my love of storytelling, but I also owe Geraldine Bradham, the librarian in the tiny one-stop-light town I grew up in. She took an ADHD kid who thought she hated reading to the stacks, put Walter Farley's Black Stallion book in her hands and she fell in love with story.

Can you tell us a little about Nettie Gilbert?

Kim: Nettie is a feisty 'Bama belle who's always had everything go her way. That is until she gets a wedding invitation to her baby sister's wedding and her own fiance is the groom. At first, she falls apart, which I think is important because too often women don't have the luxury or they can't give themselves permission to fall apart. She does something really stupid and quits school two months shy of graduation, but she finds her backbone and is determined to make a life for herself, whatever that looks like.

It's a good thing she is feisty, otherwise, she wouldn't have lasted ten minutes with the Emily and Lurleen. And it made the story SO much fun to write.

Emily and Lurleen sound like a hoot! Can you tell us about them and this trip to the faith healer?

Kim: The sisters are interesting in their own right, but particularly because they had a falling out over something stupid Emily did that had horendous consequences. They've lived in the same house together for over 70 years but for 7 of those years, Lurleen didn't speak to Emily. 
As far as the trip, Lurleen has congestive heart failure and Emily has a very guilty conscious to cleanse, even if it kills Lurleen in the process. The last thing Lurleen wants is to get on a Greyhound bus and go 1000 miles from her home to see a faith healer. But Emily badgers her into it. 
I had a great great aunt who went from southwest Georgia to Arkansas to see a faith healer in the late 1940's. Women didn't travel alone very often back then and the bus was mostly men. She was a little afraid, so she sat with a hat pin under each arm and if a man got too close, she'd jab him with the pin. While the hat pin isn't in the book, I've always loved the idea of setting out into the unknown to be healed. It's biblical, romantic. And with the spirited Eldridge series, it's a very wild ride.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader can’t put the book down.  What’s one of the pivotal points in your book, A Peach of a Pair?

Kim: By the time the sisters and Nettie leave Texas and head back to South Carolina, this time traveling by train, you might as well have a cup of coffee because you're going to be up a while.

Among many things, what is one of the things that readers will enjoy about your book?

Kim: At it's core, this book is about sisterhood, those who are sisters by blood and those women we love so much, they might as well be sisters. 

What’s next for you, Kim?

Kim: I'm writing a book called The Bridal Party. It's a book about the Charleston wedding industry, which is incredibly fascinating. Charleston in the number one destination wedding location in the world, number two to the US to Vegas. It's crazy families and crazy budgets and an industry is dominated by women. It's a blast to write.

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