Our guest today: Kimberly McCreight
Why she rocks: Her debut is riveting! Think: Gone Girl
Her debut: Reconstructing Amelia
The scoop on it: In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.
An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.
Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.
Our thoughts: Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
Giveaway: One SIGNED copy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, April 28th, after 12pm PST.
Fun fact: Check out the story of how she became a writer here! (She did everything she could to avoid it!)
CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...2013 CLUB: KIMBERLY MCCREIGHT
DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do
First, join a writer’s group or take a class. Good feedback is critical to making progress as a writer. But please be sure that it’s a supportive group. Cutting feedback that isn’t actionable—i.e. burn this, immediately—is worse than no feedback at all.
Secondly, read widely. Being a great writer starts with being a good reader and that includes everything from classic literature to modern thrillers. Seeing what other people do and how they do it—and what you like and don’t like—will help you find yourself as a writer.
Finally, keep writing. For some people, their first novel comes out exactly right, for others it takes practice. I certainly fell into the later group. Just because your early efforts don’t pan out doesn’t mean that your next book won’t be a whole lot better.
DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do
First, don’t chase trends. Being aware that there exists a marketplace for books is smart, but deciding that you’re going to write Y or Z because A and B were so successful last year is doomed to fail. First of all, you won’t be able to write anything good if your heart’s not in it. There’s also a good chance the trend will have already passed by the time you’re done.
Second, don’t take early rejection to heart. Every novelist gets rejected at one point or another—by an agent or an editor or a critic. It’s just a part of the process and the best you can hope for is to learn from it.
Finally, don’t ignore thoughtful feedback. While you don’t want to be derailed by negativity, you don’t want to ignore helpful insights that could be the key to writing a better book next time or making critical revisions now.
MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?
On my desk are always a Diet Coke and sugarless gum and I consume far too much of both. Don’t tell my children. It’s a terrible example.
My friends are the most important things in my Facebook feed, nothing makes me happier than seeing what they’re up to, especially because some of my dearest live way too far away.
The apps I use most are Hopstop for train directions and WeatherBug. When you spend a lot of time getting around on foot with two kids, you’ve got to be prepared.
LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?
I actually have a playlist of about twenty of my favorite songs call “Kim’s Edits” and I play the whole thing on repeat. It’s a really eclectic compilation of songs that I love. One I did specifically play on repeat a lot was The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham from the Crazy Heart soundtrack.
One book I read while revising was 11/22/63 by Stephen King. His talents are so towering that reading him always inspires me to work that much harder.
And luckily my children keep me laughing all the time. It helps enormously to have that kind of unbridled joy and deep silliness around when you’re writing about dark things!
HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?
My current agent is actually my third. Because Reconstructing Amelia is my fifth completed manuscript, I probably queried hundreds of agents over the years with other projects before I landed with my current agent. But I love her and I know she’ll be my last.
I work from 9-5:30, five days a week, though not all of that is working on my latest work in progress. Sometimes, I’m doing things like this—answering fun questions—and sometimes I’m researching.
And “waste” time online? I prefer the term research. Deciding on a whim to spend two hours tracking down that best friend from fourth grade who you haven’t talked to for twenty-five years, that’s got to be research for something, right?
BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?
I think the best way to celebrate a book deal is with your family. For us, it was such a long road in getting here and everyone—my husband, kids and myself—had to give up so much to make it happen, that all I wanted to do was share it with them. The actual night it happened, I think we did something exciting like order a pizza from the “fancy” pizza place. To be honest, the fact that it had happened was thrilling enough.
I think the trick to overcoming writer’s block is to make yourself write for your allotted hours or allotted page count every day even if it’s all a bunch of really crappy stuff. Eventually, you stop caring and the stakes will feel lower and the words will start flowing again. And then you can throw out all the garbage you forced out in those lean days.
Newspapers, nonfiction books and magazine articles usually provide the initial spark for most of my stories.
NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll read? Book you'll write?
I’m DVRing Mad Men and I’m looking forward with a heavy heart to the end of Breaking Bad. I’m excited for the new season of The Killing and I love the Walking Dead, even if it does scare the crap out of me. I’m looking forward to reading Sonya Sotomayor’s biography, My Beloved World, as well as Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear.
On the fiction front, next up is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Becky Masterman’s debut, Rage Against the Dying.
As for my next book, I’m about three hundred pages into a first draft. It’s another mystery with a deep emotional center and a character from Reconstructing Amelia even has a supporting role. I’m very excited about it!