Kim Michele Richardson resides mostly in Kentucky and part-time in Western North Carolina. She has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, building houses, and is an advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence, partnering with the U.S. Navy globally to bring awareness and education to the prevention of domestic violence. She is also the author of three novels, and a bestselling memoir. Kim Michele is a contributor to the Huffington Post and writes for the New York Journal of Books. Her third novel The Sisters of Glass Ferry is out in bookstores November 28, 2017, and her fourth novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek will be published sometime in the spring of 2019
Aaron Sanders: Why don’t you start by telling us about your new book, The Sisters of Glass Ferry?
Kim Richardson: In 1952, on the night of their high school prom in rural Kentucky, two teens go missing. Twenty years later a car is pulled from the muddy river, along with clues of the young couple’s disappearance, rudely awakening the sleepy bourbon town of Glass Ferry, bringing to surface, lies and secrets long-buried off the town’s legendary Ebenezer Road.
Sanders: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Richardson: Going away from my norm and being brave enough to switch from 1st POV to 3rd for this one and of course, always the heavy research. All my novels involve a ton of meticulous research which can become challenging. Since they include historical injustices it’s crucial to be accurate. My novels also include exploring historical archives, museums, and doing interviews. This one was not any different, but unusual in itself because I looked to the bourbon industry, its rich history in Kentucky, and examined the process of early distilling, since the tale has a bourbon-soaked theme. Additionally, I did research with our local police dive team, studied their forensics and conducted interviews. I was also able to learn about the critical process involved after old and lost things resurface from rivers, and the crimes that may or may not be connected to it.
In my previous novel, Godpretty in the Tobacco Field, an Appalachian novel about a subjugated orphan living in rural Kentucky in the ‘60s who is subjected to grueling labor by her God-fearing uncle, and strives to find a ray of hope in her poverty-stricken town through her own tobacco patch, a forbidden first love, and her home-made paper fortunetellers— I studied President Johnson’s WAR on Poverty, and grew tobacco one summer.
Sanders: How does writing get easier or more difficult the more books you write and publish?
Richardson: For me it has become somewhat easier and that comes from years of doing it, having a great critiquer, GJ Berger, who is a dear friend and great author, and the support of my brilliant agents Stacy Testa and Susan Ginsburg at Writer’s House. Additionally, I’m in a tiny tribe of three brilliant authors who offer a great support system.
Sanders: I’m obsessed with how failure and success are connected. Can you talk about the connection between the two in your career as a writer?
Richardson: There’s always both in publishing, and I can’t remember who said this, but it very well may be true: there’s always a nervous breakdown in every good book. ; )
Sanders: One of my favorite painters, Francis Bacon wrote: “All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.” Can you give us an example of how this has been true in your writing?
Richardson: That’s a wonderful quote and thank you for sharing it, Aaron. When writing, I don’t outline or follow any particular rules, and that is freeing for me, a nice balance, allowing for accidents. So if there is a truth in Bacon’s quote for me, then I have collected a lot of accidental book parts. I rarely throw anything away, instead I might pinch off it to inspire, use it to make the story richer. In my latest novel that just sold a few weeks ago, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I found parts early into my writing about the historical Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, when I accidently unearthed other rare gems. These were priceless historical footprints that have now connected and become strong themes in the novel— parts that I used wisely and chose to preserve.
Sanders: How does writing about other authors’ books inform your own sense of yourself as a writer?
Richardson: I spend a lot of time reading and working on my reviews. It is very time consuming, time being my most precious gift like it is for most writers. But I know it is very important to the author and the book’s success, and I’m happy to donate it. I’ve been on the receiving end of careless reviewers so it’s critical I give a book my utmost attention and a fair assessment.
I specifically like to review debut books. And when I love a book, this is the best way I can support the author. Since writing is often a singular process it is important for me to reach out and champion the work, hopefully making the writer’s early journey a little easier, brighter.
Sanders: What’s the biggest misunderstanding non-writers have about writers?
Richardson: Time. It’s a long and sometimes painfully slow process from pen to bookshelf. The magic doesn’t happen quickly.