Sunday Brunch with...Kristy Woodson Harvey
Spring has finally arrived, and with it, new amazing books have been released. One of the titles I was impatiently waiting for is The Secret to Southern Charm, which follows Slightly South of Simple in The Peachtree Bluff Series, which I strongly recommend, as you can also read in my review.
So, today, I’m very excited to introduce…
She is the national bestselling author of Dear Carolina (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2015), Lies and Other Acts of Love (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2016) and the Peachtree Bluff Series, beginning with Slightly South of Simple (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, 2017), and The Secret to Southern Charm (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, 2018).
Choose three adjectives for your last novel, The Secret To Southern Charm.
Kristy: Fun, light-hearted, dramatic
In Slightly South of Simple (the first book in the Peachtree Series) you’ve beautifully combined family, secrets, and life in coastal towns. What inspired you to write this novel?
Kristy: The setting of Peachtree Bluff was largely inspired by Beaufort, NC, where I live, but the story… Oh, who knows! I have no idea where my stories come from. But I’m grateful that they keep coming!
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Kristy: Oh, Caroline, for sure! She is so snarky and says exactly what she thinks all the time, which is so unlike me. I knew she’d raise eyebrows, but she’s complex, and I love her!
What was the funny part about writing your last novel?
Kristy: I had nine weeks to write it. And it was summer. And my son was out of school. I even found it funny then. But I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written—and that’s mainly the feedback I’ve gotten on it. I’m a really fast writer in general, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But I didn’t have time to second guess. I had this story sort of fleshed out in my head, and I just went for it. There’s a type of honesty in that!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Kristy: I don’t do a ton. My books are fiction and they’re not historical, and for this book, I even had a fictional setting, so I could kind of make up anything! I did have to have my husband help with all the boating and sailing parts to make sure I got the terms right and describe things properly. He was very impressed with me! He had no idea I had been paying so much attention to what he’s doing while I’m up there on the bow reading! For The Secret to Southern Charm, I had to do research on military terms and military life, but that was fun because it mostly involved talking to people. I would say that’s the bulk of my research. But I do it as I go along, so there’s a lot of information gathering as I’m writing.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Kristy: I’ve had interest and film options for a couple of my books, so I’d love to see something on TV or big screen one day. I’d love to be a New York Times Bestseller and maybe win some big award… I speak all over the country and do a good number of University events. I would love to speak at a University’s commencement one day! I feel like I’m so new at this that I hardly even know what to dream about!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Kristy: I have so, so many author friends, but I am in a group called The Tall Poppy Writers. We all support each other’s work and promote each other’s work, and they are a Godsend! To be honest, I feel like writing is a bit of a private process, but there is so much to learn about the business side of writing and these ladies have helped a lot with that. I used to be in finance, so I came into this thinking about the business part, and I think that was a benefit because I wanted to learn about that. But I have found authors in general to be lovely, supportive and helpful, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting. This is a very competitive industry, so to see everyone just love on each other like they do is incredible!
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Kristy: Honestly, not as much as you would think. I still very much write for myself. I realized when I thought about every little criticism that every person would have that my characters were all very stale and boring. So, of course, I think about my readers when I write, but I try to stay true to my voice. But, obviously, I have deadlines now. Tight deadlines! It takes about a year from the time I’ve turned a book in until the time it comes out, so I don’t have tons of time to write and obsess now. But I’m good with that. I love it!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Kristy: I do. Everyone tells me not to, but I do it anyway! In the beginning the good reviews are so important because you’ve written this book and no one has read it and it’s very nerveracking to put it out there. I wish I could let the bad ones just roll off, but they are a little hard to take. I have an amazing group of author friends and sometimes we share the ones that really sting. That helps! And it helps to remember that writing is art and it’s subjective. Everyone doesn’t love the same things and that’s okay. Well thought out criticism is one thing, but sometimes people just write things that are plain mean! That said, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and that’s what keeps writers going!
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Kristy: An early reader of Dear Carolina, my debut, told me that my story inspired her to tell her children about the baby she had given up for adoption before she had them and that they were very supportive and she felt like she had this piece of her life back. That was huge for me and it made me realize that we aren’t just writing beach books here. These stories mean something to people.
What are you working on now?
Kristy: Right this minute I’m really focused on the publicity for The Secret to Southern Charm—pieces I’m writing, interviews etc. But I can’t wait to get started on the 3rd—and final—book in the Peachtree Bluff series. I am SO excited to write Emerson’s story and share more of her with readers.
What does literary success look like to you?
Kristy: That is such a hard question because, in some ways, I think I’ve found it, but, of course, once you get to a certain place you always want more! I have the most amazing readers, and, if their notes to me are to be believed, I think my writing makes people’s lives better. Whether they relate to something or my books just make them happy or give them an escape, that is success to me. I am so happy to be with Simon & Schuster and Gallery Books and I adore my team there. They make me feel valued and I respect them so much. But there’s always more to do. I want to hit the New York Times Bestseller List—and, though that seemed impossible a few years ago, it feels more attainable now. And I think as I get older I will have different stories to tell. I am loving writing “beach books” for now. It’s fun and it makes me smile. But I have some deeper stories to tell one day too.
What are the things you love most in your daily life?
Kristy: I love spending time with my son and my husband, walking down the boardwalk in my town, looking out at the water, writing. I love my house and being in it. And chocolate. And wine. And the good friends I eat and drink them with. I am overwhelmingly content in my life right now, and I think that’s because I’m doing what I love.
Could you tell us a habit Kristy really enjoys in her daily life?
Kristy: Every morning after I work out and have breakfast I make the most delicious matcha latte. It’s 1 tsp of matcha, 1 tsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp collagen (for my skin J), 1 tsp maca powder, and 8 drops of chocolate stevia. I mix it with water and unsweet cashew milk and I sip on it all morning while I write. It’s healthy and delicious and such a treat! (I’m drinking one right now!)
With your mom, you’ve created Design Chic, an amazing interior design blog, which I love and inspired me in some many ways. Could you tell us more about this project?
Kristy: Wow! Thank you! My mom and I wanted to do something together, start a project that would keep up close even though we live a few hours apart. We honestly had no idea we’d be doing it all these years later. We love our readers and are so grateful for all the friends we’ve made!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Kristy: Oh my gosh! In ten years my son will be driving. That is terrifying! And my husband and I will have been married for twenty years! I am huge on goal setting and planning next steps, but to be honest, I don’t know. I say “yes” a lot, and I’m very open to whatever the next step on my path is. I hope I’m still writing and still discovering new things.
Could you share a happy photo of you and tell us more about that moment?
Kristy: This is a picture of a TV segment I just did in Memphis, Tennessee. When my first book came out a local TV station asked me to come talk about the book, and I was TERRIFIED. It was awful. I couldn’t sleep, felt sick… and then once I did it, I loved it! Now I go on TV whenever I can. Sometimes I talk about design, sometimes I talk about my books, and, in this segment I was talking about my favorite reads for Valentine’s Day gifts. I had the best time, and this photo is a reminder of how far I’ve come!
Thanks to Kristy, we have a signed copy of The Secret To Southern Charm to give away!