Meet Kim Beall
Kim started sneaking into the basement to read her parents' massive collection of science fiction, fantasy, and gothic romance when she was nine years old, and spent her teenage years writing reams of Awesome Novels. This might have worked out better for her, Kim says, if she had not written them during math class.
Kim believes that every adult still yearns to find real magic in everyday life, and I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with her!
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING? WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER?
I can't remember a time when I didn't think of myself as a writer. When I was a kid, I was heavily influenced by my parents' massive library of fantasy, science fiction, and gothic romance, and always tried to write stories of my own. I finished The Lord of the Rings when I was eleven, and as a result wrote dozens of epic fantasies throughout high school. This probably would have worked out better for me if I had not written them during math class!
I never could manage to cure myself of the writing bug, despite having a great career as a web developer, so now I write books for grownups like me who refuse to believe magic can only be experienced through a child's eyes.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.
"Seven Turns" is my first published novel, released in May of 2018. It's about an author who finds inspiration, mystery, and maybe even love in a quirky little town called Woodley, USA.
Now, if you try to Google this town, you will find only an empty field. Woodley can only be entered by people who are meant to be there. Real ghosts haunt the bed and breakfast, but my stories about this town are NOT horror stories. There are things the locals don't talk about in front of "people who aren't from around here," and there are people living at the edge of the meadow to whom you had better not refer as "faeries" if you know what's good for you. There are no vampires or werewolves. There is moonlight and moss in the trees.
I'm still not sure what to call my genre, but my fans (wow, I actually have some now!) have been referring to it as Southern Gothic Fantasy. That sounds pretty cool – I'll take it!
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR THIS BOOK? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
These two questions also turn out to be related. It feels more like the title came up with me! I have always been deeply moved by the song "Seven Turns," by the Allman Brothers, and especially by Gregg's high, haunting descant at the end. It spoke to me of magic you can only find around the next bend in the road, under the moonlight. I had to write about this magic, in order to find out what it was. I found more than I bargained for.
Gregg Allman passed away just as I was penning the denouement to this story, and I now I feel like the book is a tribute, of sorts, to him and to his brothers and his band and to rockers everywhere.
IS IT PART OF A SERIES?
I have outlined a collection of seven (so far!) stories about various people who find their way into Woodley, one way or another. I wouldn't call it a series, exactly, though many characters do reappear throughout all the stories. My goal is for each volume to be able to stand on its own, with no need for the reader to have read anything previous in order to understand the current tale.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR BOOK IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
Many of my characters are collages of the best or most interesting elements of people I know in real life and want to honor. I also have mentally ill friends, and I felt it was important to portray them as ordinary people (which they are.) As for the bad guys, well, um of course those are completely made up. If you see yourself in any of my villains, it's just pure coincidence. Honest!
The main characters do tend to be extensions of myself, with a lot of the same scars and insecurities I am working through. In particular, Cally's entry into Woodley and her initial impressions of small-town life do mirror my own feelings when I first moved to the South!
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH WENT INTO WRITING YOUR BOOK?
I did a lot of research into antebellum architecture in order to accurately create Vale House, and since one of the ghosts was a privateer in life, I had to do some research about real-life pirates. That was fun! I have also always been a huge Celtic mythology buff, but it contains so many tales and folk heroes, all evolving from and into one another, that researching even one of them is like trying to backwards engineer a three-dimensional maze.
WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVER FOR YOUR BOOK?
I wanted the cover of my book to reflect a lonely sense of mystery, not necessarily fear but anticipation of what might lie ahead, for good or ill. I wanted a simple theme with few details but lots of atmosphere. I usually do not like photographic covers, but I think the photo my publisher chose, of the moon shining down on a path in the woods, was perfect.
WAS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONVEY?
I don't believe it's right to deliberately try to convey a message through fiction. That robs the reader of being able to find their own message. What I am trying to convey, instead, with my storytelling is a sense of wonder. What I hope my words will do is validate and feed the longing I believe each of us has to find real magic in everyday life.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOK?
There are a couple of things I'd like to go back and change in order to tie the first volume in more easily with the ones I'm writing now, but that would be lazy! Instead, I guess I just have to find some way to make my new ideas work with the existing foundation. The answers to these conundrums always come to me eventually!
IF YOUR BOOK WOULD BE MADE INTO A FILM, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE LEADS?
I have had quite a few people tell me they feel this book would make a good film or TV series. If this were to happen (I believe it can!) I would love to have creative input into the casting. I picture Callaghan McCarthy as a Glenn Close type. I can't think of an existing male actor who would be suitable for the love interest, though. Justin Trudeau is not an actor, that I am aware of, but he is the closest public figure I can think of who resembles Ben, or at least he will resemble him in ten years or so, if he puts on about ten pounds. He'd still be gorgeous, of course, because Justin!
DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE. WHAT IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU HAD TO LEARN AS A WRITER?
I write all my first drafts by hand. This stops me from going back and editing endlessly, thus never reaching the story's end. I had nearly given up trying to write, until I started doing this. After I complete the story by hand, then I go back and enter it into the computer – a lot of editing occurs as I'm doing this, and this becomes my second draft. I write four days a week, six hours at a stretch, at a local coffee shop, because I am married to someone who works from home and loves to chat.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A WRITER?
Interruptions. I am not one of those people who can read – or write – five minutes here, ten minutes there. I need at least one solid, uninterrupted hour, or to be able to finish a chapter or a scene. If I get interrupted too often (that is: more than twice!) I teeter on the edge of becoming homicidal. This is true of both reading and writing. I have to leave the house and write at my local coffee shop because my work-from-home husband is unable to stop himself from interrupting me repeatedly, and I love him and don't want to kill him.
NOT INCLUDING FAMILY, WHO SUPPORTED YOUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR?
Back when the internet was new, it was easier to correspond with famous people. Among authors and other celebrities with whom I was pleased to exchange email in those days was Charles de Lint. I still remember once complaining to him that he had the advantage over me, being able to write while his wife did the housework. He told me: "You know the drill. Writers write. So do it." I lost that email long ago in a computer crash, but I still remember – and live by! – this advice.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS?
See de Lint's advice above! Also: yes, it is perfectly normal to look at your work and say "OMG this is so lame, this is terrible, I am the worst writer ever!" If you find yourself doing this, it means you are a Real Writer, because all real writers do it. Actual terrible writers don't know enough about storytelling to even suspect they might be anything but a genius.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
J. R. R. Tolkien (of course!) Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Lilian Jackson Braun (my guilty pleasure) Marly Youmans, and David Wong, for starters.
WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?
My shelf of books I want to read is over six linear book-spine-feet long, and I have bookmarks in about twelve of them. This does not even include the unread books on my Kindle shelf. I rarely get a chance to read [uninterrupted] anymore but recently I finished reading "Some Distant Sunrise" by Elliott Downing. That was astounding – highly recommended.
IF YOU COULD MEET ANYONE WHO EVER LIVED, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD THAT BE?
I would love to have dinner with Geddy Lee. He just seems like he'd be a really super nice guy with a lot of interesting things to say. Also I would like to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert and hear him quote lines from my book at me like some kind of fanboy or something!
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES?
I don't really do TV the way most people do, but I have Netflix and have enjoyed Dead Like Me, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and The Good Place. I also thought Firefly was awesome and am so aggravated that it was only one season!
My favorite movie is, of course, The Lord of the Rings – extended edition, please! A close runner-up is Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. Our family has a shelf of cult-classics we always inflict on visitors, which includes UHF, Blazing Saddles, Galaxy Quest, Mars Attacks, This is Spinal Tap, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC TOUCHES YOUR SOUL?
It will always be rock and roll for me. Old school rock, southern rock, even modern grunge rock. That backbeat fills me with energy and helps me process all the anger and pain I feel when I look at the world today. Southern rock heavily informs my Woodley, USA work and I listen to rock music and sing along very loudly in the car on the way to the coffee shop on my writing days.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR HEADSTONE?
"You can keep my things; they've come to take me home." (A lyric from Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill.")
Callaghan McCarthy has 99 problems, and believing in ghosts isn't one of them. The ghosts around her beg to differ - and they need her help with a problem of their own.
Years ago, Callaghan McCarthy wrote a bestselling ghost story which allowed her to escape her train-wreck of a marriage. Now her inspiration has run dry, and her bank-account is fast following in its wake. In a desperate last-ditch effort to come up with a sequel, she has loaded everything she owns into her car and set off across the country to seek inspiration at a bed and breakfast she's been told is haunted.
She doesn't actually believe in ghosts, of course. The ghosts who haunt Vale House find this highly amusing. They have been expecting her, and they need her help with a problem of their own.
As Cally comes to know and love the eccentric denizens of the run-down southern town the locals call Woodley USA, she realizes she has wandered into the middle of a host of secrets nobody will talk about in front of people who are Not From Around Here. While a disembodied internet entity, the ghost of a teenage Taino pirate, and a mysterious gentleman who is not quite human, himself, attempt to help her understand her new role among them, she begins to understand that saving Vale House and saving herself are one and the same.