Author Interview: A Chat with Sally Kilpatrick @SuperWriterMom @KensingtonBooks

Shortly after I finished reading Sally Kilpatrick’s soon to be released novel, Bless Her Heart, I was fortunate enough to have a nice conversation with her on Twitter. I asked if she would be willing to do an interview for TGB, and Sally graciously agreed to do so. I am truly delighted to share that interview with you all today, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Sally Kilpatrick, author of Bless Her Heart

Sally Kilpatrick, author of Bless Her Heart

Welcome to TGB, Sally! Thank you for taking some time to chat with us here today. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m originally from Tennessee, but I married a Georgia boy so here I am. I used to teach Spanish—because that’s what one does with an English major—but now I write full time and shuttle our two kids to their various and sundry activities. Uh, I’m an Aquarius. My favorite color is red, and I used to have a pet cow. I think that hits the highlights.

I was fortunate enough to be able to read a galley of Bless Her Heart, and I simply adored it. What was your inspiration for writing this story?

I kept having this idea about a preacher’s wife who’s barraged with questions about Fifty Shades of Grey. Then I thought, what if she’s in an abusive relationship because her husband has twisted the “Wives, submit to your husbands” bit. Then I fell down the rabbit hole of Christian Domestic Discipline. Between that and her mother’s having been a hippie, then I understood why Posey would want stability badly enough to stay with Chad—at least until he leaves her in the most dramatic way possible. Oh, and I knew John the Baptist, the piano tuner from my first novel, would make an appearance in the story.

Posey Love went through a lot of personal growth as the story progressed, and is dramatically changed by the end. I’ve seen writers say their characters take on a life of their own, doing what they want to do. Was this the case for Posey? If so, how did she differ from the way you first imagined her to be?

Her decision to give up church for Lent came while I was actually sitting in a Lent service. I was toying with the idea of having her sample the Seven Deadly Sins, but her giving up church surprised me. It made sense, and I thought it was pretty smart of her—her husband’s distorted idea of church was what was keeping her from being her true self, after all. Then, um, she went after some of those Sins with some unexpected gusto. I didn’t intend to have her pole dance, but, you know, there we were in the Pole Cat. Honestly, Liza is that character who just ran away with the story. For a fundraiser at my church, I offered up the name of a supporting character. Man, am I glad that Liza came my way. For some reason, just having that name breathed life into her character, and I simply adore her.

Every book goes through edits before the final draft is complete, removing certain things from the story. Could you give us an example of something that didn’t make the cut, and why?

I tried my best to write this story in third person. I had POVs from Posey, John, Liza, and Lark. I got about three-quarters into the story, and I realized that neither Liza nor Lark really had enough of an ARC to justify their POV. I didn’t want to give up on John’s, but even his wasn’t the same kind of transformation that Posey has. So I went back to first person, and the story started flowing. I have a scene of where John meets his dog, Rowdy, that I really didn’t want to let go. I’m going to include it in my newsletter a little later. Another thing that didn’t make the book was this crazy side story about Mrs. Morris and her rare piano that used to be in a Memphis brothel. What can I say? A writer’s head is a scary attic full of things she knows but doesn’t always use.

Without giving too much away, what was the most difficult part of the book for you to write?

Writing the entire book was tough because I relived some manipulation I’d endured in a previous relationship. Then I was finishing the book as the infamous “grab her by the ——” tape came out, and there was this barrage of anti-woman sentiment on social media. All of the parts with Chad were hard, so hard to write—especially his ability to go from cloyingly sweet to downright mean and back again. I’m really hoping folks will stick with Posey because good, strong, intelligent women sometimes find themselves in these relationships, and they shouldn’t be condemned for it. Just help the sister out, you know?

Every book leaves an impression on the reader. What impression do you hope your readers will be left with after reading Bless Her Heart?

Wow. That’s a hard question. I guess I want readers to remember that they are valuable people, no matter what. I’ll admit that Christianity tends to bleed into my work, and I try to present my characters as real people who may make mistakes, but there’s no mistake too big for forgiveness. Oh, and I try to remind myself—and others, too—that we don’t need any more Miss Georgettes in the world judging others for the things they do.

Thank you for telling us about Bless Her Heart. Let’s wrap up with a lightning round of favorites!

Favorite geeky things?

Superheroes—especially the new Wonder Woman, and I’ve gotten into Doctor Who, especially the 10th doctor. I’m addicted to the movie Clue. Also, I’ve never met a historic house that I didn’t want to tour. Love me some history.

Favorite books?

You might as well ask me to choose between my two kids! Let me see if I can narrow it down a bit and go with books that touched me deeply on some level. Their Eyes Were Watching God—I can’t get enough of the juxtaposition between dialect and prose as well as Hurston’s keen eye for human behavior. All of Joshilyn Jackson’s books, but gods in Alabama was like a permission slip to show off the South I know, both the good and the bad parts. I recently finished Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up as a classic. I’ve also been mainlining Agatha Christie, and I’m not sure what it says that my comfort reads are all murder mysteries.

Favorite binge-worthy tv series?

Um, we watched all of the Marvel shows which meant that The Defenders was awesome. I particularly liked Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. The first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was addictive. Broadchurch, Sherlock, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. At the moment we’re going through old horror movies on TCM. October might as well be Vincent Price Month in La Casa Kilpatrick. 

Favorite historical era?

Wow. All of them? Oh, I forgot to mention Agent Carter above. Hmmm. If I had to pick a favorite historical period it would probably be there in the 40s although I do love a good Regency romance and I love, love, love all of Deanna Raybourn’s books set in the Victorian period. Those Victorians were something else.

Favorite hobby?

Reading, touring historic sites, interviewing people for the books I write, running. But mainly reading. Always reading.

That’s a wrap! Thank you so much for being here, Sally. It was a pleasure getting to know more about you, and to talk about your new book, Bless Her Heart. Best wishes for great success with your fabulous book!

Thank you so much for having me and for reading Bless Her Heart! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.


Click the book cover below to pre-order Bless Her Heart on Amazon!

Bless Her Heart cover, large

Ralph Webster on Family, Refugees, and the Holocaust + Giveaway!

I’m pleased to welcome Ralph Webster to the blog today for my very first author interview! Ralph is the author of A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other.A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other

Hi Ralph, thanks for taking part in this interview! Tell us about your book… what it’s about, and what inspired you to write it.

Thank you Betty.

Last year my wife and I spent 8 weeks in Europe.  This was a pleasure trip.  We were doing lots of hiking and biking.  Our trip took us from Croatia to Sweden and all parts in-between.  We often traveled by train.  This was at the time the international news was flooded with images of the refugee crisis.

Thousands upon thousands were fleeing – primarily from  Syria.  Most were headed to Germany in search of employment and opportunity.  Countries in the EU were struggling with border issues.   We saw this firsthand on trains and at train stations.  We watched the police remove people from trains.  We saw no danger.  All the interactions were civil.  We saw no disturbance – just a silent procession of people trying to find a new life.  We watched people trying to communicate through the medium of different languages.  We saw mothers, fathers, children, and groups of young men.  This was right before our eyes.

I have a great compassion for those forced to leave their homelands and this is a story that history keeps repeating.  The world continues to be confronted with issues of ethnic cleansing, immigration and how to cope with the influx of refugees.  How can it be, in this day and age, that people are forced to leave the homes of their mothers and fathers through no fault of their own? Imagine what it would be like if you found yourself in this situation.

My father’s family lived that story – only in a different era – during the years preceding World War II and during the Holocaust.  That’s what my book is about.

I wanted to convey that sense of helplessness – what it is like to be hated – what it is like to have to run for your life – what it is like to leave the country where your family has always lived – what it is like to leave family behind – what it is like to be totally disconnected and not know who has survived and who has not – what it is like to try to survive in a place with a different language and culture.  And, I wanted to convey that sense of determination, of going forward with one’s life, and of keeping one’s perspective and outlook.

In today’s era of terror and violence, I believe we too often forget that the refugees of the world are not the enemy.  These are the victims.  They are the innocent.  They are the bystanders.  These are people like you and me – and they are leaving with only the clothes on their backs – and often, with their loved ones left behind.

My father’s journey took place 75 years ago.  Yet, the parallels with today’s world are clear.  We need to learn from this story.  That is what inspired me.

How long did it take to write, and what was your writing process?

Great questions.  Whenever someone asks me how long it took to write it, my answer is simple – 65 years.  Putting it to paper took only a few months.  Learning the story and thinking about it took a lifetime.

My father was a very quiet man.  He was far more interested in today than yesterday.  He rarely talked about his journey and he certainly never felt sorry for himself.  If asked a question he would answer.  But, growing up I never knew the questions to ask.  And, like most of us, I was far more interested in my life than my parent’s life.  That’s what my parents wanted too.  They always wanted me to look forward and not back.  So, while I knew the broad outlines of his story, I knew few of the details.  I had never thought about the depth of the emotions.  For me, writing this story was like taking an old black and white photo and transforming into a modern video.  I had to bring it to life.  I had to get into my father’s head and see the world through his eyes.  Throughout the writing process that is what I tried to do.  I had to imagine what he and others felt.  I wanted readers to feel like they were part of my family.

What resources did you use in writing your book? (e.g. documents, diaries, stories passed down through the family, etc.)

When I began I thought I was putting a coffee table book together for my immediate family – something for my grandchildren – something that would replace and simplify the clutter of old stuff that we all tend to collect.  I thought I would take old pictures, make a few notations, and organize everything.  Somehow during the process my project morphed into the book that it became.  The final result does not contain a single photo.

I suppose I did what most do when writing a memoir or biography.  I constructed the timeline and filled in the blanks.  In this case there were a considerable number of blanks and since the story took place many years ago there were many dots to connect.  I relied upon old photos, researched from one end of the internet and back, consulted with various family members, corresponded with various archives and historic research organizations.  Those who read the book often comment that it reads more like a historical novel than a memoir or a biography.

How did you come up with the title?

The title?  It is a variation of an expression that my mother once used.  She would say that life always finds the balance between a smile in one eye and a tear in the other.  In 1914 Kahlil Gibran wrote a collection of parables, stories, and poems titled A Tear and A Smile.  I am pretty sure that is where she first found it.  For me, the title is a perfect fit.

Given the circumstances, writing about your family’s history must have been difficult, to say the least. Is there a particular passage that was harder to write than others?

There were many that were difficult to write and I really would rather not recite them here as they might give away too much of the story as I am sure you can understand.  Here is one passage.

“I was miserable.  I can’t find words to convey the extent of my misery.  I was fourteen years old.  I went to school.   All of my classmates were taught to hate me, to hate everything about me and my family.  My classmates were listening to their teachers.”

“Mela and Joanie often ask me to talk about these years.  I resist.  What more can I say?  I have nothing more to tell.  Who would want to keep and share these memories?”
As incredible as it is to believe, there are people out there who deny the Holocaust happened. If you could, what would you say to them?

Somewhere between 50 and 80 million people lost their lives during World War II – about 3% of the world’s population.  Nearly 20 million Russians died and 6 million Jews were murdered.  That is the history.  Denial will not change the facts.  Let us allow humanity to learn from this terrible man-made tragedy.

History has shown us that persecution based on solely on race or religion has been a constant, malevolent presence in the world. Why do think that is?

Many great minds have wrapped their heads around this question.  I am not sure that anyone has found the answer and certainly not me.  I do believe that we always need to remain vigilant and be mindful of the violence in civilization’s history.  We have to understand our history in order to change our future.

What was the most gratifying thing for you in having written this book?

There is so much to be grateful for.  But, if I would pick one thing it would be that it connects the generations. Writing a book like this is a medium that allows many things to be said, shared, and understood.

What is the message you hope readers take away from A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other?

Hope, joy, and perseverance.  Go forward one step at a time.  Sometimes, no matter what,  fate will take you to where you are going.

Are you planning to write another book? If so, what it will be about?

I think I am a one and done kind of guy.  I never imagined myself as a writer and this has been quite the journey.  Maybe I will go back to walking the beach with my metal detector looking for lost  treasure.  Or, perhaps my wife and I will get a van, drive around, and meet with book clubs.  She says that, given my ego, I would probably put a sign on the door that says “Author inside – Honk if you want a signed copy!”

Ralph, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It was a pleasure having you here. I wish you all the best with your book!

Author Ralph Webster

Author Ralph Webster

About the Author

Ralph Webster is retired and lives with his wife Ginger in the United States on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  An enthusiastic world traveler, he is the son of immigrant parents; refugees who were forced to leave their homelands and families for reasons that defy comprehension.  This is his first book.

It’s Giveaway Time!

A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other audiobook by Ralph WebsterWould you like to win an audiobook of A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other? Here’s your chance! Ralph has generously offered not one, but THREE audiobooks for this surprise giveaway! Here are the details:

The giveaway is open ONLY in the following countries:

UK and United States.

Giveaway begins at 12:00 am CST on December 12, 2016 and ends at 12:00 am CST on December 17, 2016.

Winners will be notified via email.

Winners will be announced on The Geeky Bibliophile blog and associated social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) at 10:00 AM CST on December 17th, 2016.

Delivery of prizes will be handled by the author (Ralph Webster).

Enter to Win an Audiobook of A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other by Ralph Webster!