A Southerner through and through, author Kristy Woodson Harvey attended college at the University of North Carolina and still resides in the Tar Heel State. In addition to blogging at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be a catalyst for creating a beautiful life, Kristy’s first novel, Dear Carolina, will be released tomorrow by publisher Berkley Books.
The moving tale of two mothers — one biological and one adoptive — Dear Carolina is a story that demonstrates that life circumstances may shape us, but they don’t define us, and that families aren’t born, but rather they are made. Featuring richly detailed characters and a story that transports the reader into a world of complex relationships, Dear Carolina establishes Kristy as a bold new voice in women’s fiction.
To learn more about Kristy and her writing, visit www.kristywoodsonharvey.com.
What was your childhood like, and how did it shape who you are today?
I had a very happy childhood. I am an only child but have a large extended family with whom I am very close, as well as a number of very good lifelong friends. I grew up with parents who told me I could do and be anything I put my mind to. They also taught me to never quit — and they embody those things as well. I realize now how important that is because getting published is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Growing up, who were your biggest creative influences?
I had a really fantastic art teacher when I was young that I think taught me how to look at the world in a different way — even though I’m a terrible artist! And I remember being a child and my mom reading to me all the time. So I would have to say that EB White, Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl were major influences even though I never knew them!
What inspired the story of Dear Carolina?
When my son was a few days old, my parents were at our house helping, and I heard him crying. I got up and, as soon as my dad handed him to me, he stopped. It was such a moment of realization of this huge bond that a child has with his or her mother, literally from birth. It made me realize how incredibly difficult it would be to part with your child, that one woman giving her child to another is truly the greatest gift she could ever give. And certainly the most difficult. It’s hard to explain, but it was like, in that moment, Jodi and Khaki, the two mothers, popped into my mind, and I just knew what the entire story of Dear Carolina was going to be.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing Dear Carolina?
Jodi’s voice in the book, this very Southern dialect that you read now, was the voice I heard in my head the entire time I was writing her, but, at first I was afraid that dialect would alienate readers, so I wrote her voice differently. But, my now editor, after reading the book, pinpointed that the two characters voices were too similar, and, after I rewrote Jodi’s voice, not changing her plot line at all, it was as if the entire story unfolded. But re-doing her entire part of the book was very, very tedious!
What was the experience of finding a publisher for Dear Carolina like? And how did things end up working out with Berkley Books?
I actually signed with an agent for a manuscript I wrote before Dear Carolina, so I felt like I was on my way a bit. But I entered Dear Carolina in a writing contest to get some feedback on it. The book won the contest, where my now editor was the final round judge! I don’t think that was a very typical way of finding a publisher, but that’s how it happened for me!
How will you celebrate the release of Dear Carolina?
Since the release date is May 5, a group of my friends is having a big Cinco de Mayo celebration and signing for me at a local gallery! An amazing Mexican chef is catering with Mexican-inspired “Carolina” cuisine and, of course, there will be tons of margaritas — and books! And the celebration goes on from there. I have a great number of events planned in different cities, and I can’t wait!
How did you meet your husband?
I was out with a group of girls celebrating someone’s 21st birthday. We were all sitting around a table in a totally empty restaurant, and he walked in with a few friends. I looked at him and he looked at me, and I turned back to my friends and said, “My husband just walked into the room.” A few of them thought I was a little nuts, but I think I always knew it would happen like that. From the time I was very young I’ve always let my instincts guide my choices.
For you, what has been the most rewarding aspect of having a child?
When people say that boys love their moms they aren’t kidding! My three-year-old is so sweet and so loving, and I really think that has opened up something inside of me. It’s actually interesting to go back and read what I wrote before he was born and what I write now. I think I have a lot more emotional depth than I once did. I look at the world in an entirely different way now. Everything is new and fun and fresh through a child’s eyes. He makes me slow down and appreciate the small wonders. And that is amazing.
Which Southern food staple is your favorite, and if someone were looking for the best version of that staple, where would you tell them to go?
Fried okra is a total guilty pleasure for me. My mom used to make it when I was growing up, in those little circles with super crunchy skin. My favorite version now is at the fabulous Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, NC. Chef Vivian fries the entire piece of okra until it’s crunchy and serves it with “ranch ice cream.” So, as you dip the okra into the ranch it melts. It’s a simple concept, perfectly executed. Those are always the best to me!
If you could take a few weeks off and go anywhere in the world for a vacation, where would you choose?
At the particular moment, while my son is young, I would want to take a summer and sail the Inner Loop, which takes you through the U.S. on the water. I think that would be so fun! My husband and I have a goal of doing it, but we’ll see…!
Have you given any thought to what your next book might be?
My next book, The Art of Little White Lies, is actually slated to come out early next spring! I am over the moon about that. I’m very interested in family dynamics and people’s motivations for their actions. The Art of Little White Lies is written from the perspective of a daughter and a grandmother and is about the things we do to protect the people we love from the things that would hurt them — even if that means straying a bit from the truth. It was so neat to get to watch these two characters, in all their complexities, come to life and to get to write a big, close-knit family. I’m so excited about it!