Kimberly Belle is an internationally bestselling author. She grew up near the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee but fell in love with a Dutchman and moved to Amsterdam for 12 glorious years. Although she’s now returned to Atlanta, she’s still obsessed with all things Dutch and is still checking off countries to visit on her to-see list. Dear Wife is her fifth book, and will be published in June.
Beth Murphy is on the run from her violent husband. Meanwhile, Sabine harding has gone missing, her abandoned car the only evidence the police have. All signs point to foul play.
The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.
An irresistible, cleverly plotted thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the final heart-stopping twist. Dear Wife is the captivating story of a wife on the run from her abusive husband, ensuing in a fast-paced, heart-pounding game of cat and mouse.
Author’s Corner – interview with Kimberly Belle
What’s your biggest, most amazing bit of news for 2019?
I think the thing I’m most excited to share is that my son got his dream job, and it’s in the Netherlands. It was a bit of a journey for him, as he’s been interviewing for months now, but I’m most proud of how he got it. He’d interviewed with this company earlier in the year. They seemed to really want him, and he was chugging through the interview process with flying colors, until it came time for him to write a business letter in Dutch. This is a kid who grew up speaking and reading Dutch, but his education has always been in English; even his grad school, which he did in Utrecht, was in English. He choked on that letter, and the company ended up passing. But he’s determined and stubborn like his mother. He spent the next few months taking a course in business writing, then reached back out with his new skills. The company hired him on the spot.
Every author has a unique and interesting story about how they got published. Can you tell us about your journey to publication
I worked in nonprofit fundraising for years, both in Holland and in the States, until 2008, when the economy crashed and so did my job. By that point I was pushing forty, and I still hadn’t written that novel I’d always dreamed of writing. I decided to see my sudden unemployment as a now-or-never moment, so I sat down and my computer and….realized I had no idea what I was doing.
I spent the next couple of years learning how to build a story. I took courses, read everything I could get my hands on, found some critique partners and mentors, and then I wrote a book and then another. I was almost done with the second story when I attended a local conference and pitched it to a couple of agents—a process kind of like speed dating and just as nerve wracking. One of them, Nikki Terpilowski of Holloway Lit, loved the story, and she signed me by the end of the month then sold both books to Mira in a 2-book deal. I’ve since moved to Park Row Books, but both imprints fall under Harlequin/Harper Collins so I haven’t gone very far.
I know you’re a fan of all things Dutch, and you spend a lot of time in Amsterdam. Can you tell us what some of your other favorite things to do are?
I am a yoga fan, some might even say a fanatic. For me it’s more than just the physical. It’s about getting grounded, about letting the story go long enough to let my subconscious take over. Especially when I’m stuck, I’ve found that as soon as I let go of the story and get upside down, my plot knots unwind and I figure out how to move forward.
Another favorite pastime is travel. There are so many places I want to see, so many destinations left on my bucket list. It’s a bug I’ve passed on to both my kids. My son is taking advantage of the cheap flights and train trips around Europe, and my daughter just completed Semester at Sea, where she traveled (literally) around the world with stops in 11 countries.
What are some of the jobs you had before becoming an author? How have they helped you in your writing career now?
I’m not one of those writers who penned her first novel in crayon. Writing was something I always dreamed of doing, but for the longest time it fell by the wayside for a job that paid the bills. Like I said, I worked for many years in fundraising, and it definitely helped me hone my writing skills. Fundraising letters, website texts, scripts for meetings and events…I learned very quickly how to drill down to a powerful, poignant message that tugs at the heartstrings.
Stranded on a tropical island, what would be the top three books you’d want with you?
Pride and Prejudice, Outlander (the first two, but if I’m going to be stranded, heck, might as well take the whole series), and a giant blank notebook so I could make my own fictional friends and tell my own story.
If you could recommend any other book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently, what would it be?
The problem is there are SO MANY good books. I love anything Emily Carpenter and Kate Moretti, but I love finding new authors. Your debut was fantastic, as was My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. Oh, and Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts is one of my favorite books in forever.
I love how your books are so thrilling and yet really build on a character’s strength and how they grow. Is character development something you plan, or do your characters evolve as you write?
Thank you! Character development is the hardest part for me to get right in a story. I know where I want my characters to start and end up in their journey, but the steps to get them there are always less clear in my mind. It always takes me a couple rounds of edits to get just right. Without a character arc, a story is just a bunch of things that happen. I like my characters to emerge from the drama different and changed for the better. In my mind, that’s what makes a story really resonate.
Writing Dear Wife
Let’s talk about Dear Wife. Can you tell my readers a little about it, how you came up with the idea and what inspired you to write it?
Dear Wife is the story of Beth Murphy, a woman on the run from her controlling and abusive husband. For months now she’s been planning her escape—saving grocery money, thinking through the various strategies, coming up with a plan. One day when her husband is at work, she finds her chance. She steers her car westward to leave a trail of clues, then doubles back and disappears into Atlanta. Beth knows as soon as her husband finds her, she’s dead.
Woven throughout Beth’s story is that of Jeffrey Hardison, a man who returns from a business trip to find his wife Sabine missing. She’s taken almost nothing with her, left no clues as to where she went or why. Marcus Durand is the detective assigned to the case, and he will stop at nothing to bring the missing woman home. The more he digs, the more he finds things weren’t so great at home, and Jeffrey may have had reason to want Sabine gone.
As for inspiration, Dear Wife was a gift from the writing gods. I had just spent months putting a proposal together for another story when the idea for Dear Wife woke me up in the middle of the night. My eyes popped open and the story was right there, fully formed. I knew my characters, the major plot points, how the story began and ended. While the house slept, I stared at the ceiling and watched the story play like a movie in my head. In the morning, I called my editor and pulled the first proposal, then asked for another week or two to throw together a new one for Dear Wife. Thankfully, she loved the story just as much as I did.
The theme in Dear Wife is very much about domestic violence, which also came across in your last book, Three Days Missing. Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to focus on these themes?
Both stories were inspired by a dear friend whose backstory is similar to Kat’s in Three Days Missing. When that story opens, Kat is in the midst of a very messy, very public divorce from a husband who beat her in a very public setting—pretty much exactly what happened to my friend.
It’s a fictionalized story crafted around a real-life one, and writing it helped me sort through all the emotions I felt, the sadness and helplessness and anger, while watching my friend go through her divorce. I thought I’d worked through all my emotions until the idea for Dear Wife popped into my head, and I realized I had more to say, this time through a woman who is fighting back in the most brave, kick-ass way. Beth is angry and determined and willing to risk it all for her freedom—all the ingredients for the best kind of heroine.
Describe Dear Wife in three words.
Every wife’s nightmare.
What scene did you enjoy writing most?
That last scene on the rooftop was my favorite, and probably the easiest to write. I can’t say much about it without giving away a big part of the plot, but I really enjoyed the way Beth’s voice came out so loud and strong. I was channelling her or she was channelling me, I don’t know, but whatever it was, it really worked. That scene flew out of me.
What actress/actor would you cast to play Beth, Jeffrey and Marcus?
Hmmm, these questions are always so hard! But I’d love to see someone like Jennifer Garner play Beth. Miles Teller would make a great Jeffrey, and Chris Pine would be perfect as Marcus. A girl can dream!
I absolutely loved Beth and how her strength grew throughout the novel. Who was your favorite character to write?
Miss Sally, hands down! Dear Wife was one of those stories that just begged for a colorful cast, and I let the demographics of the Atlanta neighborhoods where Beth goes into hiding guide me. Mexicans, Asians, people of all shapes and colors and from all backgrounds–I really wanted to portray the diversity of the city.
But diversity isn’t only about skin color, and Miss Sally was one of the first secondary characters I came up with. Since she’s not a main character, I got to have a little more fun with her, make her interesting and funny. She was very loud and vocal in my head, and she kind of wrote herself.
Was the ending planned from the beginning or did it evolve as you wrote it?
My stories have a lot of moving pieces, so I spend months thinking them through before I write the first word. I start with the basics: character, major plot points, a one or two sentence synopsis, and then I take it from there. I brainstorm, add subplots and secondary characters, fill in and expand on the many blank spots. Once I have a fairly detailed outline, I’ll run it by my agent and editor, who are both brilliant at pointing out all the places it could be better. Crafting a story is a group effort, and their feedback and ideas really help me as I’m shaping the plot.
But even with the outline, I always give myself room for things to change and develop as I write. Sometimes that means adding characters (like Evan in THE MARRIAGE LIE) or rewriting chapters from another point of view (a couple of Jeffrey chapters ended up Marcus’s in DEAR WIFE). But I can make those changes because the bones are already there, both on paper and in my head.
That said, I’ve never–not once–changed an ending. I go into a story knowing exactly how it will end, and with every chapter I write, I am moving steadily closer. All that goes to say: yes, this story ended exactly like I’d planned it.
What do you think readers will love about Dear Wife?
I hope it’s one of those stories that is unexpected, both in the cast of characters and the plot twists. So far, the reviews have reflected this. “Clever” and “unexpected” and “jaw-droppingly unpredictable” are pretty typical things I hear from readers.
The three main protagonists in Dear Wife were linked in ways we—as a reader—wouldn’t have guessed until the end. Without giving away too much, was this intentional, or was this a plot twist you didn’t expect?
It was very intentional! The struggle as I was writing it, though, was to do it in a way that a) didn’t give these connections away and b) didn’t make the reader feel tricked once everything was revealed. I write in first person point of view, so you are inside the character’s head. It was so very difficult to keep some of the bigger plot points secret without intentionally misleading the reader. I think if readers go back and read the story for a second time, they’ll notice a lot of clues they missed the first time through because they didn’t know to look for them.
What’s next for Kimberly?
Are you working on a new book? Can you tell my readers a little about it, a blurb, potential release date, etc? Where did you get the idea?
I’m currently finishing up a story about a newlywed woman who discovers a woman’s body under their lakeside home dock. The police show up, and in her shock and the pressure of the moment, she follows her husband’s lead and lies about ever having seen the woman—which she did the previous day in passing.
It’s not a big lie, and she doesn’t really think much of it at the time, but soon that one little lie turns into an avalanche. As the police close in on the woman’s killer, my main character uncovers dangerous truths about her husband and her marriage, as well as dark secrets that have been simmering below the lake’s currents for years. No title yet, but coming sometime in 2020.
As for the idea, this was something I’d been stewing on for ages, a book set in a remote mountain lake town where money plays a big role in the town’s dynamics. My main character’s marriage to an older, wealthier man gives her a rags-to-riches backstory, which reveals unexpected truths about her character. People will break their moral compasses for a variety of primal reasons: hate, love, envy, passion, survival—and money. That’s something I explored while writing this story.
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