Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including her latest domestic suspense, Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.
Stranger In The Lake
A moody, mesmerizing mystery that smoulders with a brooding, slow-burn tension. Kimberly Belle has done it again…
Author’s Corner – Interview with Kimberly Belle
Thanks so much for being on Author’s Corner again! Writing thrillers and mysteries is pretty intense. What do you like to do after a day of writing intense scenes? What’s your favorite me-time treat?
I spend a lot of time sitting, so when I am done for the day, I want to get up and move. Take the dog for a walk, go for a run through the park, get on the Peloton downstairs. Pre-pandemic, my favorite workout was SoulCycle, and I can’t wait to get back into the studio.
What would you do if you weren’t a writer?
I worked for years in non-profit fundraising, and as much as I loved the job, I’m not sure it’s something I would go back to. I would miss the flexibility of working from home, and the creative kick I get from finding just the right word. But I do love to travel, so I would probably look for a job that allowed me to see the world. Especially now that my kids are grown, I could spend much of the year on the road and not get homesick for a single minute.
What was your favorite childhood book?
The first story I remember being obsessed with is Charlotte’s Web. I haven’t read it in ages, and though I can no longer recount the details of the plot or tell you all the characters’ names, I can still remember how that story made me feel. That’s the best kind of story, one that gives you a visceral you remember all those years (not telling how many) later.
The person who helped me fall in love with reading is…
My father, though it wasn’t so much falling in love with reading as with story. His nightly bedtime stories ranged from the fantastical to the hilarious to the downright terrifying. It’s a tradition that carried over to my kids. My favorites became their favorites, and at family get-togethers he can still regale us with tales of Jake the Wonder Dog.
If you could recommend any other book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently, what would it be?
I recently tore through the paperback of Heather Gudenkauf’s This Is How I Lied, and I just finished listening to Kimberly McCreight’s The Good Marriage. Both were absolutely fabulous!
If you could invite five people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela because I’m a political junkee. Lin Manuel Miranda because he’s a genius. Jane Austen because well…she’s Jane Austen! And Princess Diana because I bet she was sitting on lots of good gossip.
How do you brainstorm new ideas?
I wish I had a good method, but up to now, ideas have just sort of popped in my head—not always when I need them, but I keep a list I can whip out whenever my editor says, “what’s next?” But coming up with a premise and hammering out the plot is actually my least favorite part of the process because it’s so hard. I need someone to teach me how to brainstorm!
Writing Stranger In The Lake
Let’s talk about your new book, Stranger In The Lake. Can you tell my readers a little about it?
Stranger in the Lake is a story about Charlotte, a woman who’s left her trailer-park past behind her to marry Paul, an older, wealthier man with a gorgeous house on an Appalachian lake in North Carolina. Their relationship is the focus of small-town gossip, but Charlotte is able to ignore it until a woman’s body washes up under their dock—in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife drowned.
At first, the woman’s death seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage and dark secrets that have been simmering under the lake’s waters for years.
Where did you come up with the idea?
I’ve wanted to write a lake story for a while now. There’s just something about a big body of water–the dark swirling currents, the beautiful but remote setting… It’s the perfect place to set a suspenseful story because you just know something bad is going to happen there.
At the same time, I spend a good deal of family time in the Highlands/Cashiers area of North Carolina. It’s a place of stunning beauty, but where there’s a huge gulf between rich and poor. Wealthy outsiders have come in and completely transformed the area, carving out golf courses and building shops and restaurants and million dollar homes on the lake…and then you have the people who have lived there for generations—the ones flipping the burgers and scrubbing the toilets. This polarity makes for some very interesting dynamics, because when there’s money involved, when people have too much or their basic needs aren’t being met, morals can become questionable. This is something I really dug into for this story.
Describe Stranger In The Lake in three words.
So many secrets!
What actors would you cast to play Charlotte and Paul?
Hmmm, I think Julia Garner would nail the role of rags-to-riches Charlotte, and Josh Lucas would be the perfect Paul. Both are great at Southern accents, too.
What do you think readers will love about Stranger In The Lake?
I really hope readers will love Charlotte as much as I do. She was born into the worst possible family, an absent father and an emotionally abusive mother who left her home with a baby for long periods of time, but instead of turning bitter or following in their footsteps, she emerged stronger. She figured out a way to grow into a smart and kind and loving and trusting—maybe too trusting–person. She wants so much more out of life than what her parents offered, and she’s not afraid to work for it.
I love how you perfectly balance emotion with suspense in your books, and you’ve really hit the nail on the head with this one! Did you plot it before you sat down and wrote it or are you more of a pantser?
Thank you! But to answer your question, I am a hard-core plotter. My stories are complicated and have a lot of moving pieces, so I spend months thinking them through before I write the first word. I start with the basics: plot, character, a one or two sentence logline, 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, both of whom are brilliant at pointing out all the places it could be better. Crafting a story is a group effort, and their feedback really helps me as I’m shaping the plot. But only once the outline is done and the story is clear in my head do I sit down to write.
Stranger In The Lake is absolutely oozing with atmosphere! Is it based on a real location or is it completely fictional?
It’s a little of both, fictional but based on a real place. Readers familiar with the area might recognize some details from Lake Glenville, which I transformed and embellished to fit the story. I renamed the lake and put a town that doesn’t exist on its shores, but many of the real landmarks are right there, in the story.
What’s next for Kimberly Belle?
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 am currently working on a story about a home invasion. It’s a premise that has always terrified me, and it hits awfully close to home, as it happens a lot here in Atlanta. I even know a family that survived one. I’ve pulled in a few details of their experience for this story, then mixed in plenty more from my imagination. No title yet, but out sometime in 2021.
Get In Touch
Kimberly Belle loves connecting with readers. You can get in touch with her at: