I’m delighted to welcome to lovely Kristy Woodson Harvey to Bookaholic Confessions. Kristy releases her debut novel, Dear Carolina, today and it’s an absolutely STUNNING novel (my review will be up soon!) Click here (UK) and here (US) to get hold of your copy. In the meantime it’s over to Kristy as we talk interior design, novel inspiration and what it’s like having her debut released into the big, wide world…
Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for having me, Holly! I’m so thrilled to be on Bookaholic Confessions. I’m a North Carolina girl, a wife to my wonderful husband and a mom to an adorable three-year-old. I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer and had my first newspaper column when I was sixteen. So I went to journalism school thinking I would be a journalist, not a novelist! Writing a novel was a bit of a surprise but a total dream come true. I love writing anything, but I think I’ve found my niche here. Sitting down to spend some time with my Work in Progress is my “me time.” It’s so relaxing, so fun, and I get a little cranky when I don’t get to do it enough!
Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel, Dear Carolina (released 5th May 2015 by Berkley)?
Of course! Dear Carolina is written from the perspective of two mothers, one birth and one adoptive, about the ways their lives change in the year after the birth of their daughter. That interaction is the basis for these two women’s connection, but, in reality, it’s Khaki, the adoptive mother, and Jodi, the birth mother’s story. They end up changing each other’s lives in the most unexpected ways and learning so much about themselves – all because of this tiny little girl.
Dear Carolina sounds an incredible story and I can’t wait to read it. What gave you the idea for writing a story about these two strong women who are put in such a difficult position over baby Carolina?
I’ve always thought that adoption was such an amazing thing – such a gift for one woman to give another. But, when my son was born, I truly realized how tremendous of a sacrifice giving up your child was. It must be the most selfless act on the planet. And, on the flip side of that, being an adoptive mother would certainly come with its share of insecurities. It was something I thought a lot about when my son was just born and I think this novel is my way of exploring those feelings.
Honestly, it was a little bit tricky! The voices of the characters had to be just right to make the story feel honest. I had this idea of Jodi’s voice in my head and how her Southern dialect would sound, but I was afraid that it might alienate readers. But my editor encouraged me to go for it, and I think it turned out well.
How did you go about doing the research for Dear Carolina?
I have a good number of friends that are either adopted or have adopted children, so they were a helpful resource. And, of course, I read a ton of books on the topic. The thing I needed to research the most was the feelings of the birth mothers, and the range of emotions was very interesting – from devastated, to a little relieved to questioning their decision. And, of course, I read a lot about open adoptions vs. closed adoptions and what that was like. The adoption in Dear Carolina is open so I really explored open, family adoptions in particular… But, ultimately, this was Khaki and Jodi’s story, one that was uniquely their own. So my research informed the story, but I think I knew where it was going all along.
As well as releasing your first book you also blog at mydesignchic.com (which has got the most BEAUTIFUL home interior ideas! I love it!) What sparked your interest in interior design?
My mom and I blog together, which is so much fun, and I think she sparked my interest. She has always had a real passion for interior design. It started as a random idea (like all good things do!) for a fun hobby to keep us connected even though we lived three hours apart. It has grown beyond our wildest imaginations! Khaki is an interior designer and each of her chapters begins with an anecdote about interior design that ties into her life. Those parts were most definitely related to the blog.
How does it feel to have your novel out in the big, wide world?
So scary but so good! I know it’s an overused metaphor, but it is a bit like sending your child out into the world: you can see its faults, but you don’t want anyone else pointing them out! I think it’s tough to put yourself out there and be that open to criticism, but, at the same time, most dreams come true have some sort of downside! Overall, I’m just pinching myself that this is actually happening! I don’t think it has sunk in!
Dear Carolina is actually the fourth novel that I wrote. I wrote a couple of “practice novels” to see if I could even do it, fell totally in love with novel writing, and signed with an agent for the third manuscript. He was shopping that around when I finished Dear Carolina. I entered it in a writing contest for some good feedback, it won, and that’s ultimately what led to the deal. It was such a shock because it wasn’t at all what I expected to happen. But, then again, the unexpected parts are usually the best, aren’t they?
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I have very diverse tastes and I love to read all kinds of different things! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smilth has been my favorite book since the third grade and I read it every year. It was years before I found out she was a fellow North Carolinian! There are so many great authors out there. I just finished a fantastic one by Kim Boykin, Eileen Goudge is legendary for a reason, my friend Ann Garvin’s novels are as lively and fascinating as she Is, Heather Webb’s historicals are transformative, Jodi Thomas is a pro at romance, Ariel Lawhon is amazing… I could go on literally forever. But I love non-fiction too. I think Ariana Huffington is some sort of super hero, I pick up anything new by Deepak Chopra, I just read an organization book by Marie Kondo. I have a lot of my own ideas and ideals, but I love learning about new things. That’s the power of reading!
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Yes! I’m very happy to say that I have a second novel coming out at the beginning of 2016. (Yay!!!) It’s all about family secrets and the things we do to protect the people we love. And, right now, I’m in the midst of a work in progress… Can it be our secret that I’m a third of the way through and I don’t really know what it’s about yet? I’ve gotten to know all of these amazing characters, and the more I get to know them, the more they tell me about themselves. But there’s no doubt about this: There will be falling in love, some crazy secrets revealed and some powerhouse women. I’m also working on my very first non-fiction book with one of my favorite interior designers. Can’t wait to be able to share more about that! It’s a very exciting time, and I’m taking advantage of every opportunity while I can. I keep thinking, “Is this really happening?” Being able to do what you love for a living is the most remarkable gift and, most of all, I’m just very thankful!
A huge thank you to Kristy for participating in this interview. ♥
A moving debut novel about two mothers—one biological and one adoptive—from a compelling new voice in Southern women’s fiction.
One baby girl.
Two strong Southern women.
And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make.
Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…
Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made…
Bio: Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. She is a regular contributor for The Salisbury Post, Domino magazine and Houzz. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son.