July 1 is the perfect pub date for The Healing Spell because the final chapters in the story take place during the 4th of July weekend. Those last scenes include a shotgun, a wedding, a death, a confession, a storm and a very cute boy. But not in that order.
We caught up with Kimberley for an interview and a bonus—a giveaway of a signed hardcover of The Healing Spell! Leave a comment to be entered! The winner will be announced Saturday, July 3rd.
From the jacket flap: Twelve-year-old Livie is living with a secret and it’s crushing her. She knows she is responsible for her mother’s coma, but she can’t tell anyone. It’s up to her to find a way to wake her momma up.
Stuck in the middle of three sisters, hiding a forbidden pet alligator, and afraid to disappoint her daddy, whom she loves more than anyone else, Livie struggles to find her place within her own family as she learns about the powers of faith and redemption.
Livie’s powerful, emotional, and sometimes humorous story will stay with readers long after the last line is read.
Welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files, Kimberley!
We’re curious how a writer who grew up in San Francisco, lived a couple of stints in Oklahoma and Utah, and now makes her home on the banks of the Rio Grande happened to write such a convincing story about a girl growing up in the swamps of Louisiana.
I can answer that question in four words: A Family Road Trip.
About twelve years ago, my family and I drove the corridor of Highway 10, stopping in Louisiana and New Orleans for several days to explore. We met with a Cajun tour guide whose enthusiasm and knowledge and fascinating stories immediately captivated me. We also took a boat into the bayous and swamps with another guide who showed us where he lived along the banks and hunted and fished and took us out to his crawfish traps.
Four more words: I fell in love. Hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about my experiences in Louisiana and the magic I felt there and the people of the bayous. I started reading dozens of books, everything I could get my hands on—from native Louisiana writers, memoirs, professors writing about the history—to fisherman and wildlife photographers.
I returned again and again, staying in a cabin on the bayou, eating crawfish, dancing to live Cajun bands, visiting all the museums, watching documentaries. Last year I did a two week road trip with a friend from the South and we met with seven different traiteurs in their homes to hear about their experiences as a traiteur – a religious folk healer tradition that goes back three hundred years in the Cajun culture when they first arrived in the Louisiana swamps.
Unusual settings have always been a springboard for my work.
How many times did you revise the book, and did you end up taking out anything you loved?
When the story and my characters were bursting in my mind and I knew I was ready to begin writing, I wrote the first draft in a little more than three weeks during the summer when it was hot and muggy—the same season as the book. I felt like I was *living* Livie’s story right along with her. It was a bit surreal.
I spent 3-5 years revising—which included breaks to write and revise other manuscripts–but I kept going back to The Healing Spell because I loved it so much and the characters were so alive in my mind. I had a lot of interest from various editors, but the story was finally ready when an editor at Scholastic stayed up all night to finish reading the manuscript. The next morning she made an offer to my agent, as well as offering on two other manuscripts for a three-book deal.
I didn’t take out anything that I loved during the writing—or the editorial process. I actually got to add more depth to many scenes, especially the ones with T-Jacques Landry, a boy Livie knows down the bayou, as well as a whole new chapter. (Chapter Twelve, in case you’re curious!)
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
No one in particular, but many of the Cajun people and their stories in Greg Guirard’s book, Cajun Families of the Atchafalaya were incredibly inspiring to me. Then I had the most unusual experience last April of 2009 when I was introduced to a man who fit the character of Livie Mouton’s daddy—so perfectly it was like destiny to meet him and his wife.
Mr. Elward Stephens is an older version of J.B. Mouton, Livie’s daddy, in The Healing Spell.
He lives in a house that he built himself on Bayou Long, fishing out the back door, making his own cypress pirogue (small canoe-like boat), growing up barefoot in the woods and swimming in the bayou as a kid—and speaking French and listening to French music while we danced in his living room! He and his wife are two of my favorite people in Louisiana.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a companion book to The Healing Spell, which is already under contract with Scholastic, but the publication date is not firm yet. Miz Mirage Allemond, the folk healer traiteur who lives in the swamp that Livie meets, is such an intriguing character that I wanted to know more about her. The new project is from the viewpoint of Shelby Jayne, Miz Mirage’s eleven-year-old daughter. Plus it has a ghost! And secrets! The title is still To Be Decided.
Thank you, Kimberley, and Happy Book Release Day!
Readers, we hope you enjoyed the interview!
If you’d like to a chance to win a hardcover of Kimberley’s new book, make sure you post in the comments section. Tweets and Facebook and Blog posts earn you more entries. The winner will be announced Saturday!
Kimberley is celebrating ALL DAY today so leave questions; she’ll answer, and let’s have a good time! Laissez les bon temps rouler!
There’s a HUGE party happening at Kimberley’s blog, too. If you want a chance to win her Awesome Prize Package, go here to visit, eat a beignet, and leave a comment!
And for those who want to see more, here’s the very cool book trailer. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to check out The Healing Spell on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
Enjoy Kimberley’s new Southern-styled website and don’t forget to download the Teacher’s Guide and the brand new Mother/Daughter Book Club Guide– discussion questions, activities for moms and girls and a fun Louisiana dessert!