Today we welcome Kim Williams-Eldridge.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Kim Williams-Eldridge: I work in Public Relations and Marketing, so I’m actually writing all day at work on various topics. I also teach creative writing part time for the Lifelong Learning program at the University of Utah. I was recently remarried and I a wonderful husband named Tony who is working toward being a writer also, so we spend a lot of time sitting side-by-side with our laptops asking each other, “How does this sound?” or “Do you think this works?” We have a bunch of grown children (I have three, he has four) and we have three grandkids. We also have two funny kitties who always want to lay on the computers when we are working.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: I wrote three kids’ nonfiction activity books about three national parks. They were called “Hey, Ranger: Kids Ask Questions About Yellowstone National Park,” “Grand Canyon National Park,” and “Rocky Mountain National Park.” These went out of print just a few years ago, but I still find them on Amazon! I love the national parks, and living in Utah, I have access to quite a number of them. I was always fascinated by the questions kids would ask the rangers – and “voila!” “Kiss Kiss Bark” is a humorous middle grade novel that was originally written as my creative thesis for my Master’s degree. It’s a fictional work about a 14-year-old girl, her 4-year-old brother who pretends he’s a dog, and her first real crush on a boy – who happens to be her best friend’s older brother. I submitted it to a young publishing company and when I hadn’t heard from them in a while, I assumed it would collect another rejection. Then a year after I submitted it, they found it buried in their slush pile and made me an offer! It was originally published under the title “My Brother the Dog” when it was released in 2006, but then it was re-released in 2012 with a new title, a new cover, and a new dedication, and it’s still hanging in there. The story is based on a true story about my mom and her brother (my uncle) that I thought was really funny, so I expanded the idea and turned it into this novel! “The Deepest Blue” is a young adult novel that came about because of two similar experiences my oldest daughter and my son had going through a step-parent adoption. This story is about a 15-year-old boy who loses his father in a car accident and wants his father’s girlfriend to adopt him because she would have become his step-mother had his dad lived. When his biological mom shows up after being estranged for nearly 10 years, he has to fight for what he knows is right for him. This was a hard book to write because of what I watched my own kids go through, but their courage and strength was very inspiring. It was also hard to write because mid-way into the book, my own dad passed away unexpectedly. I submitted the book in 2010, but the market for emotional fiction with a male protagonist was very small. Then a year and a half later, one of the publishers I had submitted to asked if it was still available and it was released in the fall of 2013. I co-authored a novel called “Beautiful Monster” with Jared S. Anderson (who now goes by the name Alistair Cross). I always loved reading horror, but I didn’t think I could write it, and Jared challenged me to try writing a horror story with him. It was his first published novel, and we were very thrilled that it sold. However, because I didn’t want this very graphic novel confused with my books for kids, I began using the pen name Mimi A. Williams (Mimi is a family nickname, and Williams is my maiden name). I’ve been using that name since 2012, and it has created my alter ego. She has her own Facebook page and author page, and her own website! In the last few years, I’ve have a number of horror short stories that have appeared in different anthologies. My short stories have appeared in Axes of Evil I, II, and III, Old Scratch and Owl Hoots, Toys in the Attic, and the 2017 Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror. I also edited an anthology of horror short stories and poetry called Hidden in Plain Sight, and I’m working editing a new anthology for writers ages 15-21 called Creepy Young Things. We are open to submissions until December 1 if anyone in that age group might be interested! The books I’ve had published are: “Love & Loathing: Protecting Your Legal Rights and Mental Health When Your Partner Has Borderline Personality Disorder” – I coauthored this with a woman named Randi Kreger. It is an adult, nonfiction workbook that was in print for 14 years. I wrote this because someone I interacted with frequently had Borderline Personality Disorder, and I wanted to learn more about it. I met Randi through the old AOL chatrooms, we started talking, and she offered me the opportunity to work with her.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: Always! I’m currently working on a new young adult novel that is somewhat sci-fi in that it takes place in the future on a different planet, but this population has lost their technology and science and has slid back to a trade/barter biblical-type culture.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: The scene in The Deepest Blue where the main character, Michael, saw his father in the funeral home before his father had been embalmed. Writing this scene meant drawing on my experience with my own father. I took off almost two years from writing this story because I couldn’t face that scene. When I finally wrote it, I cried my way through it. It was only about two pages of writing, but I went and took a nap when it was done.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: It depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes I can simply Google things, other times I hit the library and dig in. For my work in progress, I’ve done some really fun research on super-sized animals! You can’t believe how big a bunny can get!
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: I love reading Christopher Moore! No one makes me laugh the way he does – literally to tears. He inspires my writing because it is so hard to write humor! Everyone might agree on what is tragic, but not everyone thinks the 3 Stooges is funny. I also love Eric Larsen. He writes nonfiction that feels like an amazing novel. His book The Devil in the White City is a personal favorite. He inspires me because when you can make nonfiction that engaging, you’ve got a way with words.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: Shirley Saenz Lohnes, my third grade teacher, told me when I was 8-years-old that I should be a writer. She would let me stay inside during recess to go to the library to flip through the big dictionary that had its own podium to lay on.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: I’m pretty critical about my writing, but people who’ve read my books have said I’m great with characterization and dialog. I think it’s because I’m an avid people watcher (some might say stalker) and I love observing and listening to people. I’ve studied body language, and my undergraduate degree was in speech communication, so listening to people speak and watching what they say without words is a favorite pastime of mine.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: I started writing when I had three little kids at home. They were all in elementary school when I got my Master’s degree. I got very used to grabbing snippets of time here and there, staying up late (because I absolutely don’t do mornings!), writing on notebooks in the car while I waited for carpool, etc. I set guidelines for myself for the week, but if I try to make daily totals, I get too easily disappointed and I give up. Because I work full time and teach part time, there are days when demanding of myself an additional amount of time for writing is just not reasonable. But when I’m in the middle of book or a short story, my brain is constantly working on the story, creating scenes, or solving character issues.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: Winning the National Book Award – LOL! Okay, that would be nice, but I’ll just be writing, making up people in my brain and putting their stories into my computer in the hopes someone else wants to read about them. I still firmly believe I haven’t written my best stuff yet. I’m busy learning how to do this better, and I hope I’m always learning. If I happen to pick up an award, or a killer agent, or a bazillion dollar contract along the way, that would be great, but I’m just happy writing. I can’t NOT write – I’ve tried. Nearly landed me a strait jacket and a padded cell.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: Read, read, read. Read things you love. Read things you hate. Read things in genres you’d never think of writing in. Read best sellers. Read authors you’ve never heard of. Read classics. Read cutting edge, weird, off the wall stuff. Reading other writers is the best way to learn about yourself, what you like, what you don’t like.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Kim Williams-Eldridge: Then I was at a book signing at a Barnes & Noble, and a young girl (about 11) saw Kiss Kiss Bark on the table in front of me. She ran across the aisle, snatched the book off the table and said, “This book was the best book I ever read all summer.” You gotta love hearing that.
This is a review I got: “Mattie’s narration effectively renders the experience a cohesive and accessible one; the tonal range from sarcastic to tremulous to plaintive is absolutely believable. This will strike a chord with middle-schoolers experiencing their own sibling issues and romantic yearnings.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Rain begins falling in heavy drops that splash as they break the surface of the ocean. I keep staring into the water, looking for it, but it isn’t there. The rain gets harder and comes down in pellets that sting as they strike my arms. But I keep looking into the water–I’m certain it’s in the water.
The boat rocks harder now, bouncing and twisting in the swells. Beneath the dark waves I can just make out a shape, rising to the surface so slowly that it almost seems as if it isn’t moving. The wind whispers around me, pushing and pulling to get my attention, but I am only focused on the shape. I think it’s what I’m looking for, but I can’t be sure until it gets closer. The boat slides and dips through the churning water. I move around the railing, keeping my eyes glued to the shape that’s rising.
I can almost make it out now. It’s familiar, but not recognizable—not just yet. It’s a pearl color, long and thin, with dark hair that shifts and sways with the current of the water.
“Dad,” I say, calling out to it. “Dad.” I reach my hand out to help him, to pull him from the water. My heart is beating hard because I may be too late, but I know I have to try. “Dad!” He floats face-up in the blue-black water. The boat dips and I reach out to grab him, but I only graze his arm with my fingers. His body spins in the water, and he looks up from beneath the churning surface, his face white and carved by the giant scar that slices from the bridge of his nose to the back of his head.
“No,” I say, desperation and anger bubbling to the surface. Tears splash like rain in the water as I strain to reach him and pull him to me.
“Ten years too long,” says a voice behind me. I spin and see Julia in a Donald Duck T-shirt. She grabs for my arm, but I turn back to the water.
“Dad,” I call again, but already he is slipping beneath the waves. His pale face disappears as the water grows darker and darker around him.
I sit upright in bed, panting and sweating. I look around my room, my eyes adjusting quickly to the absence of light. Through the window I can see the speckle of stars above the pines, but the sky is still black. I check the clock; its glowing green numbers read 2:35 A.M. Rocket lays across my feet, snoring like a diesel engine. His paws twitch and paddle as he chases something in his sleep. I rub my hand across his side, and his tail wags instinctively.