Monday, 13 July 2020

I Interviews

Interview: Kellie Coates Gilbert

1. You were a successful trial paralegal before becoming a writer. What made you take that jump to focus full-time on writing?

Like many authors, I am an avid reader. Strangely, I never considered a career as a novelist. Instead, I pursued a sensible legal career with predictable income (especially while my boys were in college). But in 2004, I attended my first writing conference and left with an overwhelming feeling that I was always meant to write novels. The experience is hard to describe, but I knew in the deepest part of me I would publish a novel.

But first, I had to learn to write well. So, I spent seven years going to writing conferences and workshops, taking courses, reading every craft book I could find. And a published novelist mentored me. She started off our first session by saying she was like a dentist who only works on the bad teeth. She meant to encourage by reminding me I had a lot of good teeth. But frankly, fixing a broken novel is sometimes as painful as a root canal. But, with her help, I learned the tools of how to create a good story.

2. How has your time in the courtroom influenced your writing?

For nearly twenty-five years, I worked as a legal investigator and trial paralegal for some of the largest litigation firms in the Pacific Northwest where I was assigned on several high profile cases. People are often at their most vulnerable in these tense courtroom situations where much is at stake, and I gained a unique perspective on the human psyche. Early in my writing career, I recognized there could be value in putting that knowledge to work by telling stories about women facing unexpected life situations, and what it looks like to exhibit strength and dignity in those journeys.

3. Each of the books in The Texas Gold series is set in a metropolitan area in Texas. What is your favorite city to write about? What about to visit?

A Woman of Fortune, which released last summer, was set where I live in Dallas. I found it really fun to showcase my favorite local venues—the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Texas State Fair, the grand historic Adolphus Hotel, and the posh area of Highland Park where billionaires are as plentiful as the mansions surrounded by oak trees.

This upcoming release, Where Rivers Part, is set in San Antonio. What a fun research trip! I found the Alamo, the Menger Hotel with its fabled ghost stories, and the nearby town of Gruene all fascinating. Oh, and the Riverwalk of course. I can see why that slow winding river lined with restaurants and old hotels is a tourist favorite. (and I love that the Riverwalk is featured on the book cover!)

4. Your novels are epic family dramas, and A Woman of Fortune was compared to the TV show Dallas. What are a few of your favorite TV shows?
This is an easy one to answer. I never miss an episode of THE GOOD WIFE or PARENTHOOD, which is funny because I have a lot of readers compare my books to those popular shows.

5. In your newest novel, Where Rivers Part, Dr. Juliet Ryan is devoted to her career but finds that success comes at a cost. Who did you model Juliet after?

Juliet is a compilation of a woman attorney I worked with who let her ambition blind her to the more important relationships in her life. She’s part me, of course. And, she’s fashioned after the key executive who was in charge of quality control for a fast food restaurant involved in a deadly outbreak of foodborne illness resulting from undercooked hamburger, which sickened many and sadly killed some toddlers.

During this executive’s deposition, the plaintiff’s attorney posed questions meant to vilify him and suggest his lack of oversight caused the death of those children. As you might expect, several hours of this took its toll. But, none of us in that room that day anticipated the moment the man buried his head in his hands and fell to tears.

I knew there was a story behind those tears and I wanted to tell it . . . even if only in my imagination.

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