I am absolutely thrilled to welcome our fellow debut author Kristin Wright to the debutante ball this week. Her southern gothic suspense Lying Beneath The Oaks was recently released in January, and I know I’m not the only one who’d been looking forward to that for many months! Kristin is a native Midwesterner and a graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan Law School. She works as a local government lawyer in rural Virginia. She lives a mile from any pavement in the country with her husband, two sons, two beagles, and a handful of cows. A Pitch Wars mentor since 2015, this is her first novel.
Don’t forget to follow our instructions at the end of the post to enter to win a copy of this deliciously suspenseful book! Without further ado, here’s our interview:
The road to publication is twisty at best—tell us about some of your twists.
I’d describe that road as long, mostly uphill, and with a few ankle-spraining potholes. I hike with my family several times a year. Writing and hiking have this in common: you expend a lot of energy and more than a few tears to feel like you’ve gotten anywhere at all. My writing tends to veer romantic even when I sit down to write tense suspense, thoughtful women’s fiction, or even contemporary YA. I’m not good at putting my work neatly on a bookstore shelf, apparently. That blend of genres makes my work a bit tougher to sell. It took three manuscripts to get an agent, and then three more before I sold one. All around me authors celebrated after their books sold at auction or after what they considered a grinding four months on submission to publishers, while I just wrote books, put them on sub, took them off sub, got out shovels, and buried them over and over for years. Waiting and persisting is about 90% of writing, though, and finally I waited long enough to get to see my (first of many, I hope) book on bookstore shelves.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I had to do some thinking there, because I’ve had a lot of strange jobs (ask me about being a telemarketer! A home-alarm monitor! A Senate intern!). In college, I worked at a Civil War-era fort in my hometown of Detroit as a living history interpreter. This meant wearing the correct garb and pretending for the benefit of tour groups that I lived in 1864 and had no knowledge of anything that happened afterwards. It was great fun to argue with schoolchildren over who the president was, why on earth they were wearing clothing that exposed their limbs, and how a zipper might work. I also acquired a very odd (and ineradicable) base of knowledge: how to fire a cannon, how fast Union soldiers should reload their rifles, who the vice-president was in the summer of 1864 (nope, not Andrew Johnson). I wrote a YA book set at the fort, which was really fun.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
In 2014 I met Mary Ann Marlowe when we both entered an online writing contest. We read snippets of each other’s work, got intrigued, and eventually worked up the courage to swap first chapters. Only after we’d read and critiqued the other’s whole manuscript did we realize we lived ninety minutes apart. We’ve expanded our group since then and now have four or five other writers we’d each be willing to take a bullet for, but she’ll always be my first reader because she’s been there all along. She’s excellent at reading and sending back an email that says, “I love X and Y! Now, if you just delete the first three chapters to speed up the pacing, this story can go to the next level.” Her best emails first make me want to kick things and then make me race to my keyboard.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I don’t remember learning to read; I feel like I’ve always known. I do remember my parents calling my name from a great distance to get my attention back from Narnia or Prince Edward Island or wherever I’d gone. I started with my father’s old set of The Bobbsey Twins books and never looked back. I loved Anne of Green Gables, Lois Duncan, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. There’s a little Gilbert Blythe in every one of my male main characters. I remember the highlighted copy of Forever we passed around in furtive, under-the-desk maneuvers in seventh grade. I started borrowing my mother’s romance novels early (age eleven, I think) and learned a few things that ought to have curled my hair at that age, but didn’t. Better than any school-sponsored sex ed curriculum!
What does literary success look like to you?
I started writing my first manuscript because my husband had commented a number of times that I had an uncanny way with description when I’d tell him about someone I’d seen. He said I’d be wasting a talent if I didn’t try to write a book (thank you, Frank!). When I started that first one, I mainly wanted to see if I could actually finish it. At first, finishing was the success I dreamed of. I’d never written anything anywhere near that long: I was always the girl who turned in papers in Courier so they filled up the pages and seemed longer. That’s hard to believe now after I’ve written nine manuscripts. My idea of success now isn’t much different: publishing this book means that I get to add a book to the universe of words out there in the world. I’ve read a thousand books or more—spent my life enjoying the fruits of other people’s labor—it’s only right that I return the favor. I’m paying an overdue debt and it feels amazing.
Molly Todd wakes up in a Vegas parking lot with a headache, a virtual stranger, and a wedding ring. Jobless and broke, she’s left with no other option but to go home with new husband Cooper Middleton to the Lowcountry of South Carolina to straighten out the mess they’ve made. It’s in Molly’s best interest to get an annulment sooner rather than later–before her hosts find out that she’s not the kind of guest anyone wants at their Thanksgiving dinner.
The more Molly gets to know Cooper and his family, the more she wonders if she and Cooper might have a real chance together. She longs to tell him her secret even though she knows the truth might get her kicked straight out into the nearby swamp. While she wavers, Molly’s unusual life experiences allow her to spot the skeletons in the Middleton family closet: ones Cooper’s never suspected, ones that are hidden in plain sight. What Molly discovers will shake Cooper’s foundations–and could threaten both their lives.
Twisty, romantic and full of suspense, Wright’s first novel takes readers on a journey into the heart of the Lowcountry and into a home full of secrets long buried beneath the oaks of Charleston.
To win a signed copy of LYING BENEATH THE OAKS, follow us on Twitter and retweet our post about this interview, or do the same on Facebook. For extra entries, leave us a comment below! We’ll choose a winner on Friday and be in touch shortly afterwards!