A quick bio: “Kim Edwards grew up in Skaneateles, New York, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The oldest of four children, she graduated from Colgate University and the University of Iowa, where she received an MFA in Fiction and an MA in Linguistics. After completing her graduate work, she went with her husband to Asia, where they spent the next five years teaching, first on the rural east coast of Malaysia, then in a small city an hour south of Tokyo, and finally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Kim is best known for her books The Memory Keepers Daugher which spent 122 weeks in the New York Times Bestseller list (with 20 weeks at #1). Her latest book, The Lake of Dreams, has just been published in hardback.
I was lucky enough to interview Kim on the phone last week and she was very polite and lovely to talk to. So please give Kim a warm welcome on to my blog.
Boof – Congratulations on the success of your first book, The Memory Keepers Daughter. Where you surprised by the reaction it got?
Kim – Yes. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what happened, especially as it was in the New York Times bestseller list for so long. It was astonishing.
Boof – I know, it was 122 weeks in total. That’s some achievement.
Kim – When it first came out in hardback it got some publicity but not much but when it came out in paperback, it was word of mouth and really just seemed to take off. I never thought that would happen.
Boof – When writing The Lake of Dreams did you feel any pressure to deliver something that would become as highly acclaimed?
Kim – I started writing The Lake of Dreams before The Memory Keeper’s Daugher was even published so I had a long time to think about The Lake of Dreams beforehand. It would have been difficult if I had not already started it but as it was I had familiar characters so it was easier to write.
Boof – In both your books, the role of women in society has played a big part. Is this deliberate?
Kim – In The Memory Keeper’s Daughter I was interested in thinking about the role of women in the 1960’s and the difference between then and my life today. In The Lake of Dreams I admit I hadn’t paid much attention to the suffragettes, even though it all started only 30 miles from where I grew up in The Finger Lakes [USA]. I took a leap of faith with this story.
Boof – What sort of research did you do into the Suffragette movement and how did learning about them make you feel?
Kim: It was astonishing. I did most of my research in the run up to the 2008 election and a lot of the themes I was researching came up again which was both fascinating and disturning particularly around Sarah Palin’s campaign. There was one columnist whos name I forget who was saying that perhaps women should have the right to vote taken off them again which, even if tongue-in-cheek, was very distasteful.
Boof – How do you come up with the ideas for your books? Which comes first the plot or the characters?
Kim – Always the characters. I discover them as I’m writing. In both books I had no idea what was coming. In The Lake of Dreams, I started with Lucy but I didn’t know straight away what she would discover.
Boof – There seems to be an increasing amount of interest in geniology and family trees (with programmes such as “Who Do You Think You Are” etc. Did you use this deliberately as a plot or was it incidental?
Kim – It sort of evolved. I knew there would be some secrecy around an ancestor but it was more of a logistical decision as the plot developed. I have never personally done any research into my own family tree but I know people who have and it’s fascinating.
Boof – Who are your literary heros?
Kim – Dead or alive?
Boof – Both.
Kim – Okay, dead would be Virginia Wolfe, Dosteovsky and George Eliot. Alive would be William Trevor and Alice Munroe.
Boof – Which book do you wish you had written?
Kim – I don’t typically think I wish I had written a particular book but I do try to learn from ones that I enjoy. I try to think “how did they do that?”
Boof – You’re stranded on a desert island for a year: which 3 books do you take?
Kim – I’d need things to keep me going so The Complete Works of Shakespeare, a collection of the Greek playwrites and a copy of the old and new testament.
Boof – You are allowed to travel back in time for one day – when and where do you go?
Kim – July 1848. I’d like to go back to the Declaration of Sentiments and to meet all those women who founded the sufragette movement. It was 72 years until women got the right to vote based on their work and I’d like to tell them that it will be worth it!
Boof – what a great thing to do! I like it.
Boof – Do you have any famous fans?
Kim – Jodi Picoult once wrote a beautiful quote about my book which she wasn’t asked to do so I suppose she would be counted as a fan.
Boof – Finally, the quick fire round:
Favourite colour – purple
Favourite animal – mink
Favourite food – greek yoghurt
Favourite song – anything by U2
Favourite holiday destination – I have a little cottage on a lake
Favourite childhood memory – Swimming in the lakes where I lived
Thank you to Kim for taking the time to speak with me!
Look out for my review of The Lake of Dreams later this week – you may be surprised……