Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little

I’ve posted about Kimberley Griffiths Little and The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets before, but now I have her in (virtual) person. Read and be inspired:

What made you pick the bayou for the location of two of your books? Did you previously live there?

Answer: I live there in my dreams! :-) Our family drove through Louisiana about 13 years ago and I fell in love. Hard. We went out with a Cajun fisherman and pulled up his crawfish traps and explored the swamps and bayous and fed chicken to the alligators. Now I'm *officially* adopted by several Louisiana families.

If you didn’t ever live on the bayou, how did you research the location?

Answer: I return to Louisiana often and stay with friends or we rent cabins on the bayous, go canoeing, dancing, etc. I read everything I could get my hands on, did University Special Collections research in Lafayette, speak French with the older people, visit every museum, small town and graveyard, and chat up everybody I meet.

Both books have healers/traiteurs. How did you research for those characters?

Answer: I've met 7 different traiteurs and talked with dozens more people who are related to one, or been healed by a traiteur. I first read a tiny snippet about traiteurs in a book about the history of the Cajun people by a State University professor which greatly intrigued me and the hunt was on to find out more about them. I love unusual places and people and history and Louisiana has that in spades. (I also found out through genealogy research that my husband's family originally came from France into Quebec about the same time (1650s) as the Cajun people who went to Nova Scotia. And that our original surname is actually Monpetit - NOT Little! It was changed after the Civil War when the family left Quebec and came into St Paul Minnesota. I tease my hubby with, "I could have been Kimberley Monpetit!" Maybe I'll use it if I ever need a pen name in the future!

Both novels have fractured mother-daughter relationships (which I can relate to). Did you borrow from real life to make the dynamics between the characters authentic?

I have two sisters and some of the dynamics are probably sub-consciously taken from our relationships when we were growing up, although we're very close now. I tried to make it feel real and authentic as far as emotions and family dynamics. I also have three brothers so we had a wild and crazy household. As far as mother/daughter relationships, I think I drew on those same emotions as I was growing up and the sort of love/hate relationship girls and moms often have as our relationships grow and change over the years. At its very basics though: No girl wants her mother reading her diary!

How many books have you published?

Answer: The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets are my 4th and 5th novels, but my first books published by Scholastic - and my first books after an 8 year *famine* when I published three novels with Avon and Knopf. I changed agents, kept writing despite all those years of no sales and rejection letters, but I strived to become a better writer and it's paying off. Guess I'm a slow learner!

What has been the easiest novel to write and why?

Answer: NO book is easy! Most of mine took many years of rewriting. And I have about 10 practice novels that are sitting in my files. After so much writing now, I am getting faster though, and my first drafts are better - but I think I've put in about 10,000 writing hours over the last twenty years!

When did you first begin writing?

Answer: I was a Book Addict as a kid and started writing stories back in elementary school and just never stopped.

When did you begin writing seriously?

Answer: When I took the Institute of Children's Literature Course. I had never met another writer or author in my life, knew nobody in publishing, and had no idea the basics of crafting and submitting a story for publication. ICL Courses teach you all those vital skills so it was invaluable and some of my first sold magazine pieces came from that course.

How long did it take to obtain an agent?

Answer: Tracey Adams is my second agent and took nearly three years of querying, although that time frame is a little deceiving. I spent months and months researching agents and making sure I queried the ones who would be the very best match for me. I'd heard fantastic things about Tracey Adams from other writer friends, but at the time she was closed to queries so I had to wait to meet her at a conference. I followed her to SCBWI LA! She was so inundated with submissions it was many months later (and after sending her two full manuscripts) that we finally signed each other up! Six weeks later we had a 3-book deal with Scholastic. But I did query about 50 other agents!

Any advice you can give to us writers?

READ tons of books to figure out what kind you want to write. WRITE thousands of pages. GET a critique group for professional feedback. RESEARCH agents and publishing houses and editors. SUBMIT, submit, submit, until you hit pay dirt! But a word of caution: Don't submit too early! Make sure it sparkles! But do jump into the online writing world because it's fantastic and fun and you will make life-long friends.

Quick writing questions:

Plotter or panster? Combination Plotter/Panster

Quiet or music? Mostly quiet, but I do love music sometimes, too, for inspiration.

Laptop or desktop? Laptop with attached ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

Mac or PC? PC - but I've always wanted to try a Mac because everybody I know raves about their Macs!

Coffee or tea? Dr Pepper all the way!

Wine or other? Go DP - or Crystal Lite lemonade!

Day or night? Day, usually afternoon.

Circle of Secrets Trailer:


  1. Great interview, Kimberley! It is fascinating to hear about other writers' journeys and how obstacles (such as an 8 year famine and a 3 year agent hunt) don't have to stand in your way -- as long as you don't let them!

    I'll be watching out for your books in Scholastic, to add them to my class collection!

  2. Great interview Kimberly and Theresa. So interesting how you visited your setting and fell in love with it.

    Tracey Adams was the first agent I met at a conference. I'd love to have her or her husband Josh as my agent. Good luck with your books.

  3. You're right--this IS inspiring! It really shows that if things seem slow for awhile, that doesn't mean there aren't wonderful events on the horizon.

  4. I see 2 more books on my TBR pile. I'm very curious about these.
    Excellent post.

  5. I need to discover what a traiteur is ala Cajun stylie! My mind is reading it as "traitor" when it obviously is not! LOL!

    Thank you lovely Theresa and amazing Kimberly for the interview! I say amazing cos it does look like Kimberly thoroughly immersed herself in all things Cajun to get the feel of the place! Lovely!

    Take care

  6. ahh, Louisiana is such an interesting place with so much potential for stoytelling. I'm glad to call it home, and I've written my own LA story... These look fantastic, though. I'm very interested in The Healing Spell! And wow. What a writers' journey. Glad you've found an agent you love and you're back on track. Thanks, Theresa & Kimberley~

  7. Good interview Theresa and Kimberley.

    Also, I like hearing writers emphasize reading as a technique for improvement. Combine that with writing practie, it is a valuable yet easy way to find your style.

  8. Although we have an awesome iMac, I prefer using the slow and ancient PC because I'm familiar with it. One of these days I'll take the time to learn how to better use the iMac for writing. I use the iMac for everything else, like leaving a comment here this morning.

  9. Fantastic interview, ladies. Interesting about the 'traiteur'! And yay for Dr Pepper!

  10. Excellent interview, Theresa!! And I LOVE Kimberly. And Dr. Pepper. And Daytime. And everything about this post. :)

  11. The bayou is a fun setting. I love reading books set there because it feels so far away from where I live it's like a whole new world.
    Great interview!

  12. What a great interview! I wasn't familiar with her novels, now I can't wait to check them out.

  13. Read tons and write thousands of pages, that is golden advice! Great interview ladies!

  14. Great advice! I especially agreed with the part about not submitting work too early. I think that some people are so anxious about getting published that they are willing to turn in their first drafts, which can lessen their chances of getting published.
    I also admire Kimberley for doing all that research, because that's something I need to do more in my own stories.

  15. This is an interesting interview. I learned a lot.

  16. Sounds like you did lots of fun research, Kimberley. Great answers to some great questions. Thanks Theresa and Kimberley.

  17. I heart Louisiana so much--clearly I need to read these books! Great interview, especially the writing advice!

  18. Kimberly, you have given new life to my heart and agent hunt. I was about ready to throw in the towel. But never say die! Woo-hoo. (I've always wanted to try a Mac too.) Shhhhhh :-)

    Great interview, Theresa! I am such a good blogging pal today. I got here on the same day you posted. *pats back* Smooch.

  19. I've read Kimberley's beautifully-written The Healing Spell...I so so loved it.

    Thank you, Kimberley and Theresa for this wonderful interview. I love both the questions and answers.

  20. Loved meeting Kimberley!
    Great advice too!

  21. I've been a follower of hers for a while. Such a great author!!

  22. Again Theresa, another wonderful interview and Kimberly was equally informative. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  23. Alligators are scary. Bayous have mosquitoes. Blech.

  24. I just love all these comments - thank you all so much! It's been a treat to be here on Theresa's blog. She gave me such great questions and it was fun to answer them.

    I like making new blogger friends, too! Yay for teachers, Dianne! (I have Teacher's Guides on my website!)

    It's been a special day reading your wonderful kudos and I'm glad that all my years of angst and self-doubt and crushing rejections can now be a source of encouragement to all the writers here, as well. Never give up, that's for sure!

    So thank you, Dianne, Natalie, Sarah, GigglesandGuns (that's quite a name!) Old Kitty, LTM (a fellow Louisianan - how wonderful that's you're writing about it, too! YAY!) Slam Dunk, Stephen, Talli, Shannon (DP Sisters!) E.R., Connie, Heather, Neurotic (ha, ha!), Belle, Linda, Meredith, Robin, Len, Jennifer, Alleged Author (I know you!) Jules,and Michael (Hey, alligators are exciting, especially when they're chasing you on the lawn! And mosquitoes - well, the gnats and humidity are worse!) The magical beauty and the people make it ALL worth it!

  25. @ Kimberley, thanks for being interviewed for my blog. I had problems with my Internet yesterday, so I couldn't comment on as many blogs as I would've liked (I'll make up for it today) but I e-mailed everyone who commented.

    New Orleans is a fun place. Even though mosquitoes tend to eat me alive, I want to see the bayou next time I visit.

  26. I've always been intrigued by the Bayou! Sounds like these books can take me there! Great interview, ladies. Now I'm craving me some crawfish!

  27. Louisiana bayou country is a fascinating part of the country and makes for an exotic setting. Since most young people have not experience this locale it's good for them to be exposed to it. Now I'm hungry for some jambalaya and boudin.

    Ann Carbine Best visits Wrote By Rote on Saturday 11/12/11

  28. Kimberly exuded such a nice, positive energy in this interview. Very encouraging.

  29. Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Kimberly!

  30. Thanks for a great interview, Theresa and Kimberly. I read another interview with Kimberly recently on someone else's blog - fun how you learn different things each time. I didn't know Kimberly did the ICL course - so did I! And I love your quick questions at the end! Thanks for sharing :)

  31. What a fun interview! And hey, I'm a fellow ICL graduate! I love to read about other writer's journeys, so thanks so much for sharing with us.

  32. Hooray! I just discovered a new author :) These books sound great! I don't know much about the bayou setting, but everything I've heard piques my interest, and the character dynamics sound wonderful.

  33. Fascinating interview! I loved every word, especially the sections when Kimberley talked about the time it took her to writer her novels and the journey toward finding agents and publishers. Great job, Theresa!

  34. I dropped back in and lookee, lookee - more great comments! Gosh, thank you, everyone, you make me feel terrific.

    Samantha, hope you get some crawfish real soon!

    Lee: Oh, I agree that a lot of people don't know what an exotic place LA is and there's never really been a children's book set right in the heart of the swamps so I was dying to write about it! Miss Olive in Stephensville makes the best shrimp jambalaya, too! Yum.

    Missed Periods: Gosh, thank you for those very sweet words!

    Lydia, every writer's journey is so interesting, I always love reading about them, too. Thank you!

    Susanna: We're ICL siblings! Yay! Those courses REALLY helped get me going.

    Julie: And you, too! Super for ICL. A LOT of people have graduated from there and gone on to become well published, prolific writers. Cool!

    Jess: THANK YOU so much!!! Hope you enjoy the books!

    Nicole: Gosh, thanks, Nicole. I'm not sure I've ever been called "fascinating" before! You made my day! :-)

    Well, actually, Y'ALL made my day, and thank you again Theresa - you are terrific!