A former legal investigator and trial paralegal, Kellie Coates Gilbert is now a full-time writer drawing on her past experiences—watching how people react under pressure—to create stories about women in life-changing circumstances… and eternal hope.
After her critically acclaimed women’s fiction debut, Mother of Pearl (Abingdon Press), in 2012, Kellie signed a multi-release contract with Revell. A Woman of Fortune, the first book in her Texas Gold Collection, releases today.
More than thirty years ago, Kellie “fell” for her skydiving instructor. Today they’re doting grandparents to a three-year-old grandson. They live in Dallas, Texas.
Congratulations on your new book, A Woman of Fortune (Revell, June 2014)—and the beautiful cover art. Please tell us a little about the story.
Texas socialite Claire Massey is living the dream—designer clothes, luxury cars, stunning homes. But her Neiman Marcus lifestyle comes crashing down when her charming cattle broker husband is arrested for fraud. Suddenly she finds herself facing attorneys, a media frenzy, and a trail of broken hearts. Betrayed and humiliated, Claire must start over against incredible odds to save her family—and discover a life worth living.
What gave you the idea? Is this the first in a series or a standalone?
In late 2008, many of us watched as master financier Bernie Madoff’s story unfolded. I couldn’t seem to pull my eyes from the television as the man accused of swindling thousands of innocent victims—including family and friends—out of billions of dollars in the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, was taken from his posh Manhattan apartment in handcuffs and his family became vilified in the media. The events held particular interest for me.
In my former role as a legal professional, I helped unravel, what was then, the largest cattle fraud in the United States. I interviewed dozens who were caught in the betrayal and who found themselves and their businesses floundering as a result. These stories fascinate me on many levels, but in particular, I’m intrigued with the families behind the scenes. What is it like for a wife to learn her husband is a criminal? What happens to children when they face that kind of shame? We know, at least in part, what transpired in the Madoff family in the aftermath—fractured relationships, family devastation and suicide.
As a novelist, I yearned to explore what might happen if the converse were true. What would the story look like if a strong woman protagonist bucked the odds and used her faith to land on solid ground?
A Woman of Fortune is the first of a four book collection of contemporary women’s fiction stories called the Texas Gold Collection. Each will be set in a metropolitan city of Texas—Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Austin.
Your novel debut, Mother of Pearl, dealt with a lot of raw emotion, and you’ve said that you like to write ‘emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing situations.’ What brought you to that place, i.e. what drives Kellie, the author?
I spent a lot of time in courtrooms working on high profile cases, including the Jack-in-the-Box e-coli litigation in the mid-nineties and the largest cattle fraud case in the United States. People are often at their most vulnerable in these tense 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 telling stories about women facing relationship fractures, betrayal, and loss and what it looks like to exhibit strength and dignity in these journeys.
I am meant to write stories for women that focus on relationships, and the deep places in life. People have many layers, and never more than in family dynamics and hard times. I’m intrigued with the coping mechanisms we employ to fill our empty places—that space inside of us designed to be inhabited by God. These are the stories of my heart.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
All of it! It’s true . . . being a full-time novelist is as much fun as you might think!
I love coming up with the premise.
I love building characters with broken places and placing them in impossible situations that will force then to change and to perhaps look to God for help.
I love the research.
I ADORE the writing.
I have so much fun connecting with readers and hearing what how the stories I wrote played in their own minds, and how they left the stories thinking about life a little differently.
You know this, Kathy. There’s just nothing like it!
We’ve talked about detours in the past. Can you tell us about a recent “detour” in your life—or in one of your character’s lives—that taught you something?
I started writing A Woman of Fortune believing the main message would be one of learning to focus on something other than material wealth for security, and that theme is definitely part of the story. But, I was surprised when a deeper theme appeared, one of relationship. Claire Massey was forced to redefine her relationship with her husband, her sons, her daughter, her best friend and her mother. Isn’t that so often the case, Kathy? That when we go through a life-changing event, nothing stays the same? And especially our relationships with the key people in our lives?
What’s the title of the last GREAT book you’ve read?
Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King
What’s your current favorite song on the radio or your mp3 player?
Micky Mouse Clubhouse…..I sing it often with my little three year old grandson!
What verse or story in the Bible best describes your faith journey?
I most identify with Peter. Before he became a strong rock, he was a stumbling block, with a few ears cut off, some denials, a couple of misguided expectations, and times where his focus was off along the way. In spite of his “detours” Jesus still gave Peter a voice to influence others and a life that truly mattered.
Thanks, Kellie! It’s great to have you back at DivineDetour.
There are some real gems in this business, Kathy. You are definitely one of them. I’ll never forget the time we spent together in Nashville at the Southern Festival of Books when our books debuted together that fall. Blessings on you and your career, my friend. Thank you for having me on your blog again!
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