Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal who writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people react under pressure. She loves to tell emotionally poignant stories about women in life-changing circumstances, with messy lives . . . encompassing eternal hope. Kellie signed her first book contract in 2011. Mother of Pearl released last month from Abingdon Press.
She currently makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and a very spoiled Yorkie named Ava.
What sparked your writing journey?
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.
So, I lifted an outrageous prayer and asked for the impossible.
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.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
My agent urged me to write romance to break into publishing. I did, and my first novel sold. But that story was not one that burned in my heart as I wrote. When the publishing house switched directions and pulled back even before we got the contract, the situation was an easy one to let go of.
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. These are the stories of my heart.
How does your faith play into your writing?
St. Augustine tells my own faith story with this quote: “In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it dazzled me.”
I try to paint that sentiment on every page, but in a subtle manner. I want my books to appeal to all kinds of readers—those who sit on church pews and barstools alike.
I write poignant and emotionally compelling stories about women in life-changing circumstances.
I knew my first novel would focus on mothering and the perils women face in this role, especially during the teen years. I didn’t even know how many things there were to be afraid of until I had my first child. From the moment the nurse placed that tiny infant in my arms, a fierce need to protect bubbled from the deepest part of me.
As a novelist, I asked the question: What would a mother do if suddenly life took a turn and she learned the child she thought she’d protected had fallen into the hands of someone unsafe? And what if she found out too late?
Early, when the inception of this story was still noodling in my brain, I saw a sadly recurring event on the news, the story of a coach who had inappropriately been involved with a teenager. While the cameras honed on the major players, I couldn’t help but wonder if the girl’s mother stood just out of view. What was she feeling?
Besides entertainment, what do you hope readers will take away from it?
“They have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.” Psalm 107:24 NAS
Like many, my life has taken unexpected and sometimes frightening twists and turns. At those times, only God can provide comfort and security. And, it’s in those events where you glimpse His majesty. When women find themselves in the deep places in life, I hope they will think of Barrie Graeber and remember, life-changing circumstances can be conduits to His majesty.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
There is an evil one who wants to keep stories that inspire readers to move closer to God out of the marketplace. Much prayer is needed for publishers of inspirational fiction, and authors. Especially novelists like me, who write about messy lives . . . and eternal hope.
As a debut author, what advice would you offer to writers—young or older—who are just starting out?
Read. Don’t get in a hurry. Learn as much about the craft of writing as you can before you start submitting. Get a great agent (and editor). And read. Then, read some more. In the end, great story trumps great craft. If you have both, you’re far ahead of the pack trying to break in.
And here’s a bit of a secret: Publishing a novel is as fun as you think it will be. Nothing compares to a reader email that says she couldn’t put your book down and your story will remain in her heart.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Ha – my critique partners could easily answer this one. MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY! They all celebrated their first contracts with Chocolate Grenache cake (made by Janice Olson) and I gathered my friends at a restaurant called Babe’s, where they serve chicken fried steak and the best mashed potatoes and gravy ever!
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
A song written and performed by K.T. Oslin. Seems like each of the popular songs she debuted in the eighties was taken from a part of my life. Love the stories hidden in her lyrics.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Wow! Great question, Kathy.
Others could dub me the strong, female lead. But Jesus knows I am the little girl trying to walk in high heels.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
This summer, we lost our beloved little Yorkie named Ava to an accidental drowning in our pool. Every word of MOTHER OF PEARL was written with that tiny animal on my lap. The loss nearly killed me.
But, my husband and I were able to get our hands on another little darling . . . a 2.9 pound girl we named Emmie Sweetpea! We adore her. I can tend to take life pretty seriously, and her antics remind me life must be balanced with pure fun.
My boys are raised and on their own. Emmie meets that deep need in me to nurture. And it helps that I can put pink bows in her hair!
Thanks, Kellie! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Kellie, visit her website at http://kelliecoatesgilbert.com/.
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