Change the Word: How did you come up with this book?
Kim Boykin: I met a woman who was raised in Appalachia. She told me how hard her life was growing up, how she had a succession of drunk "daddies" her mother brought home, and how she knew she had to get out of that situation and if she ever wanted to make something of herself. She left the mountains and went on to become a teacher.
CTW: What research was involved in the planning?
KB: I wish I could say I poured hours and hours into research, but no. Stories just come to me, I don't plot or outline. I just hear my people's voices and start writing. In earlier versions of The Wisdom of Hair, about one third of the book was about Zora's hard mountain life. But the story really begins when Zora decides she has to leave home to find a better life. Starting the story there gave it more traction. Agents and editors were asking to see the whole manuscript, so I knew I was on the right track.
CTW: What challenges did you face writing it?
KB: The biggest challenge for a Southern writer publishing a book for the masses is to make sure that the Southerness can be understood by anyone who reads it no matter where they're from. For instance, if you say "beach music" anywhere but here in the Carolinas, people think The Beach Boys. But beach music here is music groups like the Tams, the Drifters, General Johnson, who toured up and down the Atlantic coast for years. Now knockoff bands have take their places so that Carolinians can get still their shag (the state dance of SC) on.
CTW: How do you stay motivated to keep writing?
KB: I've done this for so long, I wouldn't know how to not write. Occasionally, I'll hit a snag with a plot element. In those cases I have some great girlfriends who are fabulous writers. We brain storm and laugh a lot until I'm back on track again.
KB: I'm a garden variety "The Wizard of Oz" kind of fan. I knew the dialogue by heart at one time. When my son who is now 23 was about four, he developed a creepy obsession with villianesses. The wicked step mother, Cruella DeVille, the evil queen in Snow White. After he first saw "The Wizard of Oz," he ran around the house with a broomstick between his legs all the time, jumping down the stairs threatening to fly. You can't have "The Wizard of Oz" without the witch. That killed the movie for me for a long time, and today, my son is an actor.
CTW: What book is the most read on your bookshelf?
KB: Had A Good Time by Robert Olen Butler
CTW: What is your favorite recent read?
KB: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
CTW: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
KB: Figure out what texture is and use it to make the writing rich.
CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
KB: LOTS of promotion for The Wisdom of Hair while I await news about the two books on submission with my editor.
CTW: Anything else you would like to share?
KB: I read part of a book the other day that a woman had taken time to write and paid good money to publish. She had a compelling story but didn't take time to learn the craft before she published. Whether you self-pub or traditionally publish, make sure the work is as good as possible. If you can't hire an editor and a copy editor get into a critique group and make friends with folks with those skills, but above all, start learning you craft and never stop.
About the Author
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Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvwjeNhShCU
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