Kellie Coates Gilbert made a splash when she released her debut novel MOTHER OF PEARL just two years ago. I’ve been waiting to see what else Kellie would be giving the Women’s Fiction world and it didn’t take long. This month her latest novel A WOMAN OF FORTUNE released and I’m happily reading it on my eReader. I like to learn what’s different about each author, and for Kellie, it’s her career experience as a Legal Investigator. I’m so honored to bring you this great interview with Kellie.
Me: How did you come up with the story for Woman of Fortune?
Kellie: A Woman of Fortune tell the story of Texas socialite Claire Massey who 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.
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?
Me: How did your time as a Legal Investigator help you with writing this book?
Kellie: Over the course of my lengthy legal career, I spent a lot of time in courtrooms working on high profile cases. 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.
This story is particularly seeped with my legal background. As a legal investigator, I helped unravel the largest cattle fraud in the nation. I spent weeks in the Midwest interviewing and collecting records from farmers and ranchers who had invested with United Producers, a large cattle brokerage outfit. Ultimately, the owner George Young and his office assistant, Kathleen McConnell were imprisoned for many of the things you’ll see showcased in A WOMAN OF FORTUNE.
Me: What surprised you about writing the main character in this story?
Kellie: Claire Massey became so real to me as I journeyed through the creation of this novel. More of my own “stuff” landed on the page than I’d intended, frankly. As an author, I had to come face-to-face with the knowledge of how often I define myself with worldly goods and accomplishments – with status. It was a bit freaky to consider how I might react if all of that was suddenly pulled away. What would I do? What course of action would I take? And how would I survive that experience with my soul intact?
I knew my first reaction (and Claire’s) would be to deny my world had changed. I’d likely try to cling to my normal and fight the change for as long as I could, even if the fight was in my head.
Claire was surprised (and I think readers will be too) at who Claire learned she could trust . . . and who she couldn’t. You find out the identity of your real true friends are when you face hard times, and life gets a bit ugly.
Me: What else is in the works?
Kellie: The TEXAS GOLD books are a collection of stand-alone contemporary women’s fiction novels all set in major metropolitan cities of Texas – Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Austin.
WHERE RIVERS PART is set in San Antonio, with many scenes at the popular River Walk. Ambition and loyalty vie for a place in an over-confident water quality director’s heart as she learns her company is the source of an e-coli outbreak, and is forced to team with her estranged father to expose who is responsible.
I worked on the Jack-in-the-Box e-coli litigation in the nineties where several toddlers died in the Seattle area from eating undercooked hamburger. I think this lends to an air of authenticity and I hope readers enjoy this thrilling and highly-emotional drama scheduled to release next February.
Me: How do you hope this story impacts your readers?
Kellie: Well, first – I just hope readers enjoy the story. Early readers are telling us the book reminds them of watching a PARENTHOOD or GOOD WIFE episode on television. As an author, I’m known for creating an emotionally poignant story, with twists the readers never saw coming. This email reflects what I commonly hear from my readers:
“Hi Kellie . . . I just wanted to say your book was touching, gut wrenching and truly amazing at the same time and made me cry a lot. This book made me feel like I knew this family just by reading your book. You’re an amazing writer! It’s very hard for me to find the “Right” book to where once I start to read I can’t put it down. I finished it and just wanted to let you know I can’t wait to read the next one!”
(Readers, you have no idea what your emails and reviews mean to an author! Thank you for taking the time to give feedback when you read a novel.)
Ultimately though, I’d love women to come away from this novel with a re-calibrated understanding of where (and in Whom) our security rests.
Me: Thank you, Kellie! I agree about how much the feedback from readers matters to an author, plus it helps spread the word about books. I’m enjoying your novel and love how you bring your characters to life. I’m so excited you took the time to share your latest with us. I love when authors include book trailer videos, so I’m including your video for A Woman Of Fortune here:
Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal who writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people react under pressure. Kellie’s books tell emotionally poignant stories about women in life-changing circumstances. She writes about messy lives . . . and eternal hope.
Kellie currently makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and a very spoiled 2.7 lb. Yorkie named Emmie Sweetpea.
Please visit her online at www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com