Dossier: a file containing detailed records on a particular person or subject. —Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Most blogs and individual websites contain a “bio” or an “about me” section. On Kimberly Reid’s website, her personal information is listed under “Dossier.” Let’s use that as our first clue of the kind of books Ms. Reid writes.
According to her dossier, Ms. Reid grew up in Atlanta, but now resides in Colorado. Both places have provided beautiful scenery for her Langdon Prep Series. Also interesting are the similarities between Ms. Reid, and her main character, Chanti. These similarities provide the next set of clues:
1. They both attended a prep school where they did not fit in;
2. Their moms were police detectives and both Kimberly and Chanti wanted to help solve crimes; and
3. Both have lived most of their lives around law enforcement types.
Have you figured it out? Yes! Ms. Reid writes crime-solving mysteries!
Like many authors, Ms. Reid held several jobs prior to finding her dream work as a writer. She enjoyed many of those jobs (and they provide great background for books) but she found her joy when she became a writer, the job she dreamed of doing since childhood.
On this the 20th day of February, The Brown Bookshelf is honored to spotlight author, Kimberly Reid.
A decade passed between my first attempt at publication and my first sale. I knew nothing about the business and sent full manuscripts to publishing houses. After a handful of rejections, I gave up on seeing my book in print, though I continued to write. By 2005 when I gave it another go, I’d taken workshops, studied the publishing process, and learned that a handful of rejections meant I was just getting started.
I attended a writer’s conference and discussed my novel with agent Kristin Nelson during a pitch session. We’re both in the Denver area so I had met her at some local publishing events. She was the agent I wanted, but she didn’t seem excited by the story I was pitching. I switched gears and quickly pitched my work-in-progress about growing up during the Atlanta Missing Children investigation, on which my mother was a lead detective. That got Kristin’s attention. She asked me to send the manuscript when it was complete. Several months later, I sent it to her, she offered representation, and we sold No Place Safe to Kensington Books in 2006. It won the Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction the following year.
The rights recently reverted to me and I just released the e-book, so now I’m a hybrid author, traditionally and self-published.
The Back Story:
Memoir puts it all out there, which can be a little unnerving. I decided to make things up from that point on, but I wasn’t sure what to write. I studied my trunk novels to discover what they had in common: a crime and a teen protagonist even though I’d written them for adults. They also shared a failed attempt at being deep and earnest. I got over my dream of someday winning the Nobel and figured out YA crime fiction with a touch of humor is my thing. I stole from my life again, this time only for the basic premise of a story—a teen girl becomes an amateur detective thanks to skills learned from her cop mom. I really did learn a lot about detective work from my mother, but was never brave enough to put the knowledge to use. Now I can through my heroine, Chanti.
Kristin pitched My Own Worst Frenemy to my memoir publisher. They liked the story but turned it down because they weren’t sure it was a good fit for their list. Every writer has likely received that particular rejection letter, but what happened a few months later is rare. The editor called my agent to see if the manuscript was still available. Kensington was launching a new YA line called K-Teen and she was looking for stories for the multicultural imprint K-Teen/Dafina. You need to write a good book, but you also need a very big dose of luck and timing when it comes to being traditionally published.
With my early manuscripts, I had a let-the-muse-guide me approach to writing, thinking it wasn’t very artistic to plan a book. Those manuscripts went unsold because they were a convoluted mess. In my day job as a project manager, I was all about the planning, so I applied those skills to writing. I found it especially useful to outline mysteries. You have to figure out where the red herrings go, keep track of who knows what and when—I found it was just too hard to wing it. There are mystery writers who do it well, but I’m not one of them. Now that I have a basic process, I usually tweak it with each new manuscript.
That’s the thing about The Process. Not only is it different for every writer; it’s different for every book.
Generally, I start by figuring out who the main character is and what she wants. That first step is huge because conflict drives story. My protagonist must want or need something she can’t have, but will try to get, anyway. I also have to know the end before I start. The original endings never stick, but it gives me something to work toward. All of that planning happens in my head for a couple of months before I begin writing, which goes fairly quickly because I know what has to happen to reach the end.
The writing starts with a one-sentence description of the action in each chapter. This helps with the pacing, gives me a high-level view of the story, and ensures something is happening in every chapter to move the story forward. Then I turn the one sentence into a one-page synopsis per chapter, which becomes the outline. Once I have the outline done, I power through the first draft because it’s my least favorite and the most difficult to write. I prefer revision to writing. The final book only vaguely resembles that original outline, but I have to trick myself into thinking I know exactly what will happen or I’d probably never start, much less finish.
The mental writing happens anywhere—grocery store lines, waiting at the doctor’s office, while riding the bus. The physical writing can only happen in my home office, on an ancient laptop with no internet connection. I’m too easily distracted (by pretty much anything) to write anywhere else.
My Own Worst Frenemy
Chanti is smart and funny, and this multicultural cast is a welcome addition to the world of teen mysteries. This clever mystery with a biting look at class and privilege is a breath of fresh air.
Creeping With the Enemy
From School Library Journal
Chanti is an engaging and well-developed character; she’s full of humor and spunk, and readers will definitely want to know if she gets her man—the bad one and the good one. All of her friends, foes, loves, and neighbors round out this intriguing and suspenseful mystery. A great choice for those who like a bit of romance and suspense in their mysteries and a lot of spirit in their detectives.
Sweet 16 to Life
Reid continues the snappy dialogue and clever storytelling of the previous volumes, and readers will detect real growth in Chanti as she works her way through her difficulties. There are times when Chanti’s insight is laugh-out-loud humorous. A cliffhanger ending will have readers clamoring for more.
Find out more about Kimberly Reid on her website: http://Kimberlyreid.com
Thank you, Kimberly, for giving us a glimpse of you, your books, and your path to publication!