I started Daily (w)rite with a mission to be a regular with my writing. Fifteen years later, this site has not just kept me on the straight and narrow when it comes to my writing practice, it’s also afforded the opportunity to speak with some fabulous bestselling writers. By interviewing them, it isn’t just me who has learned and grown as a writer. So many aspiring authors write in regularly, saying how helpful the posts from bestselling authors have been.
So it makes my heart happy to be able to bring to you the absolutely delightful Kimberly Belle, the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eight novels, including The Personal Assistant, The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller, and the co-authored #1 Audible Original, Young Rich Widows. Her books have been published in more than a dozen languages and optioned for film and television.
I asked her questions on the writing life and process that leads to a bestselling book, and here are her incredibly generous and helpful responses.
1. What brought you to the writing life?
I’m not one of those writers who penned her first novel in crayon. Writing was something I’ve always loved, but it’s my second career. My first was nonprofit fundraising, which I did happily for more than a decade until 2008, when the economy crashed and so did my job. Literally all my clients gone—poof!—overnight. I decided to see my sudden unemployment as a now-or-never moment, a nudge from the universe to write the book I’d always dreamed of writing. I wrote two before I found an agent, but she sold both and the rest is history. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
2. You use multiple points of view in your novels with amazing results. What are the advantages and challenges of doing this?
Thank you! I love writing stories with multiple points of view and dueling timelines, as both are an easy “trick” to keep the reader’s pages flipping. This is not to say it’s easy to write from different points of view. Sometimes it’s hard to find their voices or they sound too similar. When that’s the case, I often write in one POV for a stretch of 3-4 chapters and then weave them together afterward. Same goes for dueling timelines—I typically write the stories separately then weave them together once I’m further along in the draft. But I can do this because I work from an outline, so I always know where the story is headed.
3. Your bestselling novels often contain jaw-dropping twists. For a fledgling thriller writer, what’s the best way to learn how to write twists?
Twists are so hard! Not so much coming up with them – because really, a twist doesn’t have to be all that groundbreaking. The trick is more in how you present them to the reader. Sometimes it’s a twist grounded in structure, other times a surprise in what happens or the identity of the villain. Either way, the trick is to give the reader something they don’t see coming, but readers are smart and a twist can’t come out of the blue. You have to build in little hints and red herrings along the way.
Ultimately, writing a good twist is about managing the flow of information to the reader. Information that is released too soon kills the suspense, while information withheld for too long can feel frustrating and confusing. This is where critique partners earn their weight in gold, by telling you exactly when and what tipped them off to the twist. It’s not easy, but when you get the twists right, readers absolutely love them.
4. When you begin writing a novel, do you already know the end or do you discover it while writing ? Could you give us an insight into your writing process?
My stories typically have a lot of moving pieces, so I do like to think through them beforehand. I write from a fairly detailed outline, but even the best of plans can go sideways once I get into the weeds of writing. Sometimes the pacing is off, or a character’s actions don’t quite fit the personality I’ve given them. Sometimes a character I didn’t plan for walks into a scene and has something essential to say. It’s why I always give myself room to rework the story as I’m writing it, but my beginnings and endings rarely change.
5. If you could give your younger writing self some advice, what would it be?
The best advice I ever received (and followed!) was to sit my butt in a chair every day and treat writing like the job it is. Working from home can be distracting, so I guard my working hours like a pitbull. I set my alarm every morning and am behind my computer by eight. I turn my phone to Do Not Disturb and ignore my email and socials. I work eight-plus hours a day, five days a week, even if the words don’t come. Actually, especially then. If I waited for inspiration to strike, it would take me years to write a book.
6. What are five thrillers you’ve recently enjoyed reading?
Ooh, my favorite question! These are not all thrillers but definitely suspenseful, and most I’ve either featured on my Top 5 picks for the month (which I announce on the last Wednesday of the month on my Instagram, @kimberlysbelle) or were/will be on the Killer Author Club, a biweekly interview series I host with fellow authors Heather Gudenkauf and Kaira Rouda (see killerauthorclub.com for schedule and how to watch).
- You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard
- It’s One of Us by JT Ellison
- The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead
- Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
- Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan
7. For someone new to your work, which of your works should they read first?
All of my books are standalones, so I’d say choose whichever one strikes your fancy and start there. My stories tend to focus on familial relationships. Parent-child, husband-wife, siblings. I love exploring the emotions that come along with these types of bonds, mostly because they’re so universally recognizable. Toss in the suspense angle—a lying spouse, a child gone missing—and it’s a what-if scenario everyone can imagine themselves in. That’s the appeal of the genre, I think, that people read it and think, that could have been me. Whatever you choose, I hope you love and adore!
8. What is the world and setting of The Personal Assistant like? What would you like the reader to know before they dive into this novel?
The Personal Assistant is set mostly in Atlanta but specifically in Buckhead, a neighborhood on the northern end of the city that’s known for its fine dining, designer shopping, and multi-million-dollar homes. Alex and Patrick live in one of those homes, a 1926 stone and stucco rambler that Alex features often on her social media. When Alex’s post goes viral and her followers’ good-will turns toxic, she might as well have hung a target on her home, and no one in her family is safe. Ultimately, The Personal Assistant is a story about the dark side of the digital world we live in today.
Keep up with Kimberly on Instagram (@KimberlySBelle), Facebook (KimberlyBelleBooks) and Twitter (@KimberlySBelle) or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.
If you’re a writer, do you write every day? Want writing advice from an Internationally Bestselling Author?
If you read thrillers, do you love twists? What are your favorite twisty books? What other bestselling thriller have you read? I’ve read The Personal Assistant, and it swallowed up one of weekends whole (in a good way) ! Have you read it yet?
My literary crime novel, The Blue Bar is on Kindle Unlimited now. Add it to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon is up for pre-orders! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin. Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.
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This was a wonderful and insightful interview. Thanks to Kimberly for sharing her writing process with us. <3
Congratulations Damyanti. That was a great interview. You asked her great questions and she gave you great answers.
Great interview! I always love hearing about process, and the twist specific information was very interesting.
Great interview–and advice! I am still a nonprofit fundraiser, as coincidence would have it, so somedays I’m just writing for my clients. But the goal is to be able to one day write only for myself and my one-day readers. I can’t imagine writing from an outline but if it works, it works–and it’s likely necessary for a thriller to at least have the major scaffolding in place from the start. Always eye-opening. Thanks, Damyanti!
Great interview. I sit and write everyday and some days are more productive than others. Is this the case for everyone? Or is there some kind of trick to snap your writing brain into focus?
Love the interview. Great advice that should wake up a lot of casual writers–“treat writing like the job it is.” Such truth there. And I appreciate that you answer a question I always have with prolific writers–what should I read first!