Investigator Turns Author ~ Kellie Coates Gilbert

A former legal
investigator and trial paralegal, Kellie
Coates Gilbert
writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people
react under pressure. Her stories
are about messy lives, and eternal hope.
This is such fun to have you
here, Kellie. Sharing the same wonderful agent makes it special. Tell us about
your new release:
MOTHER OF PEARL, Abingdon
Press
, tells the emotionally compelling story of a high school counselor
who discovers her own teenage daughter had an inappropriate relationship with
the football coach . . . and how she risks everything to bring him to justice.
Was there a specific ‘what if’
moment to spark this story?
I write women’s
fiction, with a focus on 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? 
Did anything strange or funny
happen while researching or writing your book?
At a recent writer’s
conference, a workshop leader urged authors to be deliberate about developing a
relationship with your publishing team. I took this great advice to heart.
I’d just turned in
my manuscript and was heading to Nashville to meet my editor and marketing
director. Thinking it would be nice to take a gift, I looked online and found a
shop nearby that sold gourmet popcorn. Imagine my surprise when I sent my
husband to pick up the popcorn while I packed, and he returned with a package almost
the size of a four-year-old child.
I had a bit of an
impish grin when the publishing folks almost had to call security to help them
carry my gift into the elevator!
Do you ever bang your head
against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I’ve found the best
way to get creative writing juices flowing is to READ! There’s something about nestling my
mind into the pages of a great book written exceptionally well that
springboards plot ideas and word painting.  
Do you consider yourself a
visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I plot in a rather
unique way. After defining the
general premise and theme, I focus on populating my novel with the characters
(my favorite part). The best way
for me is to get a notebook and paste cut out images of people and places. Below the pictures, I note what lies
these people believe and why . . . which springboards story ideas.
As I write a
particular character, I open the notebook to “their page.” This helps me see them in my head and
hear their voice as I write the dialogue.
Novelists sometimes dig
themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of
other problems. What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
I heard of a very
prolific author who creates a lengthy outline of her novel, chapter-by-chapter.
Then, she leaves her family in her mother’s care and goes to a remote location
for two to three weeks and writes the novel.
That approach
sounds so appealing to me. The
hardest time I have is the stop and start
thing. I write a great couple of chapters and then have to shut off the
computer when life and other obligations interrupt. Sometimes, it may be two or three days before I’m able to
place my fingers on the keyboard and start back up. The story feels disjointed until I go back and reread and
wait for the movie in my head to play once again.
In my imaginary
perfect writing world, I could push the PAUSE
button on life and write until I’m ready to stop.
What’s your strength in writing
(characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?
Reader emails have
common phrases: riveting, couldn’t
put it down, bawled my eyes out. 
I think I write
stories that take the reader on a page-turning ride filled with emotion.
Did this book give you any
problems? If not, how did you avoid them?
There is a very
fast-paced trial at the end of MOTHER OF PEARL. Initially, I tried to write the
legal scenes with step-by-step accuracy, which slowed the pacing and would
likely bore potential readers. Before I even turned in the manuscript, I
realized I had to make that part of the novel pop and move like a legal
thriller . . . which meant a pretty major re-write.
Where do you write: In a cave, a
coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
I write from my
home office—a quiet, organized place with lots of light streaming through the
windows, Pachelbel’s Canon playing on the stereo, and a cup of tea on a coaster
next to my Mac.
Some authors report writing 5-10
thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to
tweeze each word out?
The scenes flow if
I’ve taken time to organize my thoughts and I know where I’m heading. If I skip the planning, my writing
wanders and gets messy. 
What’s the best writing advice
you’ve heard?
If you want to be a
great writer . . . READ!
How do you balance your writing
time with family and any other work you do?
I did trial work
for years and learned to be organized. Now, I run a contract paralegal business
and write novels. I really don’t waste a lot of time. I watch very little
television and always try to be in my office working by nine am. Before I close
down my computer for the evening, I list the tasks that need accomplished the
following day. My marketing and social media often is done in the early
mornings and late evenings, while I sit with my husband in his “man-cave” with
a football game playing.
Unlike some authors,
I am at the stage of life where my children are raised and so I don’t have to
juggle as much as some of my friends.
Do you have any parting words of
advice?
Like any other
business, there can be a lot to get grouchy about in the publishing industry.
You have to make a decision to be joyful and thankful (and usually those two go
hand-in-hand.) 
Mother of Pearl
Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected
job as the high school counselor in her close-knit community. Without warning,
everything unravels when her teenage daughter, Pearl, is betrayed and lashes
out.
Nothing prepares this mother for the helplessness that follows when
her attempts to steer her daughter back on course fail, and Pearl shuts her out
. . . or when Barrie discovers the unthinkable about her nemesis, the football
coach.
Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, Mother of Pearl brings
us into the heart of a mother bound by an incredible burden, who ultimately
finds she must recognize her own vulnerability and learn to trust in something
much bigger.