Interview is below! Read the Terrific Review Here at this very link!
Today we interview Kimblerley Little, whose book The Healing Spell, is a must-read for tween girls this summer. Kimberley, a mother of three, has won many state awards for her books.
The bayou/Cajun setting in The Healing Spell is so important that it almost seems like one of the characters, and you have really nailed the perfect dialect. How do you manage to write so well about the south, being from San Francisco? Was it pure research, or do you have some other connection to the region?
Yep, it was years and years of research, but it’s also rooted deeply in love. An instant magical relationship sparked the moment I stepped onto a boat with a Cajun fisherman from the backwoods bayous who fed scraps of chicken to the alligators and pulled up crawfish traps and showed us his home.
I also discovered a connection with my husband’s ancestors who immigrated from the same area of France as the Cajun people did during the 1650s. My married last name isn’t really “Little” at all! We learned through genealogical research that is was originally “Monpetit” and changed to “Little” when they left Quebec and came into the U.S. after the Civil War.
I also feel privileged to have so many friends from the bayou now and to have met so many Cajun traiteurs who shared their lives and stories with me, too.
Livie, the eleven-year-old main character in The Healing Spell, has a complicated relationship with her mother, and it is wonderful to see this realistic mother-daughter dynamic in print! Did something in your own life inspire you to explore this theme?
I think fragile mother-daughter relationships at this age are the norm, don’t you?! It’s one of those love/hate relationships where you know you can’t get along without your mother, but you also do *not* want her reading your diary!
And here’s a strange twist: After I wrote the book, I realized that part of what I was exploring was that father/daughter relationship between Livie and her daddy, which is something I have missed most of my life. I lost my own father in a terrible accident when I was just a bit older than Livie and that has shaped me in many ways. It was subconscious, but I think I wrote about Livie and her Daddy as a way to express my own grief over losing my father and our relationship that was cut short.
Livie seems almost reminiscent of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird—she’s strong, stubborn, smart and independent. How did you create this wonderful tomboy character?
I just couldn’t write about a girl from the bayou that did not hunt and go frogging and own a pirogue! I love all those aspects of the bayou lifestyle and I knew she had to be that kind of a girl. You could also say that I stole my sister’s life. I have two sisters, but I’m the oldest. I’m actually Faye and the sister just younger than me is the true Livie, and the tomboy in our family. My very youngest sister is eerily similar to Crickett. But it was never intentional!
Livie and her family sprang to life almost from the moment the story began percolating in my mind. She was a little sassy and very independent, but she also had this guilty secret that made her vulnerable and likable, and someone I just wanted to reach out and hug. Livie is like the daughter I never had. (I’m a mom to three boys!)
You take on very serious subject matter (mother in a coma) for a children’s book, and yet you have done it delicately and with finesse. The magnitude of the situation is clear, without coming across as morose or maudlin. Were you ever cautioned to leave anything out of your book because it was too “heavy” for children?
Never. I have a wonderful editor at Scholastic who told me that she stayed up until three a.m. reading the manuscript and sobbing. She said the book was “a gift” – a compliment that blew me away since I’d spent many years revising and trying to sell the book. The only thing we worked on was deepening the characters and their relationships a bit more. I was really blessed to have an editor who had the same vision as I did for the story and knew it was an important story of family and faith and forgiveness and love.
We hear you have a new book coming in October—can you give us a little preview?
I’d love to! Circle of Secrets is about 11-year-old Shelby Jayne, the daughter of Miz Mirage Allemond, the swamp traiteur. The story is about ghosts and a mysterious charm bracelet and secrets in a blue bottle tree (a Southern tradition).
Thank you for all the kudos about The Healing Spell, and for having me here at StorySnoops!
For more information about Kimberley, visit her website, where you’ll find a Mother/Daughter Book Club Guide and a Teacher’s Guide for free download, as well as this very cool book trailer:
Happy Reading! In the meantime, check here for the rest of the Summer Reading List for Tween Girls.