This blog was featured on 10/14/2019
An Exclusive Interview with Kim Liggett
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
October 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
October 2019

This month we have been getting to know our guest editor Kim Liggett and it has been incredible. The author of The Grace Year has both star-studded accolades and a hard-earned journey to get to where she is now. In this exclusive interview with She Writes she discusses the long road to becoming an executive producer working alongside Elizabeth Banks on adapting her fifth book for the big screen. Trust us, you won't want to miss her advice for writers on how to persevere even in the face of a publishing journey filled with ups and downs. 

Describe your writing routine.

It changes from book to book, but for The Grace Year, I got up long before the sun to start writing. There were times when I was half asleep, but It seemed to dull my inner editor. Because let me tell you, my inner editor is brutal. After lunch, I would switch to more utilitarian tasks—research, outlining, formatting, transitions—and by five pm, I needed to shut down my brain. Of course, there were plenty of intense deadline periods where I worked 18 hour days and never got out of my pajamas.  

What was your first/worst job?

I’ve had so many jobs in my life. Corn husker. Restaurant Hostess. Retirement home entertainer. Mall cosmetic sales. Back-up singer. Studio musician. The world’s worst cocktail waitress. Secretary. Deckhand. Caterer. Pre-release incarceration interviewer. Art teacher. Travel agent. And finally, writer.

When did you start to feel like a writer?

I don’t know if I ever feel like a legit writer. I suppose I am. This is my fifth book, but I’m still learning and reaching and growing. With every book, I feel like I’m out of my depth, that what I want to accomplish is beyond my skill set, but I think that’s where the magic happens. The minute I get too comfortable is probably when I need to hang it up.

On your Instagram, you talked about how you thought your career might be over before The Grace Year, can you talk about your journey?

The business of publishing is like an ever narrowing sieve. First hurdle is getting an agent. Then finding an editor/publisher who wants to gamble on you. Surviving the debut puppy mill. Writing and selling the dreaded sophomore book. And here’s where it gets really tricky, building your audience, at this point, with little or no support. Instead of building, I felt my readership dwindling, but I always believed that I could get there. If I worked hard, focused on craft, that eventually, I could write my way out of my situation. And I did.

Your book has been compared to great works like The Handmaid's Tale and The Power, can you talk about the influences for this novel (both fictional and real-life)?

I think it’s probably impossible to write a feminist novel without drawing comparisons to those amazing books. But if I ever thought about it in those terms, I wouldn’t have been able to write a single word.

This book came to me fully formed, in one gutting moment three years ago at Penn Station. I was staring up at the board, willing my train to arrive, when I noticed a girl in front of me. Probably thirteen or fourteen, long and lean, bouncing on the tips of her toes, thoroughly annoying her parents and younger siblings. She had the nervous energy of a girl on the verge of womanhood. Of change. A man in a business suit walked by, instinctively looking her way, stem to stern, as they say. I knew that look. She was fair game now. Prey. And then I noticed a woman pass, drawn to that same energy, but I imagined for entirely different reasons. As she surveyed the girl, a look of sadness, possibly disdain, clouded her eyes. Maybe it was a reminder of everything she’d lost…everything she thought she’d never get back, but this girl was now competition. As the family’s train was announced, they rushed to the gate and said their goodbyes. They were clearly sending the girl back to boarding school. She waved the entire escalator ride down and I couldn’t help but notice the relief on her parent’s faces. For another year, she’d be tucked away from the world. Safe. “The things we do to young girls,” I whispered under my breath. In a daze, I walked to my train, and when I sat down in my seat, I began to weep. I cried for that girl. I cried for my daughter, my mother, my sister, my grandmothers. I opened my computer and by the time I got to D.C. the book was completely plotted. The beginning and ending had been written, and I knew I didn’t have a choice. I had to write this book.

Congratulations on getting your novel optioned by Elizabeth Banks/Universal Studios! Can you talk about the project and your involvement?

Everything happened so quickly! I had just turned in my revision when a slew of foreign offers came in and “film interest” started entering conversations. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it. It seemed so pie in the sky. It wasn’t until my agents suggested that I get an entertainment attorney that I realized this was serious. And Elizabeth Banks is serious business. She’s an actress, director, producer, activist, and probably a dozen other things that I don’t even know about, but her company, Brownstone Productions, is at the forefront of bringing female centric projects—especially books— to the screen. As soon as we spoke, I knew it was the perfect match. I’m also an executive producer on the film, so I’m very involved. I went out to Los Angeles a few weeks ago to meet with the entire team, and I can tell you that The Grace Year is in excellent hands.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Let the success of others be a motivator, not a hindrance. The Grace Year is my fifth book, and let’s be real, most of my author friends were a lot more successful than I was out of the gate. You can either look at it like, why do they have that and I don’t? or That’s so cool. Maybe I’ll have that someday. It’s a subtle shift in perspective, but really necessary if you’re going to be in this for the long haul. There’s an ebb and flow to everything. If you stay focused on the craft, you will only be competing with yourself.

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