Thursday, August 6, 2015

Interview - Kimberly Belle - The Ones We Trust

Please welcome back to the blog Kimberly Belle whose here today talking about her new release, The Ones We Trust.




ISBN-13: 9780778317869
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 07/28/2015
Length: 304
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndyBound/Audible



Overview

A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family's devastating loss
When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.
Read an excerpt:

There's a thin, fragile line that separates us all from misfortune. A place where life teeters on a razor's edge, and everything boils down to one single, solitary second. Where either you will whiz past the Mack truck blissfully unaware, or you will slam into it head-on. Where there's a before, and then, without warning or apology, there's an after.
For the past three years, I've rewound to those last before moments, moments I was still blissfully unaware I was about to be blindsided. I've tried to pinpoint the very spot when tragedy struck. It wasn't when Chelsea took her last breath, though that was certainly a tragedy. No, the tipping point was somewhere in the days leading up to her death, when her story was barreling like a deadly virus across the internet, snowballing and mutating and infecting everyone it touched. Infecting her with words I wrote and sent out into the world. I guess you could say I poisoned her with them.
To the rest of the world, Chelsea Vogel looked like any other white, American, middle-class mother in her early thirties.
On the dowdy side of forgettable, one of those women you acknowledge with a bland smile as she pushes her cart by yours in the grocery store, or idles patiently in her car while you hang up the gas pump and climb back behind the wheel of yours. You see her but, for the life of you, couldn't pick her out of a lineup five minutes later.
But underneath all that dull suburban facade burned a big, bright secret.
I had no idea of any of this, of course, that rainy Tuesday afternoon I walked into her slightly shabby offices south of Baltimore to interview her for iWoman…com, the online news magazine I was reporting for at the time. I only knew that as the founder and CEO of American Society for Truth, Chelsea was an outspoken opponent of gay rights, one who preached about Godordained sexuality and the natural family to anyone who would listen. And people seemed to be listening, especially once she became a regular contributor on conservative news senders.
"I'm Abigail Wolff," I told the receptionist, a slight woman by the name of Maria Duncan. "I have an interview with Mrs. Vogel."
Maria offered me coffee and showed me to the conference room. I noticed her because she was pretty—short pixie hair, a fresh face, clothes that were fashionable but not flashy. But I remember her because two weeks later, she slid me the story that ended my career.
"Here," she said to me that day, shoving a file across the table before I'd settled into the seat across from her. "This is for you."
I'd known when she asked me to meet her at a Cracker Barrel in Linthicum Heights just south of Baltimore, it wasn't to become friends over sweet teas and biscuits. But never in a million years would I have guessed what greeted me when I opened that file. Dozens and dozens of photographs, each one dated and timed, of a naked Maria and Chelsea. In bed, on the backseat of a minivan, atop both of their desks.
"Who took these?" I said, flipping through them. Judging by the low resolution and awkward angles, I was placing my money on a hidden camera, and an inexpensive one.
Maria shook her head. "Doesn't matter. They're real. There's a DVD in there, too, with about twenty different videos."
I pushed everything back into the file and closed the cover. Maria was well above legal age, probably somewhere in her mid to late twenties. That didn't mean, however, that Chelsea Vogel wasn't a predator, or that the affair wouldn't be one hell of a story…and a byline.
But still. If this story hit, Maria needed to know what she was in for.
"What do you think your family will say when they open up their morning newspaper and see these?"
Her chin went up. "There's no one to see it. The only family I had left died last year."
"Your friends, then. Do any of them know you're sleeping with your female boss?"
"I don't." She glanced down at the table, then lifted her gaze to mine, clinging to it like maple syrup, thick and sticky. "I just moved here from Detroit. The people here aren't exactly friendly."
I took this to mean she hadn't made very many friends yet.
I gestured to the envelope between us. "So, what's this about, then? Is it to get attention? To prove to people that you're loved? Because I can guarantee you people are going to think a lot of things when they see these pictures, but not much of it's going to be nice."
"I don't give a shit what people think. This isn't about getting noticed. This is about Chelsea Vogel taking advantage of me. She was my boss, and she used her position of authority to make me think she loved me."
"So this story is about revenge."
"No." Maria's answer was immediate and emphatic. "This story is about justice. What she did to me may not be a crime, officially, but it was still wrong. She should still be punished."
"Take it to the HR department. They'll make sure Chelsea Vogel is fired, and they'll be inclined to keep things quiet."
"Chelsea is the HR department, don't you get it? American Society for Truth is her project. And I don't want to be quiet. I'm done being quiet. I'm the victim here, and I want Chelsea to pay."
I told myself it was the righteousness in her tone, the resolve creasing her brow and fisting her hands that convinced me, and not the idea of my name attached to a story that I knew, I knew would go viral.
"I'll do what I can to protect your identity, but you need to be aware that there's a very real probability it'll get out, and when it does, every single second of your life will be altered. Not just now, but tomorrow and the next day and the next. This scandal—and make no mistake about it, this is a scandal for you just as much as it is for her—will follow you for the rest of your life. You'll never be anonymous ever again."
She swallowed, thought for a long moment. "I think I still want you to write the story."
"You think? Or you know?" I leaned forward and watched her closely. Not just her answer but also her body language would determine my course of action.
"I know." She straightened her back, squared her shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. "I want you to write the story."
So that's what I did. I wrote the story.
I did everything right, too. I checked facts and questioned witnesses, volunteers and employees at neighboring businesses and the building janitor. I made sure the evidence had not been digitally altered, compared the dates and times on the photographs to both women's work and home schedules. I held back Maria's name, blurred out faces, released only the least damning of the pictures, the ones where there was no way, no possible way Maria would be recognized. I did every goddamn thing right, but within twenty-four hours of my story breaking, Maria's identity, along with every single one of the photographs and videos in clear, full-color focus, exploded across the internet anyway. Just as, if I'm being completely honest with myself, I knew they would.
Two weeks later, on a beautiful January morning, Chelsea Vogel hung herself in the shower. I wasn't there when it happened, of course, but that doesn't mean I wasn't responsible for her death. After all, those were my words that made her drive those five miles in her minivan to the Home Depot for a length of braided rope, then haul it home and knot it around her neck. I knew when I put them out there that both women's lives would be changed. I just never dreamed one of them would also end.
Secrets are a sneaky little seed. You can hide them, you can bury them, you can disguise them and cover them up. But then, just when you think your secret has rotted away and decayed into nothing, it stirs back to life. It sprouts roots and stems, crawls its way through the mud and muck, growing and climbing and bursting through the surface, blooming for everyone to see. That's the lesson here. The truth always comes out eventually.
But I can no longer be the one to write about it.
2
It's the strangest thing, running into someone famous.
First, you get that initial rush of recognition, a fast flare of adrenaline that quickens your pulse and prickles your skin with awareness. Oh, my God. Is that…? Holy shit, it is him. Your body gears up for a greeting—a friendly smile, a slightly giddy wave, a high-pitched and breathy hello—when you suddenly realize that though this person may be one of the most recognizable faces in greater DC and the nation, to him you are an unfamiliar face, a stranger. You are just any other woman pushing her cart through the aisles of Handyman Market.
And then you notice the red apron, the name tag that proclaims him Handyman, the light coating of sawdust on his jeans, and realize that to Gabe Armstrong, you're not just any other woman.
You're any other customer.
"Need some help finding anything?" he asks.
I am not a person easily flustered by fame. I've interviewed heads of state and royalty, movie stars and music moguls, crime bosses and terrorists. Only one time—one time—in all those years did I lose my shit, and that was when I interviewed Gabe's older brother Zach. People's Sexiest Man Alive, the Hollywood golden boy who chucked his big-screen career to die in a war that, on the day he enlisted, fifty-seven percent of Americans considered a mistake. But when Zach aimed his famous smile on me that afternoon, a mere eleven days before he shipped off to basic training, I forgot every single one of the questions I thought I had memorized, and I had to fire up my laptop on the hood of my car to retrieve them.
But not so with Gabe here, who is not so much famous as infamous. There's not an American alive who doesn't remember his drunken performance at his brother's funeral, when he slurred his way through a nationally televised speech, then saluted the Honor Guards with a bottle ofJack Daniel's clutched in a fist as furious as his expression.
And his image has only gone downhill since. Cantankerous, obstinate and hostile are some of the more colorful words the media uses to describe him in print, and their adjectives lean toward the obscene when they're off the record. Part of their censure has to do with Gabe's role as family gatekeeper, with his thus-far successful moves to thwart their attempts at an interview with his mother or brother Nick, crouched a few feet away when three bullets tore through Zach's skull.
But the other part, and a not-so-small part, is that he answers their every single question, even "How are you today?" with a "No fucking comment."
I clear my throat, consult my list. "Where do you keep your tile cutters?"
Gabe doesn't miss a beat. "Snap and score or angle grinders?"
"Wet saw, actually. I hear they're the best for minimizing dust."
"True, as long as you don't mind the hike in price." When I shake my head, he continues. "How big's your tile?"
"Twelve by twelve," I say as if I'm reciting my social security number.
And that's when the absurdity hits me. I'm discussing tile saws with Zach Armstrong's younger brother. One who so closely resembles his big-screen brother that it's almost eerie. If I didn't know for a fact that Zach died on an Afghani battlefield last year, I might think I'd stumbled onto a movie set. one for The Twilight Zone.
Gabe motions for me to follow him. "I've got a table model with a diamond blade that's good for both stone and ceramic. It's sturdy, its cuts are clean and precise, and it's fairly affordable. What are you tiling?"
"A bathroom."
He stops walking and asks to see my list, and I know what he's doing. He's checking it. Inspecting for mistakes. Looking for holes. If he had a red pen, he'd mark it up and tell me to revise and resubmit.
Gabe glances up through a lifted brow. "What's the sledgehammer for?"
"To take out the built-in closet. It'll give me another three feet of vanity space."
My answer earns me an impressed nod. "Are you planning on moving any fixtures?"
They could almost be twins, really. Same towering height and swimmer's build, same dark features and angular bone structure, same neat sideburns that trail down his cheeks like perfectly clipped tassels. I take all of it in and try not to let on that I know exactly who he is.
"Nope. Same floor plan, just a thorough update of pretty much every inch. I'm fairly certain I can do everything but the plumbing and electricity myself."
"I can get you a few referrals, if you'd like." He looks up for my nod, then returns to the list. I give him all the time he needs, leaning with my forearms onto the cart handle and waiting for his assessment.
Gabe may be Harvard educated, but I happen to know I've made no mistakes on that list. I approached this project as I do every other these days: by scouring the internet for relevant articles, handpicking the most important facts and condensing them into one organized document. My bathroom has been content curated to within an inch of its life, and that list is perfect down to the very last nut and bolt.
He passes me back the paper with an impressed grin. "You've really done your homework."
"I'm excellent at research."
"Almost excellent." He taps the list with a long finger. "You forgot the silicone caulk."
I straighten, shaking my head. "No, I didn't. I already have three tubes at home from when you guys had your buy two, get two free special."
"What happened to the fourth?"
"I used it last week to re-caulk the kitchen sink."
Amusement half cocks his grin. He nudges me aside to take charge of my cart. "Come on. We'll start on aisle twelve and work our way forward."
And that's just what we do. Gabe loops us through the aisles, loading up my cart as well as another he fetches from the front as we check off every item on my list, even the items Gabe assures me there's no way, no possible way I will ever need. I tell him if it's on the list, to throw it in anyway. The entire expedition takes us the better part of an hour, and by the time we make it to the register, both carts are bulging.
He waits patiently while I fork over half a month's salary to the gray-haired cashier, then helps me cram all my goods into the back of my Prius.
"Are you sure you don't need anything else?" He has to lean three times on the hatchback door to click it closed. "Because I think we might have a couple of rusty screws left in the back somewhere."
"Old overachiever habits are hard to break, I guess." I grin.
He grins back, the skin of his right cheek leaning into the hint of a dimple. "It was a pretty fierce list. Very thorough. One might even say overly so."
"I told you I was—"
"Excellent at research," he interrupts, still grinning. "I remember. But preparation is only half the battle."
His tone and expression are teasing, and I imitate both. "Are you doubting my competence?"
"Hell, no. Anyone who can make a list like yours is fully capable of looking up instructions on the internet. All I'm saying is, if you happen to run into any problems with the execution and need an experienced handyman…" He cocks a brow and gestures with a thumb to his apron, Handyman embroidered in big white letters across the front.
I laugh. "I'll remember that."
This is when he smiles again, big and wide, and it completely transforms his face. It's a smile that's just as fierce, just as sexy and magnetic as his lookalike brother's, yet somehow, Gabe makes it his own. Maybe it's the way his left cheek takes a second or two longer to catch up with his right, or the way his eyeteeth are swiveled just a tad inward. Maybe it's the way his eyes crinkle into slits, and that dimple grows into a deep split. Whatever it is, Gabe's smile is extraordinary in that it's so ordinary, lopsided and uneven and unpracticed for red carpets and film cameras, and in that moment, I forget all about his famous brother. In that moment, I see only Gabe.




Kimberly tell us a little about your new novel, The Ones We Trust.
Thank you for having me! I’m thrilled to be back.
The Ones We Trust is about Abigail Wolff, a former DC journalist who in an attempt to rehabilitate her career, finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.  
The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier's brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves. 

You were here last year when your debut novel, The Last Breath released.
What happened while writing your second novel that was totally different from writing your debut?
Well, for starters, I wrote The Ones We Trust first, before The Last Breath, and it was a story I had to rewrite a number of times before I got it right.
A lot of writers consider their first novel a practice story. You’re supposed to write it, shove it in a box under your bed, and move on to the next one, one where you actually (kinda sorta) know what you’re doing. I was fully prepared to do that, too, except this story wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept whispering to me from under the bed. Fix me, it said. I have a story to tell.
So together with my fabulous editor, I rewrote it and rewrote it again, eventually drilling down to the very essence of the story. Though we never meet him on the page, The Ones We Trust is about what, exactly, happened to the slain soldier on the battlefield. His family needs to know in order to move on, and Abigail is determined to help them uncover the truth. This plotline was the crux of every single rewrite, a red thread leading the way.
So to answer your question, everything about writing it was different. The Ones We Trust took a lot more time and energy to shape it into the book it is now, but I’m so proud of this one! I can’t wait to see how readers respond.

Kimberly last time you were here we discussed the fact that you lived in the Netherlands with your Dutch husband for a while and are now back on US soil.
Your bio says that living abroad changed you in ways you can’t count.
Will you count some of those ways and enlighten us as to how?
My family and I just returned from six months in Amsterdam, where our daughter did a semester of high school, so though I can’t count all the ways (we’d be here all day!), the top five ways living abroad changed me are fresh in my mind.
1.     It broadened my mind. We Americans are so blessed. We live in big houses and drive big cars, and pretty much everything we could ever need can be bought at the Target down the street. Not everyone has it as easy as we do, and living abroad helped me take off my American glasses and look at the world from a very different angle.
2.     It made me feel more American. I’ve always hated the word expatriate, as if picking up and moving to another country made me less of an American. If anything, the opposite is true. There's nothing like being a stranger in a strange land to heighten your sense of nationalism and make you feel connected to the place you left behind.
3.     It was good for my ego. If I can learn another language, take on another culture, make new friends and find my tribe in a place where I knew—literally—only one other human, I can do pretty much anything.
4.     It made me more humble. At the same time, I learned that I take a lot of things for granted. Free parking and air conditioning and walk-ins welcome and garbage disposals and ice cubes. Trivial? Yes. But I learned to appreciate the little luxuries.
5.     I now have two homelands. Yes, I’ll always be American, but I will also ride my bike up and down cobbled canals and fill my house with fresh tulips. Holland has wormed its way into my soul and become a part of me, and Amsterdam feels just as much ‘home’ to me as my own country.

Kimberly you have praise scrolling across the bottom of the screen on your website.
You’ve gotten some great press for your novels and that’s a great compliment to any author, but some call it a double edged sword.
What are your personal feelings about editorial reviews?
Reader reviews?
You’re right, they can be a double-edged sword. I’ve been fortunate; most reviews have been positive, but it’s hard not to let them influence your next book. Good or bad. I have to constantly work to push them aside and stay true to the story, rather than write to what readers are saying about my last one. So while it’s important to monitor the general consensus around your novel – both reader and editorial – I try not to read every single review.

The blurb for The Ones We Trust is very reminiscent of books by authors like Antoinette Van Heugten and Heather Gudenkauf and in fact Heather’s one of the author/readers who says very nice things about your novels.
Do you mind being compared to other authors?
Absolutely not! Heather is as lovely in person as she is on the page, and to have my work be compared to hers is a huge honor. That was actually one of the most pleasant surprises for me in this business, actually-- discovering how supportive my fellow authors are. Maybe it’s because we’ve all had to work so hard to get here, but so far, everyone I’ve met has been generous with their time and praise, and happy to give newbie authors like me a helping hand.

Kimberly, your novel is heartbreaking and timely.
Is it all fiction or is it based on something that really happened?
It’s a fictional story, but the inspiration began with Abigail’s relationship with her father. I’m fascinated by people who do bad things for (in their mind, at least) the right reasons. But when things are not as they seem, it’s incredibly easy to misjudge someone’s behavior, to assume the worst of them, to react inappropriately because you don't understand. And even in the closest of relationships, trust is not a given, and we don’t give it infinitely. There’s a point where doubts start to surface and we draw a line in the sand, where we can no longer justify what we are experiencing with the belief that the other person is behaving with good intentions. That theirs is a father-daughter relationship only complicates the matter further, and I wanted to explore how far they could stretch that bond before it breaks.

You’re pretty active on your social sites.
Because you
a) love it
b) it’s a necessary evil
c) it’s a break from your writing
d) all of the above. Writing is a pretty lonely endeavor, and so I love interacting with friends and readers on social media. But if you’re not careful, the internet can be a time suck. I typically turn off my wireless for long stretches at a time, otherwise I’d never make my daily word count.

You write for the publisher who in my opinion makes the world go round :)
What’s the best part about being in the Harlequin family?
Hmm, that’s a tough one! I guess the thing I love most about Harlequin /MIRA is that they’re so supportive. They get my stories, and they know how to place them in the market. My titles and covers, for example, have been spot-on, and the brick-and-mortar placement better than I ever dreamed. I still get a visceral reaction every time I walk into a store and see my books on the shelves. I’m blessed to have found a home at MIRA.

From a post on your FB page I take it the next book takes place in Seattle.
Can you tell us anything about it?
My next book is as-yet untitled story set mostly in my hometown of Atlanta, but you’re partly right ~ there are a handful of chapters set in Seattle. Here’s a quick blurb:
When Flight 23 crashes into a corn field, Iris Griffith is glued to the tv, and the constant news coverage of charred earth and smoking debris. She’s devastated for the families of those on board — one hundred and seventy-nine lives lost in an instant — and she grieves for people she never knew…until investigators show up at her front door and tell her she’s lost someone, too. Her husband Will was one of the victims. 
Only, Will was supposed to be at a conference in Florida. Why was he on a westbound plane? And why would he lie about his whereabouts? Iris goes on a desperate quest for answers, and her search leads to people and places she had no idea her husband ever knew existed.
And then the letters begin arriving, postmarked after the crash and written in her husband’s distinct scrawl, demanding she stop her search. Is Will still alive? Is this some kind of morbid joke? Iris is horrified—and in danger. The clues she uncovers show a man very different from the one she married, one whose past could make her the next victim.

Kimberly, thanks so much for answering my questions.
Good luck with the novel!
Are you touring with the novel-are events/signing listed on your website?
Thank you again for having me! And yes, I’ll be doing some signings for the new novel, as well as making appearances at a few book festivals this fall. I’m still adding dates, but the most up-do-date info is at http://www.kimberlybellebooks.com/events/

Connect with Kimberly - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads

MEET KIMBERLY:Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. Her debut novel, THE LAST BREATH, was published by Harlequin MIRA in September 2014. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.







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a collection of games and puzzles
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