Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 178 - 13 Questions for Kim Michele Richardson, Author of The Unbreakable Child

I met Kim online through fellow blogger Thomma Lyn Grindstaff, trading comments and delighting in one another's company.

Gradually, it became clear that Kim wasn't just a blogger, but a published author. And not an ordinary fiction writer, but the author of a memoir. And not just an autobiography, but a searing journey through her own dark night of the soul.

I mean, just look at her. How could such a vibrant, shiny person have a dark night of the soul?

Gradually, other things became clear about Kim. She had not grown up in a house full of parents and siblings, but rather at a rural Kentucky Catholic orphanage. She had not experienced the competition for attention, the eye-rolling embarrassments, the stomping to her room for the dramatic door-slam, the "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!" Brady Bunch moments that so many of us take for granted as the parts of growing up where we wish we could have a do-over.

No - Kim experienced parental neglect, abandonment, institutionalized physical abuse, psychological cruelty and sexual assault.

Not only did Kim survive all of that, she grew into a strong, compassionate woman who created a family like she'd always dreamed of. But as Dean Winchester from Supernatural says:

"You can't outrun your past."

Kim joined a class-action lawsuit against the order of nuns who had tormented her and hundreds like her. But in order to provide testimony for the court, Kim was forced to confront her nightmarish childhood, the same kind of memories that had driven other former residents of her orphanage to depression, addiction and lives left in ruins.

Kim turned her initial collection of notes for the legal team into the memoir releasing Oct. 1st - The Unbreakable Child.

Kim, welcome to A Piece of My Mind.

1 - If you look back, can you see hints that there was a writer inside you, waiting to come out?

I believe there is a writer in each of us and we all have an important story to tell. I’ve always used a pad and pen to express myself. Even as a small child I would write long letters, poems and music, then bury them around the orphanage playground for safe keeping.

2 - When you realized that you had a marketable book on your hands, how did you start along the road to publication?

William F. McMurry, my real life protagonist in The Unbreakable Child, gave my first draft to a filmmaker and author in Louisiana to read. The results were not too favorable, with that person pointing me toward self-publication.

*laughs* I didn’t have a clue as to what this self-publishing was, but, for my work, I felt it was wrong - not a route I wanted to take.

Over four years ago, I begin researching and learning about agents and traditional publishers, spending thousands of hours doing such. And after thousands and thousands of hours and many many drafts later, the book was placed with what appeared to the traditional publishing world as an up and coming, prize-winning publisher.

3 - I read about your initial publisher's demise in Blogland and have to admit that I said to myself, 'What is going on? What kind of crazy karma is this? She hasn't gone through enough heartache? Her publisher has to fold, too?'

How were you able to meet this as a challenge instead of folding up your tent and going home?

The Unbreakable Child had gained a wide readership and had picked up great momentum. Unfortunately, and due to the recession, many authors found their works ‘orphaned’ in the publishing world during this time. But I didn’t take too well with my book being 'orphaned'. Understandably.

Unbeknownst to me and my literary agency at the time of The Unbreakable Child’s sale, the former publisher took on the book when its house was experiencing financial difficulty. The Unbreakable Child did extremely well in its short, three-months-out, but in the end the former publisher closed shop, taking with him all earnings due, which was earmarked to help others.

More importantly, this turn of events had me down on my knees scrambling to get my rights back. With the help of author advocates I was successful. And I’m forever grateful to the kindness and support the publishing world extended to me at this time.

With time on my side, I used it to my advantage to strengthen my writing and learn the craft. More revisions were afforded and thousands of hours later, I landed an amazing and wonderful literary agent, Stephany Evans, who was passionate about my work and who placed The Unbreakable Child with an equally passionate traditional publisher, Behler, who is reputable and honest. There, it has hopefully found its “forever home”.

4 - In June my cousin Julianne MacLean - who doesn't know you - posted a link on our writer's loop about an editor who gave a rejected book another chance. When I clicked on her link, I knew it had to be your Unbreakable Child. And it was!

Here's the link:

Blog post by Lyne Price, editorial director for Behler Publications, describing her change-of-heart and subsequent purchase of The Unbreakable Child

You've revised and expanded the original version. Has this turned out to be a silver lining for the book?

The odds of placing a pre-published book with another publisher are not high. The odds of placing a memoir of a non-celeb and a book regarding abuse, even lower. The reasons for this are complicated and many.

I did not let this deter me.

I knew The Unbreakable Child was on the cutting edge for speaking out on what is now a Humanity Crisis with the Catholic clergy, and a very important part of history - that The Unbreakable Child is still a first-ever in the traditional publishing world. My agent and my now publisher knew and believed this as well.

I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to fine-tune, polish and add to The Unbreakable Child. Additionally, a wonderful professional Readers Guide was included, along with important documents and language.

5 - You recently blogged at The Huffington Post. Tell us how that came about.

I’m happy to say I will be contributing to the Huffington Post and look forward to working with HuffPo – writing more articles on important social issues such as my first article on clergy abuse here:

Nun Abuse: A Survivor's Message For the Vatican.

Along with other articles, I plan to introduce other social issues I’m passionate about, such as elderly care, teens and drunken driving etc.

6 - Do you have a book tour planned? A real life one, a virtual one, or both?

Yes. I’m working with other blog interviewers now and will also be attending library events, a book launch, book signings and our esteemed Kentucky Book Fair here locally. Along with doing radio and news media events as they come along.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ CLICK HERE for tour dates ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you check my website, you can see I keep a rolling list of upcoming book events.

7 - Given the nature of your book's subject matter, you are now approached by other survivors of abuse on a regular basis. How do you deal with that? Do you find it overwhelming at times?

It can be overwhelming at times, like anything that consumes a lot of time, energy and emotions, but it is also a wonderful catharsis to minimize one’s own problems when you’re able to reach out to another and give unconditionally.

8 - What sort of things do you do to fill up your creative well?

I have great passion for photography.

I love marketing and advertising in the corporate world and have won national recognition and awards for such.

I play in the dirt with plants.

9 - Coffee or tea? - Tea.

Chocolate or chips? - Gummi Bear freak here.

Locally grown or exotic import? - Local. We had a huge garden this year with an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables. It was a successful and happy family project.

Homemade or store bought? - Depends on how crunched for time I am.

Picnic or night on the town? - Picnic by the lake, at my retreat cottage on the back roads of Kentucky.

Symphony or rock concert? - Both, and much more. I’m all across the board on my music selection.

Cat or dog? - I have and love both.

Paper or ebook? - Paper, although I admit to being somewhat curious about the electronic readers and will probably buy one for my teen to test-drive first.

History or science fiction? - History, definitely. Especially anything Abe Lincoln.

Hollywood blockbuster or indie film? - Rarely watch movies or TV.

10 - What is the biggest misconception people have of you?

Mistaking my kindness for weakness.

11 - What three things make you laugh the most?

My children. Playing with my adoptive pound pups and surrounding myself with happy and positive people.

12 - What do you think people would find most amusing about you?

My playfulness and sense of humor. Seriously. Life is just way too short to play with and into the drama queen scenes.

13 - Can you relate to the terms that people use to describe you, such as heroic and inspiring? Do you suppose people who have not been made to endure can still find heroism in the everyday?

I’m humbled and honored, but I would never call or think of myself as heroic. And, I am most grateful to the many people who call The Unbreakable Child inspiring.

When I think of heroic, I think of others: My brave husband and his thirty year policing career, is heroic.

I think of my talented teen. With only two weeks out of High School, she spent the spring, summer and fall in NYC, alone, working with and learning the city and its fashion industry.

Any single mum scrapping and struggling, such as my sister who raised four sweet children, against tremendous odds, is also heroic in my book.

And the every-day-person, who gives unconditionally to make this a better world, is heroic.

Thank you so much for dropping by, Wonder Woman! I mean, Kim!

Thanks for having me, Julia.


"I looked at the two photographs and the bracelet I'd plunked down on the conference table. It had been decades since I'd pulled them out. These three objects were the only tangible remains of my youth. The realization punched me in the gut. One of the photos depicted me standing in front of a large, weatherworn statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Another showed my First Holy Communion day. And Mrs. Lindauer, a State social worker, gave me the prize scarab bracelet when I turned eight years old.

I picked up the bracelet and rubbed a colored bead. My hand trembled. I curled my fingers around it to stop the shake.

Over thirty years ago I'd walked out of Saint Thomas Orphan Asylum-Saint Vincent Orphanage, and on that day, I took with me only the clothes on my back and my treasured scarab bracelet, hidden in my sock.

'This is all I have from my childhood,' I said softly.

I looked away, bit hard on my lip. To demand justice meant reliving the horrors. The beatings. The starvation. The force-fed drugs meant to keep us compliant.

I was afraid to speak, because speaking brings back voice. William F. McMurray, attorney-at-law, waited, exhibited quiet compassion, interrupting only when necessary.

A forgotten childhood meant a lifetime of evasiveness with acquaintances: friends new and old, avoiding eye contact, and dancing around the subject of youth that others so freely shared.

I'd been running a long time not knowing where I was going, but I knew I had to come home. Someone had to bring me back, and destiny chose William McMurray. By the time I finished recounting, and revealing, I was drenched in sweat, sitting on a pile of memories."

- Kim Michele Richardson, 2010


CountryDew said...

Thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting book. Looking forward to seeing it on the shelves.

Good luck to you, Kim.

Lilly Cain said...

What an incredible journey you've had - through your childhood and through publishing this book. I'm joining Julia as a fan - your progress has been incredible and unstopable.

Thanks for sharing!

Liz said...

Thank you, Kim. Wonderful interview, and you come off as smart and compassionate. Looking forward to reading the book.

Thomma Lyn said...

Awesome interview. Kimmi is one of the most strong, amazing, and inspiring women I know.

Thomma Lyn said...

ACK, "most strong"... *hangs head.* I meant "strongest!"

Was multi-tasking when I typed my comment (attempting to mitigate the presence of kitty paws on my keyboard). ;)

Alice Audrey said...

If only there were a way to get the justice without having to relive the horror.

Akelamalu said...

Kim you are a true survivor and a heroine for re-living the horrors to get justice.

Thanks for sharing this Julia.

I am Harriet said...

Yeah! Cat and Dog!

Have a great Thursday!

Bev Pettersen said...

Thanks Kim and Julia for the fantastic interview. The excerpt left a lump in my throat. Look forward to reading this book and admire your courage, Kim.

Calico Crazy said...

Great interview, and such a heart wrenching story. I'll definitely read the book. ~ Calico Contemplations

Jennie Marsland said...

Thank you for sharing your amazing story, Kim. I agree that the world is full of everyday heroes, and in my book you are definitely one of them. Best of luck with the book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I know that The Unbreakable Child will touch everyone who reads it and give courage to those who have yet to find their voice.

Good Luck Kim.


Stella MacLean said...

This is an astounding story. And to think despite everything this lady was able to maintain her fascination with life. Talk about overcoming circumstances.

Annette Gallant said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview, Kim and Julia.

What incredible strength you have, Kim. I'm glad your book finally found a good home, and I wish you every success for it.