1–What’s the name of your latest release?
2–What is it about?
Stranger in the Lake is a story about Charlotte, a woman who’s left her trailer-park past behind to marry Paul, an older, wealthier man with a gorgeous house on an Appalachian lake in North Carolina. Their relationship is the focus of much small-town gossip, but Charlotte is able to ignore it until a woman’s body washes up under their dock—in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife drowned.
At first, the woman’s death seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage and dark secrets that have been simmering under the lake’s waters for years.
3–What word best describes your main character(s)?
4–What makes your story relatable?
All my stories tend to focus on familial relationships. Parent-child, husband-wife, siblings. I love exploring the emotions that come along with these types of bonds, mostly because they’re so universally recognizable. Toss in the suspense angle—a lying spouse, a child gone missing, a dead body—and it’s a what-if scenario everyone can imagine themselves in. That’s the appeal of the genre, I think, that people read it and think, what would I do if that happened to me?
5–Who are the people your main characters turn to when they need help?
Charlotte has a younger brother Chet, whom she trusts implicitly. He’s a little bit of an underachiever—lazy and unmotivated and dopey, but completely lovable. He is the one constant in her life.
6–What do you love about the setting of your book?
I’ve always wanted to write a book set on a Southern lake. I love the small-town, rural atmosphere, the way the water can be both beautiful and dangerous. I find it the perfect setting for a suspenseful story.
While this one is set on fictional Lake Crosby, I modeled it after the lakes around the Highlands/Cashiers area in North Carolina. It’s a place of stunning beauty, but where there’s a huge gulf between rich and poor. Wealthy outsiders have come in and completely transformed the area, carving out golf courses and building shops and restaurants and million dollar homes on the lake, and then you have the people who have lived there for generations—the ones flipping the burgers and scrubbing the toilets. This polarity makes for some very interesting dynamics. When there’s money involved, when people’s basic needs aren’t being met, their morals can become questionable, and we see that on both ends of the spectrum in this story, in both Charlotte and Paul. This dynamic is something I really dug into for this story.
7–Are you a plotter (follow an outline) or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)?
I am a hard-core plotter. My stories are complicated and have a lot of moving pieces, so I spend months thinking them through before I write the first word. I start with the basics: character, major plot points, a one or two sentence synopsis, and then I take it from there. I brainstorm, add subplots and secondary characters, fill in and expand on the many blank spots. Once I have a fairly detailed outline, I’ll run it by my agent and editor, both of whom are brilliant at pointing out all the places it could be better. Crafting a story is a group effort, and their feedback really helps me as I’m shaping the plot. But only once the outline is done and the story is clear in my head do I sit down to write.
8–What is an ideal writing day for you?
When I’m working on a story, I’m usually behind my laptop by eight, and then I give myself an hour or so to warm up by reading the news and checking emails and social media feeds. After that, I jump right in to writing, and I keep going until I hit my daily word count, usually by afternoon sometime. I’m not a fast writer but the words I produce each day are generally keepers, and my first draft is pretty clean.
9–Do you listen to music while you write, need total silence, or do you have the TV on?
I write best in an empty, silent house, as I tend to get distracted by movement and noise. But recently, I discovered the brain.fm app, which plays music they claim changes your brainwaves to improve your focus. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but for me it really works. If I’m having trouble concentrating, I’ll pop in the headphones and put on one of their creativity tracks. It is like voodoo for my brain.
10– How do you approach research?
I do most of my big research in the outlining phase, but even then, I don’t know what I don’t know. Once I start writing I am constantly coming up on issues I need to look up, so I pop back and forth between my story and the web all day. I have to be careful, though, as it’s easy to disappear down an internet rabbit hole. I’ve lost far too many hours that way.
11–What is your publishing journey story?
I worked in nonprofit fundraising for years, both in the Netherlands and in the States, until 2008, when the economy crashed and so did my job. By that point I was pushing forty, and I still hadn’t written that novel I’d always dreamed of writing. I decided to see my sudden unemployment as a now-or-never moment, so I sat down and my computer and….realized I had no idea what I was doing. I spent the next couple of years learning how to build a story. I took courses, read everything I could get my hands on, found some critique partners and mentors, and then I wrote a book and then another. I was almost done with the second story when I attended a local conference and pitched it to a couple of agents. I ended up signing with one by the end of the month, and she sold both books to Mira in a 2-book deal. I’ve since moved to Park Row, but both imprints fall under Harlequin/Harper Collins so I haven’t gone very far.
12–Do you have critique partners/writing groups you want to give a shout-out to?
I don’t have a traditional critique group, but fellow author Laura Drake always reads my stories chapter by chapter as I’m writing them, and then I use a handful of beta readers for the finished draft. My agent is one of my first readers, too, and she’s brilliant with story and structure. We always work through the first few drafts together, tightening the plot and pacing before turning it in. That way, the story is as strong and solid as possible by the time it gets to my editor.
13–What’re the most frustrating things about being an author?
Writing a book is a six-to-eight-month slog, and there’s always that feeling, when I shut my laptop at the end of the day, that I should eke out a few more words. Especially when the words are flowing, it’s so hard to step away from the computer, even though the house needs cleaning and the dogs need walking and my people are screaming for dinner. Balancing work with being present for those who need me (including myself!) is a constant struggle.
14–What’s your favorite scent?
I tend to lean toward citrusy scents mixed with a spicy floral, and I usually have a scented candle going as I write. One of my favorites lately is Nest Bamboo.
15–What movie will you watch no matter what if it’s on TV?
There are a couple I will always stop and watch: Sixteen Candles, Get Him to the Greek, and Pride and Prejudice. I’m kind of all over the place with movies—books, too. I’ll read or watch just about anything.
16–Do you like breakfast, lunch, or dinner best?
I’m not much a breakfast eater, and lunch is usually something I gobble down behind the laptop. Dinner is the only meal I really ever enjoy—especially when someone else cooks it. Food always tastes better when someone else puts it on my plate.
17–What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
My husband is Dutch, and we lived in Holland for many years—long enough for me to learn to speak the language. (My mother in law is always telling people my Dutch is better than Queen Maxima’s, but she’s from Argentina so I’m not entirely certain it’s a compliment.) I’d love to learn a third language, either French or Spanish, but whenever I try, the only thing that comes out is Dutch. Apparently, my brain is only big enough to hold two languages.
18–What’s the silliest thing you’ve recently done?
This quarantine is really upping my silliness game. Dance parties in the living room, cartwheels through the back yard. I recently bought a gel nail kit for my daughter, who is home from a NYC university, and we’ve been going to town with our nails, decorating them with glitter and foils and rhinestones—a real departure from my usual baby pink. It’s been a welcome distraction from what’s happening out in the world.
19–What can readers expect from you next?
I am currently working on a story about a home invasion, slated for publication in fall of 2021. I can’t really say much more about the story than that, though, as I’m still deep in the weeds. I don’t usually talk about what I’m writing until I make it through that first, sticky draft. More soon—I promise!
20–How can readers reach you?
I can be found wasting entirely too much time on social media:
I also send out a very occasional newsletter, which readers can subscribe to on my website: http://kimberlybellebooks.com/contact/.
“Spellbinding. Another outstanding novel by Kimberly Belle, masterfully written to lure you in and never let go.” – Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife
When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.
At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.
As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust–her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.
Look for these other pulse-pounding thrillers by Kimberly Belle:
Three Days Missing
The Marriage Lie
About Kimberly Belle
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of suspenseful novels. Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.