Q&A: Kellie Coates Gilbert (A Woman of Courage)
WHERE DID GET THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS NOVEL?
In late 2008, many of us watched as master financier Bernie Madoff’s story unfolded. I couldn’t seem to pull my eyes from the television as the man accused of swindling thousands of innocent victims—including family and friends—out of billions of dollars in the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, was taken from his posh Manhattan apartment in handcuffs and his family became vilified in the media. The events held particular interest for me. In my former role as a legal investigator, I helped unravel, what was then, the largest cattle fraud in the United States.
I interviewed dozens who were caught in the betrayal and who found themselves and their businesses floundering as a result. These stories fascinate me on many levels, but in particular, I’m intrigued with the families behind the scenes. What is it like for a wife to learn her husband is a criminal? What happens to children when they face that kind of shame?
We know, at least in part, what transpired in the Madoff family in the aftermath—fractured relationships, family devastation and suicide. As a novelist, I yearned to explore what might happen if the converse were true. What would the story look like if a strong woman protagonist bucked the odds and used her faith to land on solid ground?
WHY DO YOU THINK AMERICANS ARE SO INFATUATED WITH POWER AND MONEY?
As mentioned, I spent a lot of time in courtrooms working on high profile cases. People are often at their most vulnerable in these tense situations where much is at stake, and I gained a unique perspective on the human psyche—and most especially how power and money give a false sense of security.
This story is seeped with the cattle fraud case I mentioned earlier. I spent weeks in the Midwest interviewing and collecting records from farmers and ranchers who had invested with United Producers, a large cattle brokerage outfit. Ultimately, the owner George Young and his office assistant, Kathleen McConnell were imprisoned for many of the things you’ll see showcased in A Woman of Fortune.At no time was this phenomenon more apparent, than in that case.
Today, as our economy teeters and 401K account balances don’t seem to be enough, many people face shaky financial ground. The media would have us believe we’re doomed, but security and peace can be found by standing on the Solid Rock- Jesus.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR READERS THINK WHEN THEY FINISH READING THIS NOVEL?
Well, first, I just hope readers enjoy the story. Early readers are telling us the book reminds them of watching a "Parenthood" or "The Good Wife" episode on television. As an author, I’m known for creating an emotionally poignant story, with twists the readers never saw coming. This email reflects what I commonly hear from my readers:
“Hi Kellie . . . I just wanted to say your book was touching, gut wrenching and truly amazing at the same time and made me cry a lot. This book made me feel like I knew this family just by reading your book. You’re an amazing writer! It's very hard for me to find the "right" book to where once I start to read I can't put it down. I finished it and just wanted to let you know I can't wait to read the next one!”
Readers, you have no idea what your emails and reviews mean to an author!Thank you for taking the time to give feedback when you read a novel.
Ultimately though, I’d love women to come away from this novel with a recalibrated understanding of where (and in Whom) our security rests.
CAN YOU TELL US SOME ABOUT YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, CLAIRE?
Texas socialite Claire Massey’s world is filled with designer clothes, luxury cars, and stunning homes. But her Neiman-Marcus lifestyle is interrupted when her charming cattle broker husband is arrested for fraud.
What follows is a story of how one woman survives losing everything in a firestorm of frozen assets, media coverage, fractured relationships, and destroyed reputation . . . and worse, betrayal by the one man she loved more than anything. Claire became so real to me as I journeyed through the creation of this novel. More of my own “stuff” landed on the page than I’d intended, frankly. As an author, I had to come face-to-face with the knowledge of how often I define myself with worldly goods and accomplishments – with status. It was a bit freaky to consider how I might react if all of that was suddenly pulled away. What would I do? What course of action would I take? And if someone I loved betrayed me, how would I survive that experience with my soul intact?
I knew my first reaction (and Claire’s) would be to deny my world had changed. I’d likely try to cling to my normal and fight the change for as long as I could, even if the fight was in my head. Ultimately, Claire was surprised (and I think readers will be too) at who Claire learned she could trust … and who she couldn’t.You find out the identity of your real true friends when you face hard times, and life gets a bit ugly.
THIS BOOK IS SET IN TEXAS. WAS IT FUN TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THE PLACE YOU CALL HOME?
Some reviewers have suggested that A Woman of Fortune reflects the extravagance of the popular television show, “Dallas.”I suppose that is true. This town certainly has an element that overshadows anything most of us will experience – in financial status, but also in terms of position and power. When we relocated here from the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, I was astounded at how many billionaires call the DFW area home. The first time I drove down Preston Road, in Highland Park and in the Turtle Creek area, my mouth dropped open. I had never seen those kinds of homes, with those kinds of cars.I sat and wrote several chapters while sitting in a Starbucks nearby, and could barely see my monitor for the reflection of diamonds (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much).
One of the most surprising things was the size of the churches in this area. The word mega-church doesn’t seem big enough! Oh, and there are some women who wear their hair pretty big here.
I tried to capture that ambiance in the novel. One of the most fun things was incorporating so many local venues – the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Dallas Arboretum, the Adolphus Hotel, to name a few. I think readers will feel like they’ve spent some time in Dallas, Texas, after closing the last page.