Welcome to February’s Authors ’18 Book Interview series! You can check us out on Facebook, GoodReads Instagram and www.authors18.com . This one is getting a lot of attention — if you want to be in the know first, go check it out now!
Author: Kimmery Martin
Title: The Queen of Hearts
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction/Medical Fiction
Release Date: TODAY! February 13, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS
by Kimmery Martin
A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…
Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.
As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.
Where did you get the idea for THE QUEEN OF HEARTS?
I’ve always been a tremendous book nerd. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I harbored a secret desire to model myself after the human beings I most admire—writers—and one day I just sat down and started. It’s a common trope that debut authors should write what they know, and there’s a good reason for that: for most people, mastering the technicalities of good fiction alongside a massive amount of background research would be too time-consuming and difficult. I know about being a doctor and I know about being a mother and I know about being a friend. Having characters who embody those qualities seemed natural.
What’s the story behind the title?
The original title was Trauma Queen. (One of my protagonists is a trauma surgeon; the other is a cardiologist.) However, I guess the publishers weren’t in favor of having the word ‘trauma’ in the title. I’m ghastly at thinking of titles, so we went through about a thousand before settling on The Queen of Hearts, which actually necessitated a change of specialty for the character who is now a cardiologist. But the title inspired the absolutely fantastic cover art: there’s a vintage anatomical drawing of a heart—recognizable to pretty much every physician—covered by gorgeous flowers.
No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
Because of copyright restrictions, I couldn’t use certain song lyrics I wanted for a scene where Zadie, one of the mothers in the story, gets embarrassed by the music she inadvertently blasts during her kids’ carpool pickup. Therefore I wrote two original rap songs and attributed them to fictitious bands: Herbal Life’s Bitch Ain’t Sharing, and Down With The Man’s Sippin’ Sizzurp. (An ode to weed and a noxious cough-syrup-based party cocktail called Purple Drank, respectively. Note: I am not endorsing drugs here. This is humor.) They were totally badass but my editor pared them down to two lines, probably because she’s sane and I’m not. Here’s an excerpt.
—Gotta roll, gotta bounce
but first she say let’s burn an ounce
O hey, the bitch aint sharin
O hey, the bitch ain’t sharin’—
–yeah, 4 big blunts for my j-town playaz
some purple drank Im’ma savor
sippin’ sizzurp, she like ‘hold up’
I say ‘whoa m—f—er’ as she throw up–
Yeah, okay, so maybe I don’t have a future as a rap lyricist.
Tell us about your favorite character.
That’s easy: Delaney, the three year-old daughter of one of the main characters. She’s an impish little squirt. I can state with confidence that I nailed it on this one, because I had my own real-life three year-old simultaneously wreaking havoc and melting my heart as I was writing it.
Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
I was inspired by a transformative friendship with a group of girlfriends from medical school; we had an intense camaraderie and a love for one another that endures to this day. I had a vague idea that it might be interesting to base a book on a similar group of friends. Then I decided to transpose scenes from my characters’ lives in their early twenties with their present-day lives as wives, mothers, and practicing physicians. While I used the settings from my own life to inform the background of the novel, the events and personalities in the book are wholly fictional. All the drama in the plot—betrayals, professional errors, tragedy—bubbled up in my imagination as the characters became more developed.
The Writing Process
How long did you take to write this book?
It took five years to write the book, edit it, acquire an agent, sell to a publisher, revise it, market it, and get it published.
What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
About 60,000 words, the original ending, and an entire plot line.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
100% pantser. Not that I recommend that.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
With my debut novel I really didn’t, because I didn’t know enough to get stuck. I wrote whatever and whenever I felt like, without any worry about deadlines or plot holes or story arcs. But if I wasn’t feeling particularly creative, I’d open one of my favorite books at random and read until my fingers itched to get going.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a lapsed ER doctor married to an orthopedic surgeon with three feisty children and an obstinate Westie.
Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
I have a book review blog where I interview authors and recommends good reads. I also dabble in travel writing: recently I’ve posted articles on my experiences in Italy, Costa Rica, Iceland and Toronto. Finally, I’m participating for a year as a weekly blogger for The Debutante Ball, a website devoted to writing topics featuring five female debut writers.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a second novel about one of the secondary characters in The Queen of Hearts, and I also have a half-finished biotech thriller that I’m longing to get back to.
“Martin’s debut novel, about pediatric cardiologist Zadie Anson and trauma surgeon Emma Colley, is a medical drama executed with just the right balance of intensity, plot twists, tragedy, and humor…A remarkably absorbing read.” —Booklist
“Whip-smart and full of heart, Martin expertly weaves the threads of friendship, love and betrayal into a story that crackles with humor and compassion. A brilliant debut.”—Lisa Duffy, author of The Salt House
“In The Queen of Hearts, Kimmery Martin deftly weaves a tale of friendship and betrayal, family and lost love, the choices that define us and the secrets that keep us. Brimming with wit, intelligence, humor, and warmth, this dazzling debut teaches us about the heart’s surprising resilience. Kimmery Martin is a new voice to watch.”—Sarah Domet, author of The Guineveres
About the Author
Kimmery Martin is a physician, book reviewer, author interviewer, travel blogger, obsessive reader, and general all-around literary nerd who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and three children. The Queen of Hearts is her first novel.
LIKE THIS? Check out other debut novelists interviews:
Authors ’18 Book Interview: Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood
Authors ’18 Book Interview: Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Authors ’18 Book Interview: Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer
Authors ’18 Book Interview: The Marine’s Secret Daughter by Carrie Nichols
Authors ’18 Book Interview: The Night Child, by Anna Quinn
Great post! I LOVED this book and it was fun to read your interview with her. I’m so EXCITED that Kimmery Martin is writing a sequel – that is new to me. – I can’t wait!!