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. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.
Kimberly has written two previous novels, The Last Breath and The Ones We Trust, her latest novel The Marriage Lie is out now.
How does The Marriage Lie differ from your previous two novels?
My first two novels kind of straddle the line between suspense and women’s fiction, but when I came up with the idea for The Marriage Lie, there was really no other way to tell the story other than as a twisty suspense story. A husband dying under mysterious circumstances, a wife determined to dig up the truth about the man she was in love with. To write it any other way would not do the story justice.
But it was exactly my background in women’s fiction that led me to write the story as I did—with a normal, everyday lead whose emotions play a big role. It’s not just about the action on the page, but about how Iris responds to what happens. When she loses her husband under suspicious circumstances, she’s dealing with grief and confusion but also feelings of betrayal, and her emotions color every decision she makes from there on out. The action drives the emotion and the emotion drives the action, and the two become so intertwined that one can’t exist without the other.
And while yes, this story is a departure from my two previous books, I am fascinated with secrets and how when they come to light (as they always do), they can really destroy a relationship. In that vein at least, The Marriage Lie is similar to my other two novels.
Did your love of travel in part inspire this story?
Absolutely. Anyone who knows me knows that I fly a lot, dividing my time between Atlanta and Amsterdam, so when it came time to think about story ideas and what would be the worst possible thing that could happen to a person, a plane crash was pretty front-of-mind. I started thinking about what that would be like for the people left behind, especially if there were some kind of deception involved on the part of the person who was killed—a big, tangled web of lies for my main character, Iris, to unwind. The rest of the story filled in from there.
Tell us about Iris Griffiths …
Iris is a happily married woman. She and her husband Will have it all—a large house in a nice Atlanta neighbourhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. And then Will’s plane crashes, and everything she thought she knew about herself and her marriage falls apart.
She’s also a psychologist, working at a private school counselor. I liked the way this job pitted her emotions (which are often irrational) against her years of training and experience. Iris is always preaching accountability to her students. She encourages them to be loyal to their beliefs, to live the life they intend for themselves, to live up to the promises they make to themselves and others. When faced with her own crisis, she will have to practice what she preaches in order to be able to live with herself. In the end, her training will color every decision she makes in the story.
Your book differs from other recent novels by women in that the female protagonist is likeable. Is this something you felt strongly about?
Yes, I made Iris remarkably normal on purpose because that makes her instantly relatable. She has loving parents, a doting twin brother, a stable, middle-class upbringing. She wants what so many of us want out of life—to fall in love, to get married, to start a family, to live happily ever after. She’s just like you and me, which makes the dangers she faces feel that much more personal. It could just as well be the reader’s name on the page.
The themes in this story—love and trust and betrayal—also give the reader a personal, visceral punch. Everyone knows what it feels like to love, and everyone knows what it feels like to have your heart crushed. The same goes with trust. I think every reader can relate to believing in someone who in the end proves us wrong. Yes, the story is suspenseful, but the real meat is around Iris’s emotions—her grief and denial and anger, and how these emotions cause her to respond. This is what in my mind makes her story so interesting.
What’s next for Kimberly Belle?
I’m currently wrapping up the first draft of my next story, which for now I’m calling MISTAKEN, about a botched kidnapping of eight-year old Ethan, who vanishes from a cabin in the North Georgia mountains while on an overnight trip with his second-grade class. At first, police assume his disappearance is an abduction, until another mother receives a mysterious call demanding ransom for her son, a little boy who’s safe and accounted for. Both mothers are thrust in a race to save him, and they’ll find that the greatest dangers are not in the threats of an anonymous stranger, but the everyday smiles of people closer to home.
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