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Q&A with Kristy Woodson Harvey, Author of A Happier Life

Q&A with Kristy Woodson Harvey, Author of A Happier Life

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Kristy Woodson Harvey is back with a new novel this summer, A Happier Life.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including The Wedding VeilUnder the Southern Sky, and The Peachtree Bluff series, which is in development for television with NBC.

A Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism, her writing has appeared in numerous online and print publications, including Southern LivingTraditional HomeUSA TODAYDomino, and O. Henry. Kristy is the winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize.

Her books have received numerous accolades, including Southern Living’s Most Anticipated Beach Reads, Parade’s Big Fiction Reads, and Entertainment Weekly’s Spring Reading Picks. Kristy is the cocreator and cohost of the weekly web show and podcast Friends & Fiction. She lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband and son where she is (always!) working on her next novel.

In A Happier Life, a young woman discovers the family she has always longed for when she spends a life-changing summer in North Carolina. It sounds wonderful!

Get to know Kristy as she talks favorite novels, writing inspiration, crafting the right setting and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

My favorite book ever is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read it for the first time in fourth grade and have probably read it a dozen times since. I also absolutely love The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. And I never miss books by Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Patti Callahan Henry, Emily Giffin, and Elin Hilderbrand. 

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

When I was about 25, I had a job in finance, but I started getting all these story ideas. I finally decided to sit down and give writing a novel a try, and I was hooked! I wrote several manuscripts before I was happy with one. But that was the beginning for me! I got my first book deal soon after.

Where do you draw your story ideas from?

Honestly… I have no idea! They usually come to me in quiet moments, which are fewer and farther between these days! But I often put different pieces of inspiration together. Slightly South of Simple, the beginning of my Peachtree Bluff Series, for example, was inspired by a secret someone told me right before her death and told me I should write a book about Beaufort, NC, the town that had stolen my heart.

How important is establishing a setting when drafting your stories?

SO important. In some of my books, I feel like setting is as important as any character could be. I love writing about small southern towns—in particular coastal towns the past few years—and I always hope the reader feels like he or she has been on a bit of a vacation or visited a place he or she would want to live.

Tell us about A Happier Life! What inspired you to write it?

Inspired by the unusual deaths of my great aunt and uncle in the 1970s (deaths that, in my mind, were never quite “solved”) and an abandoned house that I was one of the first people to enter after it had been closed up for fifty years, this novel is the culmination of two events that have occupied my imagination for decades. It begins with Keaton Smith going back to Beaufort, NC to clean out and sell the house of the grandparents who died long before she was born and, in the process, finding out what actually happened to them—and discovering the next step on her own life’s journey.

What was your favorite chapter or part to write?

This is the first time I’ve ever written a dog into a novel! I got my first dog ever, Salt, two years ago, and I just adore him. He’s so funny and cute and, honestly, kind of a local celebrity. I knew I wanted him to be a character! 

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I am currently reading Summers at the Saint by Mary Kay Andrews and up next is The Summer Pact by Emily Giffin. As I said above, they are two of my go-to authors, so I’m thrilled to say the least to have early copies!