Novelist and Salisbury native Kristy Woodson Harvey finds joy in writing
By Laurie Lyda, Rowan Public Library
Kristy Woodson Harvey is fond of her hometown and the role it plays in her life. “Growing up, I always felt like Salisbury was particularly supportive of me and what I was doing…I am incredibly proud of my roots and my hometown, and I carry that with me,” she says. “I think I know how to write about home and that feeling you get when you’re there because of Salisbury.”
On Monday, April 2, Harvey will be the featured author at the Friend of Rowan Public Library’s Annual Meeting. She’ll discuss her newest novel, “The Secret to Southern Charm,” which debuts April 3 and is the second installment in her Peachtree Bluff series.
She’ll be returning to familiar ground for this event. “Rowan Public Library in particular was part of my weekly life growing up,” Harvey says. “I still remember how it smells and what it felt like to search the stacks for the perfect title. If it weren’t for libraries, I’m not sure I would even be an author, and I know I wouldn’t be as avid of a reader.”
She believes strongly in the mission of libraries. “Libraries are vital to our communities, to literacy, to our society and to the world. I truly believe that. They give access to reading to people who wouldn’t have it otherwise, and they introduce readers to new authors. I can’t say enough how much we need our libraries!”
Events like the Friends of RPL’s Annual Meeting allow Harvey to not only support libraries and Friends organizations, but to engage with her readers and with other writers as well. It’s a “total dream” to engage in writing and reading communities. “Authors are still my rock stars,” she says. “I get to be with them now… and talk to them and get advice from them. Quite a few of my idols are my actual friends now, which blows my mind. And readers are the best people in the world. I love going out and meeting them.”
Her time on tour offers her many opportunities for this type of engagement. “I do about 100 speaking engagements a year, and I feel like my world has gotten very big. I have traveled all over the country – from big cities to the tiniest towns imaginable – and it is always a thrill to be somewhere with people who love your work and want to talk to you about it.”
She points out, “Writing is obviously a very solitary activity so to be able to go out into the world and hear that what you’re doing is resonating with people feels like a huge gift.”
It’s clear that writing is a joy for Harvey. “I just feel incredibly lucky to have been given this huge gift to be able to do something I love everyday,” she says. Her inspiration comes from many things, including “music, nature, [and] being around family and friends.” Harvey doesn’t rely on inspiration in order to write, though. “I’m very diligent about my deadlines and my work time,” she says. “Those days when I feel incredibly inspired are just a bonus!”
Every writer has to use a process that works best for them. For Harvey, that includes not over-valuing outside critique. “I still very much write for myself,” she says. “I realized [that] when I thought about every little criticism that every person would have, that my characters were all very stale and boring. So, of course, I think about my readers when I write, but I try to stay true to my voice.”
She also works to deadlines that can be very tight. “I had nine weeks to write “Slightly South of Simple.” It takes about a year from the time I’ve turned a book in until the time it comes out, so I don’t have tons of time to write and obsess [about criticism] now. But I’m good with that.”
“Slightly South of Simple” is the first in the Peachtree Bluff series. The setting is largely inspired by Beaufort, NC, where Harvey and her family currently live. “An editor at Simon & Shuster asked me if I would be interested in writing a series for her – preferably about three sisters. I didn’t think I had any ideas for a series, but when I got on the phone with her, this one just started pouring out. And the Peachtree Bluff series was born!”
Her new novel, “The Secret to Southern Charm,” continues the stories of the Murphy women and what happens when middle sister Sloane, an army wife, learns her husband is missing in action. “[It] was the most difficult book I’ve ever written because I felt this tremendous responsibility to get it right. I’m not an Army wife, but I have spent a lot of time imagining what that must be like,” Harvey says.
Now that “The Secret to Southern Charm” is being released, Harvey is doing a lot of press and spending time on tour, but she’s already looking ahead to her next project. “I can’t wait to get started on the third – and final – book in the Peachtree Bluff series,” she says. “I am so excited to write Emerson’s story and share more of her with readers.”
In the meantime, readers can discover “The Secret to Southern Charm.” The Friends of RPL Annual Meeting on April 2 is open to the public and will be held in the Stanback Auditorium at RPL Headquarters, located at 201 W. Fisher St. in Salisbury. This free program begins at 7 p.m., and doors open at 6:30 p.m. with a reception to follow.
For more information about the event, call 704-216-8240 or visit www.rowanpubliclibrary.org. To learn more about Harvey and her work, visit kristywoodsonharvey.com
Kristy will be at South Main Book Co. on Tuesday, April 3, from 5-7 p.m. to sign copies of her new book, “The Secret to Southern Charm.” 110 S. Main St., 704-630-9788, southmainbookcompany.com