Happy Thursday, my friends, I hope you’re having a fabulous week! Only one more day until the weekend. If you’re needing a little spring in your step or a creative nudge then you’ve come to the right place for it’s time for another serving of Creativity Over Coffee. Today we’re chatting with Kristy Woodson Harvey, author of Dear Carolina, and one half of the brilliant design blog Design Chic.
Grab your coffee, tea or smoothie and let’s begin.
Here’s our chat:
Creativity Over Coffee: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Thank you so much for deciding to join me for coffee and chat about your creative process. When I had just graduated from film school in London and couldn’t find work, I found inspiration through the many biographies I read from the library. I used to go there each week and take out more.
Many people believe they are not creative. I hear this all the time. It is my hope with these conversations with my talented friends that I hope to inspire my readers to believe that they truly are creativity. That creativity is just sitting inside of them waiting to bubble over.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your creative journey? Did you know you always wanted to be a writer?
Kristy – When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I was in high school and doing an internship at my local paper, where I ended up getting to write a newspaper column, that I thought I might want to be a writer. I went to journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill, got my master’s in English and then went to work in… finance. Yup. My husband and I got married, he was a small-town dentist, and I couldn’t get a teaching job. I actually think that was an important choice because I learned that it was okay to be told “no.” And that every no just gets you closer to an eventual yes. This is critical for writing, of course, because there is so much criticism on the way to success. You have to have a thick skin! I started freelance writing again a couple years later, wrote my first and second manuscripts (which I promptly put in a drawer), signed with a literary agent after writing my third and, while he was shopping that one, won a writing contest for Dear Carolina, where the final judge was an editor at Penguin Random House. The editor bought Dear Carolina after finding it in the contest, and the rest is history! My second novel, Lies and Other Acts of Love, is coming out April 5, and I’ve recently finished my next manuscript… and am about to turn it in. I wonder if I’ll ever get less nervous about this??
Your first novel Dear Carolina is set in North Carolina and is the beautiful story written in letter form to baby Carolina from her birth mother and adoptive mother. Did you have a real life story in mind when writing this?
Kristy – Not particularly. I had heard snippets here and there about real-life open adoptions, but the story was mainly influenced by my son’s birth and the realization of how unfathomably difficult it would be to give up your child — even if you knew it was the right thing.
How much did you draw on your own life? I know Jodi is very knowledgeable about planting and Khaki is a talented designer. Were those both drawn from your own interests?
Kristy – Yes! My interior design blog was a big inspiration for Khaki’s career, and I am extremely interested in (obsessed with?!) organic food, local farmers, farm to table… All that good stuff. I had to do tons of research for Jodi’s character, but I loved it! I feel like a know a lot more about this thing I love now.
When do you feel most creative or happy?
Kristy – Definitely when I’m working on a manuscript, and everything is just flowing. Honestly, even when it isn’t flowing as well, sitting down and writing is my “happy place.” Certainly, I love being with my family and that makes me happy too, of course, but in terms of feeling inspired and really, truly myself, writing is definitely where I find that.
I know you also write the lovely blog Design Chic with your mother. Can you tell me more about the blog journey and what inspired you both to start it?
Kristy – We are both so shocked that we have been blogging for six years! Because we truly were on the phone one day, and my mom said, “I need a new hobby,” and I said, “Hey, let’s start a blog.” She didn’t even know how to download a picture, and my blogging experience consisted of a few posts for other bloggers while I was freelancing. Who knew?
Who or what inspires you?
Kristy – I love the water, but I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t need to feel “inspired” to write.
Do you ever get in a funk? If so, how do you get out of it?
Kristy – I’m generally pretty happy, but, sure, there are days when I’m a grump! I’d like to say that I go for a run or something to recharge my batteries. But, really, I shop and eat chocolate covered peanuts. Money can’t buy happiness but new shoes always give me a little boost!
What is your favorite color? Is white a color?
Kristy – I love all shades of white. I think they are so serene and clean looking. It’s probably not a surprise that I love turning blank spaces into something full, so maybe that’s why! I love pale blues (Carolina blue! Woo hoo!) and all pinks too.
Is there any color you don’t LOVE?
Kristy – I’m not a huge burgundy fan. Or hunter green. Anything too dark. I like light tones, for the most part, with the right mix of dark wood, black or perfect dark shades of favorite colors.
How has social media impacted your work and the art you create?
Kristy – I think it’s even harder to create in a vacuum now. You’re very much “out there” and super accessible, which can be difficult, especially because, along with all of the lovely praise, there is a bit of criticism. I think about my readers a lot when I write now, what they like, what they won’t like. And I’m okay with that. Because, in reality, they’re who I’m creating for!
How do you balance creativity with the need to make money?
Kristy – I’m very, very lucky to have gotten published with such a great publishing house and that Design Chic has become a wonderful business. I also have a husband who is fine with being the sole breadwinner of our family in the event that this doesn’t work out in the future! I think that’s a ton of pressure, and I’m very grateful that he was so eager to take that on. He is my greatest support system, and, despite the sacrifices it has meant for him, he has never complained — and tells me every day how proud he is of me.
Can you give us a snip it of what a day in the life of Kristy is like?
Kristy – Every day is a bit different, so I’ll tell you about Tuesdays! I get up about 7, put on my exercise clothes, have my coffee and respond to emails until my son wakes up, usually about 7:30 (sometimes earlier, which is why I don’t work out that early because it’s frustrating when I get in five minutes!). Then we have breakfast, I get him ready, and I walk him to preschool while he rides his bike at about 8:45. I jog home and try to get in twenty or so minutes of yoga afterwards. Then I spend twenty minutes or so responding to urgent emails and social media situations, after which I try to spend an hour and a half to two hours either working on my work in progress, or, if I have edits due, working on those. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both. I jog back to school, pick my son up and get ready for the day. Then we either meet my husband for lunch, eat at home or have lunch with friends. In the afternoon we run a few errands, go to the park, play, whatever he wants to do… He has soccer practice at 5:30, so my husband usually meets us there and, at 6:15, we come home, have dinner together as a family, get him showered and ready for bed. He goes to bed about 8, which is when I try to respond to emails, social media, do my design blog and my personal blog. And hang out with my husband, of course! I’d love to be in bed by 11, but it’s usually twelve. That’s an ideal day, of course. Lately, I’ve had events for Dear Carolina almost every day, have been traveling a lot, and I do a lot of Skyping with book clubs in the evenings (which I love!). So, like I said, every day is different. I’m very Type-A and goal-oriented, so this year’s real challenge has been rolling with it. I’ve fallen into it better than I would have expected, actually! I think I’m just having so much fun that I’m less worried about my to-do list!
How do you balance it all?
Kristy – I cut myself a lot of slack these days. My son is four, so this is probably the last year he’ll be in half-day Pre-K, so there isn’t a lot of work time. There just isn’t. But I somehow always manage to get it done. I used to meditate for twenty minutes every day and exercise for at least 30 minutes and usually an hour every day and get my hair blown out on Thursday afternoons… That makes me laugh now because life is a little different now. But, oddly enough, I’ve never been happier!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested becoming more creative or would like to go into writing?
Kristy – Whatever it is, you never know until you try! I’d never thought of writing a novel until I was staring down the barrel of my 25th birthday and wanted to really accomplish something tangible. I had no idea if I could even do it, and certainly didn’t have any grand visions of a Penguin Random House book deal. But, once I finished my first manuscript, I was totally hooked, and getting my work into the world became a huge focus. And, even more important, don’t wait. You’re never going to have more free time. It’s never going to be easier. We’re grand and glorious at making excuses as to why we can’t. That’s fear. If it takes two years to write the book (or finish the painting or whatever it may be!) because you could only carve out twenty minutes a day to work on it, who cares? You still wrote it. You’re a lot further along than you would have been if you were still counting all the reasons you couldn’t! If it makes you happy, make the time. If it’s important, find a way. And, if you don’t, then maybe it wasn’t that important after all.
Growing up I was a huge follower of INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO. At the end of the program, they would ask the interviewee these questions:
- What is your favorite word? Literati. Not because of what it implies. I just think it’s a gorgeous word. It sounds good coming off the lips. Glamorous too!
- What is your least favorite word? Moist. (Blech!)
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Yoga. I got certified to teach a few years ago. I’ve never taught a single class, but it was still fun!
- What turns you off? Mess, and, even moreso, anything truly dirty. In fact, I don’t use anything anti-bacterial, since I’m into the organic stuff, but my son just informed me that Lysol kills 45% more germs than Clorox, (I can’t make this stuff up.) so I think it may be a touch of a genetic trait.
- What is your favorite curse word? Damn
- What sound or noise do you love? My son telling me he loves me. It’s so good.
- What sound or noise do you hate? The sound the car makes when the keys are still in the ignition and the door is open.
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I want to write country music! I love the show Nashville, and I’m now convinced that I could do it, despite not playing a single instrument. So, hmmm…
- What profession would you not like to do? My husband is a dentist, and I think that is such a gross job. He loves it, thank goodness!
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Come on in!
Thank you so much, Kristy, for stopping by and sharing your story and insights with us today. Loved hearing how you started your writing career and also how you balance it all!
Be sure to follow along with Kristy:
Hope you can stop by again soon for Creativity Over Coffee