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Kim will be on tour November 19 – December 3 with her novel Down at the Golden Coin.
How would your life change if you met your Messiah at the laundromat?
During the horrible recession, DOWN AT THE GOLDEN COIN’s main character, former airline pilot Annie Mullard, feels she has sunk to new low when she is forced to go to a run-down laundromat, The Golden Coin, after her washing machine breaks, but it’s here she meets a messiah named Violet. Even though she can read minds, send Annie into past lives and levitate Tide with Bleach Alternative, Violet isn’t anyone’s idea of a messiah. But Violet is equipped with the wisdom, love and humor to help Annie find a way to a more authentic life, one in which Annie’s free to create her own reality and where money is not the key to happiness.
I smash a load of jeans down into a washing machine at the Golden Coin Wash and Spin and vow I will not burst into tears. I take a deep breath and instead of crying, gently close the lid.
Thankfully, nobody else is in here. Then again, it’s this same desolation that makes it creepy to be here at all, despite the morning sun blazing through the front windows, which only seems to accentuate how run down this place is.
My hands grip the edge of my machine as it fills with water. I close my eyes. I’m trying hard not to feel like a lunatic, almost shedding tears over a washing machine.
Please God, I think, please just let things get better. It feels like I’m asking for a miracle.
“You praying? Worshipping the Whirlpool?”
I nearly screw myself into the ceiling at the sound of her voice. How she got in here, so fast, without me hearing, I don’t know. Maybe the rush of water filling up my four machines drowned out the sound of her arrival, but the door has one of those little bells that jingle when you walk through. When I came in ten minutes ago, I’d thought it was silly. Who were they trying to alert? The dryers? There’s no attendant here. At the Golden Coin Wash and Spin, you’re on your own.
She looks to be in her early twenties and, from what I know, totally goth. Or maybe emo. Probably emo. Goth is out. Actually, both goth and emo are out. I think. I’m not sure. I have three children, two of them teenagers, but they can’t be bothered to explain these things to me anymore.
Short black hair falls long over her right eye and it has electric blue streaks down the front. She’s a tiny little thing in a slightly too large white tank top. A wife-beater-T is what we used to call them. A black bra strap has slipped out fashionably on one side. Even though it’s ninety-five humid degrees outside, and not much better, if not worse, in here, she’s wearing pencil thin black jeans and bulky Doc Martens. Her nose has a small piercing, one round diamond in one nostril. It’s tasteful, like something I might have done in my twenties, if I’d thought any of the airlines I was just dying to work for at the time would have allowed it.
And she’s already measuring out her detergent, which brings me to another thing I find strange about her. This place is pretty big and all the rest of the machines are empty and she’s chosen the one right next to mine.
Her Angelina lips are pursed in concentration as she stares at the measuring cup, holding it up at eye level. She pours a little detergent back into the bottle: Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness, which has me guiltily looking at my Tide with Bleach Alternative. I watch her. It’s like she’s performing a science experiment, the way she’s eyeing the little plastic cup.
I’m grateful for the distraction of her though, and to not be alone in here anymore. She catches me watching her and smiles before looking down to pour the detergent over her clothes.
I like her, I decide. The way she smiled. It was nice. “I was praying,” I say. She gives me another smile, which I take for encouragement. “But I don’t think my prayer is getting answered.” I pause for what I hope is comedic effect. “Because I’m still here.”
Kim Strickland lives in Chicago with her husband, three children, two cats and one dog. She also blogs as A City Mom at ChicagoNow. Down at the Golden Coin is her second novel. When she’s not being a mom or a writer, she flies jets for a major airline, which means, every once in a while, she gets to eat an entire meal sitting down.
Connect with Kim!
Q. What inspires your writing? I take it we’re working under the assumption my writing is inspired ? My kids, I think, inspire me the most. Maybe it’s nothing more than looking at them and seeing my own mortality, but they make me want to set an example, to show them dreams can be made real.
Also, I get some pretty good ideas in the shower.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author? In the words of Dorothy Parker, “I like having written,” at least in terms of that first draft, which is always hard for me. Later drafts tend to flow more easily. Another thing I like about being an author is that I can work in my pajamas, or in a coffee shop. But usually not both at the same time.
Q. What is the toughest part of being an author? Finding the time for the day to day of it, the agony of the middle part of the story—beginnings and ends are much easier. And the marketing. Oh God, it’s so hard to market and sell yourself, at least for me. I always feel like I’m bothering everybody. And yet it’s so necessary in this business, because unless you’re one of the very fortunate few, no one else is going to do it for you.
Q. If you could not be author, what would you do/be? A psychic reader and advisor. Or maybe a mime. Oh, just kidding. I already have my “other” job; I fly jets for a major airline.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled? “To Be Continued…Hopefully”
Q. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your book cover(s)? Working with a small press like Eckhartz was awesome in that I had full control over the cover for Down at the Golden Coin. Although I loved the cover for my first novel,Wish Club, which was with a large publisher, Three Rivers Press. It was the first cover they showed me and I still think it’s awesome. And as a bonus, it wasn’t pink.
For the cover of Down at the Golden Coin, my graphic designer, Beth Tomas, and I were really on the same page. She thought of the brick background and I added the graffiti-like text. When she asked me to brace myself and to be open—because she imagined a gold coin bursting out of a front-loading washing machine—I knew that would be the design, because all along, that was the exact vision I’d always had for it!
Q. What is your favorite book of all time? “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
Q. Which part of your book(s) was the easiest to write? The scenes when Annie goes to see her possible future, where she meets her children as they might be five years later. It was like writing a best case scenario for how I would want my kids to turn out.
Q. Which part of your book(s) was the hardest to write? The philosophy and spiritual messages from Violet. Basically I was putting words in “God’s” mouth. I tried very hard to not sound preachy or sanctimonious, because while most of what Violet says is what I believe, it’s just my faith. In the end, I really don’t know that it’s the truth or not, and probably won’t until, well, the end I guess.
Q. Which character from any book are you most like? Wow, this is a hard one. I don’t know. Do you think people would believe me if I said Scarlett O’Hara?
Q. What is your favorite season? Baseball season!
Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book(s). Whenever I’m selling books at a book fair or similar venue, I always promote them by saying, “The book is free, if you purchase my autograph for ten-dollars.” It’s silly, but I crack myself up. (Unfortunately, I also probably annoy the hell out of anyone else near me selling their books!) But it’s fun to see the varied reactions from potential customers. Most of them get it and smile; some think I’m actually giving away free books. Sometimes I’ll even add that they’re “two for twenty-dollars,” just to see who’s quick at math.
Q. Are you working on something new? Always!
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by? Thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read about little old me. I hope I made you smile. And please buy my book.
Over the course of my writing career, I have accumulated my fair share of rejection letters. It's a badge of honor of sorts and we writers love to lament our collections. Having a pile of your own is practically a requirement for admission to the world-of-being-a-professional-writer club. So, after so many years of being on the receiving end of the dreaded rejection letter, imagine my astonishment at finding myself having to write them.
And I'm pretty good at it, IMHO. Having received every sort of written rejection imaginable, I know how I like to be rejected. Not the way a certain unnamed literary agent did so, with a one sentence reply: “I am not interested in your project at this time.” Ouch. And not with the impersonal, Xeroxed form letter, either, which is a little passé these days anyway, since most of the querying world is now electronic. In my rejection letters, I borrow all the tried and true phrases, usually apologizing and using their name and trying to offer an appropriate amount of gratitude for contacting me, and encouragement that my opinion is only one of many, etc. But you know what? It still sucks. A lot. And it's harder than you think. Especially when it comes to rejecting those other writers, because I know exactly what they're going through.
I know they will see my email address in their inbox, and they might, like me when I see a reply to one of my queries, stare at it for a while, alternately hopeful and full of worry, running an internal conversation through their heads, like the one that goes through mine: "Should I open it? Will it be good news or bad? If it's bad news, do I want to hear it right now, before yoga? Will it ruin my day? But what if it's good news? It could be good news you know. You shouldn't be so negative. And why are you having this conversation anyway, when you know you are going to open it in within thirty seconds anyway?"
And please don't get me wrong, it's not like I fool myself into thinking that getting accepted as a guest blogger at A City Mom is considered the writing thrill of a lifetime or anything, but still. Rejection is rejection and it hurts. I thought somehow being on the giving end, being the one to hand out the rejection, would be better, easier. But not so much. Writing these letters myself makes me feel a little more sympathy for all those agents and publishers who've rejected me and my writing. Well, everyone except for maybe that one certain unnamed agent, that is.