Kimberly Shannon Murphy, GLIMMER: A Story of Survival, Hope, and Healing

Kimberly Shannon Murphy, GLIMMER: A Story of Survival, Hope, and Healing

Zibby interviews Kimberly Shannon Murphy, one of the most successful stuntwomen in Hollywood, about GLIMMER: A STORY OF SURVIVAL, HOPE, AND HEALING, a raw and honest memoir about surviving her traumatic childhood, marked by sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather. Kimberly reflects on how her professional choices have been influenced by her past experiences. She also discusses the healing process, the importance of acknowledging pain, and the impact of family dynamics on her trauma. Despite the challenges, Kimberly’s story is one of resilience, emphasizing self-worth, love, and hope. She plans to adapt her memoir into a film and continues to find peace and gratitude in life.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Kimberly. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Glimmer: A Story of Survival, Hope, and Healing. Thank you.

Kimberly Shannon Murphy: Thank you.

Zibby: Thank you for this, by the way, this lovely — so lovely.

Kimberly: You’re welcome.

Zibby: I can’t wait to discuss. Tell listeners about your memoir, why you wrote it, what they should expect, the rundown. Then we’ll dive in.

Kimberly: I’ve been wanting to write my book for twenty years, probably. I’ve never been in the space mentally to write it. When COVID happened, I just don’t do well with downtime, so I was like, okay, I’m going to start doing my book. I hired a ghostwriter. We did a proposal. Harper bought it within a week of submitting it to them. I wrote it for my fifteen-year-old self. I wrote it for every survivor out there who has suffered any kind of trauma just to give them hope that they can heal and get past the difficult things that you might have experienced as a child.

Zibby: Wow. You do a really masterful job of talking about both the present, where you have — not just the present, but your job experience as a stuntwoman, an amazing, top-of-your-field stuntwoman. Then you take us, also, through these horrific events from when you were little and points where all of them sort of come together and the realizations and all of that. I have to say, I was reading with my hand over my mouth and then over my heart. The things that you experienced, just the fact that you wrote about them so beautifully and could come to terms with it and share it with everybody is such a gift. It deserves a standing ovation, basically.

Kimberly: Thank you. Thank you.

Zibby: Talk about the stunts and the way your job relates to the pain and why you feel like you went there. I feel like you analyzed that as well.

Kimberly: Yes, I think that there is definitely a correlation between people that do extreme sports and having trauma in your childhood. I think there is something about when we feel like we can push our bodies to an absolute limit, which is what I did in my career. Somehow, it relates back to our childhood. I feel like for me, I sort of seeked out just doing the most extreme things I could do in my life, put my body through these extreme things because I had already been through such extreme things. I never really connected the two until — the prologue speaks about me getting injured on I Am Legend. It was in that moment, or at least a few weeks after, that I really started putting two and two together, that staying at work when I was so badly hurt and actually getting up and doing the stunt again and again when we had — it took an hour and a half to reset the stunt, so I was just standing there bloody and cut, obviously needed attention from a doctor. I somehow felt this pride of just being able to push myself and not go see a doctor and not go get it taken care of. It was really in that moment where I realized, like I say in the book, that I needed to go back to therapy.

Zibby: Can you discuss what happened in your childhood, or do you want to leave it sort of veiled? How do you feel about it?

Kimberly: Oh, yeah. I was abused by my maternal grandfather, my mother’s father. He was somebody who abused all his children, including my mother, and then his grandchildren, me being one of them. Not all of his grandchildren lived by him, so not all were hurt. I saw him a lot, so for me, it happened often. He died when I was eleven, so it happened all the way up until he, obviously, passed away.

Zibby: First of all, I’m so sorry that this happened to you.

Kimberly: Thank you.

Zibby: The vivid detail in which you write it, even the dress you were wearing and how this could happen — part of it also is the enabling of it and the people in your life who failed you in terms of their ability to protect you, their ability to overlook, enable, all of that. Talk about that. Where are you in terms of anger versus acceptance? Where are you today on all of it?

Kimberly: The book was a really interesting thing for me emotionally because it really wasn’t until I wrote it — obviously, for those who are familiar, I was interviewed by probably all of the top trauma doctors. All of the top trauma doctors endorsed it. Then I did interviews after the book was out. I think I really had to look at — I speak with Dr. Nicole about this. I really had to look at my whole family system. It wasn’t until I read my story on paper or listened to my audiobook — I didn’t read my audiobook. I really had to look at my whole family and what role everybody played in me being hurt and being put in this position and being put around this man continuously and just what every adult in my life didn’t do to protect and didn’t do to help me. Where I’m at now is that I’m taking space from everybody because it’s just what I need to do for my own mental health and for my daughter and my family. It’s been a difficult road.

Zibby: I’m so sorry.

Kimberly: It’s okay.

Zibby: The level of emotion and family exhumation, if you will, it’s not just your story. This is a whole ecosystem of stories. To get it all out there, I can imagine that would be difficult for you, for everybody, but so important. You weren’t trying to hide any of the struggles of coping. You show us all of it. Maybe it’s not such a straight line. It’s not like, oh, this happened, and so this, that, and the other thing. You take us into the most challenging parts of the rest of your life. It’s almost like, what if this hadn’t happened? Here’s what happened to my life because it did happen. You’re showing us that way. How did that feel? It’s not just the abuse which you wrote about, which is just so painful and horrifying for you, and I’m so sorry, but it’s also the situations you got yourself in, not just the stunts, but how you blocked the pain, who you turned to, how you coped. Having to relive all of that, that could not have been easy.

Kimberly: No, it wasn’t, but it was also very therapeutic in a lot of ways. I strongly believe that if we don’t feel our pain, we can’t heal it. This was a necessary thing for me to do. If I didn’t write the book, I would’ve had to do it anyway if I want to continue to better myself and show up for my daughter every day. I also feel like in order to connect with survivors, which is why I wrote this book and the reason that I did all this, you have to be able to go through the things that happened after the abuse because it’s so important to be able to connect those things and understand that we do things as survivors out of pain when we haven’t healed it. That was just really important for me, to be able to be brutally honest about the things that I did in my life, which wasn’t easy to write about, for sure. Also, when I decided to write it, I wasn’t going to not be a hundred percent honest about everything because it didn’t feel authentic to me if I wasn’t going to just put it all out on the table. That’s what I did.

Zibby: What was it like working with the ghostwriter? How did it work? Did you just talk about your stories? What was the process?

Kimberly: First, we just did phone calls, probably three or four hours. She would tape them. She’d ask me questions. We would just do it that way. Then I would write, and she would make it really pretty. We would write back and forth. I would just write everything that I wanted to write. Then she would tweak it. Then I would tweak it. We would go back and forth like that. Then we did a trip together where we spent three days, probably ten to twelve hours each day, just talking. It was important for her to sit with me and get my mannerisms and just the way that I speak. It was a really beautiful process. I’m super grateful for her and what a talented writer she is.

Zibby: Who is the ghostwriter? Can you say?

Kimberly: Yeah, Genevieve Field.

Zibby: Oh, it’s right on the cover. There you go. In case you were worried she wasn’t getting credit, there she is. There you go. What has happened? What stories have come out of this already with other survivors or people who are reading the book and coming forward?

Kimberly: That’s been a really beautiful part about it. Social media can have its downs and its good sides and bad sides. The great thing about having social media is that people can reach you that wouldn’t normally be able to. To hear people message me about how my book has changed their life and how it’s given them hope that they can get through whatever they’ve been through means everything to me.

Zibby: In writing about your mom especially, who has repressed a lot of the memories — it took her a little bit to access them. What do you say to people who have done — how do you know you’re blocking those memories versus not having them at all? What if there’s somebody out there who is listening and is like, well, maybe? Maybe this is bringing a spark or something. Do you know what I’m trying to ask? How do you know if you blocked —

Kimberly: — I think it’s a really common thread among survivors that when you start to have these flashes that it almost feels so surreal that you feel like you’re making it up. I’ve connected with so many people that have had repressed memories that feel that way. It is an unbelievable thing. Even if you didn’t repress them and it’s there in your head, especially when it’s incest and it’s a family member, it’s something that’s really difficult and hard to come to terms with, especially if they’re still alive.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. How do you even do publicity for this book? Here you are. It’s a Monday. You and I are chitchatting about your deepest, darkest moments in your life. How do you put that and then just go on with the rest of the day? Is it hard? Obviously, this should, hopefully, be totally enjoyable because it’s me. I’m kidding. How do you have to just turn it on and off like that when it’s so painful?

Kimberly: It hasn’t been easy, for sure. I’ve definitely had my moments throughout all of this, but it’s also something that I deal with on a daily basis. It’s not something that ever goes away. I always thought that I would get to a point in my life where it would. I’m realizing that that’s not going to happen like that. For me, to be able to talk about it in a light where I know that it’s helping people, it gives me hope and a good feeling that all of this didn’t happen to me for no reason.

Zibby: That makes sense. Tell me about the title, the cover, the marketing of it. How did this all come to be? At first, I was like, is that a piece of paper? No, I’m kidding. I was like, did I get something on this book? I love it. It’s so creative. For those listening, it’s a picture of Kimberly, but half of it is behind what could be waves, what could be paper. Just talk about this a little bit.

Kimberly: Harper designed that bit of it. I always wanted my picture to be on the front of it. That was a back-and-forth for a while because I’m not famous, per se. Usually, the people that are famous are the ones they put on the cover. That was a little bit of a, not a fight, but I had to convince them of that. Then they came up with the whole layout of it, which I love. We pretty much went back and forth about just the font for a while. They have all of their reasons for doing things. Now, mostly, I feel like it’s because everything’s going to be so tiny. They’re clicking on things, so it has to be a really strong tiny picture. I learned a lot about this world because it’s not my world.

Zibby: Strong tiny pictures, there you go. I was at a Barnes & Noble over the weekend. They had a whole section where they just put books with people’s faces. It wasn’t memoir. It was the face section. They didn’t call it that, but that’s all it was. The other memoirs were somewhere else. I was like, this is interesting. I’ve never seen anything like that. I’m glad your picture was on the cover. I feel like it’s suggestive of a bravery. You’re not hiding anymore. You just want it out there. You’re just staring down the reader. It’s very intense. I like it.

Kimberly: Thank you.

Zibby: How has your day-to-day life changed and your professional, your personal life now that it’s out there? Not to say that everyone in your life has read it. Most people, I would imagine, know of it. What is that like? Do you mind — obviously, you don’t mind. You wrote it. Are there any contexts where you’re — I don’t know. How does it feel?

Kimberly: I don’t know if my family has read it, to be honest. I’m sure that some of them have. I’m sure that some of them haven’t. The only thing for me was back-to-school night this year. I was like, I don’t really think I want to go.

Zibby: I was literally going to ask. I’m like, I’m not going to say parent-teacher conference because that’s so random. Why would I say that?

Kimberly: I said to my husband, I’m like, “You can go this year.” I knew that people at school had read it. I knew that the teachers were sort of talking about it. I was like, I just need a minute. That was my only, oh, god. People are funny about certain things. When you put your whole life out there and strangers may not understand why you did it, I was just like, I’m going to take a timeout.

Zibby: I know Cameron Diaz wrote the beginning. Tell me about your relationship with her. It was so wonderful. I don’t know — obviously, none of us really know most of the celebrities in the world. To see her painted in such a lovely, real light was also really interesting.

Kimberly: She has been an amazing friend through all of this and through my life. We met twenty years ago now. She’s just been with me through this journey. Through me writing, she was really an amazing friend. My FaceTime calls with her were often. She was a really big part of my strength through all of this. I’m super grateful for her. She’s just an amazing human.

Zibby: Awesome. Where do you go from here? The book is out. What next? You focus, still, on your day job, career, all of that. Are you now interested in writing more books? Has the book thing itself been something that you’re drawn to? Are you like, I’m so glad that’s done? Never again? How do you feel?

Kimberly: I wouldn’t say I would never write another book again. I want to make this a film. That’s my next thing. I have some producers that are interested in it. That’s my world, so I’m excited for the potential of us doing that.

Zibby: Wow. Would you be the stunt double in the stunt —

Kimberly: — No, definitely not. I’d be a producer.

Zibby: I was kidding, kind of. For the people listening who don’t know much about what it’s like — I know you talk a lot about this other piece of your life in the book. Give a tiny glimpse as to what that’s like for people who don’t know or can’t imagine putting themselves in harm’s way like that. What is that like on a day-to-day basis, knowing you have to get up and go somewhere that most people will never have the bravery to go see?

Kimberly: My work, you mean?

Zibby: I mean your work, yeah.

Kimberly: I don’t really see it like that, to be honest. It’s interesting because I know everyone sees a movie or they see a TV show, and you see a dangerous stunt happening — we’re giving the audience what they want, which is, oh, my god, that was crazy, or whatever. The reality is, especially the bigger ones, we rehearse it for a really long time before we — we don’t just show up to work and jump off a building. Although, I have done that at times. Everyone we work with, it’s a tight-knit family. There’s a lot of trust. I’ve never been in a situation where I felt like, oh, my god, I hope I don’t die. That’s not actually true. I have been in that situation before, but only because — that was for Knight and Day, when I was on the back of the motorcycle for Cameron. That kind of stuff is just more precarious. You’re on a motorcycle. If something goes wrong or if a camera moved in a — something could always happen. In general when I go to work, it’s a very rehearsed situation. We’re not just flying by the seat of our pants, I suppose.

Zibby: That’s a relief. Where do you feel like the role of love is in healing?

Kimberly: Gosh, it’s probably the first thing that you need, I would say. That’s love for yourself, which is difficult to get when you were introduced to love in such a backwards way. I came into this world in a family that was extremely abusive, and so I didn’t really know what the definition of love was. I feel like until I met my husband and I had my daughter — really, when I had my daughter — if you have children, you understand. You give birth, and it’s this love that you never even knew was possible. Then I realized that I really didn’t love myself enough. That was something that I really needed to work on because I didn’t think I deserved it. That is a lifelong struggle and work that I’ll probably be doing forever.

Zibby: Do you ever just wake up and be like, this was so unfair, what the heck?

Kimberly: Yeah, totally. A hundred percent. Those days are very few and far between because that doesn’t really get me anywhere, the pity party thing. I’ve definitely had those moments. I just try to be super grateful for the life that I’ve created and that I’ve been able to create despite everything that’s happened to me. I just want to keep pushing forward and do all the positive things I can. It doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes or I don’t have those moments in life because I do. It’s more important for me to be happy and to just be grateful and to give my daughter everything I never had.

Zibby: If someone’s listening, they’ve been through trauma, they’re feeling very alone and really struggling, what advice would you give them? Aside from just making sure they read your book, which they must do, what do you want them to know?

Kimberly: I will say I wrote my book — I don’t feel like it’s a triggering book. I think a lot of survivors — I’ve heard this before they read it. I’m afraid to read it. I’m scared. I really feel like it’s almost this guide to how you can work through everything without being triggering. I think that the biggest thing that I would say is that you’re worth it. You’re not defined by what happened to you or what somebody who was really sick did to you. That’s something that I try to remind myself. I am not defined by him. I am not defined by what he did to me. I am defined by what I do in this world and how I show up for myself and how I show up for my family. In those moments where it is really difficult, I just think it’s really important to remember that you’re worth all of the things. If we could all do something positive with our pain, this world would be a better place.

Zibby: Very true. What is something you do for fun or with your daughter or just something you’re watching or reading or eating or something that you would recommend in some way or that’s been giving you a lot of joy lately?

Kimberly: I will say that, for the first time in my life, just trying to sit in my gratefulness, which is something that I’ve never had before. It’s taken me a really long time to get here. I do slip in and out of it. That was something that was a really hard place for me to be because I was in survival mode for so long and because I did have so much anger around what happened to me. I feel like when I can sit in my gratefulness, I have this peace that I never had before. I think that’s really beautiful to try to come back to. I’ve been practicing that.

Zibby: Nice. Wow. Kimberly, this book, what a journey. So good. So important. I just want to beam a hug. Not that you need it from me. It very much stayed with me. It’s incredibly powerful. That is what books are for, to get us to feel like that. Congrats on the book itself but also on your incredible resilience and all that you give back to the world as a result. It’s really awesome and beautiful.

Kimberly: Thank you so much. Thank you.

Zibby: Thank you, Kimberly.

Kimberly: Thank you.

Zibby: Have a great day. Bye.

Kimberly: You too. Bye.

GLIMMER: A Story of Survival, Hope, and Healing by Kimberly Shannon Murphy

Purchase your copy on Bookshop!

Share, rate, & review the podcast, and follow Zibby on Instagram @zibbyowens