Kristy Woodson Harvey, UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY

Kristy Woodson Harvey, UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY

Zibby had the privilege of moderating author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s virtual tour event with Left Bank Books for her new novel, Under the Southern Sky. We recorded this conversation, and are releasing it now as a special episode you won’t want to miss!


Shane Mullen: Hello, everyone. Let everyone come streaming on in. Very happy to have you here this evening. Thank you all so much for coming. This is Left Bank Books and St. Charles City-County Library. Welcome award-winning, best-selling author Kristy Woodson Harvey who will discuss her new book, Under the Southern Sky. Harvey will be in conversation tonight with the CEO of Moms Don’t Have Time To, Zibby Owens. Left Bank Books is St. Louis’s oldest independent bookstore. We would like to thank all of our supporters, the supporters of Kristy and Zibby, and everyone for their outpouring of love for our bookstore. Also, big thanks to our partners at the St. Charles City-County Library. They are fantastic. Happy to have them partner with us for this event this evening. Thank you so much. Left Bank Books offers curbside pickup and delivery to anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world. We are happy to be able to bring our event series virtual. We believe that events are a way to expand your mind and bring in new thoughts to make the world a better place. We hope that you enjoy this event. We hope that you support Left Bank Books by purchasing a signed copy for you or for all of your friends at Purchasing a signed copy of the book from Left Bank Books allows us to keep our bookstore and staff operating. It allows us to keep this event series going. Thank you for your support. I am Shane Mullen. I’m the events coordinator for Left Bank Books. I help produce our hundreds of other events each year with a fantastic team here in St. Louis. We will be taking questions from you, the audience, at the end of the event. Please type your questions as a comment. We have a little bit of a longer period of time this evening for questions, so be sure to have them ready. Be sure to follow Left Bank Books on Facebook to be notified about all of our fantastic virtual events. We have a ton of incredible events already lined up for the year. I am adding events daily.

About tonight’s book, Under the Southern Sky, this book is one of Country Living’s 20 New Books You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring, one of Bookstr’s 8 Most Anticipated Reads of 2021, one of Frolic’s 12 Most Anticipated Books of 2021, one of BookTrib’s Most-Anticipated Reads of 2021, one of Brit + Co’s Books You Should Read with Your BFF. What a fantastic idea. “Two childhood friends discover that love and family can be found in unconventional ways in this timely, moving novel from the USA Today best-selling author of the beautifully Southern, evocative Peachtree Bluff Series.” That’s from Kristin Harmel. Recently separated Amelia Buxton, a dedicated journalist, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. When she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed abandoned, she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker and dredging up old wounds in the process. Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate. Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Buxton Beach. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: family, the one you’re born into and the one you choose, is always closer than you think.

“From the next major voice in Southern fiction,” quote from Elin Hilderbrand who we all love, “Under the Southern Sky is a fresh and unforgettable exploration of love, friendship, and the unbreakable ties that bind.” Lisa Wingate, the number one New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends says, “Sometimes the key to new love lies hidden in old friendships. In Under the Southern Sky, Kristy Woodson Harvey stirs up a warm-hearted mix of hometown charm and the sort of thoroughly modern problems that bring us back to the people who know us best and the places that remind us of who we really are.” County Loving says, “Perfect for fans of beach reads, P.S. I Love You, and anything by authors Jennifer Weiner and Elin Hilderbrand. A perfect pick for book clubs or a weekend read. Under the Southern Sky follows journalist Amelia as she makes a heart-wrenching discovery that changes everything.” About tonight’s authors, Kristy Woodson Harvey is the USA Today best-selling author of six novels including Feels Like Falling, The Peachtree Bluff Series, and Under the Southern Sky. 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 Living, Traditional Home, USA Today, Domino, 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 works have been optioned for film and television. 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 blogs with her mom, Beth Woodson, on Design Chic and loves connecting with fans on She lives on the Northern Carolina coast with her husband and seven-year-old son where she is always working on her next novel.

Tonight, we are so happy to have Kristy in conversation with Zibby Owens. Zibby Owens is the creator and host of award-winning podcast “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Zibby, named NYC’s Most Powerful Book-fluencer by New York Magazine’s Vulture, conducts warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Alicia Keys and Lena Dunam to Delia Owens and Brit Bennett making her show a top literary podcast as selected by two years in a row. Before the pandemic, Zibby ran a literary salon, hosted her own book fairs, and was a frequent bookstore event moderator. During the quarantine, Zibby hosted a daily Instagram Live author talk show, Z-IGTV; a weekly live show with her husband, KZ Time; launched an online magazine called We Found Time; and started Zibby’s Virtual Book Club. Zibby is a regular contributor to Good Morning America online and The Washington Post and has contributed to Real Simple, Parents, Marie Claire, Redbook, and many other publications. She has appeared on CBS This Morning, the BBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, Good Day LA, and local news outlets. Zibby is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School and currently lives in New York with her husband Kyle and her four children. Now I am so happy and proud to welcome our guests for the evening. We have Kristy Woodson Harvey and Zibby Owens. Hello.

Kristy Woodson Harvey: Hi!

Zibby Owens: Hi.

Kristy: Thank you , Shane. That was awesome.

Shane: It’s really such a pleasure to have both of you here this evening. I am thrilled. I know that our large audience that is here tonight is thrilled to be able to ask you questions, to listen to this incredible conversation. I cannot wait, so let’s get started.

Zibby: Kristy, congratulations on your publication. This is so exciting. Do you still get excited after so many books?

Kristy: Oh, my gosh, yes. It’s like a new baby. It’s like, oh! You love it. You’re so excited for it to be in the world. Yes, I am thrilled. It’s been so good to be back on tour. I’ve been doing a few in-person events. That’s felt kind of weird and great all at the same time. Yes, it’s so exciting. Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Zibby: Of course. I saw on Instagram how you were actually with real people at book events. I was like, that’s amazing. I’m so excited that the world is coming back.

Kristy: I know. Me too. It’s great.

Zibby: By the way, when I listening to your bio, I think it’s a disservice to call you a great Southern writer. You are a great writer, full stop, period. It’s not only in a region. The way you tell stories is so beautiful, and the stories themselves and the characters. I think you need to shift the bio or something.

Kristy: Thank you, Zibby. Thank you. Yes, get some new quotes. I’m just kidding.

Zibby: Yeah. No, I love the quotes. I really loved this book. It was so thought-provoking. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

Kristy: Like a lot of things, it came to me in stages. The real spark for this story was a few years ago. It was probably five years ago because it was right after my first book, Dear Carolina, had just come out. I was at a party. A friend and I were talking. She said, “I was at the doctor today. We just found out that we have to decide what to do with our leftover frozen embryos. I just never expected this. It wasn’t something we were thinking about. All we were thinking about was this family and these children that we really wanted.” Before they had their first baby, they thought, we might have all of these embryos. We might use all of them. You just don’t really know. Then they ended up not doing that. They were just having a hard time deciding what to do. She said, “You really should write a book about this because a lot of people are going to be going through this.” I was like, “Yes. Yes, I should.” It was one of those things that I knew just right away was going to be something that I was going to want to write a story about at some point. It wasn’t until a few years later that — Lies and Other Acts of Love was about to come out. The Peachtree Bluff Series then came out. Of course, that was three books, so that took several years, and then Feels Like Falling. I was almost holding my breath because I thought if I don’t come up with a story about this topic, this specific thing, somebody else is going to. I knew I really wanted to write about a man who had lost his wife and had to decide what to do with his leftover frozen embryos. I was really holding my breath. I was pretty excited. I don’t think there’s been another book about it. Maybe there has. At any rate, I’m excited it’s out. It’s felt very timely right now.

Zibby: It’s so timely. When I sent you the article from The New York Times a few days ago about abandoned embryos, you posted that five other people had sent it to you. Literally right now, this is top of the news.

Kristy: It was unbelievable. When I saw it, I was like, oh, my gosh. All these people were sharing it with me. It was crazy that something so similar was in The New York Times just two days before the book was coming out. Sometimes I think those are the little nudges, whispers we get from the universe. Okay, you’re on the right track. This was the right time. I really felt like there were a lot those things throughout this process. One of the major things in this story is that there’s an investigative journalist that, one of her childhood friends is the father of these embryos. She accidentally discovers that his embryos have been deemed abandoned. Part of the inspiration for that was a big story in The New York Times while I was writing this book about abandoned embryos and how their fate is kind of up in the air. What ethically can doctors’ offices do with them? No one’s paying for their storage. Are they life? Are they not life? Can you adopt them out? What do you do with these embryos? There’s been so much going on with this for the past few years anyway. Then I think we’re going to start to see a lot more. It’s an interesting topic, for sure. I could’ve written ten books about it, honestly.

Zibby: I bet. I love the way you structured it, how you alternated who was telling the story when. You would have Parker. Then you would hear from the leftover diaries of Greer, who’s his wife who had passed away; from Amelia; from Amelia’s mom; from the moms. It was so great to get everybody’s point of view. Of course, everybody has different points of view on this particular issue, but then just life in general and how they deal with the loss in their life in their small circle. How did you decide to structure it this way, particularly, I would say, Greer and how you got her voice into it even though she had been passed away when the novel begins?

Kristy: I was really nervous about that, to be completely honest with you. It was not something that I really originally planned on doing. I thought we were going to have Parker and Amelia. I hadn’t actually planned on having Greer or Elizabeth. Then as the story progressed — for people who have read the book, Elizabeth, who is Amelia’s mother, actually, her POV does not come onto the page until like eighty pages in. I started to realize that something was going to unfold in this story, and we couldn’t see it from Amelia’s point of view. We couldn’t see it from Parker’s point of view. We had to have somebody else in this story. For Greer, I actually really just played around with it. I was not sold on the fact that Greer was going to appear in this story. I wrote a few of her journal entries at the beginning. Normally, I don’t let anyone read a book until I’m completely finished with a draft, but I actually sent the first maybe seven or eight chapters to my agent and said, “Is this going to work? Do you think it’s too hokey to have her journal entries?” She wrote back and said, “No, absolutely not. I think we need her.” The first journal entry that I wrote was the one where she’s actually saying goodbye to her embryos. I think it would’ve been a different story if we hadn’t had that scene. I think it would’ve been a harder sell on why Parker feels so connected to these embryos if he had not seen how connected this woman that he loves so much felt to them. It was a risk.

Zibby: It worked. It totally worked. I loved how even in the book you had other people then go read the same thing again. It was kind of meta. She had the diary. You published it. Then other people read it. Then you continued to sway the reader and all the characters over and over with why it was essential to try this, which was genius. I loved that.

Kristy: It is something that I do think is contentious. That was one of my main qualms about writing this story. It’s one of those issues where half the people that pick up a book about what people do with their leftover frozen embryos don’t really care. I don’t mean that in a flip way, but depending on how you feel about that issue, you just think, who cares? Get rid of them. Going back to that New York Times article, it was so interesting. The thing that really struck me about that article was how, the parents of those embryos, they were their children. They weren’t born, but they were their children. That’s how I think people feel about it. If you haven’t been through that situation, I think it’s hard for you to understand that and really feel that. I wanted readers to feel how connected they felt to these embryos even though, as Greer says, all the life that will never be. That’s kind of what they were to her.

Zibby: Wow. Even the ripple effects across generations, which you point out with the character of Greer’s dad, it’s not just what the husband necessarily wants, but what about the family of the woman who has passed away? What about that and having to deal with another layer? That could’ve gone any direction. The father could’ve been happy or sad or angry or litigious or whatever. I just think it’s so unclear what you’re supposed to do.

Kristy: You’re absolutely right. That’s such a good point that you bring up because that’s happening in real life. I have friends who have frozen embryos. They have wills written so that if they die, their sister has to approve what their husband does. This stuff goes very, very deep. I think it also speaks to the fact that even five and six ago when my friend and I were talking about this, yes, lots of people were doing IVF and this was a very normal way to have a baby at that point, but I don’t think people were quite as up to speed on, oh, wait, we have to figure out what we’re going to do after. Oh, what if I die and I leave these embryos? What if we get divorced? Who gets the embryos? There’s a big court case going on right now with a couple who, it’s in their will that one of the members of the couple gets the embryos, but then the other one changed his mind. They’re splitting up. They’re in court over who gets the embryos. It’s just very interesting to me. Like I said, I could’ve written ten books about it. It was hard to decide, okay, this is the story that I’m going to write.

Zibby: That’s still only one piece. It’s the guiding principle of the story, but there’s a whole nother piece. You have the embryos and everything, but then you have the relationship between Parker and Amelia and how they feel about each other. You have the loss. You wrote so beautifully about that feeling of grief, Parker sitting in his shower, all these scenes, and the times where the grief wells up when he wasn’t expecting it. That’s such a part of it too. He’s like, “Wow, today it really knocked me off my feet.” Whereas the other day, he felt better. Tell me about how you’re so tapped into grief. I know from your essay in my upcoming anthology about your grandfather passing away. That was such a sweet essay, oh, my gosh.

Kristy: Thank you. I’m so excited about the anthology. I cannot wait for that. This is going to sound really weird. I actually forgot about it until you just said this right now. I was actually in the shower. I just got this swamped feeling of being this other person who was grieving this really big loss. It was very bizarre. I don’t even really know how to explain it. I remember being like, oh, this is really weird. There’s some part of a story in this. It was almost like I sort of felt it. There was definitely a lot of loss going on in my life at that time. I had lost a really good friend very unexpectedly. I was very deeply sad about it, more than — you know how you have all those layers of grief where you’re sad and you’re crying and you’re at the funeral and whatever, but the then the kind you just can’t move past it sort of thing? That was definitely going on. My mother-in-law had just passed away after a really long illness. It was very complicated because we were evacuating for a hurricane and calling in hospice and trying to figure out what to do.

Our house got destroyed in a hurricane. It was all at the same time. Honestly, I think I handled it all really well, if I’m being honest. I really do. I never just fell apart at the seams. I was like, okay, we’re problem-solving here. I think in some ways, just the loss and the grief of all of that kind of went into this story. It was the way that I was expressing what I was feeling, but I would not have told you that at the time. I didn’t really actively realize that’s what was happening until, honestly, kind of now. As I’ve started talking about this book, I’m like, oh, that makes sense. I’m writing about this house crumbling at the seams, and my house is half gone. I’m writing about these people losing people who are close to them and how that feels. I’ve lost these people that are close to me. In retrospect, it’s certainly not the same thing. Losing a spouse would just be so monstrous. I think it gave me enough to be able to really put myself in the position of what that would feel like.

Zibby: I’m so sorry about your losses. Thank you for sharing them. I think that’s the thing about grief. I feel like therapists should just pick up someone’s novel and be like, all right, here are all the things that are probably going on with you that maybe you’re not aware of, but they come out in fiction. They come out in these scenes. After a while, your consciousness, you’re wrestling with it for so long. It has to seep out. It’s like a sponge. I don’t know a good analogy.

Kristy: You’re so right. I think it is. It’s like my therapy. Whatever is happening, I’m somehow putting it into these pages. Then that’s where I go. That’s where my escape is and my outlet. Even during COVID, I wrote so many books during COVID. They weren’t about COVID. They weren’t even negative. I wrote this really fun, happy Christmas book during COVID. It was because that’s what I wished I was doing right then. I wrote that instead of focusing on all the things we weren’t doing. I think there’s definitely some therapy happening on those pages, for sure.

Zibby: I think that’s the great thing about reading and writing. Even if you’re happy with where you are, the fact that you can just toggle and enter Palm Beach looking at the Intracoastal, and then you’re sitting on a beautiful porch, all these ways you’re physically transported, and emotionally, it’s like magic. I just think the world of novelists. It’s just such a gift.

Kristy: You are also an extremely talented writer too. You are. I think all of that comes out in our essays and things like that too. That’s why I think what you do is so incredible because you’re giving people outlets for all of these different things that they’re feeling. It’s really incredible. The anthology, just to see all the different essays and all the different things that all these different women were going through, but yet they’re all so relatable. Every single essay that you read, you’re like, oh, yeah, I’ve felt like that. That’s happened to me. It’s incredible. I think it’s a real gift to people to be able to pick up these anthologies, and especially during a time — the past year, I don’t know about you — well, no. I’m going to not say I don’t know about you. You have had the attention span of like thirty people because you read so many books. Sometimes to pick up a book and really commit to the whole book felt a little bit daunting. To be able to pick up the anthology and read a complete, beautiful thing in just a few minutes and then pick it up again and then do same thing, we didn’t have to have a long attention span. It was really good. A Quarantine Anthology was pretty genius.

Zibby: Thank you, but no, this is about you and your book and your process.

Kristy: It’s your anthology, but I got to write something for next one. I’m pretty excited about it.

Zibby: I loved your essay. Oh, my gosh, it was so good.

Kristy: It was not what I was planning on writing. You just never know what’s going to happen.

Zibby: You never know. Did you always know you wanted to write?

Kristy: No, actually, which is kind of interesting. I actually really liked science when I was in school growing up. I thought maybe I would do something in that field. I do think especially in this book, you see a little bit of that just in — I’m not going to say you see a little bit of that, but I knew a lot about what I was writing about because I had covered these science beats in college and had a lot of interviews and read a lot of studies about all the updates, all the things that were happening with IVF and things like that. I felt like I had a lot of the background knowledge that I needed to be able to at least start the book and then fact-check it later kind of thing. I thought I would do something in science. Then I was a senior in high school and I got an internship at my local newspaper. I said this on Better Connecticut and they were like, “This is not real.” I was like, “Yes, it is.” My first article was about a giant squash that someone had grown in their garden, and it looked like Elvis. It had the face of Elvis on it. If you live in a small Southern town, you will read about something like this in your newspaper. That was my first article, my foray into journalism. It was so silly. It was the silliest thing.

I started writing this Garden Game series for the newspaper. I would write about these silly things that people grew in their gardens, but I was also writing about their lives and their families. I was just so struck by the idea that everyone had a story. It led me to go journalism school, but I always swore the whole time I was there that I was going to tell real stories. People would say, “You’re a writer. Are you going to write a novel?” I would always say, “I don’t really think so.” I kind of had in the back of my mind that maybe I’ll try to write a book. You don’t know you can do it until you do it. I would think maybe I’ll try to write a book one day just because I think that would be a cool bucket list thing, not to get published or anything like that, just to, I did this. Go me. It wasn’t something that was part of my plan. I just think things continued to evolve. I got a master’s in literature just because I wanted to read. I was like, I’ve written for four years. I’m going to go read for two years, and so I did. That was fantastic.

Then I went and worked in finance and missed writing while I was doing that and started getting all these story ideas. I sat down and started writing. I wrote three complete manuscripts before I tried to get an agent and then signed with an agent and actually ended up not selling the book that I signed with the agent for, and then in the meantime, winning a writing contest for Dear Carolina and getting a contract at Berkeley for that one. I’m making it sound like this short story. It was very long and twisty and emotional and took years. There were a lot of rejection letters. I still have them in folders. Every now and then if I’m like, this is really hard, I’m tired, I’m like, go back and look at those rejection letters. Remember how far you’ve come. I don’t think anyone gets here without a lot of effort. I guess maybe some people do, but I think most everyone has experienced that feeling of having to really work hard to get where they are. It’s not a job that comes super easily, I don’t think, for most people.

Zibby: No, I agree. It seems to me you have to write at least a couple novels before you have any hope of selling any of them. People should just know that starting out. Don’t even try. You’ll think it’s amazing. You’ll pour your heart into it, but that is your first one. You have to do it to get the fourth one or the fifth one. That’s going to be your practice book.

Kristy: That’s such a good point. I think my saving grace in all of that was that — this is still my process. When I’m writing something, about two-thirds of the way through or even half of the way through, I’ll start to get another idea that I think is the best idea I’ve ever had. It’s so much better than the idea I’m working on now. Oh, my gosh, what am I doing with this silly little book? This one is just brilliant. Your next idea is always your best idea, right? I’ll kind of start writing. I think my real saving grace was that by the time I was finished with my first manuscript, I was about a third of the way through my second one. I knew how much better it was. By the time I was finished with my second, I was about a third of the way through my third. I knew how much better it was. I think you have to find your voice a little bit. That takes some time. Maybe it comes with age too. I was in my mid-twenties starting all of this. I do think finding your voice takes time and maybe learning a little bit more about who you are. There are plenty of twenty-year-olds who write brilliant, beautiful things. For me, it took practice to be able to find who I am on the page and what I want to say. There’s definitely something to that.

Zibby: I think you’re right. If people listening want to put some questions in the chat, Kristy will be answering them shortly. Start putting your questions in. One last thing about the book I wanted to mention that I thought was interesting was the feelings of loss that everybody had, particularly Amelia, when Greer passed away as a big-deal Instagram person. That is only just now happening more and more. Whereas before, you didn’t know the ins and outs of people’s lives quite as intimately. I don’t feel like you could know them as well as you do now, particularly someone like Greer who had written her own books and had two million followers. I just found that to be also really interesting because you can mourn the loss of someone you don’t even really know yourself. That also counts as loss and grief. I feel like a lot of people are going through that right now in many ways.

Kristy: It’s so true. You’re such a good interviewer. I have said so many things tonight that I have not said in the ten million times I’ve talked about this book. Thank you for hitting on all these things. Yes, I think that is such a cultural phenomenon right now. I think you’re a really good example of that. I’ve met you one time super briefly at East Hampton Authors Night, but I feel like I really know you because I follow you. I know what you’re doing. I know what your kids are up to. I know when your son’s home from boarding school. It’s a real thing. I listen to your interviews. I do think that people, we feel connections with people that we don’t really know. I understand it. When someone will come up to me at a signing and they’ll be like, no, but I know you. I’m like, well, yeah, because I talk about myself all the time online, so you do know me. You really do. I do think that we feel attached to people in these ways.

Especially, Greer was someone who, in this story, we do find out — I worked really hard at making it so that we knew she wasn’t a saint. I think when someone dies and they’re young and it’s kind of tragic that we do tend to saint them. That would’ve been a really hard road in this story. She could not be so perfect. Her journal entries do sort of serve the purpose of making it so she’s not quite such a saint in this story. She is someone that is really trying to do good for the world in addition to just being cool. People want to know her. I do think that we do feel those losses of people. We feel like we know them. We feel like we’re a part of their lives and their stories. We root for them. It’s kind of cool, honestly. People tend to talk about the negative parts of these online communities. People can just say anything. That’s true. Also, I think it’s given us really strong connections with people, especially during this time when we didn’t have these real-life connections anymore. I think it’s important. It’s funny, we weren’t experiencing the pandemic when I started writing this book, but I think that is something that maybe we understand a little bit more even now than we did before because we are so connected via social media.

Zibby: That’s true. I feel it’s been a saving grace for so many people through this time when you couldn’t be with people, especially with everybody spanning out and hunkering down themselves. I completely agree. I loved that you put that in. I don’t want to monopolize your time if people have questions. I could chat with you all day about this book. I really just honestly .

Kristy: Thank you. I am so grateful that you took the time to read it. I almost feel guilty because I know how many, just so many, books that you’re reading all the time. I do not take it for granted. I know how many books I’m reading all the time. Sometimes when you’re so overloaded, you get to read one more, but you’re like, can I fit it in? I just don’t know. I totally understand.

Zibby: It was a pleasure. I read most of it on the elliptical machine if it makes you feel any better.

Kristy: Yes, you are a multitasker. That’s really good. I miss my elliptical. We’re doing renovations at our house. I don’t have my elliptical, so I can’t read and work out at the same time, which is really unfortunate.

Zibby: My gym just opened in my building after a year, so I’m very excited. I’m sure I’ll stop going in another week. For now, I got to read your book and work out.

Shane: Are you ready for audience Q&A?

Kristy: Yes, sure.

Shane: First of all, thank you both so much. I have never met either of you before. It’s such a pleasure getting to hear you talk. I am a big fan of both of yours.

Kristy: We’re a big fan of you now. I’m a big Shane fan.

Shane: Amanda has spent time with you twice today, Zibby. You might have someone literally following you around. Might be awesome.

Zibby: Great. I love it.

Shane: A lot of people saying hi. A lot of people saying how they’ve already read the book, which is so — not surprising. The book came out two days ago.

Kristy: It’s amazing. You think that maybe by your seventh book you would not be monstrously — I am monstrously overwhelmed by the love for this book. I can’t even really process it. I’ve been running around and being on tour. I’ll get home and I’m like, I’m just so grateful for everybody who’s read it already. It means so much to me. It really does. It’s the best thing in the world to know that something that you worked on for a long time, it’s making its way into people’s living room and porches. I’m really grateful. I really am.

Shane: They can pick it back up again in a month and reread it. Give it to your friends so that they can read it. Then you have someone to talk to about it.

Kristy: Yes. You can get your copy from Left Bank Books and give it to your mom for Mother’s Day and give it to your favorite college or high school grad for a graduation gift. I’m just throwing it out there. Support your favorite local bookstore, Left Bank Books. It’s the best.

Shane: Endless possibilities.

Kristy: Endless possibilities.

Shane: Since so many people have already read the book, I did drop a link in the comments for your next anthology, Zibby, which is coming out in November. Is that correct?

Zibby: Thank you. That’s really nice. I appreciate that. Yes, November.

Shane: Especially with Kristy’s essay going to be in there, I’m certain that a lot of people will be very interested .

Kristy: It’s going to be so fun. I’m really excited for it. It’s going to be great.

Shane: My question is, while they’re waiting for the next anthology to come out and since so many have already read this book that just came out two days ago, what should they add to their reading list that they might not already have there?

Kristy: Do you want to take this one, or do you want me to? We can both take it. Do you want to go first, or do you want me to?

Zibby: You go. You go first.

Kristy: I’ll go. I will say, I have another book coming out October 26th, shameless plug, Christmas in Peachtree Bluff. It’s the fourth book in my Peachtree Bluff Series. The other three books are Slightly South of Simple, The Secret to Southern Charm, and The Southern Side of Paradise. Those who have read Peachtree, it was not a popular decision in the end for me to quit Peachtree. During all of the craziness during COVID, I had so many requests to write another Peachtree book, so Christmas in Peachtree Bluff is coming. I’m so excited about it. It was so, so fun to write. Oh, my gosh, I’ve read so many good books right now. Mary Kay Andrews, The Newcomer, it comes out week after next. Mary Alice Monroe’s The Summer of Lost and Found is in three or four weeks. Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan Henry came out a few weeks ago. It’s absolutely gorgeous. What have I read lately that’s so good? What is Quế Mai’s new book called? Oh, my goodness, I’m completely blanking. Anyway, she’s going to be our guest on “Friends & Fiction” on Sunday. It’s gorgeous. She is in Forbes next week as one of their 50 Most Powerful Women. It’s very exciting for her. I’ve read so many great things lately that I could just go on and on and on. What about you, Zibby? I know you’ve read everything too.

Zibby: Oh, man. I know, what have I been reading? Next week, I’m interviewing Cate Doty who wrote a book called Mergers and Acquisitions about what she learned from working for the Vows column in The New York Times and how that affected her own love life and everything. I’m so excited about that one. Emma Gannon wrote a book called Olive, I’m also excited about. I’m doing that next week. Jenny Lee has a new book, Anna K Far Away. I’m just going through the books I packed for this weekend away.

Kristy: I am really excited about that one. That one looks so good. I love that cover. It shows you the power of a good cover. Every time I see the cover, I’m like, I can’t wait to read that. I don’t even know what the book’s about, but I know I want to read it because the cover’s so great. She’s so great.

Zibby: There are just so many. a million books. I’m very .

Kristy: I read a million books too. Then when people ask me, I completely blank. I’m like, um, what have I just read? I know that I loved everything that I’ve read recently. This has been a really seriously great book year, though. It really has. For all of the things that the pandemic has kind of taken away, it’s given us some really good reading material. I think I’ve had more time to read because I haven’t really been on the road as much.

Shane: I hope someone was taking notes because I want to add all those books to my list as well.

Kristy: What about you? , Shane? You’re an expert.

Shane: I just brought home a bunch of new books today. The next up on my list are the new Becky Chambers. I’m going to be talking to Becky in a private event coming up soon. I just love Becky. I have a queer Jamaican memoir, Kei Miller’s Things I Have Withheld, that one of my coworkers read and said, “You must read this book.” I definitely want to read that book.

Kristy: That’s awesome. I love that.

Shane: New Colson Whitehead.

Kristy: Oh, my god.

Zibby: Oh, wow. I haven’t seen that yet.

Kristy: I haven’t seen it yet either. That’s amazing.

Zibby: That’s exciting.

Shane: I’m very excited about that. Clare Mackintosh, first off, look at…

Zibby: Yes, that, I have. Amazing swag.

Shane: We are doing an event with Clare. Hostage, I’m thrilled to read this book.

Kristy: That’s really cool. What a package right there. That’s awesome.

Shane: We hosted Clare last summer with one of my favorite authors, Ruth Ware. I absolutely fell in love with Clare. They want us to do an event for this book. I am so thrilled to do it. I’m really excited. As much as I love books like romance and contempory women’s fiction, whatever you want to call it, I also love deep, dark thrillers. Those two are my very polar opposite. I love this, and I love this.

Kristy: I have to do the really deep, dark thrillers — this is going to sound so silly. I have to read them on the beach in the sunshine in the summer. If I read them at night before bed in the winter, I’m like, oh, my god, everyone’s coming to get me. I’m going to be murdered in my sleep. I have no boundaries. The story is real to me. It’s very bizarre.

Zibby: I feel the same way. Sometimes I have to listen to them on audiobook. Otherwise, it’s too intense.

Kristy: Really good idea.

Shane: My beach read is always something that will make me sob on the beach. I’m the person on vacation reading a book and being like, it’s okay, I’m having a good time.

Kristy: This is what I wanted to do on my vacation.

Zibby: I love that too. Isn’t that crazy that we all get so much enjoyment out of crying? Crazy. It makes no sense, but I feel the same way. Anything that makes me really feel anything, I’m like, oh, I love this.

Kristy: It’s really bizarre.

Shane: Diane had the question, do you cry a lot while writing?

Kristy: Never. Almost never, which is really strange. I don’t know why this is because I cannot tell you the people that have emailed and been like, I’m sobbing through the first fifty pages of this book. I’m like, really? I don’t know what it is. When I’m reading or watching something, I’m a wreck. Somehow when I’m writing it, I’m feeling it, but maybe because it’s coming out on the page, I’m not crying while I’m writing it. I’m not really sure. It’s a very strange sort of thing. I have talked to a lot of authors about this. A lot of authors are that way, so I’m like, maybe I’m not a sociopath, which is good. That’s a good thing to know about myself. I had this conversation, Mary Alice Monroe said she has to cry. That’s how she knows that she’s hit on the right thing. Then I’ve talked to lots of other authors who are like, I’m the same way. I’m writing something deeply emotional. I’m in it. It’s not like I am separate from it. I am so in it, but I’m also somehow, I’m not crying about it. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I know how it’s going to turn out. I think that could be part of it. I think part of the thing of something being really sad is not knowing what’s going to happen in the end. Since I already kind of know what’s going to happen in the end, maybe I’m less sad. I can’t explain it.

Zibby: Sometimes if you focus on the words enough, it can distract you if you’re thinking of what word is best. I feel like even if I’m reading out loud or I’m reading to my kids and I want to cry, if I focus on each word, then I can stop the crying right away. I think it’s the little bits of language that stem the tide of tears.

Kristy: I like that. That makes sense.

Zibby: Sounded good, right? I don’t know.

Kristy: You have good answers for things. I like that. I’m going to go with that. Next time someone asks me, I’m going to say that.

Zibby: Go ahead. You can take it. I don’t even need any credit. It’s fine.

Kristy: Zibby, TM.

Zibby: When we start having it on T-shirts…

Shane: Doris’s question, and hopefully this isn’t spoiling anything, but did you start out knowing what the family’s secrets would be, or did they just happen as you wrote?

Kristy: She’s already read the book, so she’s going to know what I mean. Thanks, Doris. The big family secret in the end, I did not know even that that was going to happen at all. I didn’t know there was going to be a family secret at all. I also did not know that Greer and Amelia were going to have a secret together. Those were both sort of surprises to me. I actually didn’t realize until I was finished with the book that every character’s secret contributes to what ultimately happens to the embryos. That wasn’t something that I sat down and was like, they’re all going to have a secret. As the secrets come out, what happens to the embryos will be revealed. It wasn’t until I was finished with the book. I was like, oh, weird, they all had a secret. Everyone was like a steppingstone to the end of what was actually going to happen, even the ones that didn’t have anything to do with the embryos at all. I’m a big pantser. I don’t even really know what’s going to happen. It gives me a lot of enjoyment as I’m writing.

Shane: Kristin Harmel’s here this evening. She says hi, which is really exciting. This is like a celebrity popping into the event.

Kristy: It is. She’s a total celeb. Her new book is the next on my nightstand for when I get home. It’s called The Forest of Vanishing Stars. Her research for this book, y’all, I’m so excited to read it. I almost brought it on tour with me. I was like, nope, I’m not going to do it. I’m going to sit down and I’m going to have nothing else to do. I’m just going to read it. I’ve been hearing about it for so long. Her last book was — I shouldn’t say this because it’s bad to all the other books, but it was kind of my favorite book of 2020, The Book of Lost Names. Don’t tell anyone else I said that. It’s just between us.

Zibby: We won’t say a word. Just between us.

Shane: Maybe there are other authors hiding here that you did read last year that are now very sad.

Zibby: Everyone else is crushed. They’re turning it off. They’ve all just left this little virtual thing.

Kristy: They’re so mad. They’re so mad at me.

Zibby: Never to come back.

Kristy: I’m getting hate mail.

Zibby: They’re trying to cancel their orders. Cancel, cancel.

Kristy: What did she say, though? She had a question that I didn’t answer. Did she have a question? Oh, no, you just said she was here.

Shane: Yeah, she’s just here. She says hi.

Kristy: Hey, Kristin.

Shane: There was a related question that I saw that I wanted to ask. I’ll find it.

Zibby: Did you read the one from Maureen? That was a good one about design. Do you see that one? You want me to read? Do you always try to incorporate your love of design into your books?

Kristy: That was a good one. Who asked that?

Zibby: Maureen Halleran Walker.

Kristy: Hey, Maureen. Yes, I do. I will say that’s actually one of the things that — sometimes when I’m thinking about where a character’s living or where they’re going, I’ll actually go on Design Chic, which is my design blog with my mom, and I’ll find a house. That’s the house. I’ll describe the house, which is sort of weird because I don’t do that with anything else. I don’t do it with the characters. I don’t really do it with the settings. In the houses, I want to know where I am to the point that sometimes my editor will be like, “That’s enough details about the room. Let’s back that up a little bit. Not everyone cares that much about what the house looks like,” or whatever. I like to know where I am. It’s kind of fun to get to feel it out a little bit. That was a good question.

Zibby: I love your taste, by the way, the homes that you post, and the room. I love it. I would live in one of those houses.

Kristy: I love your new office. I’m going to come just for a while.

Zibby: Thank you, which is not here. Don’t look behind me. Don’t judge me based on the crazy conference room I happen to be in. Please don’t associate this with me again.

Kristy: Conference Room B is not in Zibby’s house.

Zibby: No.

Shane: There are gorgeous windows in Conference Room B, though.

Kristy: They are pretty.

Zibby: Yes, thank you.

Shane: Ann is asking, how is Cape Carolina similar to where you live?

Kristy: I actually originally was going to set the book in Morehead City, which is right over the bridge from where I live in Beaufort. It’s very similar. It’s very based on the area where I live, but more so the Atlantic Beach, Morehead Beach. Beaufort’s a very historic, very downtown kind of area. Cape Carolina, there is a downtown. You see it a little bit in their little festival and stuff that they have. For the most part, they’re on this peninsula. They’re a little more secluded, which was fun to write too. I love writing those towns where everybody’s in the story and everybody’s all together. This was really fun too. One of the rental houses that we lived in when we were out of our house for the hurricane was on the end of a peninsula kind of in this marshy area. It was so beautiful. I really based the house where Dogwood is on the end of this peninsula, on that setting. We were not living in this big, beautiful family home or anything. It was a cute beach house. The house was not real, but the setting was. That was kind of fun.

Shane: Megan’s question, are there any parts of this book that you loved that didn’t make the final cut?

Kristy: Yes, actually. There were several of Greer’s journal entries that I really loved but I cut because I didn’t think they directly kept the story moving. I was bummed. I went back and forth. I would try to talk myself into it. I’d be like, but we really get to know her more. Then I’m like, but we don’t really need to know that part. I did cut some of those parts. I said the other night that I was going to try to go back and find them and do a little PDF or something so people can read them if they want to. I don’t know if I can find them. I’m sure they’re in an early draft of the book. I try to save all my different drafts, but I am not as organized about that as I should be. I think that was maybe the only thing. In retrospect, this was a really easy book to edit. There was not a ton that we did to this one, which was kind of great because I love to write, I don’t love to edit as much. Usually, the editing takes me a lot longer than the writing. That was nice that I didn’t have so much editing to do on it.

Shane: The next question is from Kristin Harmel. First off Kristy, I have ordered about twenty-five copies of your book because I love you. I’m going to place a Left Bank Books order tomorrow. Thank you so much.

Kristy: Kristin, I love you too.

Shane: Kristin does have a question. This is for both of you. Mother’s Day is coming up. What does motherhood mean to you? I want to ask how it affects your writing. How do you incorporate it into your writing?

Kristy: What a good question. She must be a writer.

Shane: I know.

Kristy: Do you want me to go, or do you want to go, Zibby?

Zibby: What does motherhood mean to me? So much. I don’t even know where to start. Motherhood, for me at least, I have four kids, it’s the lens through which I see everything now. When I’m writing anything, those are the glasses that I wear. That’s how I see the world, is as a caretaker first and then everything else next. Anything I work on, it always has — not always, but I feel like I end up throwing in that I have kids often. There was one line in your book, Kristy, where you talked about the saddest thing is mourning the kids you never had or not being able to be a mother to the kids that you wished you had had. It’s so powerful. I’m sure you have a better answer to this.

Kristy: No, that is actually my almost-verbatim answer. I was going to say that motherhood is the lens through which I see the world, which is exactly what you said, but it is.

Zibby: No way.

Kristy: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say, that exact phrase. Actually, when I look back on it — my first book that came out was Dear Carolina. I wrote it right after little Will was born. He was like three days old when I started that book. I can look at everything I wrote before then. This is not me saying, if you haven’t been a mother — just for me, it opened me up so much emotionally to feel all these things that I had never felt before and that I didn’t even know I was capable of feeling. I think it made my writing very, very different because I felt the world in a very different way than I ever had before. I look at those manuscripts I wrote before he was born and I’m like, that’s kind of what was missing. I think everything else I wrote after has a lot more emotion to it. Again, that was just a personal experience. If you asked my friends, I’m not a very surface-ly emotional person. I don’t cry a lot. Inside, I’m just dripping in them. It’s very bizarre. Maybe that’s part of it, being a mother now.

Shane: I cry all the time, and I’m not a mother.

Zibby: I obviously cry all the time. I’ve already cried tonight like ten times.

Kristy: That’s what I’m saying. I’m not like, unless you’re a mother, you don’t know. I’m just saying for me, somehow, it was like I tapped into all of these things that I never really knew that I could feel. It was a very powerful experience for me.

Shane: I think we have time for one last question, again for both of you. Christine is asking, do your husbands read your books?

Zibby: Every single thing I write, I read out loud to my husband before anyone tells me if it’s terrible or not. You go.

Kristy: That’s interesting. I read essays and columns and stuff out loud to my husband and my son. My son will be like, “What? No. That is not your best work.” He is so funny. This is off topic and not what you asked. I was making a million videos for bookstores before I went on tour that said, “Hey, can you make a video that we can put on our social media?” We did. He taped them for me. We did twenty-two of them or something. I was on a roll and going through it. He would stop. He’d be like, “Mom, that really wasn’t your best one. We need to redo that one.” I’d be like, “Really?” He’s a pretty tough critic. My husband, there’s certain things that he has to read before they come out because there’s some things that I need him to fact-check or something that he knows a lot about. Especially with this book, I kept making him read Parker because I’ve never written a male POV before. That made me very nervous. Sometimes he doesn’t read them before they come out. He’s a big listener, so he’ll listen to them on Audible or whatever after they come out. He always gets them read somehow or another. He actually got his first pair of reading glasses. He was reading Under the Southern Sky. He was like, “This is amazing. I’m going to read everything now. I didn’t really realize that I can’t see.”

Zibby: Turns out he’s never read anything you’ve ever written before.

Kristy: He probably hasn’t. He’s probably never read any of it.

Zibby: The truth comes out.

Shane: I know that you have both had an incredibly long day with multiple events. I want to thank you both so much for this just enlivening conversation. You’re both fantastic. Kristy’s book, signed copies, I will show you. I probably can’t zoom in far enough. Kristy signed a bunch of bookplates for us, sent them to us. We have signed copies available at Left Bank Books. You can get a copy. It is a beautiful, beautiful, great gift as well. Mother’s Day is coming up. Order a ton for your friends, for your family, for everyone. Kristy, Zibby, thank you so much. It was really just such a pleasure meeting both of you this evening. It was such a delight. Thank you.

Kristy: Thank you. Thank y’all. Thank you for having me. It was awesome. Thank y’all. I really appreciate it.

Zibby: Thank you.

Shane: Thank you to the St. Charles City-County Library as well, our copartners for the event, co-promoters. Thank you to St. Charles City-County Library too. Have a good night, audience. Thank you so much for being here. Hope to see you again really soon.

Kristy: Good night, everybody.

UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson Harvey

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