Kelly Harms is the author of witty, captivating women’s fiction, including the recently released The Bright Side of Going Dark.
Kelly grew up in Iowa and studied biology and violin performance at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. After stints selling shoes and interning at the Utne Reader, she headed to New York. There, she rooted for the Mets, sang in a great choir, heard many awesome bands, worked as docent at the American Museum of Natural History and once attempted to host a dinner party in her 300 square foot studio. She also worked with many of her author-heroes as an editor at HarperCollins and then as a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.
Eventually she came to her senses and moved back to the Midwest, although she misses New York all the time. She now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she roots for the Chicago Cubs AND the Milwaukee Brewers, which is very confusing. She likes snow and cross-country skiing and knitting and playing games with friends and kids and kids of friends. She’s a Tall Poppy Writer, a mother, and a fan of craft breweries. Her eight-year-old thinks her books need more dragons.
What prompted you to leave NYC, return to the Midwest and write women’s fiction?
A number of factors. My father was ill, and I wanted to live nearby. Also, I wanted a nice place to raise my son. Madison is lovely. It’s a far cry from New York, but there’s great food and a good literary scene, with two independent book stores.
How do you get your ideas, and especially a “momspringa,” which was a key element of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler?
I’m also a single mom, so a lot of the experience in the book came from my own experience, as well as what I observed from friends. Some mothering experiences are universal and occur whether you’re partnered or not. In any situation, moms can find themselves lost in project of mothering.
Now, with the quarantine, I think everyone is waiting for a momspringa?.
How do you decide on your settings?
I have the most fun with settings! I try to make sure wherever I set my book is someplace I want to be. I have love affairs with different parts of the country. I traveled to rural Pennsylvania for the scenes in The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, and to a vacation home in northern Wisconsin, which provided the inspiration for the setting in The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay.
For The Bright Side of Going Dark, I got to visit ski country not only during ski season, but during the summer. It’s beautiful, with the wildflowers and quiet. I had to let readers in on that.
What’s your writing routine?
I try to get something on the page every day. I also try to make sure I’m reading close to as much as I’m writing.
I write faster to dramatic soundtracks, and I’m currently hooked on Black Panther. But, sometimes I also need silence to hear my characters.
If one of your books was going to be made into a movie, which book and who would play main characters?
There are so many funny female actors right now, the choice is endless! However, readers tell me Anna Hathaway should be Amy Byler.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
It’s out of control at the moment! The Murder List is an amazing action mystery thriller by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Stories We Never Told by Sonya Yoerg is a riveting relationship and psychological suspense story. It’s a new genre for her. I love it when a favorite author changes lanes successfully.
Any craft breweries you recommend?
I’m lucky, because many breweries are located within a stumble from my house, like Karben4 and Ale Asylum. One Barrel’s Penguin Pale Ale is the best.