FORT WORTH, Tx. April 17, 2013 — Kimberly Packard’s debut novel, Phoenix, captivates the reader from the very first page. Amanda Martin, Alex Kostas and Shiloh Garcia, bound together by two crimes that are thousands of miles and ten years apart, seek redemption and forgiveness.
Amanda discovers that she has been an unwitting participant in a market scheme the same day a crazed gunman, hunting her, wipes out her entire office instead. Terrified and consumed with guilt she flees for her life to find the person responsible for her current and bitter circumstances.
Kimberly is a friend and fellow member of the Greater Fort Worth Writers group. I was delighted to be able to discuss her first book, Phoenix. We talked recently about not only her book but some background on the story as well.
Claire Hickey: What inspired you to write a book?
Kimberly Packard: I don’t think I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided to write a book. It’s just always been there. Maybe I was born with it or perhaps it hit me when I was so young that it’s as ingrained as walking,
Claire Hickey: Where did you get the idea for Phoenix?
Kimberly Packard: Years ago I worked for a Fortune 500 company doing contract announcements. Since they influenced stock prices, the legal department reviewed my press releases more than my own department. I made a joke about this to one of the attorneys and he responded, “We’re just trying to keep you out of jail.” If a million-dollar contract was announced as a billion-dollar contract I would have been on the line for it. Later, while driving home I was thinking about how vulnerable my position was as the PR person and that is when Amanda was born.
Claire Hickey: How did you develop the character of Amanda?
Kimberly Packard: Almost all of my characters come to me fully formed – appearance, name, backstory, flaws and all. But, Amanda’s name was different in the first few drafts yet didn’t quite fit. It wasn’t the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability she needed. I then “interviewed” her to try to figure out what was missing. When asked what she wanted most out of life, she replied, “to be loved.” Everything clicked. So I jumped on a baby name site and found that the name Amanda means “to be loved.” Amanda may be a victim to her boss’s misdeeds but she’s by no means a victim at heart. She is strong, determined, funny and humble.
Claire Hickey: What made you decide to start putting your inspiration on paper (screen?)
Kimberly Packard: I kept playing the scenario in my head on my daily commute and after a couple of months, I realized this is it. It’s time for me to start writing.
Claire Hickey: What is your favorite part of Phoenix?
Kimberly Packard: Oh gosh! it’s hard to pinpoint just one part. Maybe one for each character. For Amanda, it’s the bus scene because that is more than about her physical journey, but it’s a moment when she regains her strength. For Shiloh, the scene on the riverbank where she is reliving the last night of her best friend’s life was especially tough for me. Like Shiloh, I lost a best friend and relived the last time we hung out together so many times. And for Alex, his scene in the pawn shop when he sells a piece from his father for information on Amanda was so important—he let go some of his past in exchange for his future.
Claire Hickey: Where did the title come from?
Kimberly Packard: The morning before I wrote the scene where Amanda stumbles onto the town of Phoenix, my waking thought was the town she’s arriving in is Phoenix. The mythology of the bird and the parallels of Amanda’s story are a perfect fit.
Claire Hickey: Is there anything you would like your readers to know about you or Phoenix?
Kimberly Packard: What a fun question! I think that when a character does something to shock you or make you mad, I have the same reaction when I write it. I don’t outline my stories, so as they flow for me I’m having the same experience as a reader.
Claire Hickey: What books have most influenced your life most?
Kimberly Packard: Would it be trite to say that probably every book has influenced me in some way? My parents bought us any book and took us to the library when we asked, so I always had my nose stuck in a book. Each of those books taught me something, whether I am aware of it or not. For specific titles, I love books that push boundaries – Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End; Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis and most recently The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.
Claire Hickey: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Kimberly Packard: Hands down the Greater Fort Worth Writers. I think anyone who dreams of publishing needs to find a good writers group and go every time they meet.
Claire Hickey: How many more Amanda books in the near future?
Kimberly Packard: Her story will be complete in a trilogy, so there will be two more books.
Phoenix, by Kimberly Packard. Dallas, Tx.: goodmedia press, 2012. 332 pp. $17.95 pb (list). Also available in a Kindle edition, $9.99.
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