I'm am delighted to be bringing you an interview with author Kimberly Davis Basso. Kimberly has published two books, and after reading her bio, I have great respect for an author that can write about such life changing events with such humour and humility.
I will let Kimberly explain further.
How long have you been writing?
I was a playwright for around twenty-five years and switched over and published my first book in 2018. So I’ve been writing for decades, but relatively recently starting working in book, essay and short story form. The real answer, of course, is that I’ve been writing my whole life, but I don’t count the truly horrendous poetry I wrote as a teen. Although I did get to use them as song lyrics in a play of mine that was done in the nineties, so the angst came in handy eventually. I also don’t count the “book” that I wrote as a child. The entire plot was Kimberly wakes up to find that her parents have bought her a horse. Zero conflict, all wish fulfillment.
Do you have a favourite book?
For a long time it was To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it when I was very young and really identified with Scout, tagging after her brother, the whole summertime sleep on the porch thing. And I thought that I discovered that book, it was the first classic I read on my own and it was before I was old enough to have that stuff assigned at school. I thought I was really fancy, that I alone uncovered and understood the brilliance of Harper Lee. Clearly my imagination and over inflated ego have always been in full swing. As an adult my favorite book shifts around, I fall in love with books and authors all the time.
Who are your favourite authors, and how have they influenced your work?
I try to take something from each of the books I read no matter the author, I’m always on the lookout for techniques, imagery, form, pacing and so on – I constantly deconstruct what I’m reading. It absolutely sucks to be in a book club with me. As far as specific influences, I hesitate to make anyone responsible for whatever it is I’m doing, but I’ve always said if Sedaris and Bombeck had a love child raised on Shakespeare, I’m that kid. Or that kid’s best friend. Maybe nemesis. Hard to say.
Can you describe your writing process?
My process always starts with a question, and that has always been true regardless of the form the answer takes. The long answer would take more time than quarantine, but I think it’s worth knowing I’ve had to be very flexible with my writing process, and the older I get, the more adept I am at changing with what the work needs. I think. Hope. Possibly pray. For example - I used to think I needed a pure block of uninterrupted time to write a book, and then I had a stroke and wrote the majority of a book while in the hospital and recovering in the weeks after, so there goes that excuse. That was a real blessing, because these days I write at my dining room table while my husband works ten feet away and both my kids attend virtual school, and sometimes that writing window is twenty minutes. I have this fantasy of working out a very specific writing process, like a checklist, and then just following it to the letter and churning out brilliant book after brilliant book but we all know that’s nonsense.
Writing a memoir from personal experience must be challenging. Can you tell me a bit about your own journey?
I think I had it easy. It really simplifies things once you decide you aren’t going to bullshit people.
I was a playwright, and the one thing I was absolutely certain of was that I did not want to watch my story on stage. Too difficult to see my kids in that situation (my daughter saved my life). Everyone around me was asking, will it be a play? Nope. Of that I was certain. I didn’t want my kids to have to relive that time in that way. Of course, I was still writing about it and I think I realized pretty early, like maybe ten or so weeks after the stroke that what I actually had on my hands was a book. And since the writing came from my ‘in the moment’ ideas, I chose the no filter version of what happened.
Sharing your experience of suffering a stroke is very brave. What inspired you to share your experience?
That’s kind of you to say, I don’t think it’s brave at all. I really didn’t do much of anything except not die, and that wasn’t on me, it was my second grader who saved my life and the docs, nurses and techs who made sure it stuck. I shared my experience because I had to, I honestly wasn’t thinking about what sharing it might mean. Other than it seemed like a good story, maybe it might entertain people, and I only found out afterwards that people really were intrigued to experience it first-hand. And then I was humbled to learn it could be useful in a much more important way, when readers contacted me to share that my story (they felt) saved their lives. That happened on three separate occasions, and finally the lightbulb went off that maybe this was something a bit more than a good story and in that I feel lucky all over again.
I am a great lover of humour. Why did you include humour in your books?
It’s just how I see the world, I’m delighted when people think it’s funny. Then again, the people laughing are the ones you really have to question, what is wrong with them? Laughing at a woman who had a stroke. I’m kidding of course, my stroke was ridiculous, being in the hospital was absurd, and then with the second book, 'Birth and Other Surprises', well, I don’t think there’s anything funnier than pushing a human out of your vagina. Maybe how people react to the word vagina? I’ll get back to you.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
My second cup of coffee. But writing-wise, always. My non-fiction work is ongoing, because I write humour essays and there is no end of material, so those get written as they occur to me. Quarantine has also given me a chance to play with fiction. I am in final drafts on a horror collection I’ve been working on since June, that publishes October 2021, and I am about to finish my first novel, maybe ten thousand or so words away from the end. So I may actually get to type the words “the end” finally!
What advice would you give a new author?
You don’t need anything to write except a brain and a way to store the words in case your brain forgets them. Like a computer. Or a notepad.
Personally, I write when I have something to say. I write when I have an answer to the question or I’m exploring the answer, because there is always a question at the core of it. I always assumed I would shift into novels and essays (as compared to the plays I was writing) when I was in my sixties, and I was perfectly fine with that. I figured that I needed to have some life and living before I’d know what I wanted to say about any of it in that way. Life decided I needed to get a move on, so I had a stroke and that turned into my first book. I do not recommend having a stroke to kick start your writing career. Or any career for that matter.
Lastly, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
I am never not writing – there’s a piece of my brain that is always mulling something over, and another piece that is always on the lookout for that next bit of inspiration. But those are both unconscious acts so I can’t really take credit for them, even though I just did. But if we ignore those parts of my brain, then the honest answer is I’m thinking about pizza.
Thank you to Kimberly for talking to us about her work, and her inspirational journey, fought with humour. If you would like to check out her books, click on the links below.