Kimmery Martin talks with Hypable about her debut novel, Queen of Hearts and offers some insight to creating medical drama on the page.
If you love Big Little Lies and medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy and ER, there is no better book for you than Queen of Hearts. Check out our review and keeping reading for our exclusive interview with Kimmery Martin!
‘Queen of Hearts’ review
Taking place during a tumultuous year in med school and the present day, Zadie and Emma’s friendship and professional lives are tested when a familiar face reenters their lives. Little did they know they were not quite done learning from the events that occurred in their medical school days.
Flipping back and forth between the present and 1999, the novel also shifts perspectives between the two leads. Normally, this many shifts would slow a novel down. But here, the pacing never felt off or slow. It doesn’t stall the narrative for the sake of getting both points of view on each and every situation. And with those scenes, where one character does not reflect in the moment, their silence provides a weight to the story.
My favorite part of this novel was the reveal of the secret that exists between these life-long friends. It’s easy for debut novelists to leave a huge reveal for the final 100 pages and have little room left to work through the fallout. But in Queen of Hearts, by the time the other shoe falls, you feel as if you’ve been processing the rift in their friendship the entire novel.
Small moments from the previous chapters are called upon again in the final chapters that force you to realize that this tension has been slowly diffusing since the novel started. It felt like watching a television series where the Easter eggs were there all along. You’ll want to go back and see if you can catch them all.
For a debut novel, Queen of Hearts strikes the perfect balance of pulse-pounding ER drama with the reality of Kimmery Martin is someone to keep your eye on.
Kimmery Martin, author of ‘Queen of Hearts’ interview
What inspired you to write this friendship between your lead characters Zadie and Emma?
I was inspired to write the book because my own medical school days were such an informative period in my life. I had very intense, wonderful friendships in this “work hard, play hard” situation for four years where the people that you knew in the hospital were your whole social world.
And I wanted to write about some kind of friendship between doctors. I had Zadie in mind first. She’s kind of this light-hearted, goofy, smart, fun-loving person. And Emma, I guess, arose as a bit of a balance to Zadie. As soon as I started writing [Emma], her character emerged. She’s meticulous and introspective and awkward in a lot of ways.
I’m not much of a plotter, I didn’t really know what I was going to have the characters do. And that basically happened as I wrote them.
Unlike television, you don’t have the luxury of showing what is happening in the medical-heavy scenes. You have to find the words to describe the procedures. What was the process like when it came to crafting the medical scenes?
That is a great question. Some of it was really fun. And I drew on my own experiences and memories and that kind of thing to write those scenes.
But at the same time, some of it stressed me out. The publishers asked me to make some changes to the original draft and one of the things they wanted was for one of the characters to undergo a difficult situations at work. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t’ want to give away a big plot point, but I had to throw one of them under the bus.
And that was always my worst fear as a doctor – making some kind of mistake or doing something that would harm someone. I lived in fear of that, it was this big shadow hanging over my head. Even writing about it, made me a little anxious. So, I really empathized with this character.
In the author’s note you mention that your first draft was 200,000 words. As a debut author, what was it like going into that draft and killing your darlings?
I’m not going to be really selling myself when I say this, but I did not know how to write a book when I started this. I did not have any experience writing and it never occurred to me to go out and buy a book about how to write a book, which I should have done.
So, a lot of that needed to be cut. Part of it was easy – getting rid of stuff that didn’t advance the plot. But there were some things that I miss so much that I cut along the way. And sometimes I think, ‘Well, maybe I’ll publish a few paragraphs of those on my website. So people can see the original ending or this entire chapter that was cut out.’
Those parts were hard, but on the other hand, I could possibly use those parts for another book someday. It’s good to have them.
You touch on quite a few relationships in Queen of Hearts — marriage, patient-doctor, mother-child, the professional versus the personal. How did you go about striking the balance between these elements?
Well, it’s interesting, I started the book, originally, by writing all the chapters set in medical school. So the ones that are in Kentucky in the past in 1999. All of those chapters were the original book.
And I finished those and thought, ‘Gosh, I kind of want to know what happens to these characters as they age a little bit and gain some life responsibilities and maturity. I wanted to know, how does the secret between them ultimately come out?
I filled in the present day chapters later. Those are the ones where those women are through medical school, they are married, they have children and have big careers. I compartmentalized [the novel] a lot. I had already done the medical school scenes, then adding those in wasn’t quite as difficult because I was really focused on that portion of the book.
As a debut author, everyone tells you, ‘Write what you know.’ I actually have three kids and I have my job, I have my husband. It was really easy to visualize and invent situations that I knew to be pretty realistic. For the most part – I will say this, I am not in the book!
Your website is filled with interviews and book recommendations. What are you currently reading and looking forward to reading in 2018?
I’m dying to read Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. She is a debut author and I think her book is getting a lot of buzz. There is another debut author, Anna Quinn, who has a book called, The Night Child. They both sound amazing.
I’m kind of a science nerd, and so I am working my way through, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. It’s really nerdy, but he’s such a phenomenal writer that it’s actually really engaging. I have a huge stack of TBRs, that I haven’t been able to get to due to the book launch, but normally I read about three books per week.