I first “discovered” Kim Golden with her book, ‘Maybe Baby’ and fell in love with her storytelling skill, effortless prose, the deft characterization and strong sense of place. I reviewed that one, and then set about reading all the others. So, it is with great pleasure that I host her to talk about her return to my favorite couple, Laney and Mads, in ‘Maybe Forever’.
In all three of your Maybe … stories, Sweden as a country is as much a character as New York City is a character in the Candace Bushnell’s ‘Sex & the City’ Tell us a little about how your personal expat experience informs your work.
I moved to Sweden for love, so I think it made my experience a bit easy. I was twenty-five when I moved here and I moved to a country where nearly everyone speaks English, which also made it easy. When I loved to Stockholm, there were not many blacks living here. I sometimes felt like a fish out of water, but it was an interesting experience. Because I was different, people would approach me, talk to me in a way that Swedes don’t normally do (they usually will not approach strangers, they don’t usually strike up random conversations or do small talk). Most of the people I met here were very friendly but it took a while to really feel like I’d made friends. Swedes can be a bit difficult to get to know—they’re reserved, they don’t often open their social circle unless they really like you—and initially I was struggling with the language. You can live here without learning Swedish, but you’ll never really feel like you’ve come into society. I’d moved here here for love and wasn’t planning on moving back to the US unless things really went pear-shaped, so I threw myself into studying Swedish, making friends absorbing as much as I could about living here and not falling into the rut of only being around other Americans.
Inevitably, all of us expats end up knowing one another. The contrasts of being an expat were definitely something I wanted to capture when I started writing the Maybe… series—how everyone seems to know everyone else, how you can pretend you don’t know the language to avoid conversations you don’t want to have, how sometimes you feel more like a Swede than an American or how life back home slowly becomes foreign.
I also wanted to capture the way that being a black woman living here meant I didn’t have to live up to these pre-conceived notions of what it means to be black. I could try new things and not be told I was trying to be white or something equally ridiculous. It’s something that gets my goat when I am back home in the US. How some people constantly say “You can’t do that because you’re black” or “only white people do that” if you show an interest in something that isn’t “the norm”. I wanted to write about women who were free from that, even if sometimes it pops up or gives them pause. I think a lot of this comes through in my writing.
When you picture ‘your reader’, who is she/he? Do you have a target audience?
When I first began writing, I never really thought about who was my reader. I wrote the sort of stories that I wanted to read. When I wrote my first short story, I wanted everyone—men, women, black, white, whatever—to read it and love it. After a while, I realised I needed to have more focus. I knew I liked writing about relationships, specifically interracial/multicultural relationships since I had experience with it, and I thought I would gear my fiction more towards women. Probably my target reader is women, 25-40+, African American (though I found out recently I have a few fans in Lithuania and Estonia). I want *all* women to read my books, but I know there are still readers out there who won’t buy a book because they think they cannot relate to a black heroine.
I find that sometimes writers return to themes that intrigue them. I like to write about ‘broken people’ or people with secrets. Do you have a recurring theme that you return to in your work?
Infidelity seems to be a recurring theme in my books. I never intend to write about it, but it inevitably pops up—why do people cheat, what makes someone who never thought they would cheat do so… Second chances at love is another theme that pops up a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen quite a few people around me who’ve reconnected with loves from their pasts and actually made it work. Or it could be that I am just a hopeless romantic (even if I think of myself as being a bit cynical).
Is there one character in ‘Maybe Forever’, male or female, that you identify with more than others? And if so, why?
I would love to be able to say that I identify most with Eddy—she’s so fearless and she doesn’t care what other people think—but I think I identify most with Laney. In some ways, we have a similar background. My parents stayed together for the sake of the kids, but my father was often emotionally absent. We had a love-hate relationship. He didn’t understand his bookworm daughter and I didn’t understand why he was always angry. I knew I wasn’t his favorite child. I felt like a rootless tree and I always longed to be elsewhere. Laney is the same. In her case, she is rootless following the death of her mother and being abandoned by her father.
Of all your work, which stories/books did you feel compelled to write?
Probably ‘Maybe Tonight’. I wanted to tell Mads’s side of the story. I felt like I had to dig deeper with him and get to the core of just why did he want this life with Laney so much, why did he pursue her even when he knew he probably shouldn’t have. It was interesting writing Maybe Tonight as a serial novella and getting into his head. I think it also helped me understand Laney even more, seeing her through his eyes.
Of all your work which was the hardest to write?
Maybe Baby was the hardest to write. I knew that some readers would instantly dislike Laney simply because of the infidelity angle and I wanted her to be a difficult (though likeable) character. It helped that I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo—it kept me from letting my inner critic sidetrack or discourage me from finishing the project. But the revision process was difficult as I tried to add deep point of view to flesh out her story. Maybe the fact that it was such a hard story to write is why I ended up loving this book so much.
Now that you have a good body of work under your belt, what’s your writing ambition? What do you want to do writing-wise that you have not yet done?
I don’t really care about being the #1 bestseller. I just want to reach readers who will enjoy my work. And I want to get to the point where I can write novels full-time instead of having to fit it around a full-time job. I know I have a lot more stories to write, so I’ll just keep writing them because it makes me happy. I would love to write a thriller similar to Paullina Simon’s ‘Red Leaves’ or a paranormal novel. I’ve got an unfinished ghost story set in Scotland with an African American heroine. Maybe I will finish it one day.
Now let’s talk about Mads and Laney, the couple in ‘Maybe Forever’. Pretend you’re describing them to a friend who’s never met them. Begin with ‘Laney and Mads are that couple who …’ and tell us a little about them and their relationship dynamic.
Laney and Mads are that couple who love each other so much that they sometimes forget the rest of the world exists. I like the intensity between them. I like that, for them, the connection they have and that spark that drew them together, still burns bright. They were both orphans of sorts, looking for someone who would understand what it’s like to be the one left behind (both of them lost their mothers when they were teenagers and had absent fathers), both of them felt lost or like something vital was missing from their lives and they were going through the motions of everyday life, accepting this and settling. And then they met and that recognition of finding your kindred spirit took over.
What made you want to write this one, the third book in the Maybe … series? What do you want to say that hadn’t been yet said in Mads and Laney’s other stories?
I never really planned to write this story. I was going to focus on Maybe Tomorrow and let Laney and Mads remain in their bubble of love. But one day I was talking to a friend about how her marriage nearly fell apart due to the pressures of trying to hold it together with a new baby, a toddler and trying to be perfect, and I began to wonder what would happen to Laney in that situation. Also, I felt like I wanted to strip away the perfect veneer of their lives. Yes, they love each other—they were meant to be together, but they are human, flaws and all. And I wanted to capture that story. I felt like it needed to come out.
If you had to sum up the ‘conflict’ between Mads and Laney in this book, what one word would you use, and why?
Insecurity. Both Laney and Mads are struggling to deal with their own insecurities. Laney is struggling with motherhood and not feeling adequate; Mads is struggling with his own in fear of failure, of comparing himself to Laney’s ex and fearing that—at least financially, he may not measure up. And this escalates, leads them both to do and say things they regret.
How do you write your books? Do you think of characters first, or plots? Which came first in the Maybe … series?
Usually, the characters come first. It was that way with ‘Snowbound’ and with ‘Choose Me’. And it’s definitely been that way with my new WIP (Under the Milky Way). With the Maybe… series, the characters definitely came first. I was sitting in the outdoor bar of a hotel when the characters came to me. The story flowed from there.
What should we expect from you next?
I’m finishing up another book in the Maybe… series—this one focuses on Eddy (Laney’s cousin) and what happens when she meets Henrik (Mads’s cousin) on Midsummer’s Eve. It’s called ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ and is set in Copenhagen and New York. I’m also working on a futuristic story called ‘Under the Milky Way’ that focuses on a woman trying to come to terms with her future, an astronaut who is losing his humanity the longer he’s out in space, and a robot who falls in love. And this one is also an IR/MC story—even if it sounds like pure sci-fi. ☺
“Are you attracted to her?”
He glanced away. I saw the tension building inside of him. Instead of answering me, he began undressing. Was he ever going to answer me?
I didn’t want to cry anymore. I didn’t want to think about Benny or what he might have done with her. I kept telling myself that maybe I was overreacting—maybe there was nothing going on between them, but the telling silence continued to fester. Mads went into our en suite bathroom. As soon as I heard the shower sputter on, I ended up following him. He was already in the shower stall, his back to me as the water streamed down his body. I watched as he rinsed off a day’s worth of sweat…maybe even another woman’s scent…from his skin. But standing there watching him…I hated that I still wanted him. I still wanted him to want me and only me. And I knew that tonight might be the last time I could have him to myself. Maybe it was already too late. I was trembling, still unable to stop this unsettled feeling inside me. And when he finally turned off the shower and reached for his towel, I ran my hands along his hips and pulled him close. He turned and the tight expression on his face nearly sent me away. I steeled myself. He exhaled slowly and leaned into me. He captured my lips with his, kissing me tenderly at first, his lips grazing mine, the tip of his tongue gently urging me to let him in. I squeezed my eyes shut and let my arms tighten around him. For a little while the rising heat between us was enough to make me forget. I let him peel away my camisole, let him push down my shorts. I kicked them aside. My body was coming alive for him even while my doubts were whispering to me, “This won’t help…”
I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spent most of my childhood summers in Smithfield, Virginia. I’m not sure where my love of words comes from, but I’ve loved books since I was a child and I’ve loved writing stories for as long as I can remember.
My parents wanted me to do something practical–be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant. But I always dreamed of doing something completely different. I knew I wanted to be a writer, even if it took a bit of time for me to get to that point.
It led me to spend more time writing stories than studying physics and chemistry in high school. It’s what led me study literature and then work on an MFA in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. And when I finished my master’s degree, love led me away from the US and brought me to Sweden.
So what do I write? I write about relationships, about love. I often write about interracial relationships. I like reading stories about people who are different, who see past the differences and fall in love. And those are the stories I also enjoy writing. I write stories for people who know that love comes in many colors.
Other Books by Me
Maybe Baby (Book 1 in the Maybe… series)
Maybe Tonight (Book 2 in the Maybe… series)
Choose Me: a novella
Linger: a short story
30 Days, 30 Stories (a Wattpad exclusive)
How can new readers find your work?
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