Lowcountry Originals 2023
July 2023 Issue
photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
Current Residence: Hilton Head Island
Hometown: Little Rock, AR
Family: Husband, Jim Peresta; Daughters Bonnie & Erin;
Sons Josiah & Andrew and a gaggle of grandkids.
When and how did you discover your artistic talent? What do you love about it?
My 30-year advertising career included everything from account management to layout and design to copywriting. I became the go-to person for writing copy, and that’s when I discovered it was easier for me than others. When my husband, Jim, and I moved to South Dakota, I was asked to write an 800-word weekly humor column for the local paper. At that point, the impossible task of writing a book seeped into my bones. It took six years and a thousand mistakes to get my first book published (Don’t read it; it’s terrible!) and another six to start getting things right. I’ve always loved words and making up stories. It’s both redemptive and cathartic. How wonderful it is to have the opportunity to turn the inevitable sad, miserable experiences of the past into stories that make a reader gasp, cry, or explode in anger. It’s a validation of my process, and by extension…my life.
As a “creative” you are unique. What makes you, the most YOU!
I’m the most ME when I’m chatting with other authors—my tribe. We get each other in a way that’s incredibly bonding. Writing is a tough, isolating, experience. I’m the most ME when I’m talking to someone with whom I can use big words and talk about profound issues without being teased. I’m a deep, creative thinker and a lover of words. As a little girl, I read books with a dictionary by my side. As a writer, I always have thesaurus.com open. That elusive, perfect, word is waiting, and I’m determined to find it!
What do you hope people who read your novels “get” out of them?
My books begin with a theme. For instance, my Olivia Callahan Suspense Series starts with how a woman’s soul can be crushed and renewed. The next book is about rising from the ashes after great adversity. Then, the next is leaving behind the shame or obstacles of a past that holds her back. When my readers quote back to me a pivotal, profound line from one of my characters, I want to cry because I’m so happy they GOT IT! My books are suspenseful so readers can expect cliffhanger chapter endings and gritty events. But there’s also a profundity rolling along in the background—a subtle nod to life’s challenges, sprinkled with hope. My stories can get dark, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Will my character find it? Do they have the perseverance to tackle hard things? Do you? Sometimes we have to dig deep!
What’s the best encouragement you’ve ever received in pursuing your artistic talents?
REVIEWS! Authors live and die by reviews. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads make or break a book. I love reading good reviews, and I hope you, as a reader, will give any author of a book you loved a great review on these platforms! It just takes a few minutes, and it means so much. If a reader doesn’t “get” a book, or like it at all, perhaps they might consider not posting a review—just a thought!
What is your dream project? Do you foresee it coming to fruition?
A TV or film deal. My agent is shopping my series right now, and I have another book I’m hoping to get picked up that would make a great movie (in my humble opinion). That would be a dream come true! But first, I need to fan the flame of my readership base, which includes marketing, events and networking. An author is only one person away from fantastic success!
Tell us about a time when all good vibes came together and you rocked it—that moment you felt on cloud-9.
I’d say my best moments as an author thus far have come from book club events. It feels amazing for readers to tell me how deeply my characters resonated with them, or how much they despised the protagonist! It’s an absolutely thrilling feeling to hear readers talk about my characters as if they know them, and a great boost to my self-esteem. Authors struggle with every word, every page, and when the manuscript is finally submitted, we bite our fingernails and wonder if it’s good enough. Every. Single. Time.
What encouragement do you have for those who are just beginning to pursue their artistic selves?
To aspiring novelists: Try not to jump into the fire too soon. Research publishers, agents, and decide which genre you want to write. Study genre because your book must fit into the specific guidelines of the genre. Learn what the publishing industry is about. Study publisher websites. Pay attention to submission guidelines and follow them exactly. Learn the art of the query. Attend writing conferences; this is the absolute best thing an aspiring writer can do. Make sure you go to a teaching conference and not a fan conference. As a newbie, you want to learn. It takes skill to land a good agent or publisher, but it is absolutely possible to get picked up and published if you do your homework!
See Kerry's upcoming events at: www.kerryperesta.net