Best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd brings book tour to Naples

Sue Keller

Best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd calls Marco Island home and Marco is where she does all her writing.

Sue Monk Kidd of Marco Island relaxes after speaking at a booksigning fundraiser in Naples on Tuesday.

Kidd is in the midst of of a nation-wide booksigning tour promoting her latest novel, "The Invention of Wings," just out in paperback from Penguin Random House.

On Tuesday, Kidd spoke at a Friends of the Collier County Library fundraiser in Naples at the Port Royal Club. More than 125 of Kidd's fans paid $100 a piece to dine with the author at the Bagels and Book Club Breakfast and hear her talk about her work.

"Engaging with my readers is the best part of being on a book tour," said Kidd, author of bestsellers "The Secret Life of Bees" and "The Mermaid Chair."

Susan Ganjamie, member of the Stonebridge Country Book Club in Naples, was totally thrilled when Kidd spoke to their club a few years ago. When the club heard Kidd was going to be speaking on Tuesday, they were elated.

"We can't get enough of this book. We just love it. Sue is a marvelous author and just a lovely human being," said Ganjamie.

Historical fiction

In 2007, Kidd went to the Brooklyn Museum to attend an event with her husband, Sandy. A grouping of heritage panels containing the names of 599 women who had made contributions to western history caught her eye.

"To my husband's dismay, I read all 599 of these names," said Kidd, who came upon the names of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, two sisters from South Carolina who were the first female abolitionists in America.

Kidd was living in Charleston, S.C., at the time and had never heard of the sisters. She told the audience that what was ironic was she "had been driving by the Grimke childhood house for years and I had not heard of them. John Grimke and Mary Smith Grimke, the sisters parents, had 14 children. John Grimke was one of Charleston's leading judges."

The book took four years to complete. It is a fictional historical novel set in the 1830s in Charleston. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and a young slave named Hetty, also known as Handful, are three of the main characters.

Hetty was given to Sarah as a gift on her 11th birthday, a common custom at that time. Even at her young age, Sarah despised slavery and rejected the gift from her parents. As the years passed, Sarah and Angelina were at the forefront of the abolitionist and women's rights movements.


Kidd's book tour started in Charleston then went to Savannah, Philadelphia and New Hampshire and will continue to the Midwest and West Coast. While in Philadelphia on May 7, the historical society awarded her its annual founders award. Kidd acknowledged it is unusual to present such an award to a fiction writer.

Sue Monk Kidd

"But because 'Invention of Wings' is a historical novel, it opened a portal for people to experience history and bring it alive," said Kidd. "So I am very excited."

The author hopes readers will take away some enlightenment about 19th century American history and slavery. But more than that, Kidd hopes readers will contemplate the relevance of history and the fact that history still has something to say to us today about race, gender, bravery, boldness, and principles.

"But what I most wish more than that, is that readers would have what I feel is a self-experience, the way you feel it," said Kidd. "I want history to become very personal so that the reader may know what it is like to be a privileged white woman with no rights at all. Or to be an enslaved woman whose life has been stolen from you. What does that feel like?"

Kidd hopes is that her work will become a portal into the common heart.

"History is a pain in the heart, and we will repeat history, until we make another's pain in the heart our own," said Kidd.

Waiting in line to get her book signed, Kidd fan Barbara Nielsen commented, "I thought the book was brilliant, well researched and thought provoking," said Nielsen who has studied American history and knew about the Grimke sisters.

During her talk, Kidd touched on her writing regimen.

"What starting to write did for me at the outset was help me understand the importance of continuing to be a beginner," said Kidd "I kind of think of myself as a seasoned beginner and I love the paradox of that a lot because the beginner part keeps me hungry, wanting , open and fresh and eager."

Selecting just the right language in her novels means a lot to her.

"I labor at it, I really do," said Kidd, who strives for lyrical beauty, but also wants to evoke an emotional resonance as well as something visual to the reader. Kidd rewrites passages many times before she gets the feeling that she has the right combination of words.

"Most writers find that rewriting is the real work," said Kidd.

When asked if "The Invention of Wings" is going to be a movie, Kidd said that the book's movie rights had been purchased by Harpo, Opera Winfrey's production company, and the script is being written.

New book

As for another book, Kidd said her antenna is always up and she's listening to what is speaking to her creative spirit.

"When I'm working on a book it's all about work," said Kidd. "I love being immersed in the book and the process of writing it. It consumes me."

Taking time with family and walking the beach on Marco and enjoying moments of relaxation gives Kidd the renewal she needs to write another book.

"I give them everything I've got and then I have to replenish after I'm done," she said,

Plans to start working on a new book this summer are in the works. There will be some surprises with her next project, she said, but she can't talk about the book yet – except to say it will be a historical novel further back in time than "The Invention of Wings."