Best-selling author Sue Monk-Kidd talks
- Explaining some of her ground rules for writing, Monk-Kidd – who lives on Marco – said an author has to have something to say, an ability to say it, and have the courage to say it
As with many novelists, there’s an intriguing story behind one of the stories written by best-selling author Sue Monk-Kidd.
Regaling members of the Woman’s Club at a recent luncheon, Monk-Kidd said her most famous book to date, "The Secret Life of Bees," almost stayed a short story.
In the late 90s, a mentor had told her that what she’d planned as the first chapter of the best-seller “had no potential as a novel,” and that she should rather turn it into a short story.
It was published in an “obscure journal,” and for her efforts, she was paid all of $35.
Some years later, however, she got her break.
“It was fortuitous that I read the short story in New York,” Monk-Kidd said, “and afterward a literary agent appeared at my elbow and said ‘I hope that is the first chapter of a novel.’”
The book ended up being published in 2001. It sat on the New York Times best seller list for 2 ½ years, sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, and was made into a major motion picture starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo.
Set during the American civil rights movement of 1964, it tells the story of a white girl who runs away from home to live with her deceased mother's former black nanny, who now works as an independent bee-keeper and honey-maker with many of her sisters.
A more recent novel, "The Invention of Wings," is set during the antebellum years and based on the life of Sarah Grimké, a 19th-century abolitionist and women's rights pioneer. The novel debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Explaining some of her ground rules for writing, Monk-Kidd – who lives on Marco – said an author has to have something to say, an ability to say it, and have the courage to say it.
But at the same time, and to the delight of her audience, she made an observation about critiques of "The Secret Lives …"
“I learned a great deal about what I meant from all the people who have written about it,” she said. “I have to tell you, it’s much loftier than anything I had in mind.”
Alluding to any time being the right time to start, too, Monk-Kidd said she switched from her lifelong profession as a nurse when she was between her 40s and 50s. She had, however, enjoyed a lifelong passion for reading.
She also credited her father for instilling literary awareness in her by being a “great storyteller.”