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Q&A with Hope Gibbs

Local Author Discusses Her Debut Book And Life As A Writer

Hope Gibbs grew up in rural Scottsville, Kentucky. As the daughter of an English teacher, she was raised to value the importance of good storytelling from an early age. Today, she’s an avid reader of women’s fiction. Drawn to multi-generational family sagas, relationship issues, and the complexities of being a woman, she translates those themes into her own writing. 

City Lifestyle spoke with her about her debut book, Where the Grass Grows Blue.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

"I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. But it wasn’t books I aspired to; rather, I wanted to write for soap operas. Every Friday afternoon, I would come up with little storylines in my head for my favorite characters. It wasn’t exactly age-appropriate entertainment, but it certainly stoked my creativity. By the time I was in college at Western Kentucky University, I’d given up on that dream but decided to stay in the medium by majoring in marketing and television production. I loved everything about it, even interning at Talk of the Town in Nashville. But after graduation, facing a heap of student loans, I changed directions again and began a career in the merchandising department of a large corporation in my hometown.

After the birth of my first child, I decided to leave that job to become a stay-at-home mother. It was hard to say goodbye to the company I’d grown to love, but I knew it was the right choice for me at the time. In my mind, I would be going back to work in a few years. However, before I knew it, I had four more children.

As life rushed by, consumed with raising a family, I found myself startled when my eldest graduated from high school and set off for college. It happened in a blink of an eye. Then it hit me. Despite having four children at home, they too would soon embark on their own journeys.

The prospect of becoming an empty nester hovered over me, prompting me to wonder: What awaited me at fifty? What was going to be the next chapter in my life?

To help me cope with this mini-midlife crisis, I began re-evaluating things. On the advice of a dear friend, I started journaling my feelings out on a laptop as an outlet. That lasted about a week before I noticed I wasn’t writing about me or my goals—I was creating a whole new character named Penny Ray Crenshaw. Every free moment, I wrote when I had the chance. In the beginning, it was usually after dinner, when my children were busy with homework and my kitchen was clean. But that only got me so far. I took every “free” opportunity I could get. I started toting around my laptop to basketball, football, lacrosse, and soccer games when there was a break in the action in case something struck me.  That “next chapter,” the one I had been agonizing over, turned into twenty-eight chapters and an epilogue—it became Where the Grass Grows Blue."

Tell us a little about your book.

"Where the Grass Grows Blue is one woman’s journey to either accept her past by embracing the power of forgiveness or risk losing a second chance at love in a small Kentucky town.  It focuses on Penny Crenshaw, recovering from a scandalous divorce in Atlanta, and her return to her small Kentucky hometown to settle her grandmother’s estate. Amidst painful memories and the rekindling of old relationships, especially with her childhood best friend and the keeper of her darkest secrets, Bradley Hitchens, she faces the choice of finally letting go of her past wounds or risking a chance at love.

It’s a quintessential Southern experience full of complicated family dynamics, friendship, food, and a love affair that spans almost twenty-five years. However, at its core, the narrative revolves around forgiveness—unveiling the consequences of prolonged denial and highlighting the transformative potential that emerges when extending forgiveness to both others and oneself."

Why did you want to set a book in the South? 

"I wanted to bring the uniqueness of the South to a wider community of readers, weaving a narrative that brings to life its culture, cuisine, and the vibrant personalities that define the region. Drawing inspiration from my surroundings and going back to my own upbringing in Kentucky, I aspired to articulate the distinctive appeal found within a small town."

Why do you think romance is the top-selling category for readers?

"All you need is love, right? At its core, romance is all about the human experience of connection. In a world filled with uncertainties and challenges, it gives you a sense of hope. The promise of a happy ending, where love conquers all. That’s a comforting and reassuring narrative that resonates with readers.

Strangely, I didn’t set out to write a contemporary romance. I thought Where the Grass Grows Blue was more women’s fiction with a romantic element woven throughout. But when reviews came in, specifically from Kirkus, I could see that it fits into that genre and am honored to be in this category."

What’s been the most challenging/most rewarding part of your publishing journey? 

"Just getting published was a huge obstacle. The most rewarding part of this journey, without sounding too cliché, is connecting with readers. Having friends and family read my work is wonderful, but when strangers reach out on social media or through email, expressing how my words touched them or resonated with their own experiences, it’s truly special.

For the most challenging part of my publishing journey—the writing itself. I had no clue what I was doing initially. My writing experience was limited to a few college essays and some scripts.

Crafting a 95,000-word manuscript? That was completely different. It took me about a year to write the first draft, followed by another year and a half of rewriting and editing it. I then sat on the manuscript for an additional year before mustering the courage to query it."

What’s next for you?

"I’m almost finished with my second book, Ashes to Ashes (a working title). It’s an upmarket fiction book, set in Nashville, that focuses on a tight-knit group of women whose world is rocked after the unexpected death of their dear friend, Ellen, under mysterious circumstances. But before they can even process their grief, they stumble across a web of secrets and lies, unraveling Ellen’s perfect life—the one she tried so hard to project to the outside world.

I’m also busy with my podcast, "Authors Talking Bookish"; alongside my co-host, Donna Norman-Carbone. Our podcast is dedicated to supporting aspiring writers by sharing valuable insights gained through our own publishing and writing experiences. We try to ease their journey by offering advice on navigating the challenges of the industry."

@authorhopegibbs

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Hope Gibbs lives in Brentwood with her family. Where The Grass Grows Blue is her debut novel and has already won several awards.

"That “next chapter,” the one I had been agonizing over, turned into twenty-eight chapters and an epilogue—it became Where the Grass Grows Blue."

"I wanted to bring the uniqueness of the South to a wider community of readers, weaving a narrative that brings to life its culture, cuisine, and the vibrant personalities that define the region."

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