Michael Kimball standing in front of the Piscataqua River Bridge
"I wanted to be a rock ‘n' roll star," says Kimball
, as classical music plays in the background of his
comfortable Cape Neddick living room."I was in the first rock ‘n' roll band in Auburn (Mass.) called The Ravens."
Writing was not an interest to the guitar player; neither was school.The son of a milkman, Kimball says he was "a terrible student" who always had trouble reading, never really wanted to go to college and thinks he may have had ADD.
always loved composing and playing music. After graduating from Worcester State College with a degree in music, art and English, Kimball and his wife, Glenna, moved with their two children, Jesse, now 30, and Sarah, 22, to Whitefield, Maine.He
began teaching music, played with a band called Jimmy Midnight and the Chairs and launched his
writing career, thanks to "the fishing story."
"I went on a deep-sea fishing trip, way back in the late ‘70s.It was a horrible, horrible trip out of Boothbay Harbor."
Everyone was getting seasick.The first mate was torturing sharks.It was just plain bad.
"I was flabbergasted," Kimball
says."I called everyone I knew and said, ‘Hey I'm a writer!'"
Never mind that the story didn't show up in the next issue or the next one, and ended up with a $100 kill fee; he
was inspired for a new career.The instant he
declared himself a writer, he
went out and proved it by sending stories to Yankee Magazine
and elsewhere. He
was happy writing at off times while playing in the band and working both during the school year and summer.Taking the next step to novelist wasn't really on the agenda.
"The only reason I thought about a novel was Ronald Reagan," Kimball says.
During the summers, he
worked at a migrant education program, teaching the children of migrant workers.
"And then Reagan cut the funds," Kimball
ended up writing episodes for the TV show "Monsters," and taught classes on screenwriting.
These entertainment endeavors occurred about the time he
was writing "the perfect example of a sophomoric attempt" - his
description of his
unpublished second novel.Kimball
eventually found his
rhythm in spades with the critically acclaimed "Undone" and "Mouth to Mouth," published in 1996 and 2000, respectively. In 1995, he and Glenna moved from Whitefield to York, where she works as a teacher at Village Elementary School.
"Mouth to Mouth" is set in the southern Maine area as is "Green Girls" - at least partially - which brings us back to the Piscataqua River Bridge.
"I've always had a fear of heights," Kimball
says, a phobia that developed after he
and Glenna were married as teens."I've been through therapy and I've been hypnotized several times to get over it."
When the Kimballs moved to York
, they loved going into Portsmouth for the nightlife, "but I'd drive across that damn bridge and my arms would get rubbery," he
says."And I'd just have to focus on getting across.I played games with myself every time I drove across it.So that bridge was somewhere inside me, waiting to come out."
In doing research for the story, Kimball
met with experts on the Piscataqua River Bridge and even forced himself to go out and walk on it - "I'm white-knuckled holding on to the rail" - hearing stories of those who've jumped or attempted jumping.
It took Kimball
from two to three years to write "Green Girls," which had a brief derailment when Haley Joel Osment saw dead people.
"For this book, the biggest mistake I made was like a year into it - I saw the movie ‘The Sixth Sense' and just loved that movie," Kimball
"I thought ‘Hey, what if...' and that started me on a road with this book that got me in so much trouble." He
imagination weave a surreal schizophrenic mind-teaser with an ending that everyone hated, including his
publisher in London.He
spent the next two years trying to make the story work, and ended up with a real story for the thriller market.
Even now, "Green Girls" as published in the United States is 165 pages shorter than the United Kingdom edition, thanks to subsequent tweaking and the deletion of two characters - including the most sympathetic character he'd ever written - who happened to be superfluous to the story.
"In jazz, there's a saying: ‘When in doubt, leave it out.' And I always kept that.So if I find myself in a quandary, I'll cut."
Kimball points to the shorter novel, in stores locally.
Entrenched in his
community as a "Yorker," Kimball
gushes over the project, which combines several of his
life's interests - music, writing and dramatic characters - all with a touch of personal style.
"The whole thing has been such a labor of love.I've put as much care into this as anything I've done," he
Just don't expect your run-of-the-mill community theater when the show opens in early December.
"If you go to a suspense writer/thriller writer to write your community history, you're not going to get a community history.There's actually sex in this," he
says with a laugh."Not really, but the thing moves - it really sparkles."
will hold "read and signs" for his
book "Green Girls" on the following dates: Dec. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Gravestone Artwear
, Maine; Dec. 12, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Stroudwater Books
in Dover; Dec. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at All's Well Books
in Wells, Maine; Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth; Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble
"Green Girls" synopsis