Nearly every Sunday morning, I call my brother, and for a half-hour or so the two of us catch up on family news, trade gossip, and retell stories we’ve heard since childhood.
Our parents followed the traditional practice of giving their son the same first name as our dad’s and using our mom’s maiden name for his middle name. This makes my brother’s full name “Willard Waite Kimbrell.” That’s a mouthful for a baby, so it’s not surprising that quite early he was nicknamed “Kim,” even though it’s a name often assigned to girls. Kim says that doesn’t bother him, and his family and friends don’t think much about it either. But on one recent Sunday Kim and I discovered we had grown up with different stories about just why our parents gave Kim that nickname.
“Mother told me,” I said, “that you were one of these babies who looks just like his grandfather. Everybody who came to see you said, “Oh! You’ve got another Kimbrell!”
Kim said, “She told me it was because I had the same first name our dad had. She didn’t want the neighbors hearing her yell, ‘Willard! You get in the house this minute!’”
For whatever reason, Kim became Kim at a very young age, and his nickname even decorates his architectural drawings.
Having an architect as a brother is of great value to a writer. It’s not exactly that he helps me research, he merely mines knowledge he already has.
Not only can Kim identify styles and construction methods, he simply understands how things fit together. If I want to know how villains can rappel down an elevator shaft to rob a bank or how the roof of a commercial building was constructed in 1907, I just ask Kim. He knows.
He also has a lot of general knowledge that I don’t. He’s told me how to fire a deer rifle, described how to sail a small sailboat, and revealed the secrets of getting along with city planning officials.
He usually doesn’t tell me how to write. But once I complained that I’d been trying to start a new book, and things weren’t going well.
Kim laughed. “Let me tell you about this man I know,” he said. “He’s a great big guy who was a combat helicopter pilot and now has his own business. Nice guy. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
This man and Kim were having coffee when the phone rang, and Kim’s pal began to berate the caller, who apparently owed him money. He ended by saying, “I’ll be over this afternoon, and I’m NOT BRINGING A LAWYER!”
I changed the appearance and background of the guy to match a character created for a previous book. But after I stopped laughing, Kim’s story kicked off The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole.
Kim had helped me build a lot of fictional buildings, but it was the first time he came up with part of a book. So, I dedicated it to him.
JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym for a multi-published mystery writer. She is the national bestselling author of the Chocoholic Mysteries. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business as a reporter, feature writer, and columnist. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. JoAnna currently lives in Oklahoma but summers in Michigan.