Kentucky native Kimmery Martin has the kind of story that could end up in one of her books.
She grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, moved to Louisville to attend UofL med school, worked many years as an ER doctor, relocated to Charlotte, N.C., to raise a family, and then decided to become a writer.
“The Queen of Hearts” is Martin’s first novel, and since its release from Penguin Random House this month, it has garnered much praise — even being described as ” ‘Big Little Lies’ meets ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ ”
The story follows best friends Zadie and Emma from childhood to adulthood — from summer school to med school, residencies and beyond. The two spend time in both Louisville and Charlotte, much like Martin’s own life, and the conflict comes when an old flame reappears and brings with him some secrets both girls would rather leave in the past.
Martin is heading out on a book tour, and she’ll make a stop in Louisville on Thursday, Feb. 15, at Carmichael’s Bookstore on Frankfort Avenue (free, 7 p.m.).
She tells Insider that she’s an avid book nerd and was inspired to write her own novel from her admiration of various authors. In short, she wanted to try to do what they do.
“And naturally, I put my characters into scenes and situations I knew to be realistic based on my own career in medicine,” she explains. “That being said, nearly every action the characters take is invented. I don’t want people to think I am literally in the novel — and the reasons will be obvious once you’ve read it.”
“In the practice of medicine, you have the privilege of witnessing life in all its anguish and glory, from the first breath to the last. And in literature, you are a chronicler of all this raging humanity. I believe both fields require a keen sense of observation,” she says.
Louisvillians will recognize some familiar places in “The Queen of Hearts,” including the Highlands and Cherokee Park, and although she didn’t name them by name, some of the settings are inspired by real places.
“There’s a bar or two mentioned in the novel where the main characters and their friends hang out — also fictional, although I have to be honest: In med school, my real-life friends and I had really good times at some of Louisville’s late-night spots. Work hard, play hard …”
Martin says she comes back to Louisville at least three times a year, and on Thursday’s visit, she plans to catch up with friends at spots she can’t miss when coming to town, like Red Hog, Seviche and Brendon’s Catch 23.
“I am constantly pining away for Louisville food when I’m not there,” she says. “Nowhere else I’ve lived comes close.”
Before Martin lands in Louisville to share her work with friends and strangers alike, we asked her some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
Um, it’s going to sound lame, but my ultimate dream would be to write travel magazine articles, or possibly a nonfiction travel book based on my own experiences. Most of which I have not yet had. I’d really like to travel to Asia next.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
I didn’t have a poster, but my best friend and I covered an entire wall with drawings we did. I thought at the time I wanted to be a fashion designer, which would not have worked out because I am pretty unstylish and I cannot sew worth a lick.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
Definitely my mother. She has devoted her entire life to a community nonprofit she founded in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, which has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people. She’s the best person I know and a true Kentucky hero.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Pesto and Gruyère if I feel fancy; otherwise, pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
I think 30. Old enough to have some sense, but young enough to look good with minimal effort.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
No one has ever compared me to anyone famous except for once in grocery store when a random person asked if I was related to some serial killer in California. I might be remembering that wrong.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
The Mark Darcy character from the Bridget Jones books. Or, if you take attraction out of it, Leonardo da Vinci.