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Kimberly Packard is dealing with something that almost all parents experience when their children grow up and take their place in society. She is excited, but admittedly a little scared as well. Parents deal with these questions all the time: How will the world treat them? Did I raise them the right way? Or, in Packard's case, did I create realistic characters who people will identify with? 

The local author just released her first novel, Phoenix, and with it she sent her "children" into the world to be known and judged.

"I’m thrilled that something I’ve dreamed about my whole life is coming true, but I’m also a little nervous about sharing characters and a story that I’ve been working on for so long," Packard said. "I’m sure it’s like sending your kids off to college, they are no longer mine, they belong to the world. I hope the characters are as real and alive to the reader as they are to me."

In the short time that it has been out, Phoenix has garnered much critical acclaim, as the story follows Amanda, Alex and Shiloh, three individuals who are tied together by two crimes committed thousands of miles, and ten years, apart. 

The idea for the story, according to Packard, was born from a perfect storm of experiences, commute time and one random comment.

"The idea for at least part of the book and the character of Amanda came from when I worked in a corporate communications department. I was in charge of contract announcements, and because it was a publicly-traded company these press releases went through a rigorous approval process," Packard said. "I joked with one of the attorneys that more people on his team signed off on the press releases than on my team, and he replied, 'Just trying to keep you out of jail.' I thought about his comment the whole way home and asked myself the question, 'what if a PR person worked for an unscrupulous boss?' Since I commuted between Dallas and Plano, I had a lot of time to play out the story in my head, so from there Amanda was born. 

Having grown up in Bonham, Packard drew on her small town experiences as she created the fictional Phoenix, Texas; and the real-life loss of a close friend crossed over into her writing as she penned the character Shiloh.

"The only relation I have is that Amanda and I both work in public relations. Having her end up in the small town of Phoenix draws on my own experiences growing up in a small town. There you will find some of the best people," Packard said. "And finally, I share a similar loss with the character Shiloh. Three and a half years ago I lost one of my best friends, so a lot of her emotion when it comes to dealing with that is some of what I went through."

Of the numerous positive reviews for Phoenix, it is the first chapter that has attracted the highest praise, as Packard wastes no time in throwing her main character into a desperate, and action packed, situation.

"What’s funny is I don’t plot out a story. I have an idea of what I need to accomplish in a scene – in that case getting Amanda on her journey to Phoenix – but the story sometimes just falls into place when you start writing," Packard said. "It was a lot for Amanda to take in; learning that she was part of a scandal, seeing a friend shot in front of her and then the decimation of her office. Like the mythical bird, that’s the moment she burned and the rest of the story is her rebirth. Of course, critique partners are critical to getting the first scene right, so I have to give a big thanks to them."

Not plotting the story led to some of the most exciting developments during the writing process, and a surprising one after the book was completed.

"The coolest part is when the story takes control —meaning that you are watching it unfold in your head, almost like when you read. Since I don’t plot when I write, but instead steer, it’s really cool when the story just starts going in one direction. When this happens, as the writer, you just have to get out of its way," Packard said. "The biggest surprise for me was after I had finished writing Phoenix and the characters wouldn’t stop whispering to me. I had really only planned to write just this story and then move on to something totally different, but on my commutes to work I realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg, so it’s going to be a trilogy."

To the delight of fans, Packard has already finished the first draft of her sequel, written pages for the third book and even began work on another story that will not be part of the trilogy. Impressive in its own right, the feat seems even more improbable given Packard's full-time job and part-time writing schedule.

"Everyone’s writing process is different. Since I write for my day job (Vice President of Communications for the North Texas Commission), I’m usually pretty spent by the time I get home," Packard said. "I love a good rainy weekend for writing. But, living in Texas I can’t wait around for that, so I try to maximize the time I have when I have it. When it’s my writing weekend, I clear the calendar, exercise the dog (a yellow lab named Charlie) early so he’s tired and just get to work — showers can wait. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get warmed up, kind of like when you start running, but once the story gets going, it’s all I can do to keep my fingers moving as fast as the scene unfolds. On a good day, I can crank out 8,000-10,000 words."

Packard has been "cranking out" words since an early age. In second grade, she wrote a letter to Beverly Cleary asking for advice and pointers.

"She (Cleary) actually responded, telling me that to be a writer I have to read and practice," Packard said. "I don't remember if there was an exact moment when I sat up and said, 'I want to be a writer.' I think it's always been there since I was a kid. So I've spent my life reading and practicing the craft of writing."

Having immersed herself in writing for most of her life, Packard knows how isolating the craft can be — surrounded by characters in your head, yet alone with your own thoughts.

"The frustrating part is that for the most part this is a very lonely profession. Fellow writers are great, but when you’re writing, it’s just you and the characters in your head locked away in a room," she said. "As a writer starting out, you have to have family and friends who support you. My husband never once questioned why the weeds were outgrowing the flowers or asked if I had showered yet when I was on my writing days."

Now that Packard has achieved her dream of having a book published, she has no plans of slowing down.

"I'm going to keep writing. Now that I know I can do it, there is no excuse to not," she said. "Plus, I have a little added pressure of people wanting to know what happens next after the end of Phoenix. But that’s OK, it’s exciting to see how much Amanda, Shiloh and Alex have resonated with people just in the few weeks it’s been out."

Phoenix can be found in paperback and eBook form on, at Barnes and Noble and on iBooks. The first chapter can be read at 

Packard said she is also available to speak at book clubs — and she promises to shower.