ABOUT AUTHOR: Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal and the author of A Woman of Fortune. Gilbert crafts her emotionally charged stories about women in life-changing circumstances in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband. Learn more at

What fascinated you and/or surprised you in your research for this Where Rivers Part?

For many years, I spent my professional life working on some of the most high profile litigation cases n America—including a case where Jack-in-the-Box restaurants undercooked hamburger, resulting in a massive foodborne illness outbreak, which sickened many in the Pacific Northwest.  I spent nearly two years pouring over company records, testimony, media accounts and attended the depositions of key players in San Diego and LA.  When the case concluded, I couldn’t bear to toss my files knowing someday I wanted to write a novel that included that fascinating story. So, while I still had some research to do relating to the ecoli, I had much of what I needed in boxes in my attic.

Additionally, this novel is set in San Antonio and I took a research trip and spent time at the Riverwalk, the Alamo, the Menger Hotel, and other key locations I felt were intriguing. It was really fun to weave these places into the scenes in this novel. I've already received feedback telling me readers feel like they have been to San Antonio after reading Where Rivers Part.

While San Antonio is located in an arid environment, underneath is the Edwards Aquifer, a unique groundwater system and one of the most prolific artesian aquifers in the world, serving the diverse agricultural, industrial, recreational, and domestic needs of almost two million users in south central Texas—such an amazing picture of Jesus, who is often referred to in the Bible as our Living Water, the one who quenches our arid places. That played perfectly with my desire to create a water theme in this story.
Talavera Pots

Nora: I think you brought a unique view of this topic because of your professional life. I love that about your books.

Juliet has to be careful as she searches for test results and reports to discover the missing link. I was impressed that the story was still compelling and glad you didn’t give us too much test result numbers. It was a good balance. I really appreciated the fact that the story didn’t get really technical. You built up suspense as she searched. Loved it. How did you do that?

Thank you. I worked hard to stay focused on the emotion of this story.

While the foodborne outbreak certainly is a catalyst in changing my protagonist, at her core Dr. Ryan is a driven and very accomplished food scientist, yet inside she’s still the little girl hurt by her father’s marital indiscretions and the pain it caused her mother. Like many of us, she tries to fill her emotional emptiness with the façade of professional success. But in an instant, her life is ripped apart and she discovers no amount of achievement is enough to weather the storm.

Nora: I liked that aspect of the story too!

You say, “I will never forget sitting across a deposition table in San Diego, and watched Food Maker, Inc.’s quality control director tear up as he was questioned about his role. I saw the agony on his face as attorneys more than hinted he was a guilty party in the horrific event.” What were you thinking, and feeling as these depositions went on?
Alamo Front

All of our legal team went into that deposition knowing that the executive had been intensely prepared to testify by the crisis management professionals the company had hired (think Olivia Pope on the popular television show SCANDAL). So, we knew getting him to say anything on record that would be meaningful to our case was going to be an uphill battle.

Part of my role was to manage the documentary evidence and feed information to the attorneys who were conducting these depositions. I had assembled a notebook filled with a chronology of email communications coupled with the testing reports, and the customer complaints that were rolling in. These told a horrifying story . . . and as the attorney methodically targeted this man with questions that came like bullets, the deponent began to crumble. It was like a Perry Mason episode.

While legally, that was very satisfying, I am a person who always sees the emotional underside of any situation. I watched his eyes. What I saw there was a story . . . and I knew someday I would try to tell it, even if only in my imagination.

Nora: That’s fascinating. Your work shows through in your story! Wow!

I liked Juliet Ryan and how she struggled with her Mom’s faith. She couldn’t believe how she could forgive her husband (Juliet’s dad) for his transgressions. She couldn’t get over it. What did you want readers to glean from Juliet? Feel for her?
The Alamo

So much of current society demands retribution for wrongdoing. That mindset is very difficult to challenge when a person does not understand that forgiveness is not failing to hold a person accountable, but it’s releasing them from YOUR judgment so Jesus can step in and do what needs to be done, without you in the way.

I hope readers agree that Juliet’s pain was valid. What her father did hurt her deeply. And I hope readers rejoiced (like I did) when she finally dropped her “rocks” and let Jesus heal them both…..and their relationship. Perhaps that’s why Jesus allowed Juliet’s dreams to be ripped out from under her. He had a bigger and better plan for her life than what she was willing to settle for.

Nora: I was glad. Juliet and her family were in so much turmoil because of their unforgiveness.

“We are on the front line, charged with keeping America’s food products safe…Juliet goes on to say, “Consumer health and safety are at the very core of what we do every day and because of the collective efforts of dedicated food scientists and quality control directors in companies across USA, outbreaks are now rare, with fever reported each year than ever before.” How did your research for this book and the Jack in a Box outbreak changed how you look at food when you buy it? Eat it?

I’m laughing here. In response, let me tell you that when the trial team broke for lunch after interviewing our foodborne illness expert who was guiding us through the more technical issues in our case, I was the only one to order and eat a hamburger!  I took a lot of ribbing about it.
Me and Hubby
I have a slight advantage that provides a balanced point-of-view. My husband is the Director of Operations for one of the largest beef processors in Texas. I know the quality assurance processes in place and the extreme efforts taken to ensure safety of those food products. Much of the protocols now in place are a direct result of the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak. That was the first time that an entire industry had to look at every critical point in their processes and HACCP regulations were born.

I am not worried in the least about eating beef, providing it is properly cooked. I am also not afraid to eat other food products, like raw fruits and vegetables, providing they are properly washed.  And I count on the fear of litigation to keep restaurants and providers doing what they should. Yes, I know—outbreaks happen. But the rate is really low, all things considered.

I specifically chose a bottled water company for this novel because water products are the LOWEST in numbers of outbreaks according to CDC statistics. I give a complete disclosure in the author’s notes of my book, which I won’t reiterate here . . . but as an author, I wanted to be very careful not to create unnecessary angst regarding this subject.

Nora: LOL! I can see how you ordered a burger because of your inside info about the beef processing. It’s good to know that you want to be careful not to create a panic in people. I found this book fascinating on many levels!

Can you give us a sneak peek into what you are working on now? When will it be out?

The third novel in the Texas Gold collection will release this coming October. A REASON TO STAY is about a Houston power couple on the edge of divorce, and what it takes to make them reconsider and stay together. (Hint: the story features a recognizable story ripped from the news) Your readers won’t want to miss this one!

Nora: I won’t want to miss it either!

Can you tell me of two “Wow” moments you’ve had in your writing career? What made it a wow for you?

I never expected to receive so many heart-felt emails from readers telling me how my stories have touched them deeply. After MOTHER OF PEARL released (the story of a woman who risks everything to bring an football coach who is being inappropriate with teen girls to justice) I got floods of messages from mothers and teachers who suspected something was up in their own schools, from students telling me they had experienced something out-of-bounds from a teacher or coach, and one even from a woman teacher who had crossed the boundaries and lost everything as a result.
Similarly, A WOMAN OF FORTUNE prompted correspondence from people who had been financially betrayed. Book club discussions were lively over the issue of whether or not Claire Massey made the right decision. And while readers hated the spoiled way Lainie acted, that subplot prompted a very interesting conversation with a teenager who was not valuing herself sexually.

But the wow moment came when I opened my inbox to find an email from a pastor’s wife telling me she and her children had just lived through a betrayal by her husband—how the church body and the entire community vilified not only him, but the family who had nothing to do with this man’s criminal actions. My heart broke as she told me she wept while reading this story, and that for the first time she felt like “someone” understood.

Nora—I believe stories matter. That is why Jesus told so many in the bible—he knew story is a link to the heart. It’s my sincere privilege to write for my readers’ hearts.

Nora: Yes, I agree with you Kellie. Jesus knew the power of storytelling. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are WOW, moments for sure.

What was your favorite show on T.V. when you were growing up? Why is it your favorite? If you didn’t watch TV what were your favorite books?

Like many teenaged girls at that time, I never missed The Partridge Family. I had an illimitable crush on David Cassidy. Sadly, I went to see one of his concerts as an adult and was severely disappointed when he showed up severely inebriated on stage and unable to even remember the words to I Think I Love You. I’ve heard he went into rehab. I hope so.

Too many favorite books…..but Charlotte’s Web is high up on my list. 

What three things would you rather not live without (besides your family)?

My MAC computer, my iPhone and QVC  (smiles) 

What movies do you try to see in the theater if your schedule allows? What do you enjoy most about seeing movies in the theater?

I’m an odd ball who doesn’t enjoy most of the movies people find exciting. I did see American Sniper with my husband recently, and thought the story was profound.

The best movie I’ve seen in recent times was HOPE SPRINGS. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones did a superb job portraying a couple forced into counseling in order to spark the dying embers of their marital relationship. The movie made me laugh . . . and cry.

Nora: I agree with you Kellie it’s hard to find a movie to see. Many have an R rating and I’d rather not see that. Interesting to hear about American Sniper.
Elephant Toothpaste

If you had a day to yourself and the money to do whatever you wanted; what would you do? What’s your perfect day?

I’d take Peanut and Gumdrop (my grandkids) to Walt Disney World. We have that planned next fall, and I can’t wait.

Nora: Sounds like fun times for sure!!

Thanks for stopping by and helping us get to know you and your books. You made me think outside the box in this book. I take for granted what is done and/or not done for my safety. Thanks for sharing about your new book. I’m marking my calendar.
I’m thrilled about the Giveaway Opportunity at TBCN starting the 20th of FEBRUARY at . Looking forward to it to reading the participation between you and readers! It’s always so much fun! Everyone has to be a member of TBCN in order to participate. It’s Free and easy. Participate as your schedule allows.

See you at The Book Club Network

Nora St Laurent
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  1. I would enjoy joining your blog site! I was also interested in having you review my first novel, "The Union of the North and the South". Romance and suspense come alive in my Christian novel set in Vicksburg, Mississippi in the 1870's. Please let me know if you might be able to review my book.
    Thanks so much,
    Ann Mock

  2. I really enjoyed this interview. I loved A Woman of Fortune and have started Where Rivers Part and already tell I am really going to love it too.

  3. First, let me say that I adore Kellie. We became friends while sharing an agent, and Kellie prayed for me. That stuck me profoundly. I have loved each of her stories and have read them all. Hugs, my friend ~ both of you. :-)

  4. Woman of Fortune was amazing. I'm now reading Where Rivers Part, and you're doing it again! So many books lack substance. You put the fact into fiction, and the payback into reading for pleasure.