It all started with a dare. Kim Kimball had a story to tell and an author friend who encouraged her to write it down through the eyes of a fictional character. The encouraging push turned into a book series. “On September 21, 2014, she dared me to write 2,500 words to send to her,” Kimball says of her friend, Sawyer Bennett. “A year later, I’m self-published.”
Kimball’s two books, Beneath It All and Beneath, You’re Beautiful, revolve around a woman named Victoria who is diagnosed with breast cancer. Kimball—who writes under the pen name Tori Madison—survived breast cancer, and says she is thankful for the opportunity to write down how she was feeling through the eyes of her characters. “It turned out to be very therapeutic for me,” she says, “but also fun because I could create a story around it and create characters to lighten the blow of a heavy subject.”
Her character Victoria is a successful business- woman married to an attorney. One day she feels something strange in her chest and decides to get checked out. When she finds out she has cancer, Kimball says that, like her own life, Victoria’s story changes drastically.
Kimball explains that the books deal with the emotional side of the process, which she thinks many women forget to deal with in the midst of medical examinations and procedures. “The kicker is, while you’re going through [chemo and surgery], life continues to happen around you, and you’re hit with things you don’t expect,” Kimball says, adding that cancer can affect many parts of a person’s life and relationships.
Kimball was diagnosed when she was 32 years old, and has lost some friends to breast cancer. She says most of Victoria’s medical experiences and particulars about her diagnosis come directly from Kimball’s own story. But other parts are made up or drawn from her friends’ experiences.
“So many women internalize what they go through or feel that they can’t really share or talk about it with anybody,” she says. “I often felt that way, but putting the words on paper kind of lifted a weight off me [and gave me] the opportunity to write something that could potentially have an impact on other women.”
Victoria has three best friends in the books, all of whom are drawn from the personalities of Kimball’s best friends. As with Kimball’s friends in her own life, these friendships help guide Victoria through everything she is dealing with. Kimball is currently working on a spin-off miniseries featuring each of Victoria’s friends called The Martini Series. “Everybody fell in love with Bobbie Jo, Dana and Jen, and they were super fun to write,” Kimball says.
When she’s not busy writing for her new series, Kimball currently works for Ridgeview Medical Center on the fundraising team. She was introduced to Ridgeview when she was diagnosed with cancer, and ended up staying there to work.
Kimball says she enjoyed writing more than she thought she would. Through the entire process, she is thankful that these books have impacted so many women dealing with breast cancer. “You never know how strong you are until you’re in the midst of chaos,” she says. “When you’re faced with something as big as cancer, you find out how strong you really are. If I can make a difference in one person’s life [through writing], that was the goal.”
The Beneath Series by Tori Madison is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBook.