Best-Selling Author Finds Home in Carolina

Kristy Woodson Harvey poses with arms crossed

Kristy Woodson Harvey (Photo by Bud Johnson)

Author of New York Times best-selling Peachtree Bluff series reflects on her journey as a writer, love for her hometown and passion for Carolina.

Carolina alumna Kristy Woodson Harvey ’07 has found what many people spend their entire lives searching for: “That real sense of community and belonging when you find the place you’re supposed to be.”

She’s referring to Beaufort, North Carolina, the picturesque, coastal Southern town that she, her husband Will Harvey ’98, ’06 (DDS) — also a Carolina alumnus — and son call home. The place inspires her work as an author of contemporary fiction with a Southern flair, or, as she puts it, “Southern family drama.”

“I love to write about the small-town South,” she shared. “Quirky characters and communities come together and bolster each other, and everyone knows everybody’s business for better or worse.”

Will Harvey, Kristy Woodson Harvey, son Will Harvey and dog, Salt, pose on the front steps of the Woodson Harvey household in Beaufort, North CarolinaWill Harvey, Kristy Woodson Harvey, son Will Harvey and dog, Salt, at their home in Beaufort, North Carolina (Photo submitted by Kristy Woodson Harvey)

Kristy has published 10 novels since 2015, with the 11th — A Happier Life — coming in June 2024. Several of her books are in production for television shows. She co-wrote the pilot and provided insights as a co-executive producer of her New York Times best-selling Peachtree Bluff series, which is being adapted for NBCUniversal by the showrunners of Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias.

Kristy initially envisioned a career in nonfiction, wanting to tell real people’s stories. However, a pivotal internship at the Salisbury Post and a subsequent column ignited her love for storytelling. The transition from journalism to fiction wasn’t immediate, but the creative writing classes at Carolina, particularly under the guidance of professors like Daniel Wallace and Ruth Moose, played a crucial role in shaping her narrative style.

“My education at the journalism school at Carolina was also incredible,” she recalled. “The most important thing I learned was how to find my voice as a writer. I also learned how to write on a deadline, and that is one of the most critical skills that you can possibly have as an author.”

Kristy’s rich history with UNC-Chapel Hill spans generations: Her parents and grandfathers, aunts and great-grandfathers graduated from Carolina, creating a strong family tradition that included attending every football game and a lot of basketball games.

“That was my first indoctrination,” she laughed, “which might not sound like that big of a deal, except that for a long time when I was little, we were living in New York. My parents would fly to Chapel Hill for every football game, so I practically grew up on campus and in Chapel Hill, just being a part of the Carolina family.”

Kristy Woodson Harvey poses with RamesesKristy Woodson Harvey poses with Rameses at UNC-Chapel Hill (Photo submitted by Kristy Woodson Harvey)

That strong sense of family, of connection, permeates Kristy’s writing. “Family and friendships can conquer so many problems in our lives,” she avowed. And since she joined the Friends of the Library Board of Directors and the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council, she’s building new friendships, and her connections to Carolina are expanding.

“Carolina is a place that will always have my heart and is really special to me,” she said. “To have the opportunity to be more involved in the University and to be able to give back in a larger way is exciting. I love hearing from students and faculty about what’s going on at the University. I’m in awe of all the incredible things happening.”

Carolina played another central role in trajecting Kristy’s career. Her first book was published after she won a writer’s contest that she applied to while sitting in bed at the Carolina Inn. An editor at Penguin Random House was a judge in the contest — the Tampa Area Romance Writers Fiction Contest — and ended up buying the book.

“It was very exciting,” Kristy said. “Even then I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead to a career as an author. But I was totally in love with writing by that point, and I just kept going and here we are!”

Kristy Woodson Harvey and Elin Hilderbrand face each other in armchairs Kristy Woodson Harvey in conversation with fellow author Elin Hilderbrand at the launch of Woodson Harvey’s book, The Summer of Songbirds (Photo submitted by Kristy Woodson Harvey)

Kristy published two books with Penguin Random House before she was approached by an editor at Simon and Schuster to write a series. The series she ended up pitching became the Peachtree Bluff series. “It was a pivotal moment for me as a writer,” she said. “And I’ve been with Simon and Schuster ever since. My ninth book with them will be out in June.”

Kristy and her husband continue the family tradition, bringing their son to Chapel Hill a few times a year for games and basketball camp. Even when she’s busy traveling the country for author tours and speaking events; writing new books and television pilots; navigating an East Coast–West Coast schedule; and answering questions from folks back home about whether they are or why they aren’t in her books; Kristy said she will always find time for Carolina — another place she’s found where she’s “supposed to be.”

Written by Angela Harwood, University Development

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