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Where the magic happens
Oakdale author talks tips, pen names and latest release

Oakdale resident Kim Van Meter may go by five different names, but she’s not in the witness protection program — she’s a writer. 

Whether she’s writing as Van Meter for the Oakdale Leader newspaper or exploring genres like psychological suspense and romance via her various pen names, she’s definitely no stranger to success and has celebrated accolades in not only journalism, but as a best-selling author. 

There’s a different writing style with fiction and nonfiction, so pen names are kind of a palate cleanser to go from one discipline to the other. It keeps your mind fresh,” Van Meter said. “We’ve also discovered that for marketing purposes, pen names are good for different genres because it’s best to keep those lines clean. Most of the time, your readers don’t crossover and read other types of stories.”

Her latest release, “The Secrets They Buried,” was penned under the pseudonym J.H. Leigh and is a follow-up to The Auction Trilogy, which was released last year. The first three books in the psychological thriller series follow a group of young girls who are the victims of human trafficking, weaving a heart-wrenching narrative about their experiences and a much larger Epstein-esque plot at play. 

“The Secrets They Buried” finds readers catching up with their favorite characters from the first three novels, who are now dealing with the emotional wreckage of their experiences while working to solve yet another tragedy. 

“I had so many readers who were like, ‘I can’t let go, I need more from the story,’” Van Meter said. “That’s so thrilling as a creator, that you created something out of nothing and touched people in such a way that they just can’t let go.”

Van Meter also writes stories about love (including paranormal romance) and has published dark young adult novels, but fully immersing herself in suspenseful tales like “The Secrets They Buried,” where the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred, has brought her to tears on multiple occasions while writing.

“It’s book two, something really traumatic happens to the group. As I was writing it, I was sobbing,” she said. “These characters feel real to me, and when I finished writing the scene I had to walk away. I was wrecked...If you’re not moved by what you’re writing, neither will your readers.”

Having published countless books over a career which started at age 16, Van Meter has plenty of advice for aspiring writers. She’s an advocate of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which takes place annually in November and calls on participants to write an average of 1,667 words per day throughout the month in order to reach a goal of 50,000 words written toward a novel.

Though it seems like a daunting task, Van Meter encouraged those considering NaNoWriMo to take the plunge. 

“NaNoWriMo is a wonderful training ground and I know a lot of established authors who still participate in it,” Van Meter said. “For people who are just starting out, I would say don’t get bogged down by the enormity of the project.”

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization, and their website,, helps authors track progress, set milestones and connect with other writers. As of September, the organization features 798,162 novelists and has seen 367,913 novels completed. 

While five pen names and nearly 100 published books is something some may view as an insurmountable goal, Van Meter knows it’s possible for anyone. 

“I tell people when they first start out, don’t worry about the rules,” Van Meter said. “Just create, and being in that flow, that’s where the magic happens. Magic happens when we let it happen.”

“The Secrets They Buried” by J.H. Leigh will be available on Amazon the first week of October. 

Kim Van Meter's nanowrimo tips:

✔ Take it “one bite at a time” and write what you can

✔ Don’t think too much — just let it flow

✔ Write what you want, how you want and edit later

✔ Don’t worry about the rule