Behind the Pages: An Exclusive Interview with Kimberly Van Sickle, the Mastermind Behind ‘Assassins Are Us’

Kimberly Van Sickle is a lifetime reader, evolving writer, and a retired middle school English teacher and library director in Saint Charles, Illinois, where she lives with her husband, Kyle, and dogs, Hendrix and Janis. Together, they have two grown children: Mitchell (25) and Madelynn (21).

She has been a plot junkie her entire life and values any medium which keeps her guessing throughout the body of work. Kimberly hopes to bring this aspect to her readers through her writing. For more details, check the author’s website:

Kimberly Van Sickle

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

kind, evil, conflicted

2. Rediscovering your passion for writing is a powerful journey. What aspects of the writing process reignited your love for storytelling as you worked on Assassins Are Us?

 I really latched onto the collaboration aspect of the writing process. Initially, I was trepidatious about sharing my writing with anyone, but my husband, who is my biggest fan, was insistent about reading the first two acts of AAU. When I let him read it, I had a self-talk about allowing myself to be vulnerable and taking criticism. What was my worst fear turned out to be the most rewarding aspect of writing AAU.

3. Assassins Are Us is a fascinating blend of dark comedy, drama, and romance. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this unique combination of genres and how you managed to balance them throughout the story?

Thank you for that compliment! I can’t say that I consciously balanced the genres in the development of the storyline; it just flowed as I knew what my ultimate objective was entertaining, informing, and suspending belief. One of my favorite movies was the infamous Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the unassuming married couple next door who, unbeknownst to their neighbors and each other, are paid-for-hire assassins. It was a clever premise, fun, romantic, and action-packed. I got to thinking if they would ever make a sequel where the Smiths have children. No sequel was made, so I took that concept with hopefully a similar vibe and Assassins Are Us was born.

4. Living in Saint Charles, Illinois, with your husband and dogs, Hendrix and Janis, provides a glimpse into your personal life. Do elements of your daily life or experiences in your community find their way into your writing, and if so, can you give an example?

Oh, I think a lot of authors inject something of themselves into their works, and I think I’m no exception. I am an animal lover, so the Hinterschotts absolutely needed pets. My husband and I have a son and a daughter, and we live in a community-centric suburb, so there is symmetry there.

5. You have two grown children, Mitchell and Madelynn. How have your experiences as a parent influenced your storytelling or the themes you explore in your writing?

I have two younger sisters who are 20 and 25 years younger than I am, so ultimately I am an only child as I grew up with no siblings in my formative years. My husband is the oldest of four children, and he assured me that sibling bickering is the norm. It was a concept I had no connection with, and for years, it bothered me when my son and daughter would quibble. Now that they are grown and gone, I miss the chaos. So, writing the scenes between Hedy and Gare brought back some happy memories for me.

6. Your style of writing is described as one that appreciates plot twists and intrigue. How do you go about creating these elements in your stories, and do you have any favorite techniques for keeping readers on their toes?

I have no intelligent answer for that. The twists and turns are literally lightning strikes or moments of inspiration that jump into the pandemonium that is my brain.

7. Hedy’s journey of self-discovery is a central theme in the book. Could you share some of the key moments or experiences that shape her character and lead to her personal growth throughout the story?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the topic of self-discovery in AAU. There are so many moments of self-discovery for Hedy that I would be providing a disservice to those out there who haven’t read it yet, but by providing broad strokes, I can relay the following when Hedy:

  • develops a possible love interest
  • unveils a horrific 500-year-old family secret
  • redefines her relationship with her brother
  • comes to terms with her family’s business

8. “Assassinations may be easier than navigating the complexities of romance and family.” This tagline is thought-provoking. Can you discuss the challenges and dilemmas Hedy faces in the world of romance and her family and how these compare to her work as an assassin?

I supposed Hedy is subject to the same sensibilities as most teenage girls: crazy family, bothersome sibling, school, teachers, the opposite sex, overbearing parents, and so on… but there is an added character-building element in Hedy’s tumultuous teenage years of being an assassin in training.

9. Can you share your favorite scene or moment from Assassins Are Us and why it holds special significance for you as the author?

Without giving too much away, I think my favorite scene is when Hedy and Gare have a moment of understanding of their sibling relationship. It comes out in the third act, so I really don’t want to go into great detail, but I will say their dynamic changes at his point. Read it and see what I’m talking about!

10. The quest to uncover Hitler’s billions adds an element of mystery and intrigue to the story. Can you share more about this plot point and how it contributes to the overall narrative?

I watched the 2014 documentary Meet The Hitlers, which interviewed various people and families from America and Europe who either had the last name of Hitler (or a variation therein) or wanted the last name of Hitler. These true stories were amazing, awful, and awe-inspiring. One of the stories follows an investigative reporter who intrepidly tracks down the descendants of Adolf Hitler. They had changed their names and identities and lived in a neighborhood unknown to their neighbors, and when the reporter showed up on their doorstep (with his face blurred out), one of the family members reservedly asked the reporter to respect their current peaceful way of living… so respect was given. After all the reporter had unveiled to land the interview of his career, he showed mercy. The article from 1939 written by William Patrick Hitler was referenced in the interviewer’s segment.

11. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

My paternal grandmother, Margaret Wooderson, was an amazing, spiritual woman, and I still look to her words and guidance even though she is no longer with us. She wrote three books, but the one that resonates with me is a book about a whistle-stop of a town in Slocum County, Missouri, in her youth that is no longer in existence. Even though it is non-fiction, it is sweetly written, and the memories of her childhood evoke beautiful imagery. She wrote this when I was in college, and she asked me to edit it. I was honored.

My Uncle Paul (one of Margaret’s sons) also wrote a non-fiction spiritual book which is about his journey with his father (my grandfather) and God.

12. For aspiring writers who share your love for plot twists and intrigue, what advice or tips would you offer to help them craft engaging stories?

I have no great wisdom to impart other than to just keep reading what you love. The more you read, the more exposure to the written word from accomplished writers. There is a new YA series based on the classic Hasbro game Clue, and I just love the twists and turns in those novels. They are a fun read!

13. Could you provide a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or novels you’re currently working on?

I am currently writing a horror novel-in-rhyme titled The Many Souls of Azazel, which I hope to finish in 2024, so this is my current writing passion.  I would also like to revisit a historical fiction book I self-published 8 years ago titled Placement. As I have a content editor now, I really feel I could bring more the the story’s arc. But I have to say, my husband, others who have read the book, and even some professional reviews have suggested that Hedy’s adventures need to continue on, so I have a notion about how I would like to pen that sequel, but it is only a notion at this point. In the meantime, I just keep on writing!

14. Finally, can you describe a moment or a specific instance in your life when you realized that writing was not just a hobby but a calling that you were meant to pursue?

I have been writing since I was a child, and when I was a freshman in high school, I had a poem published in our yearbook. It was such a proud moment, even though (looking back on it now) the poem was pretty lame. I appreciated the creative process then, and I’m really geeking out about it now!

Embark on an exhilarating journey of self-discovery with ‘Assassins Are Us’ on Amazon. Join Hedy as she navigates love, family secrets, and her unusual assassin heritage. A captivating blend of dark comedy, drama, and romance awaits – grab your copy now!

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