Wife, mother, activist, spy.

Or at least spy creator. Historical fiction author Kimberly Fish might as well be one of the World War II characters in her newest, independently published novel, “Harmon General,” the way she deftly navigates life in Longview in the 1940s. But then the local novelist deflects the comparison.

“I wish I could be that brave,” she said, referring to her two heroines who set out to defeat Nazis in East Texas.

However, in her 20 years as a Longview resident, Fish has put herself in the public eye more than a professional “writer for hire” might do otherwise. She and her husband, Mel, moved to Longview in July 1998, along with their children, Mike and Laura (ages 6 and 3 at the time).

After her kids finished high school, Fish formed the Go West Longview campaign in 2012 to bring economic attention to the Greggton area, lost the 2014 Gregg County commissioner’s race to incumbent Darryl Primo and ended her service on the Sabine River Authority board after a few months. These setbacks made for one important career move, however, when she decided to produce something positive for her adopted hometown.

“I had set my pen aside, thinking community service would allow me to be creative in a different way. But when those avenues didn’t work out, I returned to my first love, which was creative writing,” she said.

Fish fell in love with storytelling as a young girl in Columbus, Georgia. She attended Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, where she majored in filmmaking and minored in creative writing.

“I have always enjoyed the art of storytelling. I love to listen to storytellers,” Fish said. “And growing up in the Deep South, I love to embellish. As Southerners, it’s in our Kool-Aid.”

After a post-graduate job writing promotional material for the automobile industry in Detroit, Fish returned to Georgia where she met “a handsome, dashing young medical officer,” married, and then moved with him to Berlin in the late ‘80s.

“I wrote some epic letters home,” she said. “We watched the (Berlin) Wall come down, and I learned so much about the German culture living in the middle of all that history,” she said.

Fish crafted her epistles on an electric typewriter, then mailed them to relatives, “who would forward them on to various family members, because they were so lengthy.”

Her time living abroad inspired her to always want to explore her new locale’s history. “Learning that local story is what I wanted to do when we moved to Longview,” she added. She found it on a research assignment for the Longview Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary, hosted in 2016.

“When I discovered The Big Inch, and dug in on Harmon General, I knew then that these were two really big World War II stories that contributed something significant to the bigger picture of our local culture and Longview’s place in world history,” she said. “They were both absolute game changers in the war, and that became this nugget in my head.”

“The Big Inch” explains how a seven-state long, above-ground pipeline, completed in 14 months, was pivotal to the success of workers in the United States as well as troops in Europe. Hailed as a technological advancement with its hydraulic pump system, it changed the way oil was delivered across the U.S., ultimately helping the Allies win the war.

“Harmon General,” which she released in June, captures the story of U.S. Army Hospital Harmon General. It was on what was known as “Holloway’s Farm,” south of Longview. Today, LeTourneau University sits on the 156 acres that once housed 5,000 Army personnel in 220 barracks. More than 25,000 soldiers were treated at the long-term care facility.

The work there was instrumental and cutting-edge, Fish said. “At Harmon, they created medical technology and laboratory procedures and prosthetics that helped the soldiers that became the standard for what we use today in modern medicine.”

She released “Comfort Plans” between those two books (but not as a part of the Misfits and Millionaires series to which “The Big Inch” and “Harmon General” belong). It’s a story about “remodeling a house that does not want to be remodeled,” Fish said.

It won the Best Historical Romance of 2018 by Texas Authors, but mostly it was a response to people stopping her in the grocery store and asking, “So what else do you have?” Inspired by her time in San Antonio when her husband was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, it had been sitting on a shelf. However, a quick rewrite and edit bought her time to finish “Harmon General” while building her reading audience.

While the accolades have spurred her on, the reason she writes is personal.

“Writing helps me center myself. It helps me make sense of the world around me,” she said. “I think every one of us has that capacity within ourselves. It may not be writing, but that ability to process what we’ve been through, to find the outlet that helps us recover is a compelling need.”

Keeping the stories real to her audience is Fish’s motivation for retelling these historical accounts — even when the characters have been modified in order to move the plot along.

“I’ve come to a point in my life where it’s very important that I am authentic and significant,” Fish said. “This process of creative writing is authentic to who I am. But telling lost stories and revealing our past to a modern audience is where I derive some of the significance. And doing it in an entertaining fashion is fun. I’d much rather learn my history with a spoon full of sugar than a dry textbook.”

As Fish shares what made Longview great with the area’s service clubs, civic organizations and other groups, she is proud that her purpose has remained the same since she arrived here.

“I’m still telling the story of Longview,” she said. “What I wanted to do all those years ago with public service, engaging people to make the community better, I’m still doing that. I’m just doing it through story now.”

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