Wednesday, February 02, 2011
I wish I knew! All I know is that I need to keep on writing. It’s a wonderful journey, and I love it!
Tell us a little about your family.
My first husband, Larry, died after a long, horrifying illness. He was far too young. His illness, almost 10 years of care giving, and his untimely death have greatly impacted my life and the lives of my two children. Yet it was Larry who encouraged me to start writing and I will forever be grateful to him for it. I am now remarried to Dan—my greatest encourager, my best friend, and, by the way, my best editor. Between us, Dan and I have four grown children and four grandchildren.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Well, yes. But even more my reading habits have changed my writing. I’ve been writing for a quarter of a century now. (Yikes! Hard to believe!) At first, I wrote anything I thought had even the slightest chance of getting published, whether it was a genre I read or not. I did see a variety of things published, but just getting published wasn’t where my heart was. For the last eight years or so, most of my writing has circled around topics of social justice and how it applies to us as followers of Christ. That’s what I’d always read. Now my writing follows my heart.
What are you working on right now?
Even as my trilogy set in Africa during the days of the slave trade is being released, I am working on another trilogy, this one set in India. (I’m going a bit crazy trying to remember which continent I’m on!) Blessings in India is the generational sage of two families: untouchables and the high caste Christians who own them. Book 1, set in 1905, tells of the untouchables’ enslavement to the high caste moneylenders. Book 2 is set in 1946, the time of India’s independence. Book 3 is in current times. In one century, so many radical changes, yet so much stays the same.
Sounds like books I'll want to feature on my blog. Be sure and contact me when you have pub dates. What outside interests do you have?
I love to travel, which is why the foreign settings work so well for me. One of my great off-time activities is to speak on cruise ships in exchange for cruises for my husband and myself. We’re right now negotiating for one in the early spring that starts in Florida, goes through the Panama Canal, and all the way up the Pacific coast.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
Some settings choose me. Africa did. I was in Senegal working on another book, interviewing women of the persecuted church, when I visited an old slave trading fortress. Manacles… cells… holding places for tiny children. By the time I left, my head was pounding with story questions. On the other hand, India as a setting was first suggested by Indians who lamented the fact that the world cannot grasp life under the oppression of the caste system. When my editor suggested that same setting, I knew it was meant to be. I’ve been to India seven times, mostly on other writing projects, but there is still so much I don’t know. Fortunately I have friends there who are willing to be my first line readers.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Charles Dickens. His book, A Tale of Two Cities—which I read in 8th grade because I had to!—first showed me the power of the pen to address social injustice. The book left me breathless. I’d ask him if he made up his characters, or if they were based on people he knew. And I would ask him how he controlled his rage as he wrote about such unbearable things as poor little David Copperfield!
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
That He is in control. I cannot change a thing. None of us can—although we can most certainly be faithful hands and feet and mouthpieces for Him to use. In the end, though, God’s perfect will is what will prevail. Always.
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
First, learn your craft, for writing is a craft. Classes, books, writers’ conferences—all will help in this.
Second, know what you’re writing about. Be willing to do the research, talk to the necessary people—do the traveling, if need be—in order to achieve a good degree of expertise in the subject. You may think a particular detail is small and no one will ever know the difference. But believe me, someone will, and if you’re wrong you have ruined your credibility.
Third, never give up. Write and write and write some more. Everyone gets better and better. No one gets worse and worse.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Voyage of Promise is the second book in the Grace in Africa trilogy. In book 1, The Call of Zulina, Grace Winslow, daughter of an English slave trader and his African princess wife, was forced out of her life of comfort and innocence when she was accidently caught up in a violent rebellion at her parents’ slave fortress, Zulina. She had to choose a side, and she aligned with the slaves. In the years between books 1 and 2, Grace married the slave Cabeto and established a new life. But as book 2 opens in 1792, slavers descend upon the village and tear her new family apart forever. She watches in anguish as her husband is led in chains aboard a tightly packed slave ship bound for America. An old enemy has a more sinister plan for Grace and prepares her for a different kind of servitude in London. But Grace will not be enslaved. And she will not give up on the man she loves. In her determination to be reunited with her husband, she finds God reaching out to her.
Interesting. Please give us the first page of the book.
West Africa, 1792
The African sky sizzled a deep orange as the blistering sun sank across the wall. All day long one griot after another had stood before the village, each storyteller taking his turn at weaving together a piece of the tale of how a few African captives outsmarted and outfought the powerful white slave man in his own slave fortress and won freedom for many. Each storyteller did his best to make his piece of the story the most dramatic, the most spectacular, the most breathtaking of all. Each one decorated his tale with songs and poems and gorgeously crafted words, so that when the entire story tapestry was complete, his part would shine more brightly than all the others. And each storyteller’s efforts were rewarded with energetic chants and cheers from the crowd.
Grace, settled comfortably between Mama Muco and Safya, grabbed at her little son who was once again doing his best to wriggle away from her. “Stay close, Kwate,” she warned. Grace tried to be stern with the little one, but even as she scolded, a smile tugged at the edges of her voice. Never in her life had she been as happy as she was at that moment.
As the sun pitched low on the stifling evening, as the feast goats crackled in the roasting pit, as children threw beetles into the fire to toast and then dig out and pop in their mouths, drums beat the celebration into a fever pitch. People had poured in from villages far and near to join the celebration and bring offerings for the ancestors, for the great rebellion was a part of their lives, too. Their griots came along and jostled for a chance to stand before the people and weave in their own village’s piece of the story. And because it is in the nature of a storyteller to be a gossip, each one tried to outdo the others in passing along the latest news about the restoration of the slave fortress, Zulina. A new white man ran it now, one announced. He was called by the name of Hathaway, and he was a harder man than Joseph Winslow ever was.
Grace caught her breath. Jasper Hathaway? The man her parents had tried to force her to marry?
Even more intriguing. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Look for me on my website: http://www.kaystrom.com/ and on Facebook.
Also, please come by my dedicated blog site a leave a message http://www.graceinafrica.com/ . My other blog is at http://www.kaystrom.wordpress.com/ .
Thank you, Kay, for the very interesting discussion.
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