I've known Kim Sawyer both online and at conference. We've had a lot of fun together. Here's a picture of us at the booksigning at the ACFW national conference in Dallas last September. We shared a table. I really look forward to being with her at conference this September, too. If you live within driving distance of Dallas, you might want to drive to hotel and meet both of us.
Kim. what sort of research was required to write a book like Bygones, to assure its authenticity?
You should see my "research book" shelves...full! lol I did a lot of reading, but I also did some "on the street" research. Just a few miles from my hometown is a small, Amish-Mennonite community, so I wandered the streets there. I visited with a handful of young women who were willing to share some thoughts with me. Then I prayed it would be all right! I didn't want to perpetrate stereotypes or myths about this gentle, dedicated group of people. One thing I learned is that each different sect has its own set of "guidelines" concerning what is and isn't acceptable, so I finally just had to say, "Okay, this is what I'm using" and call it quits for my fictional community.
Why do you think readers have an interest in the Amish/Mennonite way of life?
There's a peaceful simplicity to their lifestyle that I think we who are caught up in the hustle-and-bustle full-of-technology world find intriguing. I would imagine nearly everyone, regardless of contentment in life, occasionally finds himself longing for a simpler time. They live their faith so openly with their distinctive clothing and modes of transportation--it just captures our attention. I found it interesting in my research to discover not all people are born to the Mennonite/Amish faith, but choose it later in life. So there must be an appeal.
Which character in Bygones can you most relate to, and why?
It might seem a little strange, but I most closely relate to Henry Braun. I tend to be fiercely loyal and want to believe the best of those I love. I suppose I can also relate to Marie as a mother of three girls--I understand that mom/daughter bond and the desire to protect and provide for your child.
What's your favorite writer's block trick?
Prayer, followed by going back and rereading what I've already written. I ask God to open my heart to the characters again, and by going to the beginning, I can emerse myself in the story once more. I usually munch dark chocolate while I'm doing the rereading, too.
What do you crave (beverage or food) when you are under "writer's stress"?
Hm, I am a dark chocolate-aholic, so I crave it whether I'm under stress or not!
I join you in that, Kim. Can you share something with our readers about what God has been teaching you lately?
I've been so amazed at the Holy Spirit's empowerment in my life. I am a bashful person--I've never liked being front and center or a part of large crowds--but writing kind of throws you out there. Your book is being read by people you don't know, and people are calling you to come speak, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. But God whispers, "Peace, be still," and reminds me I can do everything through His strength. Then, when I face that audience or read reviews, and somebody picks up something from the written or spoken words that's beyond the message I planned, I know God is at work behind the scenes, using my humble offerings to impact lives for Him. He's reminding me again and again I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be willing, and He can use this tarnished vessel. He truly is an awesome God.
What book are you currently reading?
I am currently reading The Book of Boston: The Victorian Period as research.
As a writer of many historical books, I'm sure I'd like that one, too. What would most surprise our readers about you?
I have a little bit of an ornery streak inherited from my meek, innocent-looking mother. lol I love a good practical joke, and it usually catches people by surprise because they wouldn't expect it of shy, introverted Kim. Of course, now that I've stated that, I might have to curtail my joke-playing!
What book is coming out next? Can you give us a sneak peak into the story line?
The next story will be the second in the Sommerfeld Trilogy, called Beginnings. This story focuses on Marie's daughter, Beth, who has chosen to remain in the community of Sommerfeld to open her own business, but feels alienated from the community. Two men--one Mennonite and one "worldly"--will vie for her attention, and Beth must dig deep into her heart and new-found faith to discover where she truly belongs in the world. I hope readers will enjoy her journey of developing trust in both God and man.
I can hardly wait until that one comes out, too. Give readers one good reason why they should read Bygones.
I think those who read Bygones will leave with an appreciation for deep-rooted faith and a healthy respect for those who live differently among us as an expression of their faith.
What takeaway point do you hope readers pull from the book?
Holding onto anger leads to regret and pain, and it can have a trickle-down effect through the generations. Jesus told us to "forgive seventy times seven," and He said it because he knew the heartache of holding onto wrongs. While writing this story, I faced a situation that brought great pain--someone else's choice had impacted my family tremendously, and I admit to feeling bitter. But writing about Marie and her family helped me get a perspective on what could happen in my family if I didn't forgive and let go. It isn't easy, but it's necessary, and the positive results are well worth the effort it takes to say, "I forgive." I hope the story will help others move toward reconciliation if they harbor a bitter resentment toward someone.
Where did you birth the idea for this book? How did it come about?
Oddly enough, I was contacted by an editor at Barbour who had learned I have a Mennonite background. Barbour publishes Amish fiction, and they thought it would be interesting to juxtapose that lifstyle with the Mennonite. So I was asked if I'd like to submit a story using a contemporary Mennonite setting. I'd had no aspirations in that direction, but once asked, this character--Marie--just sprang to life in my head. The story went in about four different directions before playing out with the adult daughter, the beau-left-behind, and the faithful, prayer-warrior aunt. And, as I said, God used it to bring a sense of healing in my own heart during its writing, so I believe it was God-inspired.
If your book was turned into a movie, who would play the main characters?
I have always said if one of my books becomes a movie, I get to play somebody important! lol In this case, I would have to be Marie--I'm "kind of" the right age. *ahem* And if I were Marie, then I would choose Mel Gibson or Tom Selleck as Henry, since John Wayne isn't available. *wink*
Are your characters from real life experiences? A compilation of people you know?
Since writing is personal, it's hard to avoid bringing real-life situations into the fictional communities and characters. In the case of Bygones, Lisbeth is a combination of an aunt with whom I spent a great deal of time when growing up (my Aunt Lois) and my mom, who is my biggest prayer warrior. Consequently, the character of Lisbeth is quite special to me. The other characters in this story are pure conjecture.
Lena, thanks so much for the opportunity to visit with you! I enjoyed it!
And I thoroughly enjoyed this time together.
After being shunned by her parents for marrying someone outside the Mennonite community, widow Marie Koeppler left her childhood home and never looked back. It was too painful. Now, nearly twenty-five years later, she's stunned to see her former beau walk through the doors of the truck stop where she waitresses. He brings unexpected news.
Marie's aunt has died, and to everyone's surprise, she's left her house, belongings, and café to Beth, Marie's daughter. But there's one catch. To receive her inheritance, Beth must come and live within the Mennonite community for a period of no less than three months. Beth determines to live there so she can pay her mother back for all the sacrifices Marie made for her growing up.
Marie returns with Beth to help her adapt to the Mennonite lifestyle and finds more than her lost beau waiting for her. It isn't long before she finds herself wanting to remain. Beth, however, finds herself living under a shadow of suspicion when homes are broken into and antiques are stolen. Loyal to her daughter, yet missing the simplistic lifestyle, Marie is once again faced with a heart-wrenching decision.Sounds interesting, doesn't it?