Monday, December 19, 2011

ASHES TO BEAUTY - Kim Zweygardt - Free Book

I first met Kim at the last Denver American Christian Fiction Writers national conference. The night before the conference started a large group of us who had come to Denver early went to a Mexican restaurant not far from the hotel for dinner. Kim sat next to me, and a new friendship was born. Welcome to my blog, Kim. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I think there is a little bit of “me” in every book I write. Whether I’m writing an allegory/fairy tale for Girls of All Ages, or suspense or women’s fiction, the overarching theme is the totally undeserved Grace of God—that no one is beyond His love and mercy. I am a Prodigal, so I get that, and I find that theme making its way into my writing. So though the character may not look or sound like me, we’ll have that shared experience of finding God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstance. And particularly now I find myself written into a main character when I’ve finally started a women’s fiction medical story. I’ve been a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist for almost 30 years and this is the first time I’ve written a character with my career and a medical emergency at the center of the story! Somehow I missed that whole “write what you know” thing! 

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
When the kids were small, we would go look at Christmas lights. We’d load up in the van with a thermos of hot chocolate and drive around the different areas of town and ooh and ahh at the gorgeous displays. We were in a very nice subdivision and drove by a house that had many beautiful lights including a lighted nativity scene, but something had gone terribly awry! Mary had fallen over and was lying on her side in the grass. (It gets windy in Kansas!) I yelled “Stop!” to Kary and hopped out to sneak across the grass to help Mary out of her distress. The first problem was that the house had a post and rail fence across the front which I hadn’t noticed. The only way into the front yard was from the front porch. Not to be deterred, I tiptoed up the driveway, across the porch and into the yard. I really did have second thoughts at this point since the people were obviously home, but I was on a mission of mercy! And my kids and husband were watching my good deed. I’d almost gotten to Mary when I tripped over an extension cord in the grass and every Christmas light on the house and in the yard went dark, including poor Mary! I turned and ran! I jumped the fence and grabbed the van door (which was already rolling) and climbed in yelling, “Go! Go!” (I really think they were going to leave me!) Kary had tears rolling down his face from laughing and the kids were sunk down in their seats trying to be invisible. It has been known forever since as the night Mom killed Mary!

That is really funny, Kim. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Lena, I’ve always written (grocery lists, letters to the editor, Christmas newsletters, plays for Sunday School) and I’ve always loved words and books, but I never thought of myself as a writer until about 10 years ago when I had sort of a mid-life crises. I hate to call it that, but I was in the middle of my life and I was sort of in a crises! I’d walked the wrong way for so many years. Followed my own wandering heart instead of the Lord. I’d come back to the Lord at the age of 33 and He had blessed me with a great life but I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t exactly where I would have been if I hadn’t wandered. I was doing lots of things “for God” but wasn’t sure I was doing what He wanted me to do, so I began to seek Him asking, “if I’d followed Your plan, Lord, what would I be doing? Who am I, in You?” and He answered in that still small voice, but very clearly, that I am a dramatist and a writer which was interesting since both have been interests of mine but at the time I wasn’t doing either one. The first step was writing dramatizations that I perform (first person) of the women who met Jesus. I’ve traveled all over the United States performing with my ministry, Lamplight Ministry. The passion and purpose of the ministry is to illuminate Scripture with drama. I’ve always considered myself more of an essayist than a novelist, but the Lord keeps giving me novel ideas, so I keep writing them. But I will say, for a long time, I struggled with calling myself a writer. It seemed so presumptuous at first, but if God says that is who I am (vs. what I do), then I am a writer.

That's another interesting connection between us, too, Kim. The first thing I wrote after God told me to become a professional writer was a dramatic monologue of "The Woman at the Well," which I've performed for women's groups for years. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Disclaimer: I’ve been known to read the back of the cereal box if there is nothing else to read! However, I love legal thrillers, suspense, women’s fiction, and even non-fiction if it is an engaging story. But for the last year and a half, I’ve facilitated a Christian Fiction reading group called Mug N Muffin and we read across all genres of Christian Fiction. To meet the needs of the group (we’re all over the place in what we like to read), I’ve read all kinds of books I might not have picked up otherwise. It’s been fun to read historical, romance, western, etc. Books I might not have read because my reading for pleasure time is limited. I’ve discovered some great writers that I might have missed. So really….have book, will read!

Kim, if your group ever chooses one of my books for its selection, I'd be happy to either call them during the meeting or Skype them, so they can ask me questions. Of course, for reading groups that are close enough, I'm happy to meet with them. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It’s tough. I tend to be a high energy person with a lot of interests. I get in trouble with the “someone shoulds.” Someone should start a group. Someone should landscape that median. And no one does, so I become the someone! I have had to learn to say no. Yes, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to do all things. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I’ve learned that God wants me to do the things He’s asked me to do. Yes, there are things we all as believers are to do—pray for people, give to the poor, help the fatherless and the widow and so we must find the time for those things. But when the day comes that I am face to face with Jesus, He’ll ask me about the things He has gifted me to do and asked of me. All the busyness and good works in the world won’t make up for me not using my gifts. I have a friend that says, “Sometimes we must give up the good, to get the best.” And that is so true. Keeping my sanity means not trying to do all things and be all things to all people. Learning to say no, and taking naps when I can, keeps me sane!

How do you choose your characters’ names?
I love cool names! We have a friend who is a cowboy and his name is Rio McCoy. Doesn’t he just sound like a cowboy? I keep a little notebook with me and when I see a sign or hear a name I like, I jot it down. When I’m trying to name characters, that little notebook is invaluable. I use baby name books as well as research on the internet for popular names in certain cultures to make sure the name fits the area and the time.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’ve got a wonderful godly husband and three really great kids! When I was getting on Facebook, I was filling out the info page and trying to figure out what to say. Our daughter, Lauren, was still at home then and she said, “Just say you’re a really cool mom!” So that is what I put and that is what I’m most proud of. Definitely imperfect as a parent. Having young adults instead of children, there are things from when they were growing up I’d change if I could, but all three kids have turned out to be exceptionally nice and fun people, so I am proud of that. And Kary and I miss our kids, but we have a great marriage. We laugh and thank God every day for the life He has given us.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’ve been asked this before and should probably think it through and decide but I don’t know. Boring really, but probably a dog. They love unconditionally. They forgive without a second thought. They protect those they love. They are full of joy at the smallest thing like a little spot of sunshine on the carpet! And if they are like our dogs, they eat really well, sleep lots, and are well loved.

What is your favorite food?
Oh, my! I really am a foodie, so that is hard to say just one thing. I love to cook and I love to eat. I love well flavored home cooking as much as any fabulous 4 star restaurant, so probably my mom’s pot roast cooked with carrots and potatoes. I make a mean pot roast, but I think my Mom has a secret ingredient somewhere because hers is the best!

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My greatest roadblock with writing is two-fold. One, like everyone else, is just doing it. Finding the time. Making yourself write when the words just don’t flow onto the page. I love to write when I’m in the zone. I hate to write when it is just slogging out the words and trying to get them on the page. I met with Brandilyn Collins to pray at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis and she shared that for her, writing is never easy. But she is called to write, so she writes. Prolifically. That was freeing to me because the enemy of my soul wants to whisper that if it was of God it would be easy and maybe I’m not really a writer if it’s not. Secondly, I love words and I talk….a lot! And I love beautiful sentences and word pictures and imagery. I write naturally like I talk and that is not the style now. Some people still love and still write very literary works, but it is a hard publishing journey right now. Everything in society is microwave--Ding! Ding! Ding! It’s ready! I have had to find ways to tell the story and put the reader there without a zillion words. I still am working on that!

Tell us about the featured book.
Ashes to Beauty is an allegory using the Cinderella story and the beauty for ashes Scriptures in Isaiah 61:1-3 to speak to girls and women about the love of God for us as women. It is written and illustrated like a children’s book but the subtitle is, “A Fairytale for Girls of All Ages.” My husband is an artist and did the illustrations which are so beautiful and add to the experience of the book. As women, we struggle with our self esteem. We see air brushed models on the covers of magazines and feel “less than” because we don’t look like them. As children, we read the fairytales and believe that Prince Charming will come along and sweep us off our feet and when we get married we are sure we got Barca-lounger Ken, instead. We are told to forget happily ever after. There is no Prince Charming and we should just deal with life as it is. But God says we were made for Him. The Bible says that He sings over us with love. He calls us His Beloved. In our imperfectness, He loves us and woos us to Him. The book is a short little story with great Scriptural depth about seeing ourselves and our lives as He sees them instead of believing what the world says about us, about life, about love. This was one of those “words flowing onto the page” writing experiences. I was asked to speak at a women’s conference and to just pray about my subject. But before the coordinator hung up, did I have any idea what I might speak about? And out of my mouth came, “Ashes to Beauty, the real Cinderella story” and I thought, “Okay, Lord, I don’t know what that means, but we’ll go with it!” Literally, He told me the story and I wrote it down and He is using it to teach little girls that He loves them so much and to reteach girls of all ages, that the truth is in His word, not in the world. I’ve been told by many women that they bought the book for their little girls but have wept and felt His love in a new way as they read the book.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Once upon a time (which is how all good stories begin, unless, of course, they begin “In the beginning”), there was a King who ruled the Kingdom of Far Away which really wasn’t all that Far Away at all.

The rest of the page has an illustration of pink ballet slippers, a hair comb, and a necklace.

I can hardly wait to read the book. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I blog at or you can find me on Face book and Twitter (@kimzzzzzs). Ashes to Beauty is available on Amazon in print form or for the Kindle and at Barnes and Noble for the Nook. I love to hear from readers!

Thanks, Lena, for having me here. I can’t wait to find out who won the book!

And thank you, Kim, for visiting with us today.

Readers, here's a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
Ashes to Beauty: The Real Cinderella Story / A Fairy Tale for Girls of All Ages

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the fun interview, ladies. You find the coolest authors, Lena. Killed Mary? i loved it. The novel looks great, too. Thanks for the giveaway, Lena and Kim



Kim Zweygardt said...

Marianne, it is Brrrr Cold here in Kansas this morning. I'm thinking I need to come visit you in AZ and tell you the story of killing Mary over a cup of coffee! I appreciate Lena finding me in Denver and inviting me to sit with her! She is a precious jewel of a friend and as a writer. Thanks for commenting on the interview! Maybe you'll win the book!

Anonymous said...

I would love to win. Thank You for the chance. Angela from KY

Melissa Jagears said...

Kim is such a beautiful lady, inside and out, you can tell just by being around her for a minute. No suprise that you became friends. And my girl would love this book, I'm sure. Didn't know you had one out already!


Lane Hill House said...

How wonderful to have an in-home illustrator!
This book sounds wonderful. Please add me for opportunity for drawing.

Jennifer said...

I would love to win this book! Always looking for an excuse to read a good book!

jblovez2read at earthlink dot net

North Carolina

Jo said...

That was such a neat fun interview and really enjoyed reading it. How wonderful that your husband does the illustrating for you. I would love to read this book.

Jo from Southern Arizona

Mary Preston said...

Your heart was in the right place when you went to Mary's aid. I laughed with joy reading this. It was so vivid. ASHES TO BEAUTY looks amazing.

Mary P


Lorna Faith said...

What a great idea for a book:) Our girls would love to read about ashes to beauty...seems like all us girls of any age could use some encouragement with self esteem:-) The cover is beautiful by the way, Kim!

Lorna from Alberta

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Judy said...

I'm still laughing Kim. Actually I could picture this whole scene in my mind. The night you killed Mary and everything else in the path of destruction!!

Your book "Ashes To Beauty" is a must read. I would love to win a copy. If I do, after I read it, I will pass it on to my daughter and I'm sure she will pass it along to my granddaughter who is 9 1/2 years old.

Blessings and Merry Christmas to All!

Judy B in Indiana

Patty said...

This book sounds lie a 'keeper'. I often don't keep books after I read the, but pass them on to others or donate, them, but this sounds like a neat one to hold onto.

Patty in SC

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me I would love to win a copy of this book! Thanks and God bless.
Sharon Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Edwina said...

What a wonderful-sounding book! I would love to win it - my daughter needs this message, and as most stubborn children, she doesn't receive it from me!!


From Georgia

Faith said...

Enjoyed the interview :) Thank you so much, sounds like a lovely book :) Faye from SD.

Kim Zweygardt said...

Hi, Everyone! Sorry I missed connecting with you all yesterday but duty called in the form of lots of surgeries. Everyone is trying to get things done before the holidays, it seems! LOVE reading your comments and glad you enjoyed the interview and the story about Mary. Sounds like some of us are sisters at heart!

Thanks, Melissa for your kind comment about being beautiful inside and out. It is something we all long for and that is the point of Ashes to Beauty. Whether we meet this world's standards of beauty or not, He designed us....our generations and marriages that led to my exact set of genetics! Isn't that a cool thought? And He says I'm beautiful and that is the Voice I need to hear.

LaneHillHouse, it was a fabulous experience to work with my hubby. What I did learn is that I need to be the writer and let him be the artist! lol At first it was a little like the experiences of reading a book, imagining the characters and then the movie comes out and they don't look like you imagined.

Again, thanks, Angela, Jennifer,Jo, Marybelle, Lorna, Judy, Patty, Edwina, Faye,Sharon,and hope I didn't miss anyone else who commented! It is fun to get to know you a little on here (who I don't know already!). I'll be excited to send you the book....whoever it is! Blessings!


Kim Zweygardt said...

Ooops, I didn't finish my thought about Kary's illustrations....what I had to learn is that I could trust his interpretation of my characters as an artist. Yes, I wrote them and imagined what they'd look like, but he illustrated it as a reader. He read the words and then created the drawings that brought them to life. And readers LOVE his drawings and tell me they are what makes the story, even if they didn't look like I first imagined they would. They are much richer using his artistic talent than if I would have micro-managed them. (Not that I would have! ;0) I realized after I read my comment, I hadn't finished my thought.

apple blossom said...

please enter me thanks

Live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Coolestmommy said...

What a fun (and entertaining) interview. I'm still giggling.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

rubynreba said...

Sounds like a fun book. I think the illustrations sound wonderful too.
Beth from Iowa