Friday, June 24, 2016

LIKE A RIVER FROM ITS COURSE - Kelli Stuart - One Free Book, Plus Much More

BIO: Kelli Stuart is a storyteller at heart with an affinity for languages, travel, and history. She is fluent in the Russian language and has spent the last twenty years researching the effects of World War II on the former Soviet Union. Kelli's first novel, Like a River From Its Course, is an epic story of war, love, grief, and redemption set in World War II Soviet Ukraine. It released in June, 2016. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida, with her husband and four children.

Welcome, Kelli. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
That’s tricky to answer in the context of this novel because these characters were all composites of men and women I interviewed for my book, but there were a couple of instances when I wrote my own specific experiences into a character’s narrative. For example, when one of the characters has a baby, she experiences an overwhelming feeling of knowing her child, as though somehow he’d always been with her. That was a strong feeling I had after the birth of my firstborn. He was so familiar to me – I felt as if I’d known him my entire life. It was fun to include that in the character’s narrative.

I had another experience with my oldest when he was around 5, and I was teaching him Russian. We’d sit down to work on his language, and he would tell me he wanted to talk “real,” not Russian. So I included a similar situation between the mother and her son later on in the book. It’s fun to use little connections here and there in the book to leave a personal imprint.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I college I spent a semester studying Russian in Kiev, Ukraine. Every day as I made my way from the apartment I lived in to the school, I passed by several people in the subways playing music. They’d sit their hats on the floor and sing or play an instrument and people would drop change into their hats. I wanted to know if I could get some money for singing in the subway.

One morning, a friend and I put a hat on the floor of the subway and we started singing. We made enough to buy ourselves breakfast. J

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve always loved writing, and I suppose I knew I had a knack for it, but I didn’t consider it as a profession until my sophomore year in college. I wrote a paper for one of my Lit classes, and a few weeks after turning it in, the professor called me into his office and told me he’d entered it into a contest, and I had won. He suggested I consider a degree in Professional Writing. I switched majors that week, and my future kind of exploded before my eyes. The last two years of college were a blast because I was finally doing what I loved and what I was good at—a pretty brilliant combination.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I really love fiction. I struggle with nonfiction. Unless it’s told in a very creative way (Laura Hillenbrand is the most creative and engaging nonfiction writer I’ve ever read), then I typically won’t finish the book.
I do like autobiographies, and I like a wide range of fiction from historical to classical to contemporary, and a little bit of post-apocalyptic thrown in for fun.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Oh goodness, I lost my sanity years ago. If you find it, feel free to send it back.

Pulling away now and again centers me. I need some alone time to think, to read, to talk with my husband, to write, to pray. If I go too long without those things I start to get antsy. I’ve also found that if I allow myself the freedom to go at a slower pace I feel a lot more peaceful. Rather than measuring myself against the someone else’s standards, I remember that I was created with a unique design, and when I embrace that I’m much more content.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
There are some very typical and common Slavic names that I knew I wanted to use in the book. If you visit Russia or Ukraine, you’re guaranteed to meet several Ludas, Olegs, Marias, Ivans, Tanyas, Katyas, and Sergeis. Because I interviewed so many people throughout the country of Ukraine, I had a vast pool of names from which to choose. I went with the ones that I thought readers could most easily pronounce.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Well, finishing this book!

I wanted to give up so many times. I was certain that I couldn’t pull it off. I didn’t think I was smart enough or talented enough to write these stories in the way they were meant to be told.

The history of those days is convoluted, and I didn’t want to mess it up. I almost talked myself out of this book several times, but I just couldn’t let it go. So I pushed through, and ultimately I’m so pleased with the results.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A panda bear. They just always seem so happy and content and playful. That sounds like fun.

What is your favorite food?
I have to pick one food?!

I guess I’ll go with Nutella because I feel like it is God’s gift to this world sent straight from heaven above. I’m nearly certain it will be on the heavenly banqueting table.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Finding the time to sit down and write is always my biggest challenge. With four children, time is a precious commodity, and large chunks of time are rare. I mine those out like gold. I struggle to get any significant writing done in short blocks of time. I need at least two hours to get ramped up, so learning to find the time to pour into writing is always a hurdle I have to overcome. And then relinquishing guilt when I did pull away was always a challenge as well.

Tell us about the featured book.
Like a River From Its Course is a historical set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, and it follows four unique characters as they walk the reader through those dark years. It is a story of heartache and grief, of love, forgiveness, and redemption. The book is based on the true stories I gathered in over hundred interviews with former World War II survivors from the Soviet Union.

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch. He survived, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda Michaelevna never knew her mother. Growing up with an alcoholic father, Luda is only sixteen when the Nazis invade, and she’s brutally attacked due to her father’s negligence. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Herrmann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to success by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Please give us the first page of the book.
June 22, 1941 Kiev, Ukraine
“Papa! Papa!”

The screams lift from my chest, but I don’t feel them escape. As the flat flashes and shakes, I turn circles. I know I’m home, but I don’t know just where I am. I can’t cry, can’t walk, can’t find my family. I can only scream, and again I cry out, the sound pulled involuntarily from my soul.


I gasp as strong arms wrap around me, pulling me to the floor. “We’re here, Dochka,” my father cries. “Follow me.”

He flips to his hands and knees, and I grab onto one of his ankles behind him, shuffling along the floor to the hallway where my mother, sister Anna, and brother Sergei huddle close. They are three who look like one, intertwined in such a way that I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. I join the heap, my father lying over all of us.

For the first hour, I’m sure that we’re moments from meeting the saints. I pray to Saint Maria to bring me quickly to her with little pain. I fear pain.

As I pray for an easy transition into the afterlife, my father speaks soothingly in my ear. “You’re fine, my daughter,” he whispers, a balm to my terror. “We’re going to be fine.”

I don’t believe him. I want to, but I can’t. So as the sky flashes, I continue to whisper my litany mostly because I can’t stop.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

Travel back in time in Kelli Stuart's new novel, Like a River from Its Course, as the city of Kiev is bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union. This sweeping historical saga takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River From Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

Celebrate the release of Like a River from Its Course with Kelli by entering to win a Kindle Fire Prize Pack.

like a river - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
like a river - prize collage (1) 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 18th. The winner will be announced July 19th on Kelli's blog.

like a river - enterbanner

Thank you, Kelli, for sharing this new book with us.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Like a River From Its Course -
Like a River from Its Course - AmsOn
Like a River from Its Course - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. 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.

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Connie Porter Saunders said...

This first page is powerful! Thanks for sharing.
Connie from KY

Mary Preston said...

The setting intrigues. Sounds fantastic.

Mary P


Anonymous said...

I've heard so many wonderful things about this book, I can't wait to read it for myself!!

Abby B from Michigan alander87 at allcom dot net

Sandy Quandt said...

Kelli, what a unique subject to cover in a WWII historical. Sounds like a must-read.

Sandy Q TX

Cindi A said...

I love stories that are told by different characters. I'm especially looking forward to reading the view from Maria.
Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of Like a River From Its Course.

~Cindi Altman from PA

Connie said...

I would love to read this book. I have a Facebook friend who is a missionary in Kiev, Ukraine. Their situation is quite precarious today.

Melanie Backus said...

This sounds great!

Melanie Backus, TX

rubynreba said...

I always enjoy books about World War II. I'm looking forward to this one!
Beth from IA

Caryl Kane said...

Kelli, Congratulations on your debut novel! I love reading stories set in this era.

Caryl K in TEXAS

kam110476 said...

Hi Kelli & Lena! Like a River sounds fascinating! I love WWII fiction - I have a hard getting through nonfiction books unless they read like fiction, too - but I've never read any that take place in the Soviet Ukraine, and this summary has me ready to buy it right now!

Kristen in OK

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!!!
Conway SC.