I was first introduced to today's Blessed Guest through her written words. A signed copy of her book "Daughters of Hope" was given to me by a friend who had heard her speak.
The true stories in that book unnerved me. The voices of persecuted Christian women from other parts of the world cried out from the pages. I couldn't wrap my head around it. Little did I know, this same author would be my very first nonfiction writing teacher.
Last year, I had the honor of sitting for five days in Kay Marshall Strom's classroom at Mount Hermon. Our time together each morning began with prayer and a song of worship. Thirty people with the gift of writing (without the gift of song), singing unto the Lord. It was amazing. Truly.
Kay is beautiful, both inside and out. When I first met her I thought to myself, "She seems so sweet and huggable." I wasn't wrong. She's a great hugger. But her countenance changes when she explains the calling on her life to share the stories of the persecuted church.
Kay Marshall Strom is now working on her thirty-eighth book. She has written everything from screenplays to historical fiction. There doesn't seem to be anything my gifted guest cannot write. I could go on and on about her. As you can tell, she's way up there on my list of favorites. She'll be way up there on your list of favorites too before our time together is over.
So, without further adieu, please give a big round of comments to author, speaker, and my favorite nonfiction teacher, Kay Marshall Strom.
Welcome to Blessed... it is such an honor to have you here. There are so many questions I'd love to ask you, most especially, how did you begin your journey in the world of writing? Was this something you always wanted to do? Did you go to school for this?
I always wanted to write. My first “published” work was Tommy the Turtle in my fifth grade stapled-together booklet, Tall Tales. I got my true start at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It’s an approach I would strongly suggest, by the way. Not only can a newby learn the craft of writing, but editors from major magazines and book companies are there for the express purpose of hooking up with new writers.
What do you love about being an author?
Getting to speak my piece to a real true audience! One of my passions is helping Christians in American find our place in the worldwide body of Christ. It’s easy to push away the injustice and oppression suffered by so many and plead, “What can I do anyway?” But the Lord says he requires us to “do justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” Were we to do that, imagine the impact we would have on our world! (Ooops! I’ve jumped up on my soap box again! Well, you see what I mean~!)
What don't you love about it?
Doing publicity. It is so time consuming, and I truly do hate pitching my books. I really believe in the message, I just don’t like coming across as a sales person.
You have authored almost forty books. Do you have a favorite?
No, I get swallowed up in each one of them. I must say, though, I really have enjoyed writing fiction. My first novel, The Call of Zulina, is the first book of the Grace in Africa trilogy. Book 2, The Voyage of Promise, will be out in August. I am just now finishing book 3, The Triumph of Grace, which will be released next spring. And then I begin my next trilogy—you heard it here first—set in India: Blessings in India.
What has surprised you the most about your writing ministry?
How many places around the globe it has taken me! I had to get extra pages fastened into my passport, and then those were filled up! I enjoy the travel, and I really enjoy meeting people in diverse settings and cultures… especially fellow believers.
When you are working with a deadline, is there anything specific you do to help encourage your words per day, or your creativity?
Nope, just write. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I mean, what would a dentist do if he had dentist’s block? Get to work and fix teeth anyway! Same with writers. Just get to work and write.
When it comes to a new writer, what do you think is most important for them to know when submitting their work?
Be a professional. You can be a brand-new pro. That’s fine. But never come across as an amateur.
Is there anything, in your opinion, that writers pay too much/too little attention to?
The top obsessions I hear are:
1. Someone might steal my idea.
2. How do I get an agent?
1.Ideas are a dime a dozen, so to speak. And they are not copyrightable. (Is that even a word?) At some point, some one may steal one of your. So what? No one is interested in a stand-alone idea anyway. Editors want a developed work. And the way you develop the idea will be different than the other person did it. As for editors doing the stealing, it’s most unlikely.
2.Put your efforts into writing a salable article or book, then an agent will be interested in you. Take your writing to a writers’ conferences and talk to editors directly. That way you won’t need the agent.
As a Christian woman, has your walk with the Lord changed your writing style over the years?
Yes. If I want to “talk,” then I must “walk the talk.” My public will hold me accountable.
Who has made the biggest impact on your life?
That’s a really hard question. So many people through the years—authors such as C.S. Lewis and Charles Dickens, my sister Jo Jeanne, and my husband Dan Kline, to name a few. But I would have to say my sixth grade school teacher, Mrs. Eckert. She was the one who always told me one day I would be a writer. She kept in touch with me, bought me a dictionary for my graduation from junior high school, and contributed toward my college payments. She lived to see my first book published.
What do you think about blogging? Do you have your own blog?
I do. (Come visit me at http://www.kaystrom.wordpress.com ) I am a new blogger, but I know blogging is a powerful force. Various ones of my books have been on blog tours and it has made a huge difference. The books have been pushed in Australia, Japan, Malaysia and other countries as well as across the U.S. and Canada.
How about some tried and true blog randomness:
I just did an interview on my recently released novel The Call of Zulina, Book 1 of the The Grace in Africa series. It was a call-in show, one of those knee-knockers where you never know who will be on the other end of the line… (“Yeah, well, I’m driving right now and I’m kind of bored. So I thought maybe we could talk for awhile. How old are you, anyway?” Waaayyy, too old, Buddy!!) … or what question a caller might ask. (“So, see, my father never really liked me that much… My marriage has been a disappointment… I just started a new job, but I’m not so sure about it. So… well… What do you think?” Um, about what exactly?)
Actually, the interview–and the calls, too–went quite well. My favorite comment: “I read The Call of Zulina and it left me breathless. I never knew!” Answer: Me too. The research left me breathless. I never knew, either. My best question: “How did the slave trade manage to last so long?” Answer: Financial benefits twisted into justification. When it is to our advantage, we humans can rationalize away anything. A truly terrifying human trait. My most frustrating comment: “This could never happen! No African would have married a slave trader!” Answer: Actually, Grace’s parents are based on a real 18th century couple. I “virtually” met them while I was researching my book Once Blind: The Life of John Newton. I couldn’t get that couple out of my mind. The question kept coming: “What if they’d had a daughter? Who would she be? Where would her sympathies lie?” Voila! The conception of Grace Winslow.
Do you have a favorite scripture?
Romans 8:31-38 What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing!
What would surprise us about you?
I have a cross tattooed on my wrist. A sign of unity at the request of Christians in Egypt.
What's your favorite flavored potato chip?
I’m not a potato chip eater. I do like corn chips, though… but just plain.
Favorite thing to do with your family?
Travel. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you?
What book is on your nightstand right now?
A Passage to India, E. M. Forrester (Getting ready for my next book)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller (Miller’s unique writing experience)
Last food you ate?
Dark chocolate! Rich, smooth, deep, dark chocolate!!
Kay, thank you for being my Blessed Guest today and taking time to share a little bit of your life with all of us. I'm looking forward to seeing you again this year at Mount Hermon.
You are most welcome. My pleasure!