Monday, July 7, 2008

Guest Author: Kimberly Stuart

Today, I'm pleased to host Kimberly Stuart, author of the new book "Act One: A Novel in Perfect Pitch."

Rarely does this singer get to read a novel which lilts along in my own language. Okay. So I don’t sing opera(!) but I do love music. So, reading this novel in first person (even though the heroine was a bit snobbish—hey, that only makes her transformation more fun to observe—was a delight!) But even if you aren’t a singer or musician, you’ll love this story. And first-person? Bring it on. Not an easy choice in POV, but Kimberly makes it work. I laughed out loud too many times to count. If you’re looking for a quirky and quick read, a fun and yet poignant story, don’t miss this one!

Here's a bit about her:

Kimberly Stuart makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Marc, and their two children, Ana and Mitch. She began her writing career by journaling during her daughter’s first year of life. At the never-subtle urging of her mother, she entered the University of Iowa Alumni magazine’s annual nonfiction short story contest. After winning the contest, she attended the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference in North Carolina, where she met some key players in the publishing world who were able to jumpstart her career. She is the author of Balancing Act and its sequel, Bottom Line. Stuart’s most recent novel, Act Two, released May 2008, and is the first of three titles to be published by David C. Cook. She continues to revel in God’s grace and counts among her treasures nap time, imported chocolate, and a good story.

For more information about Kimberly, visit her website at

The following interview will give you a great taste of her writing style--

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
I’m going to forego commentary on the slightly injurious nature of the phrase “spare time.” I am the mother of two (three in August) young children and they, at least, do not see the value of those words. But hypothetically speaking, were I to come upon a windfall of time, spare or otherwise, I would run, not walk to our local bookstore and immerse myself in a good book. After several hours of literary indulgence, I’d skip down the street to the bakery and talk shop with the owner, pretending I know more than I do and serving happily as a taste testing lab rat should he or she need one. After a pecan roll or maybe a Dutch letter, I’d meet my husband at the market for some shopping, head home with him to our kiddos, and cook up something lovely to share with them. Husband, kids, books, food—a perfect stretch of moments strung together in one afternoon. MAN, I need to book a babysitter more often!

If you had to write your memoir in six words, what would they be?
Wanted Angst, Clung Instead to Humor.
In high school and early college, I wanted nothing more than to be the tortured artist. I read and wrote horrible, dark poetry, tried to find the paradox in everything from God to navel oranges, and made my remarkably sunny parents nutty and fretful, usually within one dinner conversation. If you were so inclined, you could dunk yourself in my many journals of self exploration, a journey which, turns out, is frightfully dull when done alone and in denial of how diverse God’s fingerprints really are. It was only after several years of marriage and the birth of my daughter that I fully let go of the idea of being someone I’m not, tossed my inner longings to wear only black and moan songs by Ani DeFranco, and instead embraced laughter and humor as God-drenched gifts to humanity. Laughter truly is medicine and finally I’m ready to take and give a generous dose on a daily basis without feeling like I’m missing the artistic boat.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child, I wanted to be a “seener” (singer). Mostly, I wanted to be Amy Grant. That’s right, people: I was into STRAIGHT UP AMY GRANT. The hard stuff, the early years, like “My Father’s Eyes,” and “El Shaddai.” I rocked out (with choreography) in our basement, next to a record player roughly the size of an Escalade and was wholeheartedly convinced of my musical and entertaining genius. If only I could have met her at the right time, perhaps post-Gary, pre-Vince, we could have toured together! She totally could have used a back-up dancer/singer! In fact, if you’re reading this, Amy, I’m still available!

Where are you headed next?
God willing, I’ll be giving birth to our third child in August, so I’m afraid I won’t be heading anywhere too quickly. Lactation seems to preclude so many of life’s adventures…In addition to caring for our growing brood and being really snippy with my husband for a few months due to sleep deprivation, I have two more books to write with David C. Cook. Act Two is the first of three, and I must ask you humbly to buy it within the next four minutes as it is time-sensitive material. And it’s a pretty good summer read, if I must be so bold. After Act Two will come two more. This will make a grand total of five books so far from the pen of Kimberly Stuart. Don’t place any bets that I’ll try to have as many children as I do books. When it comes to babies, those in print are much kinder on a uterus.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Hone your craft. There are lots of fancy stories about getting one’s foot in the door to a publisher, how to get an agent, how to market oneself and one’s story. But the best way to ensure you’ll be ready to take on the publishing mayhem is to work your tail off at writing. Become your toughest critic (short of paralysis, of course), get up the guts to share your work with someone smarter and more well-read than you, spend the hours good writing requires. Most of a writer’s life is very quiet, unromantic, and isolating. Unless you’re ready to devote yourself to the less glamorous parts of writing a good story, you’ll be spinning your wheels for the time when a good break comes.

Where did you get the idea for the book?
I can’t possibly reveal that to the blogosphere, and I say that only partly because I’ve always wanted to use the word blogosphere. The other reason is that this one percolated for awhile. There was no lightning bolt moment. But I will say that I’m always interested in putting quirky characters in situations that make them woefully uncomfortable and allow the reader to laugh with gusto both at and with the character. A New York opera diva on a farm seemed like a situation that might work for that purpose.

What are the major themes of the book?
Grace, redemption, my love and respect for both urban and rural dwellers, and the under-used gift of laughter.

Do you sing also?
I do. I studied voice through college, sang in the St. Olaf Choir (um ya ya), and continue to sing in church. My mom is a professional violinist, so we were cheerily forced into playing one stringed instrument and piano, for starters. Sadie, the protagonist in Act Two, took her love for music straight into a career, which was a step I did not take. But it was a riot entering her world and watching her both succeed and squirm.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
It was intense. Lots of dangerous, Indiana Jones-type adventures, plenty of nights under the stars and without food or running water. Actually, I traveled to New York and was shuttled around by dear friends who love their city and were infectious in their excitement. I loved my time there and still wish I could drop off my laundry for someone else to do, begging out of the chore because my building just didn’t have a washer and dryer. The laundry, the insane number of fantastic restaurants, the ability to wallow in theater, dance, live jazz, high fashion—if I could only afford half of a studio apartment, I’d drag my family for an extended stay. As for research on Iowa….

Have you lived on a pig farm?
I grew up in Iowa, though not exactly on a pig farm. Des Moines has roughly 400,000 residents, which would prove a challenge for group farming. But my roots are rural. All of my grandparents grew up on farms, as did many of our friends and neighbors. For Act Two, I relied heavily on dear friends who own a pig farm in northwestern Iowa. Anything I got right on this end is due to their diligence. Anything I goofed is my fault entirely. My husband will tell you I don’t always listen well.

Readers---- pick up her book(s). I can especially vouch for "Act Two" but I'm thinking, especially after our interview, that I need to get my hands on her earlier work as well.

And Kimberly, thank you for visiting and for writing fun stories. We need more laughter in the world! Write on!


Dawn said...

Annette and Kimberly,

What an enjoyable post!

First of all, I love both the cover and the title of the book. As a writer, I find it difficult to come up with cool titles, but this one works great.

And Kimberly - the first time I saw Amy Grant she'd just come out with "My Father's Eyes." I was in my early twenties and saw her perform at a Jesus People Church in Minneapolis. She sat on a stool in the middle of a large stage, barefoot, and sang her little heart while playing guitar. Those were the days...

sarah woll said...

hi annette,
thanks for having kimberly stuart. i've had my eyes on the book for a while now, but haven't gotten the chance to get my hands on it. maybe someday.

Kimberly Stuart said...

Hi, All-

Thanks, Annette, for the review and the kind words about ACT TWO! I'm so pleased you enjoyed the book and took the time to spread the word, particularly since it sounds like you're plenty busy with your own work. Thank you!

Dawn, let us just revel in our shared joy of Amy. Barefoot at a Jesus People Church? I love it. And yes, those WERE the days. :)

One more word: If you get the chance, stop by and enter to win an iPod Nano. Seriously! Chance for a free Nano, just for entering! The contest is sponsored by my publisher in celebration of ACT TWO's release. What a deal! :)

Happy reading, writing and summering!

kimberly stuart