Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Act Two: A Novel in Perfect Pitch - Kimberly Stuart

New Yorker Sadie Maddox is the toast of the classical music world and the queen of all she surveys in short, she's a bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are sagging, not to mention parts of her anatomy. Maybe it's time for a change. Something new. A second act. So when her agent suggests she take on a professorship at a small liberal arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go. Ivy-covered walls, worshipful students . . . oh yes, the ivory tower has its appeal. And she needs the money.

Except the college is in rural Iowa, and the closest thing to designer clothes is the western wear shop down on Main Street. Sadie's colleagues are intimidated, her students aren't impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals.

And when Sadie meets Mac, a large animal veterinarian, she assumes they have nothing in common he is, after all, a country music fan.

But when the semester ends, Sadie packs up and decamps for the city that never sleeps . . . and finds she can't, either. This laugh-out-loud novel about second chances will have readers cheering as Sadie struggles to find her life's second act.

Kimberly Stuart makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband Marc and two children, Ana and Mitch. She is the author of Balancing Act and its sequel, Bottom Line. She began her writing career by journaling throughout her daughter's first year of life. She entered one of her vignettes into the University of Iowa Alumni magazine's annual nonfiction short story contest, at the urging of her mother. After winning the contest, she attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Writer's Conference in North Carolina where she made new friends and received much encouragement. Her first book, Balancing Act was accepted a few months after the birth of her son. You can find out more about her at her website: http://www.kimberlystuart.com/

What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?

*Making myself sit down each day and crank out new material, especially on days when I’m feeling about as creative as a paint tarp.

*Pushing through the middle of a novel, when the characters have lost their initial intrigue and it’d be so much more fun to daydream about the NEXT story to write.
*Getting out of the way of the story. That is, allowing the story to flesh itself out without coercion on my part.
*Being able to, as Stephen King writes, “crucify my darlings,” to part with the elements, characters, plot movements that do not serve the story, no matter how fond I am of them.

What part do you enjoy the most?

Without question, hearing from readers who connect with, cry about, laugh because of the stories I write and then take the time and effort to let me know. Unbelievable and lovely.

How do you find time to write?

For every writer asked this question, I’m sure you’d get as many answers. At this time in my life and the life of my family, I write in the afternoons when my daughter is at preschool and my son is napping. This is unfortunate for two reasons: One, my toilets become gross because the time I used to devote to being Martha Stewart is now devoted to being Kimberly Stuart, a woman with far fewer housekeeping ambition and far more dust bunnies. Two, afternoons are not my most creative time, mostly because I’d rather be napping. So I’ve had to force my mind and my body into thinking one o’clock is Do or Die and that by the time Mitchell’s awake and Ana is home from school, I’d better have a new scene or I don’t get any chocolate for dessert. (Okay, that last bit is a stretch of the truth. Self-denial is overrated.)

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

I begin a novel with barely more detail than that which I’ve pitched to the publishing house. I have a feel for the main character, the overall arc of the story, the central conflict. But the ancillary characters, the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, how my protagonist changes and what takes her there, those all flesh themselves out in the course of writing the book. My genre, comedic fiction, allows for this kind of approach but I’m sure a mystery wouldn’t be as forgiving. One can hardly decide whodunit as an afterthought. So, yes, I’m often surprised by what happens in my books, how some characters become unlikely heroes or heroines, how others reveal secrets I hadn’t anticipated. All in all, it’s quite the entertaining way to write.

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.

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….
Here are the blogs featuring Kimberly during our June 30-July 11 tour.
A Christain Romance Writer’s Journey

1 comment:

Kimberly Stuart said...

Hi, LaShaunda-

Thanks so much for your post and for spreading the word about ACT TWO. I think it's a great summer read, but you'd be right in questioning my loyalties. :)

One word to you and your readers: One note to pass along to you and your readers: If you get the chance, stop by www.kimberlystuart.com 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