SKC: Thank you so much, Kimberly, for agreeing to an interview. Am I right that this is your debut novel?
Kimberly: It is! It was more fun than I expected it to be.
SKC: But you're no novice at writing. Tell us about your previous writing experience?
Kimberly: I've been writing for magazines, curriculum and other publications for over ten years now. This past year I hit the 100 times published number, which was a major life goal for me. That was exciting.
SKC: How did that writing prepare you to tackle a novel?
Kimberly: I have learned so much from writing the smaller stuff. For one, I joined a critique group, and that helped in so many ways--you learn your particular "besetting sins." (One of mine is using too many commas.) And you grow by critiquing other people's writing. Another thing: when you are writing an article, you only have so many words, so you learn to say things as concisely and powerfully as you can. That, along with the fact that so many of my articles were stories from overseas, really helped with the descriptive aspect of the book.
SKC: In what ways does novel writing differ from your previous experience?
Kimberly: It's just so much bigger, so much more involved. With an article, you tell your story then you're done. With Stolen Woman, I got to delve into my characters, give them idiosyncrasies and habits, heart goals and insecurities. And because the whole Stolen series is three books revolving around my main two characters, I got to extend how they grew in their faith and dealt with their fears. I learned as their relationship changed. Now that I just finished the third book, I'm really going to miss them. It may sound weird, but I've gotten to know them so well, they seem like family.
SKC: Stolen Woman is self-published, correct? What led to your decision to take that path?
Kimberly: Getting an agent, then a publisher, and then getting the books actually into bookstores can take years. Human trafficking is a huge topic right now, but who's to say what will be in a year or two? Knowing that more books would be coming on the topic. I wanted mine out at the beginning of that trend, not the end. So I did it myself, through Createspace, an amazon.com company. They've been great, and much cheaper than any other option I researched.
SKC: Are you agented now? Were you at the time you self-pubbed?
Kimberly: I am now, which is so exciting. No, I wasn't at the time the first book came out. I'd say getting an agent took about a year--just about everything in writing takes longer than you want it to. That's probably the toughest part about this business in my opinion, all that waiting. I'm not good at waiting.
SKC: There is a lot of interest in self-publishing right now. What advice do you give writers considering that option?
Kimberly: I've actually blogged about that, because it really is a major decision and has so many ramifications. On my blog, put in the keywords "Ever Wanted Your Book in Print," and it lists all the reasons I chose POD (Print On Demand) publishing. Since then I have to say the biggest downside I've seen after a year is having to do all your own marketing and not having it in bookstores across the country. However, I've heard that the average book sells 5,000 copies, while the average self-pubbed book sells 150, so it's clear that there's a big barrier there. Mine has sold over 1,000 so far, so it may take me a few years to get to 5,000, but I'll keep working at it.
SKC: Stolen Woman is the first in a trilogy. It was released in January, right? And the second work, Stolen Child, is already out. Why did you pub back-to-back?
Kimberly: That wasn't really intentional, but once the books got in my system, the continued story was just itching to be written. Also, with having to do my own marketing, getting another book out while people still remember the first one and are interested is basically free publicity. I just finished the third one ('way sooner than I expected--guess those nights I can't sleep come in handy) and hope to release it this summer, again keeping that ball rolling.
SKC: When does the third book, Stolen Future, release?
Kimberly: Hopefully in July or August of this year! Readers can keep track on www.stolenwoman.org or on my Facebook page: Human Trafficking Stolen Woman.
SKC: Are you attempting traditional publishing for the series? Any prospects?
Kimberly: Yes, I am. I remember reading recently about marketing and how it is not selfish if you are sharing God's truths that people need to hear. My message is about hope and lasting freedom, and especially about finding your worth in Christ so you can share it with others. That's a message I want out there, so I am pursuing the idea of getting the whole series accepted and mainstream published. Now that I have an agent, we're working on the book proposal. (Oh, those are intimidating! I blogged about that, too. If they scare you, you're not alone.)
SKC: When and how did the idea for the Stolen series come about?
Kimberly: Great question! I used to live on the mission field, and having to come home for health reasons was hard. I wanted to stay involved, but didn't really know how. One day I was riding in the car with my mom, tossing around ideas about a novel, when she asked, "If you could write about anything, what would you write about?" By the end of the day I think I had about three chapters of the first book written. The other biggest reason was that, as I got involved with fighting human trafficking, I could find so many books that delved into the evil and left the reader depressed, or they rescued the girl and that was the end of it. I couldn't get past the question: What good is it to be rescued from something bad if you're not rescued to something good? That turned into the main question of Stolen Woman.
SKC: You've lived in several countries. How did that come about?
Kimberly: I went to Bangladesh as a very young and idealistic twenty-two-year-old. I lived there two years, teaching in a school for Bengali kids and doing any writing projects the rest of the team needed. It was a great experience, and I love getting to use the book to take people on a "verbal visit" out there with me. After that, I was in Uganda for awhile. Then I got married and we lived in Kosovo and Indonesia for awhile. Living in different cultures was such a great experience and gave me plenty of things to write about.
SKC: How has living in other cultures colored your writing?
Kimberly: I am so thankful I had the opportunity to see outside what is normal in my own culture, to learn that the way I think isn't the only way. This has helped especially with creating multi-dimentional characters. I recognize that the way I see things isn't the only way. Because of that, if I write about a character with a different personality than me, they will not only have different habits and goals, but even a different thought process. And I must say I love writing about international culture. I find it so fascinating.
SKC: How did you research the series?
Kimberly: Most of the first book was based on memory, but the second book took me into the village setting, where I had never lived. It was difficult researching it, because with its third-world, out-in-nowhere setting, there wasn't much to find about the real life aspects of it. I went to the library once in my local area and asked the man about if a Muslim man had two wives but they all lived in a one-room bamboo hut, where did everybody sleep? Boy, did he look at me like I was off my rocker! I would have a hard time writing about any other culture, because I wouldn't feel enough in tune to it--how people feel and think and react. Even with this series, I still have sent every manuscript to a friend of mine who has lived in Bangladesh for over twenty years. She checks my cultural facts and makes sure I have the right perspective. She's sent changes for every one, so that's a good reminder that you can always use more help. As the Bible says, "In the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom."
SKC: Are any of the characters based on people you know?
Kimberly: Milo is the one I like to talk about the most. He is based on two boys I knew in Bangladesh. His personality is based on a real little boy named Milo whose mother was a brick-breaker. She spent all day on the side of the road hammering bricks into gravel. She made about fifty cents a day. Her three children all stayed on the street-side with her, and Milo, who was about five at the time, was one of the happiest, most adorable kids I'd ever met. His situation, however, is based on another real boy I made friends with, a street kid who only had one leg and used a crutch. In fact, the story with Asha and Milo at the ice cream shop is loosely based on something that actually happened with him and me.
SKC: How do you continue to hone your craft?
Kimberly: Oh, I have so much more to learn! I keep trying to learn about writing and be willing to listen to suggestions and critiques. Before I publish a book, I usually send it out to over ten people I trust as pre-readers. They give me their feedback, and it helps me learn what readers want. I went back and read the original Stolen Woman and was pretty amazed at how much I'd learned about writing since it came out. So I went back and fixed a bunch of stuff and put out a second edition. Now I cringe when I see the original one, but hey, if we waited till we "arrived," we'd never arrive!
SKC: What other writers most influence you and your style?
Kimberly: I love Francine Rivers. A friend of mine once told me her book, Redeeming Love, changed the way she saw God. That amazed me, that through a fiction story you could have such an impact. I want my writing to be like that.
SKC: Who comprise your support team?
Kimberly: I have a few people who have been cheering me on since before they even knew if the books were any good. Also there's a ladies' group at a church nearby who have had me come to do Book Club sessions, and that's been a great motivator for me.Most importantly, though, is my husband Brian. He hates to read (ironic, right?) but he doesn't mind listening, so I read everything I write out loud to him. It has turned out to be a great editing tool for me, and makes me feel like he's really behind me. Except when sometimes he tells me, "A guy wouldn't say it like that," and then I have to change my sweet, romantic comment into something more realistic.
SKC: What inspires you?
Kimberly: Hearing from a teen girl that my book changed her life.
SKC: What is your writing regimen like?
Kimberly: Hah! I wish I had one. Having a three-year-old at home makes a regimen pretty impossible. I do a lot of my marketing in the morning on the computer (Facebook, e-mail, blog, etc.), but my real writing times usually have to wait until I can find some time alone.
SKC: What big idea do you want your readers to come away with after reading Stolen Woman?
Kimberly: That no matter how trapped someone may be or feel, there is always hope. And that their worth is not in what or how much they do, but in the fact that the God of the universe says they are worth dying for.
SKC: What Scripture is especially meaningful for you right now?
Kimberly: In searching for Scriptures for the book, I have been surprised at how much God cares about justice, and have loved the great verses I've found that lets me know God cares about the trafficked so much more than I do. But a passage I am memorizing right now is Psalm 74:14-18. I think it's a great passage for writers.
SKC: What role does Jesus Christ play in your writing?
Kimberly: I was just talking about that with a writer I met.He'd sent me a manuscript about trafficking that had some questionable things in it. He had mentioned his faith, so I (very uncomfortably) asked him if his faith was why he wrote the book, then why didn't it affect his book? What good is a book to raise awareness, if it doesn't give the hope of Jesus Christ? To me, without Christ, there's no point in writing. I don't have any desire to write just for entertainment.
SKC: How do you balance writing, family life with young children, and health challenges?
Kimberly: That's a challenge! Fortunately, writing is something I can do even when I'm not feeling well (like right now, when I'm on antibiotics for an infection, writing actually helps me stay put when I need to rest). I do struggle with balancing my desire to write and my family life. I keep praying about that one and asking for daily wisdom to make the best choices, not just the ones that feel the most urgent.
SKC: What project are on the horizon? Do you work on multiple writing projects at once?
Kimberly: I can't seem to help having several ideas in my head at once. I haven't figured out how to file them away until I have time for them. My latest project is a series of books on chronic health problems titled, Sick and Tired: How to Live Graciously with Chronic Health Problems When You'd Rather Just Kick Something! I also have a new novel idea in my head that I'm hoping will simmer until I'm ready to write it.
SKC: What was the most difficult or troublesome challenge in writing Stolen Woman?
Kimberly: Remembering how an American person would perceive Asia for the first time. The longer you live in a culture, the more normal things seem, so you forget what at first felt shocking or confusing. So I had to get some help on that.
SKC: If you could write only one other book after Stolen Future, what would it be?
Kimberly: Oh, that's a hard one, but I guess I would have to sacrifice Sick and Tired, and say it would be Shredded, the novel in my head that I want to work on someday.
SKC: What have I failed to ask that you'd like to address?
Kimberly: Two things. First, so you can all share in my excitement, I just got a book contract this very morning for the Sick and Tired series. I'm thrilled (and a little scared).
Second, the books are available for Kindle and Nook. People can also get an autographed copy through www.stolenwoman.org. Order the first two books in the Stolen series and get FREE SHIPPING!
SKC: That's a great deal, Kimberly. Thank you, again for taking time to answer my questions. God bless you as you continue to write for His glory.
Tina Pinson, a fellow writer, has pulled together a glossary of esoteric terms on her blog. It's helpful to writers and those trying to understand what the scribes in their lives are saying. Check it out here!
Book Review: Stolen Woman by Kimberly Rae Stollen series, Book 1 Copyright 2011 by Kimberly Rae Published January 2012, South Carolina, USA 264 pages ISBN-13: 978-1461098938 ISBN-10: 1461068932
Back Copy: Asha knew nothing about it before meeting 16-year-old Rani, stolen from her home and sold into sexual slavery in Kolkata, India. Asha must help this girl escape, but Mark, a third-generation missionary, keeps warning her away from the red-light district and its workers. Will she ever discover why? And will they ever stop their intense arguments long enough to admit their even more intense feelings for one another? When Asha sneaks out one last time in a desperate attempt to rescue her friend, someone follows her through the night. Is freedom possible? Or will she, too, be taken?
Author Brief: Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo, and Indonesia. She now writes from her home in Lenoir, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two young children. She has been published over 100 times in Christian books, magazines, and periodicals.
Stolen Woman is her debut novel. Number 2 in the series, Stolen Child, is now available. My Review: In her debut novel, Rae, leads readers through the bustling marketplace, among the open-air vendors and the ever-present beggars, and into the nefarious slime pit of human trafficking: the red-light district of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. Yet at the heart of suffering, degradation, and corruption, Rae skillfully weaves a story of love and faith. Among the hopeless there is Hope.
I was hooked early in the prologue. Heavy with mystery and intrigue, it flashes forward, hinting at the climax, and stands in sharp contrast to the first few chapters, which are blithe by comparison.
The main character, Asha, leaves her North Carolina home to serve as a summer missionary at an orphan compound in Kolkata. Asha's especially excited at the summer's prospects since she was born in nearby Bangladesh, and many Bangladeshis live in Kolkata. Given up for adoption at birth and adopted by a loving family in the U.S., she wants to know more about her native land.
At the compound, she quickly comes to love the orphans and the staff, with one exception: Mark Stephens, whose grandparents founded the mission. Mark, who is assigned as her mentor, counters her at every turn, or so it seems to Asha. One moment they're friends; the next, they're butting heads.
When Asha goes wandering and gets lost in the red-light district, she encounters a young prostitute named Rani. Asha believes God wants her to rescue Rani, but when Mark learns of her plans, he orders her to forget it. It's obvious he's hiding something. But what? And he's not the only one. Why do the other missionaries become upset when they learn of her desire to help Rani escape sexual slavery? Mark tells Asha there are things she doesn't know, doesn't understand, things he can't disclose. Yet.
Stolen Woman deals with an ugly subject, one we'd rather not think about, one we've neglected far too long. When a light is turned on in a dark room, every corner is flooded with light. With this novel, Rae is flipping the switch to "on." At the back of the book, she provides a way readers can become proactive in helping to rescue women and girls like Rani through Women at Risk International (W.A.R.).
Coming next week, an interview with Stolen Woman author Kimberly Rae.