Meet Kim Stuart and ACT TWO
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.
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.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
I would like to defer to my five-year-old daughter on this one as it’s been the topic of discussion for several of the last weeks. She would like the power to make her stuffed animals come alive with the touch of a hand. This, regrettably, creeps me out. But you did ask and I fear I’m merely a contemporary fiction writer and am woefully hemmed in to real people and real problems. Making stuffed creatures come alive is a problem I hope never to have to resolve, either in a book or in my living room. Ish.
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’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.
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.