The only thing we have to fear, is finding out about ourselves…
–Me, Kay Strom
President Obama and his family got lots of press coverage when they toured an old slave fortress on the coast of Ghana. I recognized the dank hallways and forbidding dungeons that flashed across the TV. The ominous Door of No Return was horribly familiar. I have been inside a slave fortress, and believe me, the reality is far worse than the sound bites. Cameras didn’t show the baby manacles bolted to the wall.
The sights and sounds of that horrible period of history echoed in my mind because my newest book, The Call of Zulina (first book in the Grace in Africa trilogy), is just being released. Set in West Africa, 1787, it is the story of Grace, daughter of an Englishman and his African wife, who must come to terms with the brutality and ugliness of the family business—the capture and trade of slaves. Caught up in a slave rebellion, she must choose a side—slaver or slave. The ramifications of her choice are profound.
In the past several months, more than one writer friend has asked me: “What’s a nice non-fiction writer like you doing in a new fiction lineup?”
My answer: “Telling a rollicking story from high atop my soapbox, of course!”
After twenty-plus years of writing, after 34 published books and more magazine articles and devotionals than I care to count, after sticking my toe into the murky waters of everything from curriculum to scriptwriting, I am now a bona fide novelist. And I love it! It’s like digging into the chocolate mousse before finishing my plate of peas and carrots.
I like fiction. I always have. Which is precisely why I decided to embark on the Grace in Africa trilogy in the first place. Various editors looked over the proposal and said, “Hmmm, yes!” and “Good, good!” and “Powerfully written!” Then, one by one, they shook their heads no. “I like it but we can’t publish it,” each one said in turn. “It will stir up too many old feelings. Make too many people angry and too many others feel guilty.”
And what exactly is wrong with writing that stirs up deep emotion—even anger or guilt? I mean, what if our Founding Fathers had opted for sending England a Proposal to All Just Get Along instead of a Declaration of Independence? What if Moses had come down from Mount Sinai with less offensive stone tablets engraved with The Ten Suggestions? Conviction and redemption are wonderful writing themes. Consider such books as: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Flowers for Algernon, The Color Purple, Fatherland, and just about everything Charles Dickens wrote.
Historical fiction is meant to tell what was the way it was. Life is only a Door of No Return if we fail to learn from the past.
Of Kay’s 34 published books, four have been book club selections, nine have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, two prize-winning screenplays, books and stories for children, and booklets for writers. Her writing has appeared in several volumes including More Than Conquerors, Amazing Love, The NIV Couple’s Devotional Bible and The NIV Women’s Devotional Bible, and The Bible for Today’s Christian Woman. Her work also is included in a number of compilations, including various books from the Stories for the Heart series.
Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. In addition, more and more her writing and speaking are drawing her to countries and cultures around the world. Most recently she trekked through India, China, Indonesia, Sudan, Morocco, and Senegal – tape recorder and camera in hand – preparing to tell “the rest of the story” of our donor dollars at work in the lives of individuals and villages around the world.
Kay is a partner in Kline, Strom International, Inc., leaders in communication training.