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.
When a New York diva is exiled to an Iowa pig farm, it's time for Act Two.
New Yorker Sadie Maddox is the toast of the classical-music world-and 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. So when her agent suggests a professorship at a small liberal-arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go. Besides, she needs the money.
But the college is in rural Iowa. Sadie's colleagues are intimidated, her students aren't impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals. When Sadie meets Mac, a veterinarian, she assumes they have nothing in common-he is, after all, a country-music fan-and she's counting the days until she moves back to New York. Yet, when Sadie is forced to spend time with Mac, she likes him. Her students really need her. And this quiet midwest community begins to grow on her.
But when the semester ends, Sadie packs up and decamps for the city that never sleeps... and finds she can't either. Will she find the courage and grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?
And now, an interview with Kimberly Stuart:
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 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….
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’s the most difficult part of the writing 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.
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 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!
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.