UPDATE: You can now read a shortened version of this interview on the website of my university student paper, Exeposé!
Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with one of my all time favourite authors, Kristy Cambron. Kristy is the author of The Butterfly and the Violin which I reviewed over summer, so it was with great excitement that I was able to interview her.
Kristy was kind enough to share some of her answers through video messages, something which she does when conducting interviews with other authors on her own website.
Kristy, what are you drinking today?
What is your favourite film?
When did you know you wanted to become an author?
Tell us something about yourself!
What message would you like to share with the readers?
Thanks Kristy! It’s brilliant to be able to get to know more about you, and what an inspiring message to give to all of us.
And now, onto the written questions, where we dive even deeper into the mind of one of the best debut novelists…
What was your inspiration for writing these books?
I was a young art student in undergraduate school in early 2004. I remember the distinct moment when our art history professor presented a topic I’d never heard of – the art of the Holocaust – and I was captured from that moment on. I devoured books on the subject (especially Elie Wiesel’s Night, which I still read every year). I remember hearing that whisper in my soul, that this topic was special. The art of creation and worshipping God, even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances one could imagine– it’s a stunning expression of beauty that I still can’t fully understand. And though it’s a very weighty subject, I wanted to give a voice to these known artists, to help others hear their story. So I stored the idea away hoping that someday I’d know what to do with it.
How much research do you do before starting a novel based in historical fact?
Much of the research for both books in the Hidden Masterpiece series was completed more than decade ago, for my undergraduate studies in Art History/Research Writing. The concepts of hope through horrific circumstances and the atrocities of the Holocaust never really left my mind. But I spent much time pouring over the finer details of this era – researching maps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, reading Holocaust survivors’ accounts, and viewing video tours of the concentration camps on YouTube. I even spent time reviewing bombing records, city street maps and weather patterns from the early 1940s, so the London Blitz scenes in A Sparrow in Terezin would be authentic. It’s the small details – the ones you can sometimes pick up in an interview or history book – that work to really breathe life, and immerse the reader into a bygone era. I love that history can bring life to days that have long since passed, and can teach us about ourselves in new ways.
How do you find writing a sequel – of sorts – compared to writing a new novel?
While I confess to not plotting out my stories, I do spend quite a bit of time mapping out my characters’ timelines from book to book. Writing a fresh novel is always fun. It gives you a chance to explore new people and places, and that always gives my writer’s heart a thrill. But writing a sequel is different, in that the intricacies of intertwined plots can spell disaster if you’re not organized. You also have to ensure you balance historical fact with your fictionalized accounts. It’s a delicate dance that historical authors have to continually work at.
This question could be tricky; do you have a favourite character from Butterfly or Sparrow?
I think that’s a fair question, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I do have my favourites in each story I write.
Adele will always be special to me. For the time put into imagining her story in The Butterfly and the Violin, for the perseverance in her character that taught me so much about faith in my own walk with the Lord, and for the times I was able to get lost in her story to deal with the difficulties of a serious cancer diagnosis in our family, I will always be grateful. Her journey helped me find God in the hidden places of my own heart – to find that He is always faithful, even when we hurt. I love her for that.
In A Sparrow in Terezin, I have two characters who have found a way into my heart: Kája and believe it or not, Dane. I have to remain spoiler-free here, so I won’t give details. But Kája’s courage stands out for me. Again, her story was rooted in part with the journey I was going through at the time. My Dad has just passed away from leukemia. I was finally an author. I stepped out of the corporate career I’d had for fifteen years into a new industry. In many ways, I needed to borrow some courage to step out and live a totally different life in 2014. It was a big change and Kája’s character became a place to work some of it out. Dane, on the other hand, was one of those characters who totally took me by surprise. I hadn’t intended on writing him in the beginning and suddenly, there he was. The nobility in his character will always be dear to me.
well now i can’t wait to read sparrow and meet dane! Whilst you were writing, how did you keep your focus?
What a great question! My answer is not that glamorous, however. I’ve found that each author seems to have a method for his or her own madness for writing. I’m no different. I’m not a plotter; I prefer to write from a place of following where the story leads me. Because of that, I can get hit with a new idea in my head at the most inopportune times and have to grab my cell phone to type the scene… In the grocery store. While waiting in the doctor’s office. In an elevator. (No kidding!) Storytelling for me is really less about focus than it is about feeling the characters’ story whenever it comes. In fact, the Butterfly and the Violin was written almost exclusively on my iPhone. Since then, I find that typing chapters on my phone and inserting them into my manuscript is my place of comfort for creating a story. I now write on my phone most of the time.
Do you listen to music whilst you write and if so, what type? Is there a Spotify playlist we can listen to?
The short answer is – YES. All the time. I listen to movie soundtracks when I write. My favourites are: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre (2011), Cinderella Man (2005), and Schindler’s List (1993). In addition, I must have music that I find lyrical and inspiring when I’m writing some particularly emotional scenes. Violinists Hilary Hahn and Julia Fischer are my go-to musicians for this. (A new find is Lindsey Stirling. I plan to listen to her while writing my next novel.)
I also prefer white noise if I’m really deep into editing. (That’s where focus is essential.) I love the Rainy Mood (thunderstorm sounds) and Coffitivity (noisy coffee shop sounds) Apps on my iPhone. They’ve managed to see me through two books so far.
I’D LIKE TO GO A BIT MORE IN DEPTH ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN AUTHOR.
Ah… The question I am most asked, to which I have a very non-bookish answer.
At eight years old, I sure wasn’t a remarkable writer. Nor was I a veracious reader. In fact, I had a passion for art and longed more than anything to become a Disney animator one day. So to look back now and see how God cultivated this writing dream in my young heart still makes me smile.
As a child, I remember my mother taking me and my sister to the public library every week. Instead of seeking out the best of classic literature like my older sister– you guessed it – I went straight to the art section and sat down in the floor between the aisles to get lost in stacks of vintage animation books. And while I didn’t know it then, God was gently wooing me with this love for storytelling. It may have started as a visual artist’s dream, but God had other plans. (Thank goodness, because to this day I can only draw exceptionally poor stick figures). By the time I walked into my first college art history class, I was sold. I’d found my story. And since I knew I’d never be a studio artist, I’d try my hand at writing about what I loved. I look back now and am so grateful that while a passion for writing may not have started at an early age, the storytelling piece has always been there.
How did you find your publisher, HarperCollins?
I’m a big believer in unpublished writing contests. Why? That’s how my editor and I found each other.
I know it’s a personal preference, but I sought the representation of a literary agent right from the beginning. By 2011, I’d signed with an agent and we’d begun the arduous task of sending writing submissions to publishers. We’d made it to the final decision phase with a couple of them, but had always received a helpful (but heart-hurting) rejection. With my husband’s support, I had just enough courage left to submit to a few writing contests. Big surprise – I won. And then I won again. That time, the editor liked my work and requested a manuscript. Eventually, we sold this WWII series and that contest judge is now my close friend and editor at HarperCollins Christian Publishing.
Your website, www.kristycambron.com, is very interesting, especially the Video Café talks with other authors. Where did this idea come from?
Funny enough, the idea came to me in an elevator ride in the large corporate tower in which I worked. When working a full-time job as an Instructional Designer and Communications Consultant for a Fortune-100 company (and writing at night and on weekend), time was precious to me. I used all of it that I had – including lunch breaks and elevator rides. I had a few minutes before my next meeting started and while in the elevator, had found an author interview I really wanted to read. I just didn’t have the time. I wished then that I could have “met” the author in a quicker format – like a five-minute video – where I could learn more about them and their books in the midst of a packed work week. And, the idea for the Video Café was born. Now I get the chance to get to know authors as we would if we were sharing a cup of coffee on a break at the office – or standing in an elevator. It’s quite fun and there’s coffee involved, so I’m happy to say we already have authors booked up to visit through October 2015!
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I’m open about my journey to publication, and how Christ carried our family along the way. (Read our family’s story here.) But whether an aspiring author is writing Christian fiction or fiction for the general market, there are some key decisions that the writer has to make for him or herself. The first of which is – what should I write? The aspiring author has to find the place of passion for a characters’ story (and understand the craft of writing) before he/she can hope to pursue publication. The story has to be there first, and the motivation for your readers with it. Asking questions like: “Do I want to publish with an Indie or Traditional publisher?” “Do I want to seek representation from a literary agent?” “Should I join a critique group, professional writing organization, or should I attend writing conferences?” will all come after a writer has found his or her voice when putting pen to paper.
My biggest pieces of advice? Write every single day, pray for your readers, and DO NOT give up. If writing is on your heart, no amount of rejections should hold you back. Continue to learn. To grow in the craft. To fall in love with story! Refuse to see a publishing house’s rejection as a ‘No’, and instead, see it as a ‘Not yet’ or ‘Not here’. In the meantime, continue to network and build your talent until the right publisher comes along and you hear that wonderful ‘Yes”. If you’re in love with writing, then you’ll be able to weather the rejections, and wait for your book to make it to store shelves one day.
A couple of fun questions now; If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, fictional or real, who would it be and why?
This is a mean question to ask an author! [Laughing.] It’s like asking me to pick a favourite child. J But since I have to pick one my answer is… my Dad. He passed away in 2013 and what I miss more than anything now is listening to his laugh. And the stories he always used to tell. I miss the way he’d smile at his grandsons and the way he’d always stand in my corner, no matter what. And because I’m an author and we live in fictional worlds anyway, I reserve the right to re-write the rules of this question and add a couple of “anyones”. I’d invite my husband to that dinner, because he’s my best friend and I don’t like to be without him. Also at the table? My Mom, our sons (so they could see their Grandpa again), and my beautiful Savior (and other best friend), Jesus Christ.
If you lived inside a work of fiction, what would it be and why?
It’s just not possible to choose one. I’d have to travel in some otherworldly bookish portal, so I could drop into all of the stories I love. I’d dance at the ball in Pride and Prejudice (so I could meet Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy). I’d ride along with The Scarlet Pimpernel and his team of heroes, would fly over London with Peter Pan and Wendy, would follow Harry Potter and his friends around Hogwarts, and would sit in the courtroom as Atticus Finch defined heroism and justice in To Kill a Mockingbird. After that, I’d find another list of stories and drop in on all of them.
And lastly, if you were to visit the UK, where would you go?
I will visit, someday soon. And my list of places to visit would be quite long. I’d step into the Victoria and Albert museum. I’d travel to Bath and fall in love with Jane Austen’s haunts. I’d swing by Highclere Castle and imagine I’m dining with Lady Mary and the rest of the gang from Downton Abbey. I’d stop in the libraries. Marvel at the serenity of London’s parks. I’d even grab my husband and take him to a pub, just to soak up the atmosphere. (I’d probably drive him mad with that, but it’d be worth it.) Then, I’d take a few days and start the touring all over with a quick trip to Paris… I’d probably want to end the trip with a stop by a local UK Starbucks, to meet you and share a coconut mocha latte. (Can I get one of those there?) I think the conversation would be too good to pass up.
WELL THAT IS AN OFFER I CAN’T REFUSE, COCONUT MOCHAS ON ME! Thank you so much for your time!
Thanks for having me connect with you and your readers today, Amy. It’s been a pleasure!
Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN (Thomas Nelson) was named to Library Journal Reviews’ and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards lists of Best Inspirational Novels of 2014. Her second novel, A SPARROW IN TEREZIN (Hidden Masterpiece #2), was selected as Library Journal’s February 2015 Pick of the Month (Christian fiction), and will release from Thomas Nelson in April, 2015.
Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University, and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and corporate communications for a Fortune-100 Company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection through one survivor’s story of hope in the darkest days of a war-torn world.
Present Day—With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairy tale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels she’s stumbled into a charmed life—until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy the perfectly planned future she’s planned before it even begins. Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future.
1942—Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped occupied Prague in 1939, and was forced to leave her half-Jewish family behind. Now a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, Kája has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.
Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear—even if it means placing their own futures on the line.
You can connect with Kristy on:
Twitter: @kcambronauthor – Facebook: Kristy Cambron – GoodReads: Kristy Cambron
Website: KristyCambron.com Pinterest: KCambronAuthor
** And here’s a teaser for a new Women’s ministry/story community that’s COMING February 14, 2015… Including feature storytellers: Katherine Reay, Beth Vogt, Sarah Ladd, Katie Ganshert, Cara Putman, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh, and Kristy Cambron. Discover The GROVE — Where story finds a home…
Join us at http://theGROVEstory.com