Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
Welcome Kristy Cambron, author of The Butterfly and the Violin, to Author Spotlight! To enter to win a copy, leave a comment on this post.
My husband and I met when we were very young, and we’ve been married for thirteen years. We have three young sons who have loads of energy – and are always hungry! 🙂
Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I do work full-time. I’ve been in Corporate America as a professional writer, facilitator and instructional designer for nearly fifteen years. As for squeezing in writing—that’s a very literal thing for me. I find that most of my books are written on my iPhone, wherever I happen to be at the time.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest . . .
I write Regency and WWII Era fiction, but believe it or not, I actually started with contemporary fiction. I’d completed a few manuscripts before I realized that everything I was writing had a vintage tie-in to it—European settings and connections to Jane Austen Era literature, for example. It was like a light bulb went off in my mind, and I realized I should be writing historical fiction. I tried it with my first Regency manuscript and I was hooked from that moment–it was like coming home somehow. I expect I’ll stay in the historical genre for some time if I can.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
More than a decade ago, I worked in a call center job on second and third shifts. You can imagine that at those hours, we didn’t field many phone calls. We’d sometimes have thirty minutes or more in-between calls. I’d complete my college homework during those times – that is until a new manager came to our team and changed the guidelines for the team. We were no longer allowed to read or have conversations over our cubicle walls. I recall going home to discuss this with my husband and had a thought: “You know – she never said we couldn’t write . . . .” My husband took me out not long after and bought a refurbished laptop for $200. It was on that old thing that I completed my first novel. It’s lost on a floppy disk somewhere now, but the dream to become a writer sparked then and the fire has never died.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I’m open about my journey to publication because I have a strong desire to encourage other aspiring writers to their dreams. (CLICK HERE to read about the journey on my website.) The journey can be discouraging at times, and the length of it varies for each writer. From the time I began seriously pursuing publication and signed with an agent, it took two years to get that first contract. In that time, I grew more in my Christian walk than I’d ever imagined I could. There were contest wins and contest crash-and-burns. There were countless hours of lost sleep and prayers for guidance, just so I could continue to fit this writing dream into my packed schedule. And I experienced rejection– a lot of it. But instead of giving up on the dream, I used each experience to polish my craft and improve wherever I could. No matter how difficult the journey was, I had to think uncommonly about it. I referred to myself as a Christian author for three years before I’d ever published a thing. Now I praise God for the journey because as a follower of Christ, it’s enriched my life and my faith at the same time.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?
Prayer. It always starts with and ends with prayer. This entire writing journey has been so full of ups and downs, that I couldn’t have made it through without His guidance for each step. (That and coffee. Lots and lots of coconut mocha coffee . . .)
Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I spend about two hours a day writing. My routine is wonderful in its simplicity; I don’t give myself too much structure or timetables . . . I just go with it. There’s that lovely combination of writing I do when on-the-go–which translates to chapters written on my iPhone–and quiet time when I can sit down in front of my computer at night, after I’ve come home from work and put the kids to bed. The cool thing is that the brain never truly shuts off that drive to write. No matter where I am, my characters can come alive and keep me plotting their journey in my mind. When I do have time to sit down and put pen to paper, the writing time is really productive because I’ve already been working the story out.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Without a doubt, that source of help would be my writing partner, best friend and cheerleader–my husband. He’s always there to manage the household chores and watch over the kids on those nights that I have to stay up and write after work. I even spilled an entire mug of coffee on my laptop when I was two days away from a deadline and you guessed it–my hero came through. We went out early the next morning and came home with a large mocha latte in one hand and a new laptop in the other. I have a fantastic critique group and am an advocate for the resources from the ACFW, but in my life, my husband makes it all possible.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
It’s very surreal; that I will admit. This writing journey to publication has been such a huge dream in our family, that it took a while to absorb the fact that it’s really come true. So what do you do when your goal floats down from the clouds and turns into reality – a job? You grab a hold of that dream . . . fast! And you continue to cultivate the love of learning for the place you’re in.
What are your biggest distractions?
Time! While it’s not really a distraction, it is a major factor in my writing life. I’ve found that time is fickle; it can be a true friend one moment and a horrible foe the next. The key is to balance it out. I have very limited time to actually sit down and write so when I do, that time is cherished. True distractions haven’t really been a problem so far, just because I’ve had to learn to adapt to when I can write. Most of that has been done while tuning other things out–the bustle of airports, the rambunctiousness of three small children, the sound of the clock ticking in the middle of the night – they all have their own challenges and you just have to work around them.
The best moment of my career thus far was finally hearing that elusive “Yes” from a publisher that we’d been waiting for over the past couple of years. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. After the years of rejections, iffy contest showings, tons of blogging and even more learning about the craft of writing . . . It felt wonderful to finally have the dream we’d gone after become reality. But unfortunately, it didn’t last as long as we would have liked. The worst moment of my career came an hour later when my Dad called, and told me that he may have leukemia. Talk about a roller coaster day. I’ll never forget the feeling of elation first, mixed with fear and anxiety. But the beauty of those moments (whether god or bad), is that we experienced God’s faithfulness first-hand. The ups and downs of a writing career amount to nothing if I’m not surrendering both the good and the bad to Christ along the way. (To read our family’s story, CLICK HERE.)
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
While it’s always fun to decide on the title for a book or see your cover art for the first time, I think the absolute coolest thing about being a writer is connecting with readers! They are why we do what we do. And I’ve found them to be gracious, their own stories interesting, and their hearts open to welcoming a debut author into their reading world. For that, I cherish every interaction on social media and every person who walks through the line at a book signing.
The toughest thing I’ve had to become acclimated to so far is the criticism you may find in not-so-positive reviews. I had no idea how much of themselves an author will pour into every book they write. For me, it was surprising to learn that. The Butterfly and the Violin was edited in part at the local cancer center while my Dad was undergoing chemo. The remainder was edited the weeks after he passed away. So while those events are in my life and not my characters’, it can still feel like the book we’re writing is somehow wrapped up in who we are. We want to inspire, encourage and entertain through our words. If you find out that as an author you haven’t done that for someone, it can sting a little.
What advice would you give to new writers?
If you aspire to become an author, you’ve got to think uncommonly about it. Refer to yourself as an author. (You are one after all, just the pre-published kind!) I referred to myself as a Christian author for three years before I ever signed a contract. There’s just something in voicing your dream that takes it from a “wish” down to a tangible goal you’re working for. You’ll hold yourself accountable to it. You may have to sacrifice time, effort, emotions and probably a little money to see it through, but keeping that dream close will help when you start to enter the tougher moments. Contest feedback and rejections might be part of the journey, but if you’re already prayed up, if you keep your focus on the dream God has engraved upon your heart and absolutely refuse to give up, you’ll get there. I’d offer a page from Sir Winston Churchill’s book of advice: “Never, ever give up.”
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
A modern-day Manhattan gallery owner, driven to find peace in her past . . . The darling of the Viennese musical scene in war-torn Austria, whose whole world is about to change . . . In a story that spans two continents and more than seventy years, a mysterious painting connects the women whose lives were forever altered by the prisoner art–the art of authentic worship–in a place called Auschwitz.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
Absolutely! My next book is A Sparrow in Terezin, Book #2 in the Hidden Masterpiece series. The story centers around the children’s art of the Theresienstadt transport camp (also known as Terezín), the Nazis’ propaganda camp north of Prague. It follows a key character from the historical storyline in The Butterfly and the Violin (which I can’t share because it would be a major spoiler). It also introduces Kája Makovský, a Czech-born journalist who survives the worst of The London Blitz in 1940, only to be later transported to Terezín when trying to help her family flee Nazi-occupied Prague at the height of the war. Here in the camp, Kája uses her love of art and of storytelling to help the children–all under the age of fifteen–cope through the horrific experiences of the Holocaust.
A Sparrow in Terezin will release from Thomas Nelson (Harper Collins Christian Publishing) in April, 2015.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
You can connect with me at: