Monday, November 02, 2009

Interview With Author Kay Marshall Strom

I’m pleased to have as my guest today fellow Abingdon author Kay Marshall Strom. Her latest work is the novel, The Call Of Zulina.

RM: How did you get started writing Christian fiction?

KMS: Although all of my previous thirty-five books are non-fiction, I have enjoyed writing fiction in screenplays and even short stories. So, really, fiction is just an extension of what I have been doing. It is a powerful medium.

RM: What inspired you to write The Call of Zulina?

KMS: While I was in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall. Not long after, while I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace was a slaver turned preacher and abolitionist), I “met” a couple who had run a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I wondered, If that couple had had a daughter, who would she be, English or African? And as I remembered the slave fortress, I asked, Where would her loyalties lie?

RM: Is any part of The Call of Zulina factual?

KMS: Absolutely! That imagined daughter of the long ago slave traders became Grace. And the characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, her parents, are modeled after that real-life English seaman and his African wife. The slave scenes, as awful as they may be, are toned down from real life. In many cases, readers would not be able to bear the graphic truth.

RM: What message would you like your readers to take from The Call of Zulina?

KMS: Having one foot in each of two worlds and not quite belonging in either is a common feeling, especially for Christians who are “in this world but not of this world.” I would like readers to see that there is great power in taking a stand, even though there is a cost. The consequences of fence-straddling are far greater. I also want readers to grasp the blight that slavery is on humanity. More slavery exists in the world today by four-fold than in the 18th century.

RM: How long did it take you to complete this novel?

KMS: That’s hard to say. The first draft was completed in a couple of months. But it went through two major revisions after that, and because it was a back-burner project, time passed between revisions. From the time I first started until it was in final form was about two years.

RM: How much research went into writing The Call of Zulina?

KMS: A huge amount, because it is set in a time and place outside my experience. But I truly loved the research. And I had the benefit of Senegalese friends who speak indigenous languages and live in the area.

RM: What was the most interesting thing you learned while writing The Call of Zulina?

KMS: We all know something of the awfulness of the slave trade, but the evidence of total callous disregard of human life was staggering. It’s terrifying to see the horror of which good, God-fearing people are capable, and how they can rationalize their actions away with selected quotes from the Bible.

RM: What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

KMS: Time… time… time! Also, because I often write about social injustice, there’s the inherent frustration of wanting to grab hold and change things.

RM: What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

KMS: Certain issues are really important to me, such as fighting slavery in our world today. Writing provides me with a unique platform for making people aware of these issues and helping them see how they can be involved in solutions.

RM: What other projects are ahead for you?

KMS: I’m talking with Abingdon about a trilogy set in India, a saga covering thee generations of a family of “untouchables” and the high caste family that controls their lives, where Christianity collides with Hinduism.

RM: What do you see as your mission as a writer?

KMS: To write books that make a positive difference in lives and, in Christ’s name, for society.

RM: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

KMS: I am the mother of two wonderful children, a daughter Lisa and a son Eric. They are my greatest achievements.

Kay, thanks for joining us today. I hope my readers will pick up a copy of The Call Of Zulina, and I look forward to hearing about your work in the future.

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