A literary journalist and publicist since 2003, Dee Stewart's writings have appeared in Precious Times, Romantic Times Magazines, Spirit Led Woman and on The Master's Artist Blog. Her work focuses on fiction, popular culture, media and their relationship to people who live according to a Christian worldview. Dee Stewart is the owner of DeeGospel PR, a Christian entertainment PR boutique located in Atlanta, GA where she lives. Visit her Christian Fiction Blog, which turned 5 years old in July at http://christianfiction.blogspot.com, keep up with her current projects at http://www.deestewart.com, talk to in real-time on Twitter at @deegospel.
What Does the Lord Require of Me?
An Interview with Kay Marshall Strom
March is one of my favorite months because my daughter, Selah, was born this month, and March is National Women’s History Month. I am a huge history buff, so I read tons of historical fiction, particularly history that discusses the transatlantic slave trade. Imagine my surprise when I found a book about a female abolitionist that was written with a Christian POV by a female author who is a twenty-first-century abolitionist! I enjoyed this book so much I listed it as one of the best Christian fiction historicals written in 2010.
Therefore, this month I am honored to introduce you to Kay Marshall Strom and her Grace in Africa trilogy (Abingdon Press). We will discuss the new type of slavery that is stealing young girls globally, human trafficking, and the taboo topic of transatlantic slavery and Christianity.
Kay is a writer and speaker with a heart for the global family of God, which is the subject of many of her thirty-six published books. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, prize-winning screenplays, curricula, and books for children. She has contributed to many works, including several of the NIV devotional Bibles.
What is a twenty-first-century abolitionist, and why are you one?
A twenty-first-century abolitionist is a person who fights against slavery, in any of its forms, in this age. I am one because I firmly believe all people are created in the image of God and have the right to be treated with equal dignity and justice.
Is there a tip to getting picked up as book club picks?
Great question! Probably not a secret, but I think the way is to contact people in book clubs and encourage them to read your book.
How did you get quoted in the New International Bible?
Because of my previous writings—I’ve done tons of articles beside my books—I was asked to be one of the contributors to the various versions of the NIV devotional Bibles.
Tell me about the Grace in Africa trilogy.
Oooohhh, I’m glad you asked! Grace in Africa is a sweeping three-part historical saga of slavery and freedom that takes the reader from an island off the west coast of Africa (Book 1) to London (Book 2) to Southern plantations and finally to Canada (Book 3).
Tell me about Grace Winslow. How did you come up with this character?
The characters of Grace’s parents are based on real people from the 1700s whom I “met” while I was researching my book Once Blind: The Life of John Newton. I immediately asked myself: “If they’d had a daughter, who would she be? How would she manage straddling two worlds?”
What is The Call of Zulina about and its spiritual takeaway value?
In the first book, The Call of Zulina, we meet Grace Winslow, daughter of a mixed marriage between an English sea captain and an African princess. All her life she has been sheltered from the truth about the family slave business. But when she finds herself caught up in a slave rebellion, she must choose which side
she’s on, and who she is—black or white, slave or free.
Faith and the grace of God are in this first book, but they are delivered with a light touch. I did this on purpose. I want to draw in people who would normally reject a “Christian” book. In Book 2, God’s grace and truth are more apparent, and they stand amid a landscape of Scripture twisting to fit a dreadful purpose—the defense of slavery. And in the third book, although it is by no means mushy, the spiritual takeaway is strong and pointed: God’s grace and providence.
Why do you believe this book is a great read for people of all cultures?
When I first proposed this book, several publishers I regularly work with said no, that it would stir up bad feelings. My belief is that this was a horrific period of our history that we have too long attempted to gloss over, pretend it didn’t happen, and simmer in accusations. It happened. There was complicity, yes, but there is a huge amount of blame to lay. Obviously, the horrific lessons have not been learned, for there are more slaves in the world today than there ever were at any other time. The answer to the prophet Micah’s question “What does the Lord require of me?” was this: “He has shown you what is good. And what the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
How did you obtain your research?
I took several trips to West Africa, and there I visited the old slave islands—like Zulina. I also have friends in Africa who served as points of reference. And of course I read, read, read.
What did you learn about the transatlantic slave trade that you didn’t know before?
Far, far too much! More than I ever wanted to know! It keeps me awake nights.
How do you build a novel like this?
I believe in outlining. I first write up a plot, then I make a chapter-by-chapter outline. Of course it gets changed a lot as I write, but at least I have a map of where I’m going. I write three drafts. The first draft—the composing—takes the most time. (I’m euphoric while I do this! The story seems so, so good!) The second draft is where I do the nuts and bolts, trying to make a work of art out of my lump of clay. (I’m always discouraged here. I think everyone will discover I’m a fraud, that I have no clue what I’m doing!) Then I do a final edit, reading everything out loud. (Middling happy.)
To learn more about Kay, visit her at http://www.kaystrom.com.
Next month meet the winner of our Holiday Fiction Contest!
A PR Tip from Dee: If you use LinkedIn, don’t send out the generic invitation template provided by LinkedIn. Customize the invitation with some information about yourself and explain what you can do for the invitee.