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Interview with KD Holmberg

KD Holmberg was drawn to the story of Hagar after hearing her name at a Bible study. Although she had written her entire life, it was the idea of Hagar’s story that inspired her to research and pen the novel, The Egyptian Princess. With a background as a flight attendant, KD used her experiences—from a huge storm to annoying flies—to inspire her writing. She shares her hopes for the message readers will take away from her novel, her favorite places to visit, and how her daughter once took out the electricity in an entire hotel block.

Welcome, KD. Congratulations on the publication of your book!
Thank you so much. It’s an amazing blessing to see the fruition of all my hard work.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing my entire life in one way or another. I was first published in second grade when I wrote an intriguing tale about the Easter Bunny and the evil King Bunny. I even illustrated it but have since had to admit drawing would not be part of my repertoire. I decided to learn how to write novels after hearing Hagar’s name in a Bible study a decade ago. I began investigating the Hebrew and Arab traditions of her being a princess before she became a handmaid. As I dug deeper into research about her, I knew I had to tell her story.

You worked as a flight attendant. Where was your favorite place to visit?
I tend to be drawn most often to the United Kingdom. As a reader and a writer, you can explore the homes and other haunts of the men and women who shaped modern writing. You breathe the same oxygen as Dickens, Tolkien, Lewis, Austen, Shakespeare, and so many others. You can retrace the steps of the characters in The Pickwick Papers to the George and Vulture Inn, the pub Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller went to drown their sorrows. It has changed very little over the years, along with The Old Curiosity Shop, where Nell Trent lived with her grandfather.

The British Library is a place you do not want to miss if you are in London. It houses manuscripts from Johann Gutenberg’s Bible, Henry the VIII’s Psalter, Beowulf, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, Jane Austen’s writing desk, and first drafts of her work, the original Alice in Wonderland, to paper napkins John Lennon wrote several of his biggest hits. It is truly a writer’s paradise. The Lake District, Bath, Oxford, and East Sussex are a few other areas you find remnants of other famous scribblers of the past and the world that inspired them.

Did the places you traveled inspire your writing?
Egypt and Israel provided a lot of inspiration for The Egyptian Princess. I was able to flesh out how the environment looked and felt. The sandstorm episode in my novel happened to us in Cairo. My daughter plugged in her hairdryer and curling iron at the same time and blew out the electricity in the entire hotel block we stayed in. Black and orange swirling sand had its way with the hotel grounds and the whole city. The flies that rimmed Hagar’s glass rimmed ours. The oppressive heat that made sleep impossible for her made it impossible for us. The relief and jubilation everyone in her father’s palace experienced when the storm finally let up was the exuberant joy that came from us when the storm breathed its last, and the air conditioning came back on.

In the second book, More Than a Handmaid, Hagar leaves Egypt forever, and when she looks into Canaan for the first time, she sees what I saw and smelled what I smelled. My biggest disappointment was not being able to go to the sites in ancient Mesopotamia where Abraham and Sarah originated. Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Kuwait now occupy the region, and so it’s impossible to visit. I still hope that someday it will be possible to explore the “Cradle of Civilization” where man first learned to write.

What part of writing a book on a Biblical character did you find most difficult? What part did you enjoy the most?
What was difficult and what I enjoy the most is the same thing, the research. I feel a responsibility to present the men and women of the Bible as close as possible to who they may have been. We can find clues to their personalities in the Bible and other documents, and I use a personality profile to get to know each one better. I believe I will meet them in heaven, and I don’t want someone walking up to me saying, “What were you thinking?”

In the second book, Lot’s wife figures prominently, and I originally wrote her like a surly, arrogant woman. But I pray before I write, and something in my soul told me I was wrong. It sounds bizarre, but it felt like she spoke to me and helped change her character. I now have total peace in how she is portrayed.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A great question because my intent in writing this book is for readers to take away a different view of Hagar than they had before. Being a sophisticated and educated woman helps her story in Genesis make so much more sense. Tass Saada, the author of Once an Arafat Man, helped me flesh out the story from an eastern perspective. Once one of Yasser Arafat’s right-hand men and a member of the PLO, Tass became a Christian and now holds a doctorate in Old Testament Theology. His perspective as a Palestinian and Arab man flipped everything I initially thought on its head.

For example, Abraham, being a wealthy tribal leader, would only have married a woman equal to his stature, such as a princess. Hagar’s grandchildren all have royal titles, but not Isaac's or the family Abraham had with Keturah. After Hagar is expelled from the tribe, she not only survives in the ultimate man’s world as a single mother, she thrives. The idea that she could read and write, unique for men and women at the time, would give her a leg up needed to establish a great nation of her own as God promised her.

Do you enjoy researching a book?
It’s my favorite part of the process. I love to learn and could spend my life researching anything I know nothing about.

What aspect of research do you find most difficult?
Staying on track and not following “bunny trails’ until I’m entirely off-topic. I get so interested in something I can keep digging no matter where it takes me. Often, it’s to places that have nothing to do with what I’m writing.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a bit of both. I write out a brief outline to follow, especially if I’m writing Biblical fiction, and then let it flow from there. I start by world-building, getting a feel for the setting, and then dig into my characters. As I said, each one goes through a personality profile, so I know how they react in different situations. Getting the first draft done in whatever ugly form is next, and then I go back and edit and layer in details. But I think you have to know where you are going and plot out a map to keep you on the right road. I worked with DiAnn Mills years ago, and she had me write my last chapter first! It was brilliant. Everything I wrote from then on was to get me to that ending.


Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.

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