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Interview With Kim Vogel Sawyer

1) Introduce yourself to us. Name, info on your family, number of books authored, etc...

I'm Kim, married to military-hubby Don; proud mother to three beautiful girls: Kristian (24), Kaitlyn (19), and Kamryn (16); (typical?) mother-in-law to George; and ecstatic grandma to Connor (30 months) and Ethan (18 months), the absolute delights of my life. I'm also surrogate mom to Anna (17), a Korean foreign exchange student, official stroker for cats Isabella and Sam, and letter-outer for Dachsund Meine Kleine Schnitzel. (I studiously avoid the two hermit crabs that reside in the bathroom. Gracious, they're creepy!)

I've written nearly two dozen books, but not all of them are published. Or publishable? :o) The four-book Mt. Lake Series was done through POD, and I'm delighted with the positive feedback I've received from readers--that venue worked well for me. But I'm also excited to have some "traditionally published" titles coming out, too. DEAR JOHN, THAT WILDER BOY, and PROMISING ANGELA are Heartsong Present titles due for release beginning in June of 2006. Bethany House will release WAITING FOR SUMMER'S RETURN in June of 2006 and WHERE WILLOWS GROW is slated for spring of 2007. Two more titles from Bethany House, TIES TO HOME (tentative title) and an untitled, yet unplanned book, will follow. Barbour is also releasing a contemporary series set in an Old Order Mennonite Community--BYGONES will be out in June of 2007, then BEGINNINGS and BLESSINGS will come out in six month increments.

When I'm not spending time with family, at church, or writing, I enjoy drama, singing, quilting, calligraphy, and--of all things--bowling.

2) Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

Hoo-boy, that's a loooong journey. It might be easier to simply say God has His timing, and He's taught me along the way that His timing is best. If I had gotten my prayers for publication answered when I started asking/begging, it would have been a huge mistake. God knew I needed to focus on being Mom/wife first and writer a distant second. Now that I have contracts to fill and I MUST commit my time to writing, I'm so grateful that my girls are older and more self-sufficient. I don't feel as though I'm neglecting them to write. Plus I had a lot of growing to do before I was ready for this ministry. Growing's not easy, but it's necessary.

3) Do you write full time? If yes, can you give us a glimpse into your daily writing life? If not, what is your day job?

This is my first year to write pretty much full-time, and I love the privilege. I get up with my two high schoolers (Kamryn and Anna) each morning, make sure they eat breakfast :o), then take them to school. When I return home, I have my devotions/prayer time, then get busy at the computer. I write all morning, break for lunch, then edit my morning writing. At 2:15, I head to the Christian school where I teach journalism for the last hour of the day. I feel like I have the best of all worlds right now--writing and teaching, both "dream" careers for me.

4) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle to getting published was me. I couldn't handle the rejection. So I quit submitting. But I didn't quit writing--I couldn't. Writers just...write. But there was an 8-year break between submissions. I had to grow some tougher skin in between there. lol! I'm not sure you ever really overcome the sting of rejection, but you do learn to put it in perspective--you look at it as, as someone else said, a redirection. You have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and jump out there again. Deb Raney told me to get published you need 1) talent, and 2) perseverence. All the talent in the world will get you nowhere if you quit.

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Professionally, it would have to be receiving an endorsement from Janette Oke on my first historical with Bethany House. I still hyperventilate when I think about it. lol! Personally, though, it was seeing my dad's face light up when I told him, "Daddy, guess what? I've got a writing contract." He has always encouraged my writing, and for him that was a culmination of a dream, too. His pride made me proud.

6) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

My greatest inspiration? Hm...I find inspiration everywhere, so I'm not sure I can pinpoint that. I will see something--an abandoned barn, an old house, a unique building, a person...--and I get this little "zing." I call that the seed. Then the seed tumbles around inside the soil of my brain waiting until God waters it and brings it to fruition. Sometimes this is a quick process (DEAR JOHN went from "zing" to "the end" in less than three weeks), and sometimes it isn't, but when I get the "zing," I always know a story will follow. I just have to wait for it.

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I started out as a straight-sotp writer. Had no clue what would come out until I sat down and saw it appear on the computer screen. What that meant, of course, is that I could never write a synopsis until the book was finished, and consequently could never sell on proposal. But after I contracted DEAR JOHN, something just clicked. I was able to write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis for its sequel. Other chapter-by-chapter synopses have followed. I can't explain what was just like a lightbulb went on. I don't think I plot extensively--and, truthfully, I think that would take the fun out of the writing for me. I get a general idea of what will happen where, making sure all the internal/external/spiritual threads are evident, but I still do a lot of sotp stuff. Sometimes my characters really catch me by surprise. John (in DEAR JOHN) said something that just cracked me up. I was in my office, chuckling, and my youngest daughter asked me what was so funny. I said, "Oh, that John. I just never know what he'll say next." She looked at me with a look only a teenager can manage and said, "Mom, you created him. How can you not know what he's going to say?" But I don't sometimes. That's the sotp side, and I still enjoy using it. It keeps things fresh for me.

8) I’m notorious for *snacking* while I write! Do you have any favorite munchies you wouldn’t mind us knowing about?

I am never far from Dove dark chocolate squares. I only have one a day, though--it's my treat. As for other snacks...I like flavored coffees. My current fave is vanilla caramel. I tend to like stuff sweet. I also enjoy different teas--plum is my favorite flavor there.

9) How do you strike an agreeable "balance" between your writing time and other responsibilities?

I had to budget my time. I have kids at home who still need attention (and funny thing, hubby likes to spend time with me, too), so evenings are family time. Period. Now, if everybody is gone, you'll find me at my computer. lol! But if they're here, I'm with 'em. Saturday is cleaning/laundry day. I also use part of Saturday to fine-tune my Sunday school lesson since I teach an adult class. Sunday is a day of rest--I enjoy an afternoon nap between morning and evening activities. I don't write on Sundays at all.

Probably the hardest adjustment for everyone around here has been that, now that I'm home, I'm not just available for whatever, whenever. I've had to say from 9-2 each day is "author" time, and people have to respect that. I have to respect it, too! That's not to say I won't go to lunch with a friend or Mom now and then, but I have to discipline myself to use the time I've allotted for writing/speaking. Otherwise, nothing gets done. But I also have to close the office at 2:00 and say, "Okay, Kim, remember the other things that are important."

10) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

Oh, I don't know that I can pick a most favorite. I have a favorite character in each of my stories. They tend to be the quirky secondary characters, for the most part. Ol' Gordy in HIGHER GROUND (not contracted), Micah in SINKING SAND (again, not contracted), Eileen in DEAR JOHN and THAT WILDER BOY... But probably my favorite hero of a contracted book would be Peter Ollenburger in WAITING FOR SUMMER'S RETURN. He's big, and kind of clumsy, but very gentle and has such a heart for God. I fell in love with Peter as I wrote the story, and little wonder. He is kind of a combination of two men I knew when growing up who impressed me with their gentle spirits despite their large sizes. You can be manly and gentle at the same time--Peter proves it.

11) How do you deal with publisher rejections? Crawl in bed under the covers for an entire day? Indulge in double-fudge chocolate? Or just brush it off?

Hm...chocolate is always good...but...dare I admit I throw a wee small tantrum? Flail my fists and storm and wonder what's wrong with these people that they can't see good work when it's under their noses? When I get that out of the way, I ask God to give me a kiss and tell me what I can learn from this rejection--let's adjust things together (my attitude as well as my manuscript). Then I contact my crit group because I know they'll commisserate with me. And then I ask my agent, "Okay, where else can we send it?" There's the perseverence I finally learned coming through.

12) Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I hope to be in my office, writing regularly, maybe putting out three books a year. I don't know if that's realistic. I look ahead, knowing three titles will be out in both 2006 and 2007, and it would be great to see that continue. But mostly I want to be where God wants me. I know, right now, I'm exactly where He wants me to be. And I know He knows best, so if He'd rather plunk me somewhere else, doing something else, in the next few years, that's okay.

13) These have been fairly standard questions. What is one thing you’d like to share with up-and-coming writers that they may not even know to ask yet?

Put God first. Don't for one minute sacrifice your relationship with Him for the sake of publication. Publishing is wonderful, but it will not fulfill you unless God has already fulfilled you. And remember there are other things besides family. I don't know how God can bless us as writers if we ignore the people He's placed in our lives, so give those precious people your time. Writing, while exciting and satisfying and--for many of us--a calling, it is not everything. Keep it in perspective. Life is a balancing act, there's no doubt. But if God is first, and family second, you won't fall off the line.

14) You have a new title coming out, right? Tell us about it.

I have two titles releasing in June of 2006. DEAR JOHN, my first Heartsong, is a story so dear to me because John was inspired by a wonderful young man from my church named John. Here's the nutshell:

When Marin Brooks's parents are killed on the way home from her college graduation, she inherits the family home, the family business, and the biggest responsibility of all--John, her older brother who has Down Syndrome. She needs help, and she finds it in the form of Philip Wilder, owner/operator of New Beginnings, a job placement service for adults with handicaps. It takes some doing for Philip to gain Marin's trust, but just as it's offered, an secret from the past rears its ugly head, destroying the fragile bloom of their friendship and shattering the chance for love...

My biggest regret with this story is that the real John's mother passed away before getting to see the published book. But I'm eagerly anticipating giving a copy to John's dad. This is my first Heartsong, and I'm very eager to see reader feedback. I hope readers will love John as much as I do.

I'm equally excited about Waiting for Summer's Return, my first full-length historical from Bethany House. This story was conceived in 1981 as I stood in a tiny Kansas cemetery, looking at a row of headstones belonging to a father and his four children, and wondering what happened to the mother. That story teased me for over two decades before it finally found its way out of my heart and onto the page. Summer's story is a journey toward joy despite heartbreak, and I truly hope the reader will take something of value away after traveling the road with her.

Thanks so much for the chance to chat with you!

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