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Interview with Kristy Cambron

After fifteen years as a Communications Director and Consultant in Corporate America, Kristy Cambron is now a full-time author and women's ministry speaker. Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, released to critical and popular acclaim in July.

What was your favorite part of writing The Butterfly and the Violin?
The writing of this book was a very personal journey between me and the Lord, from start to finish. ‘Butterfly’ came to life in the early morning hours of my eight-week maternity leave with our youngest son. When I’d wake to give him his bottles at all hours of the night, I’d cradle him in one arm and use my free hand to type chapters on my iPhone. That was a very special time – storytelling with one hand while God crafted a new story (our baby’s life) in the other. I don’t think I’ve ever felt my arms so full.

Writing historical fiction requires a lot of research! What does that process look like for you? What’s your favorite part? Least favorite?
I have an Art History/Research Writing degree, so I’d have to say that writing the dual time periods and weaving art history into the plot was the only way I could see telling the story. To me, looking at a painting is a story in itself. It’s a snapshot in time– a living, breathing account of our history as a human race. I wanted Sera to experience Adele’s journey first-hand (as the reader would), and the only way to do that was to connect these two women by the strong visual voice captured in the painting.

Funny enough for an author living in the present, I’d have to say the biggest challenge for me was writing the contemporary side of the story. I’d done vast amounts of research for my undergraduate work, so the 1940s world in which Adele lived came alive faster than Sera’s modern world. I feel at home when I’m up to my elbows in history books and that just wasn’t the case for the contemporary side of my writing. I really longed to understand Sera’s fast-paced New York life. And then there was one amazing “God Moment” in the midst of writing the contemporary side of this book…

The story opens in Sera’s Manhattan gallery then moves to the sprawling Hanover estate outside of San Francisco. As I was working on edits for this book in the summer of 2013, I was ecstatic to have found myself in the position to travel to San Francisco for work. Dream come true, right? This had the potential to really help wrap the story. Not so fast… Upon arriving to the airport, I learned my flight was cancelled and my trip would have to be rescheduled. I was confused – “I thought you set this up, God? Why the detour?” His answer was swift; a month later, I found myself attending the workshop smack dab in the heart of a Manhattan art gallery. (I love it when God does things like that!) I needed help to write Sera and William’s story, and God made a way for me to step right in. I even went out for dinner in Little Italy! Every Manhattan detail became authentic because I was able to walk in Sera’s shoes.

What was one challenge you faced while writing The Butterfly and the Violin?
The major challenge faced during the writing of this book actually had nothing to do with the book itself. I’m open about the journey that our family traveled on the road to the publication of this book– especially in God’s faithfulness and presence as we navigated the ups and downs along the way. My first contract came through one Friday afternoon in May, 2013. An hour later, we received news that my Dad had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of PLL leukemia of the T-cells. The news may have been grim, but I’ll always remember that we pulled ourselves back up from the shock of that day and with Joshua 1:9 as our guide, set about the work God had for us. The majority of ‘Butterfly’ was edited while at the cancer center with my family, listening as my Dad played his guitar and dulcimer for the staff and cancer patients as he endured long chemo treatments. The remainder of the book was edited in the weeks after he’d gone home to be with Jesus. So in many ways, it was the endurance of the characters in this book that kept us all going, and reminded us to keep our eyes locked on Jesus through it all.

What was one thing you learned while writing The Butterfly and the Violin?
I’d say that writing is as much about craft as it is about heart.

When aspiring writers ask me about my publication journey, there are usual answers – that you must learn and continually grow in your craft, weather a season of rejection in the process, write what you’re passionate about, and never give up on your dream. But even more than all of that, it’s the close communion with God that is the essential component of the writing journey. If I was trying to do it all on my own, I could feel it. If my heart was out of sync with the rhythm of His voice, I’d step away from the laptop and come back after I’d spent time with Him. That’s what surprised me more than anything – that Jesus is not only interested, but He’s present at every stage in the journey.

Who/What spurs you to write?
I’d been an instructional designer and facilitator in Corporate America for nearly fifteen years. It was a great teaching ground for me personally, having a full-time career that helped me learn and stay fresh in the craft of writing. Even so, there was just something that was… missing. I couldn’t quite explain it. I’d known for a while that my dream was to become a Christian fiction author, but how I’d get there I hadn’t a clue. So I prayed, telling God that I’d follow whatever His will was for my life. If that was to write books for Him, I asked that He’d develop the talent, make the motivation grow, and open the doors for it to happen. I went back in my Bible and was able to clearly see the urgings to pursue writing. A key verse in my journey was Matthew 21:22 NIV – “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” And next to it I’d written: “I want to be a Christian author” followed by dates in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. While it may not have been abundantly clear at the time, I can look back now and see his leading along the way. Now, the motivation– the passion and the opportunity I have been given to share stories that underscore Christ’s love for us– it’s grown exponentially since our family embarked on this publishing dream. And while I sometimes feel like I’m still stumbling along in my day-to-day walk, my heart belongs to Jesus.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?
The idea for The Butterfly and the Violin came alive in early 2004. I was a young art student in a college history class. I remember the professor presented a topic I’d never heard of – the art of the Holocaust – and I was captured from that instant. I devoured books on the subject (especially Elie Wiesel’s Night, which had a huge impact on me). I remember hearing that whisper in my heart, that the topic was special; the art of creation and worshipping God, even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances one could imagine– it’s a stunning expression of beauty that I still try to understand. And though it’s a very weighty subject, I wanted to give a voice to these known artists, to help others hear their story. Because of that, I stored the idea away, hoping that I’d know what to do with it someday.

What has been the biggest influence to your writing career?
There’s no way I could isolate one influential person or resource on my writing career, outside of my daily walk with Christ. I count myself among the very fortunate to have such a wonderful support system. Chief among those who have supported me from day one – my cheerleading husband, our three sons, and of course, my Momma. In the industry, I’m daily challenged and encouraged by the wonderful editorial, marketing, and sales teams at my publishing family. And then there’s the blessing of wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ – those authors and ACFW friends who constantly pour their hearts into the books they share with our readers. It’s a humbling community to be a part of.

What author(s) do you look up to? And why?
There are so many authors in this industry who have shown themselves to not only be outstanding artists, but who have invested in aspiring authors who are new to the industry. Colleen Coble, Cara Putman, Beth Vogt, Laura Frantz, Suzanne Woods Fisher… I am grateful to have had mentors and friends who also just happen to write amazing stories! They are gracious, giving, Godly women and I’m grateful to look up to them.

What are you currently reading?
I always have a To Be Read (TBR) pile a mile high – and proud of it. :-) Next up on my list is the highly anticipated Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay, and the always lyrically-written books by Sarah Ladd. (Did I mention I adore anything at all related to Jane Austen?) A signed copy of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is on my nightstand right now, waiting to be read through the early morning hours.

Do you have an “all time” favorite book you can share with us? Why is it your favorite?
At the start of my publication journey, my sister sent me a beautiful copy of my favorite book– Jane Eyre. Inscribed in the front cover was a message from her, telling me to follow God’s leading to become an author. That started an idea for me I’d keep track of every step on the road to publication by buying a new copy to mark the milestones along the way– good or bad. I numbered and dated each one, marking the triumphs and the barriers overcome with Christ’s guidance along the way. And when my oldest son and I went to the bookstore to buy #17, I couldn’t stop smiling; we had a contract and we knew it was the last one. We kept going. Through rejection, through loss, through uncertainty… Those books are cherished now because they hold a record of the last years of our family and Christ’s provision through it all.

Any parting words?
In April of 2015, we’ll release the second book in the Hidden Masterpiece series. A Sparrow in Terezin follows Sera and William’s contemporary storyline, but also weaves in the survival story of a character from book one. (No spoilers here – sorry!) The reader will spend time in London as The Blitz rains bombs from the sky, and will be taken to the Nazis’ propaganda camp, also known as Terezín, just north of Prague. It’s here that the readers will learn about the children – God’s sparrows – and will experience the art of the transport camp first-hand. In much the same way I wanted to explore the art of creation in Adele’s story, this book introduces the beauty of Christian courage, even when we don’t know the outcome of a journey. My life verse over the past year has been Joshua 1:9 (one of my Dad’s favorites), and it came to define the characters’ journeys in this second book.

Thanks for sharing with us, Kristy!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to stop by today! Connecting with readers is the BEST part of being an author; you’re why we do what we do. :-)

You can connect with Kristy at: Twitter: @kcambronauthor – Facebook:Kristy L. Cambron – GoodReads: Kristy Cambron

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