Kimberly Stuart makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Marc, and their two children, Ana and Mitch. She began her writing career by journaling during her daughter’s first year of life. At the never-subtle urging of her mother, she entered the University of Iowa Alumni magazine’s annual nonfiction short story contest. After winning the contest, she attended the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference in North Carolina, where she met some key players in the publishing world who were able to jumpstart her career. She is the author of Balancing Act and its sequel, Bottom Line. Stuart’s most recent novel, Act Two, released May 2008, and is the first of three titles to be published by David C. Cook. She continues to revel in God’s grace and counts among her treasures nap time, imported chocolate, and a good story. For more information about Kimberly, visit her website at http://www.kimberlystuart.com.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sadie Maddox loves New York. She’s the toast of the classical music world and the queen of all she surveys. Sadie is, in a word, a bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are waning, not to mention parts of her anatomy.
When her agent suggests she take on a professorship at a small liberal arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go. Except the college is in rural Iowa, and the closest thing to designer clothes is the western wear shop down on Main Street. Sadie’s colleagues are intimidated, her students aren’t impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals.
Then Sadie meets Mac, a large animal veterinarian. She assumes they have nothing in common—he is, after all, a country music fan. Besides, she’s counting the days until she can end her exile from civilization. Er, New York. Yet when Sadie’s forced to spend some time with Mac, she finds she likes him. Her students, it seems, really need her, and this quiet Midwest community begins to grow on her.
But when the semester ends, Sadie packs up and heads for the city that never sleeps…and finds she can’t either. Will she find the courage and grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?
SEVEN COOL QUESTIONS
Where did you get the idea for Act Two?
I can’t possibly reveal that to the blogosphere, and I say that only partly because I’ve always wanted to use the word blogosphere. The other reason is that this one percolated for awhile. There was no lightning bolt moment. But I will say that I’m always interested in putting quirky characters in situations that make them woefully uncomfortable and allow the reader to laugh with gusto both at and with the character. A New York opera diva on a farm seemed like a situation that might work for that purpose.
What are the major themes of the book?
Grace, redemption, my love and respect for both urban and rural dwellers, and the under-used gift of laughter.
What kind of research did you have to do?
It was intense. Lots of dangerous, Indiana Jones-type adventures, plenty of nights under the stars and without food or running water. Actually, I traveled to New York and was shuttled around by dear friends who love their city and were infectious in their excitement. I loved my time there and still wish I could drop off my laundry for someone else to do, begging out of the chore because my building just didn’t have a washer and dryer. The laundry, the insane number of fantastic restaurants, the ability to wallow in theater, dance, live jazz, high fashion—if I could only afford half of a studio apartment, I’d drag my family for an extended stay. As for research on Iowa….
Have you lived on a pig farm?
I grew up in Iowa, though not exactly on a pig farm. Des Moines has roughly 400,000 residents, which would prove a challenge for group farming. But my roots are rural. All of my grandparents grew up on farms, as did many of our friends and neighbors. For Act Two, I relied heavily on dear friends who own a pig farm in northwestern Iowa. Anything I got right on this end is due to their diligence. Anything I goofed is my fault entirely. My husband will tell you I don’t always listen well.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child, I wanted to be a “seener” (singer). Mostly, I wanted to be Amy Grant. That’s right, people: I was into STRAIGHT UP AMY GRANT. The hard stuff, the early years, like “My Father’s Eyes,” and “El Shaddai.” I rocked out (with choreography) in our basement, next to a record player roughly the size of an Escalade and was wholeheartedly convinced of my musical and entertaining genius. If only I could have met her at the right time, perhaps post-Gary, pre-Vince, we could have toured together! She totally could have used a back-up dancer/singer! In fact, if you’re reading this, Amy, I’m still available!
What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?
- Making myself sit down each day and crank out new material, especially on days when I’m feeling about as creative as a paint tarp.
- Pushing through the middle of a novel, when the characters have lost their initial intrigue and it’d be so much more fun to daydream about the NEXT story to write.
- Getting out of the way of the story. That is, allowing the story to flesh itself out without coercion on my part.
- Being able to, as Stephen King writes, “crucify my darlings,” to part with the elements, characters, plot movements that do not serve the story, no matter how fond I am of them.
Where are you headed next?
God willing, I’ll be giving birth to our third child in August, so I’m afraid I won’t be heading anywhere too quickly. Lactation seems to preclude so many of life’s adventures…In addition to caring for our growing brood and being really snippy with my husband for a few months due to sleep deprivation, I have two more books to write with David C. Cook. Act Two is the first of three, and I must ask you humbly to buy it within the next four minutes as it is time-sensitive material. And it’s a pretty good summer read, if I must be so bold. After Act Two will come two more. This will make a grand total of five books so far from the pen of Kimberly Stuart. Don’t place any bets that I’ll try to have as many children as I do books. When it comes to babies, those in print are much kinder on a uterus.
Download a sample of Act Two.
Act Two was one of the most completely entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. Yes, it’s got a strong spiritual thread which is wonderfully moving, but it’s never heavy or preachy. It’s the perfect beach read. A New York diva finds herself transplanted to an Iowa pig farm in the middle of winter… really, could there be a better book to read at the beach?
Stuart has outdone herself with the creation of opera singer Sadie Maddox. A forty-something career gal, she maintains her Big Apple bite while still coming across as a likeable person. The relationships that grow between her and the people she meets in Iowa, particularly one rugged veterinarian, are fun and heartwarming.
If you’re looking for a book that will have you chuckling in your beach chair – or wherever it is you like to hangout during the summer – I highly recommend Act Two. As the subtitle says, it’s a Novel in Perfect Pitch!
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Act Two just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on July 14th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!