Monday, November 28, 2011
FEATURED AUTHOR: Kenya Lumpkin
Her current series, Quenching the Fire, combines all of these elements in a story that is tender at points and heart-racing at others. Although the majority of her focus nowadays is on the joys and challenges of being a wife, homemaker, and busy homeschooling mother of two, Kenya’s passion for writing and sharing her stories persists. Quenching the Fire, a romantic thriller, was birthed from her vision to mold the two genres into one with a tale of intrigue, suspense. Readers from diverse backgrounds have related to Quenching the Fire’s characters that sometimes win and sometimes fail in their struggle to live for Christ in the midst of danger and physical temptation. Kenya and her family have lived in Maryland, Virginia, Maui, and California. They currently reside in Arizona.
How did you start out your writing career?
I began writing at the age of four when I could first put pencil to paper. My first "book" was entitled "The Black House" and I illustrated a black house for the cover. Throughout my childhood, I gave lengthy handwritten books to my parents as presents. In other words, I have always been a writer. However, it was not until I returned to this love as an adult and wrote what I thought would just be a book for me that my writing career was born. The books I wrote for my parents were horror stories, although I often wondered why they would laugh hysterically when reading them. While I am definitely no longer into that genre, the element of a suspense thriller that makes the heart race remains with me. After completing Quenching the Fire, private edition, I realized that I had written that type of story intermingled with romance. I wanted to share the story with the public.
What did you learn while writing this book?
My real learning came during the editing process. The company that published Quenching the Fire, Leeway Artisans, is relatively small; thus, the editors were able to give me one-on-one attention. My manuscript was accepted by a publisher years earlier. She made very few changes, so I thought few were needed. When she became ill shortly before publication date, I had to resume my search. Subsequently, I received a rejection letter from a publisher who stated that I was an excellent writer, although I fell into the trap that most new authors make: I told instead of showed. I honestly did not understand the statement because she gave no explanation. However, in editing Quenching the Fire, the editors at Leeway provided me with a 16-page tutorial with examples that went far beyond showing what the character is thinking and how he is feeling. Imagination and creativity were never a problem for me. Setting the scene and making the novel not simply a thriller with specks of romance but truly a romantic thriller had been.
Okay, so I finally knew what was missing. Then what did I do? I took everything I had learned and poured it out of my heart into my writing. This should have been the time of my life when my head was cloudiest –and many ways it was–but the adrenaline surged when I was recreating Quenching the Fire. After putting my two-year-old daughter and infant son to bed, I would write from around 10:00-11:30 while getting in brief conversations with my husband. One of our longer talks revealed that we were moving to Maui in less than two months. I went into overdrive because I had to have everything to the publisher before we left. I’d write during the late night hours, take a nap prior to getting the alarm from my nursing baby boy, write some more, and crash. In that state, I should have had no clue what I was doing, but guess what. I got it! I knew I had absorbed the lessons when I essentially rewrote the book, resubmitted it, and received tremendous praise from the publisher. With each segment of Quenching the Fire, it has become more natural to read from the reader’s point of view --I'm no longer writing for myself, after all-- and has become very natural to feel as if I'm the character when I'm writing from her point of view.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
My hope has been to reach people of all faiths with a realistic portrayal of coming through the most fiery of trials --no pun intended-- through the power of God and strength of love via a story that combines faith, romance, and suspense.
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
Although Kyana is most like me in many respects, in the first in the Quenching the Fire series, I loved writing from David's point of view because I had to get into the head and heart of a man. I also loved writing about him from Kyana's point of view because I was further able to develop a man most women would want but might be afraid to love. Okay, I'm telling a bit, but when you read the book, I really show you. In a later installment of the series, I loved writing about Olivia. She is so unlike me, but it is when I started writing about her that I really got into my zone. Oddly, although she is not like me, it was as if I knew her when I was writing about her, and it came out, as many women have related to her character more than any other.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Marketing is hard! I have friends who are published authors, so this did not come as a complete surprise, but there was no way I could know just how difficult it was without experiencing it for myself. What has been somewhat of a disappointment has been the pigeon-holing assumed genre can produce. I discussed this with a newspaper columnist during an interview. He remarked that in the old days fiction was simply fiction. Nowadays, there is so much categorization. The fact that there is an African-American couple on my book cover and that it is a romance novel has produced the opinion that Quenching the Fire is solely for the African-American female market. Of course, I want African-American women to read the book, but it is truly for anyone. Readers from all backgrounds (race, culture, religion, age, etc.) and of both genders have related to David and Kyana while despising --with reason-- other characters. They can laugh at the same parts. Their hearts pound at the romantic and at the suspenseful parts. However, because of marketing hoops and misperceptions, getting the story out to a wider audience of readers has been a challenge. And let's face it. While there might be some, how many of us will not read a book because there is a Caucasian face on the cover? No, we are not exactly alike, but there is a common human condition. My hope is that the content of a story will be the draw and we can learn something about one another in the process.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I absolutely love getting into the minds of the characters I have developed in their particular circumstances. I love having people who have read my creation feel as if the characters are real. Okay, that may be a little weird, and I have to remind them that what they have read is purely a figment of my imagination; yet, it is still rewarding. What do I hate? I think you know: marketing.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
Hmm. This is a hard one because everything I didn't know is really part of growth and learning. It might have been nice to know that marketing is as hard as it is, but my ignorance probably has served me in some ways. My assumption was that if I wrote a book, I could get reviews and interviews. That is the business book reviewers are in, after all, isn't it? Well, guess what. They are already overbooked with submissions. Competition is stiff and their time is limited. However, because of my blind reasoning and dogged persistence, I have gotten reviews and interviews (like this one thanks to SORMAG and without much persistence needed). I could have also known to make sure I kept my story as mine and not be swayed by the experience of the editors, but I ultimately made it mine anyway. Besides, they would not have had it any other way. Lastly, no matter how many promises from individuals or businesses, no sale is a sale until it is completed.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
One do is to write the story that is inside of you and not what you think someone else would want because it won't be authentic. That is not to say to solely write for yourself and forget about your audience. Your readers have to understand what you are trying to communicate. I am saying that your story is unique. I guess that covers the do and don't.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
It would be nice if non-writers could understand that it takes time to get a book out to the public, as many elements are beyond the control of the writer. Honestly though, I have to take it as a compliment that anyone would be so eager to read what I've written.
If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?
Ooohh. This is a tough one because I have always been a voracious reader and there are so many characters. I think I'd have to choose to be one for a day, however, because God is doing so much in this person I am and will be that I'd rather stick with me. For a day... It has been so long since I read this, so I hope I'm recalling the story correctly, but I'd be Harriet of Life of A Slave Girl Written by Herself on the first day of her freedom. Better yet. I'd probably be Harriet Tubman the day she brought her parents to freedom. What an incredible, brave woman and what a day that must have been!
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Dance. I started writing when I was four, but I've danced since I was five. Writing and dancing are simply part of who I am. I'm so busy with children and home life that dance is not something I go to class for these days. I pirouette at home...and I read a lot. During this stage of my life, I’m homeschooling. My languages of instruction are predominantly Spanish, some English, and recently some French. My brain has to work hard! My family travels as often as possible, which is always fun as well as educational and often exhausting. Learning and growing with my husband and our children is so fulfilling. Nonetheless, I still miss dance. I hope to get back to class one day soon.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
We correspond via my Facebook page, Kenya Lumpkin Books, and e-mail. For readers whose first language is Spanish, I've posted excerpts in Spanish. While bilingual, I could by no means translate an entire novel into the language. I hope it will be available in Spanish one day. On occasion, I might place a call, as happened when one reader contacted the publishing company regarding how much she was enjoying Quenching the Fire and expressed a desire to talk to me. I also started the process of connecting with an international organization that helps broken women and girls in an attempt to reach readers and non-readers who find themselves in similar circumstances as one of the characters, Olivia. The president of the company was very excited about the opportunity, but the process will take some time.
Our theme for this month is MEN IN LITERATURE. What male author are your reading?
This summer and extending into autumn, I have been on a classic and a thriller kick; therefore, I've been reading much of Charles Dickens and some of Ted Dekker.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
I know that God loves me and He works out all things (good and bad) for my good.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
I can give a snippet. It is a suspense novel, after all, so I cannot give much away, but David's first love, Olivia, comes into the picture and brings with her all kinds of drama...and not the typical kind.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Quenching the Fire is available at www.amazon.com via Kindle. Readers can read the first several chapters and, of course, purchase the book. They can post comments on my Facebook page, Kenya Lumpkin Books. They may also contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If readers write, I will write back.
QUENCHING THE FIRE
In spite of heartbreak, Kyana Cel`on holds out the firm hope that God will bring her the man she has longed for most of her life. David Mitchell, a man who makes women catch their breath with his incredibly good looks and personality, might be the answer to her prayers, but she is afraid to give her heart to him. David is captivated by Kyana’s tender spirit and beauty upon his first encounter with her, but she seems hesitant to move forward with him. Then a surprising temptation re-enters his life and threatens to destroy any hope of gaining her trust.
When terrifyingly sinister dangers from her past catch up to her and threaten every aspect of her life, will Kyana run to David? And will he be there for her when it could cost him everything? Quenching the Fire is where passions rise and nothing is exactly as it appears.
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