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Interview: Kathi Macias, Author of More than Conquerors

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Kathi Macias is a speaker and writer, having penned more than thirty books, as well as ghostwriting several others.  A deep inspiration to many, especially those who have had the pleasure of being touched by her words and wisdom, Kathi continues to spread her beliefs, values and extraordinary talent through her novels, non-fiction books and by speaking at women's clubs and retreats, churches and writer's conferences.  Kathi Macias also recently had the honor of winning the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet.  Residing in Homeland, CA with her husband, Al, the two of them enjoy experiencing life on their Harley.  What could be better than that?!

First of all, could you tell us a bit about Hector Rodriguez from your novel More than Conquerors? Also, what is the story about, who are the other characters, etc.

Hector is my main character, though the story shifts around to several others in various subplots that all dovetail together. Hector is the pastor of a small church in Tijuana, Mexico. He is married with three children, and when he can afford it, he makes the trip into Southern Mexico—Chiapas state—where the Mayan influence is still very strong. He brings Bibles and ministers to the poorest of the poor, though Hector himself is far from wealthy. On one such trip he takes his mother along, and she falls in love with the people and opts to stay behind, using the Bible as a primer to teach reading to those who are willing to come to the tiny home where she lives with one of the few true Christian families in the area. The village where she settles is heavily superstitious and ruled by curanderas, women shamans who hold heavy sway over the people. No one is hated more there than “Evangelicos,” and Hector’s mother quickly rises to the top of that list. When she pays a heavy price for her unwelcome presence, Hector must decide if he will continue his ministry to these people despite what it could mean to the rest of his family.

What do you want readers to take away from reading More than Conquerors?

I long to see those of us who are blessed to live where we are free to worship catch the fire to fulfill the Great Commission and “go into all the world” with the gospel and make disciples — regardless of the cost. I pray too the book (as well as the other three books in the series) will show how God is at work behind the scenes, working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I want to see believers willing to sacrifice everything to follow in the footsteps of the One who modeled a you-first life in a me-first world!

What was the most fun about writing More than Conquerors?

I enjoyed every bit of it, as I dearly love what I do. The research, though, is always fun, as I explore another culture and language and try to put myself into someone else’s skin, and think and talk and behave like someone with whom I have nearly nothing in common — except for a passion for Jesus. That’s what unites us all, regardless of geography or culture or customs. And that’s what I remember when working to bring my characters to life.

What was the hardest part about writing More than Conquerors?

Learning enough about the Mayan culture of today to make my settings and characters believable, even though I’ve never been to that area of Mexico! Each of the four books in this Extreme Devotion series is set in a foreign country — South Africa, Mexico, China, Saudi Arabia — and the only one I’ve been to is Mexico, though never as far south as Mayan country. But between the Internet and working with people who actually live in those countries, God enabled me to “go there” without leaving home.

What kind of research did you do for More than Conquerors?

Primarily Internet research to start the outlines/first drafts for all four books, but then it was all about personal research and interaction with people who knew the countries and the culture. They’re the ones who helped me breathe life into these novels!

Could you please tell us about your writing process?

I suppose all my books start with seeds of ideas. They germinate awhile, and then I start trying to formulate a purpose statement before moving on to a synopsis and very bare-bones outline. (I’m not one who knows every detail before writing; I have a starting and ending place and a few ideas in between, but mostly my stories unfold as I write them. I am usually as surprised as my readers at some of the events and happenings.) Once a book is contracted, I push hard to complete the first draft, which is usually pretty strong. I tend to finish that in three or four months (faster if necessary, though I prefer not to). Then I set it aside and let it “cool” a bit before going through it and polishing/editing/rewriting. Then off it goes to my publisher and I take a month or two off to clear out one story and begin to formulate the next. If I don’t do that in between, the stories tend to run together in my overworked and rapidly aging brain.

Do you ever put yourself within your characters?

Absolutely! One of the best things I ever did was take some acting classes. They taught me how to get inside someone else’s skin. I highly advise that to anyone considering writing fiction.

Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc.

Nah. There is nothing diva about me. I’m about as low-maintenance as it gets. Journalism training, I suppose. I can write anywhere, anytime, about anything. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Most of the time I’m typing away on my back porch, with the washer and dryer chugging and clunking beside me, the UPS guy knocking on the back door (hopefully bringing me a case of my newest releases!), and the phone ringing off the hook (which I usually ignore). I start EARLY (long before the sun is up) and work late when I’m on deadline. I eat whatever’s quick and easy. The only thing I’m a stickler about is stopping periodically and going outside for a walk (or two or three). It keeps the oxygen flowing! I also take care of my mom in between all this, but she does her best not to interrupt. She knows how I am when I have my head down, plowing through!!!

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

I go to family reunions. Seriously! Well, okay, humorously. If I need fodder for ideas (which I almost never do, since I have more ideas than time), I watch people. Even if I don’t get anything usable from it, I’m entertained for a while — and I appreciate my own life that much more!

How did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Were there any authors or books that made you think "Wow, that's what I want to do – craft stories of my own for others to read"?

I never wanted to be anything else. From the time I was old enough to read (before I started kindergarten), I was making up stories. My husband (then boyfriend) still remembers the day we were walking home from junior high and I told him I was going to be a writer some day. He often reminds me that I’m the only person he knows who knew what they wanted to be as a child — and did it! God is amazing.

What make you take that leap from "wanting" to be a writer, as opposed to "becoming" a writer? Many talk of being a writer and dip their toes in, but it seems there is often a sort of "push" to bring one over that wall.

I suppose I’m a first-born, German, type-A personality that never realized I was tackling the impossible. I simply dove in with both feet and never looked back. I’m also an irrepressible optimist, which helps a lot in this business! If I had a penny for every rejection I’ve gotten since I started writing for publication (about 30 years ago), I wouldn’t just live in Hawaii — I’d own it!

How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!

I love that part. Names have meanings, and even if the meanings don’t come into play in the books, I think authors should pick the names that feed the characters’ personalities/destinies. This was especially fun in this international series, since I got to pick foreign names for each book.

Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what were some of your favorite books?

Absolutely! I’d rather read than anything. I loved Louisa May Alcott, the Boxcar Children, poems, Nancy Drew—even the funny papers! Anything with words…milk cartons, cereal boxes, you know the drill.

If you had to summarize your life and give it a book title, what would that title be?

Collateral Damage. Seriously! I’m a fixer. I am forever going behind people and trying to clean up their messes. I know. I can’t do it. I figured that out years ago. But I’m a wife, a mom, a grandma, and even a great-grandma. It’s inbred. I eventually catch myself and realize what I’m doing and stop — but not without GREAT effort and prayer.

What are you working on right now? Could you give us a taste/teaser (aka excerpt) from your current WIP?

I’m racing to finish book four of the Extreme Devotion series. People of the Book is set in the very closed culture of the Saudi Kingdom, so it’s been a real challenge to get this one going. But I’m just past the halfway mark now. Here’s the prologue:

Farah Mohammed Al Otaibi lay bruised and bloody on the floor beside her bed. The image of her soft mattress floated in and out of her consciousness, but she had no strength to drag herself from her current position. Even the slightest movement brought stabs of excruciating pain, so she tried to remember to keep her breathing shallow and her body still.

How long had she been here? Hours, certainly. Days? She couldn’t be sure. Her father and brother had covered the windows with heavy, dark cloth, blocking out any light that might help her keep track of time.

Hunger wasn’t an issue, for who could think of food when the pain was so intense? But thirst? Oh, how she longed for just a sip of cool water! Surely her mother would sneak in soon and bring her some. She always had before.
Before…

The memory was back, though she tried desperately to block it out. Impossible. She could never forget that moment in time, for it was the dividing line between the before and after of her life. Before her brother had discovered her secret. Before her father had flown into a rage over what he considered his daughter’s betrayal and treachery. Before they had threatened to kill her in order to preserve the family’s honor. Before her mother had tried to intervene…

Hot tears pricked the back of Farah’s eyelids, as the vision of her mother’s face before—and after—swam in front of her eyes. The pain in her heart at that moment far exceeded anything she felt in her body. Then suddenly, inexplicably, the meaning of her name—Farah, joy and cheerfulness—burst into her consciousness. Despite her agony and sorrow, Farah was unable to hold back the brief burst of laughter that exploded from her aching chest. How absurd that her parents had given her a name that implied happiness, and yet she now wondered if she had ever truly understood or experienced any of it in her not quite sixteen years of life.

But then she had met Sara, and everything—both good and bad—had changed forever….

What are you reading right now?

Besides my Bible and lots of Voice of the Martyrs literature (my favorite ministry!), I’m also re-reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. I need to read that periodically to remind myself who I am.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Brennan Manning, Max Lucado, Mary DeMuth, the Theones, Francine Rivers, Susan Meissner, Tricia Goyer… tons more.

If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Isaiah. He’s my favorite prophet and author.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

Finish this series and the next one on the docket — and spend a lot more time with my family! That means slowing down the pace a bit, but I’m in my sixties now, and I need to do that, yes?

Is there anything that you would like to add? That you would like readers to know about you or your writing?

Writing is a passion of mine, but I’d give it all up in a heartbeat if I believed that’s what God wanted me to do. My prayer each morning is that God will draw me closer to His heart, and that at the end of each day, I’ll be found faithful. I pray the same for every reader, whatever their passion in life.

Where can readers get in touch with you? Twitter, Blog, Facebook, etc?

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Shoutlife, Plaxo, etc., though Facebook is my main hangout. (I have a fan page there too, so please join!) I have a website (www.kathimacias.com) and a blog (http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com), and I send out a weekly devotional each Thursday. They can sign up on my website to receive it (free and with permission to reuse anywhere they like, so long as they keep my name on it) in either English or Spanish.

Do you have a favorite excerpt from More than Conquerors? Could you share that with us, please?

Kawak had known la curandera for nearly twenty years now, ever since Kawak was a little girl, and she had always been in awe of the special powers ascribed to the woman who was never seen without the small square mirror that she wore on a chain around her neck to ward off evil. But even with the colorful attire displayed by the shaman, including the bright red shawl she wore at all times, regardless of the weather, la curandera never failed to strike terror into Kawak’s heart, particularly when she heard the woman speak of the Mayan prediction of the end of the world, less than four years away.

Still, there was no choice for the young Mayan but to follow through with her visit and report to the holy woman on the goings-on at the Campos’ home. And so Kawak pushed one foot in front of the other as she continued down the street toward the shaman’s house, dodging chickens and even a couple of turkeys on the way. When at last she stopped in front of the low building made of breezeblock, her heart raced with anticipation—and dread. Her hands clammy and her heart pounding, Kawak passed quickly through a cypress leaf archway and into the realm of spirits and darkness that had always frightened yet intrigued her.

Sensing that she was no longer alone, Kawak called out, her voice shaking. “Evita? Are you here? It is I…Kawak.”

She waited, but there was no answer. Could it be that the woman had gone out? If so, why was the smell of candles and incense so strong and heavy? No, she must be there. Kawak tried again, taking one tentative step inside the open doorway as she spoke. “Evita?”

The woman was in front of her so quickly that Kawak gasped. How had she not seen her approach? And yet it was fairly dark inside; perhaps that explained it.
Swallowing, Kawak tried to steady her heart and her breathing. “I…I came to see you,” she said. “To…tell you about the foreign woman at the Campos’ house. And about…los conquistadores.”

Even in the semi-darkness of the oppressive room, where candlelight danced against the walls and oxygen seemed hard to come by, Kawak could see la curandera’s eyes narrow.

“Conquistadores?” Her voice seemed to crackle when she spoke, though Kawak knew it wasn’t from old age. The woman was, at most, in her early fifties, though she had an ancient quality about her. Evita grabbed Kawak’s arm, sending a shiver down the young woman’s spine. “Come with me,” Evita ordered, and without another word they made their way to the center of the room, where they sat down on the thick blanket of pine needles that stretched out in a circle in the center of the floor.

“Tell me what you have learned about this outsider,” Evita said. “I have watched her for some time now, and I believe she is an evil presence in our community.”
Kawak nodded. However frightening the shaman might be, Kawak trusted her far above the foreigner who spoke of los conquistadores and pretended to teach others from her holy book. It was important that Kawak not fail in her attempt to convey to la curandera her concern over the seriousness of what was happening in the Campos’ home and how it was affecting Imix. As the headiness of the burning candles and incense enveloped her, Kawak poured out the story of her attendance at the reading class the previous day, noting with satisfaction that the shaman was listening intently to every word.

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