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Interview: Kay Marshall Strom, Author of The Love of Divena

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The author of 40 published books, Kay Marshall Strom’s writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, curriculum, stories for children, two prize-winning screenplays, as well as booklets for writers. In addition to writing, Ms. Marshall Strom speaks at seminars, retreats, and special events throughout the country.

Kay Marshall Strom and her husband, Dan Kline, share a deep love for travel. It is because of this love that more and more Kay’s writing and speaking agendas take her around the word.

The Love of Divena is Kay Marshall Strom’s latest Christian Historical Fiction book.

Readers can learn more about Ms. Marshall Strom by visiting the following links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon Author Page

Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?

The Love of Divena, set in rural India in 1990, tells the story of a little girl abandoned by her father and left on the doorstep of her desperately poor grandmother. In practically every area of life, her grandmother is bound by the constraints of society: to her outcaste status, to her poverty, to her religion. But Divena sees the hope of a wider world. The choices she makes rock the world of two very different families and shake the foundation of an entire culture.

The third and final book of my Blessings in India trilogy, The Love of Divena concludes the generations-long saga of two families: one Untouchable, and the other the high caste Christian family that owns them.

How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?

Interesting question. I seldom have much say over either title or cover design, but in this series I did choose the titles of all three books. They follow the final words of 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Each of the main characters’ names is a Hindi word for “Blessing.” So the three titles are The Faith of Ashish, The Hope of Shridula, and The Love of Divena.

I was able to share my ideas for the covers of all three books in the series, and I must say, I love all of them!

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?

Little Daniel stood up and scowled at his leaning block tower. “Not good!” he pronounced, and he kicked it over. Joanna giggled and clapped her little hands.

“Would it not be wonderful if we could solve our problems so easily?” Ramesh asked with a laugh. “If all of India could?”

Baruch grabbed his son and pulled the child to him. As Daniel squirmed, Joanna climbed onto her father’s lap. “Here it is, right in my grasp,” Baruch Sundar said as he hugged his children. “New hope for India.”

What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?

I do appreciate blog tours. They bring all kinds of responses from throughout the country and around the world. I also write guest posts for other blogs. But my greatest promotions are speaking engagements. I talk about the point behind the book (social justice) or the setting (I’ve traveled in every country I write about) or the process of writing (most everyone wants to be a writer), and I gently frame my presentation with the book. I find that when people meet the author, they want to buy the book. And word gets around, both about the speaking and the book.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

It depends on where I am in the writing process. If I’m under a crushing deadline—which seems to happen too often!—I write almost around the clock. But on a typical non-crush day, I start out checking my email. After breakfast—and a nice morning soak in the hot tub spa with my husband—I spend several hours on whichever book I’m writing. Or I write blog posts. Or I answer messages from readers and prepare my next project. I am fortunate to have a sunny, welcoming office all to myself, filled with books and files and inspiring things. I can and do write any time of day or night, but I’m most creative in the afternoon and evening. If I’m stuck on something, I work on that hard place just before I go to bed. More often than not, I dream out a solution. Which means I get up in the middle of the night and write it out before I forget it!

What are some ways that you like to relax?

I love to travel. I love to read. But my relaxation oasis is our backyard hot tub/spa. Summer heat or winter snow, I use it almost every day when I’m at home.

What authors do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?

People who focus on the world, such as Nicholas Kristoff. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, he just writes op-ed for newspapers.” He does do that, for The New York Times—and, I might add, he does it well—but he also writes books and is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. Here’s what I love about his writing: he writes about human rights abuses and social injustice in a most compelling and heart-wrenching way. Several times now he has chosen one young journalist to go with him to some part of the world and learn from a master journalist. Oh, I wish he would ask me to go along!

What author would you most like to meet and why?

John Grisham because I have an emotional tie to him. Several years ago, on a flight over to India, I read his book The Testament. In one passage, the main character Nate contracts malaria. A few nights after I arrived in India, I awoke in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and shaking with chills. In my befuddled mind, I remembered Nate’s symptoms and knew I had malaria. I was in a remote area with no one around but my sleeping husband, so I did my best to stumble through the night following Nate’s survival plan. I would like to meet John Grisham and say, “Thank you for writing so clearly and accurately that even through hallucinations, I knew what to do that night. Thank you for making a fictional character so real that the natural thing was to follow his example.”

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?

More fiction is in the works. I can’t say too much about it yet, but here’s a clue: Think Kinsey Millhone meets Indiana Jones. Stay tuned!

What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?

I have a tattoo. The first time I was in Cairo—probably ten years ago—I kept seeing people with crosses tattooed on their wrists. When I asked about it, they explained that though Christians there constantly faced persecution, they believed it would soon become much worse. But they feared they had grown so soft that when the time came to stand up for their faith, they would fail. So they decided to be marked with the sign of Christ. That way, whatever they said, no one could doubt where their allegiance lay. Prophetic, don’t you think? But then they asked me, “Would you be marked in unity with us?” At first I recoiled at the thought. But the idea kept nagging at me. On my next birthday, I determined I would get my mark. My husband went with me and we got our crosses together. Never once have I regretted it. During Arab Spring, when I saw the angry crowds at Tahir Square, I watched through tears for the crosses. When I saw pictures of the women standing up for themselves… and the brutality poured out on some of them… I watched for the crosses and I prayed. I am one with those women. I have my mark to prove it.

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