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Kay Marshall StromOf Kay Marshall Strom’s 34 published books, four have been book club selections, nine have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, two prize-winning screenplays, books and stories for children, and booklets for writers. Her writing has appeared in several volumes, including More Than Conquerors, Amazing Love, The NIV Couple's Devotional Bible and
Titles: The Call of Zulina (2009)

 Favorite verse: Micah 6:8:  He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

 

 Our Interview with Kay Marshall Strom


 

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Micah 6:8:  He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

How did you get started as a Christian fiction writer?

Although all of my previous thirty-five books are non-fiction, I have enjoyed writing fiction in screenplays and even short stories. So, really, fiction is just an extension of what I have been doing. It is a powerful medium.
 
What inspired the concept for The Call of Zulina?
 
While I was in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall.  Not long after, while I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace was a slaver turned preacher and abolitionist). I “met” a couple who had run a slave business in Africa in the 1700s.  I wondered, If that couple had had a daughter, who would she be, English or African? And as I remembered the slave fortress, I asked, Where would her loyalties lie?
 
Is any part of The Call of Zulina factual?
  
Absolutely! That imagined daughter of the long ago slave traders became Grace.  And the characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, her parents, are modeled after that real-life English seaman and his African wife.  The slave scenes, as awful as they may be, are toned down from real life.  In many cases, readers would not be able to bear the graphic truth.


How did you choose the location for the setting?

West Africa was the actual scene of so much of the slave trade. I was already knowledgeable about the area because of prior writings, and I had been there several times.

Have you been to South Africa?

Not South Africa, but I’ve been to West Africa, North Africa, and central Africa, including Sudan.

 

How closely is The Call of Zulina based on your life experiences?
 
I have certainly struggled with the dilemma of having one foot in each of two worlds and not quite belonging in either.
 
How long did The Call of Zulina take you to complete?
 
That’s hard to say.  The first draft was completed in a couple of months.  But it went through two major revisions after that, and because it was a back-burner project, time passed between revisions.  From the time I first started until it was in final form was about two years.

Do you have a favorite character in The Call of Zulina? Why?

Grace.  She is headstrong and comfortably naïve.  And yet, when faced with the hard truth, she moves past herself and becomes what she was meant to be.

How much research did The Call of Zulina take?

A huge amount, because it is set in a time and place outside my experience.  But I truly loved the research.  And I had the benefit of Senegalese friends who speak indigenous languages and live in the area.
 
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing The Call of Zulina?

We all know something of the awfulness of the slave trade, but the evidence of total callous disregard of human life was staggering.  It’s terrifying to see the horror of which good, God-fearing people are capable, and how they can rationalize their actions away with selected quotes from the Bible.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
Time… time… time!  Also, because I often write about social injustice, there’s the inherent frustration of wanting to grab hold and change things.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Certain issues are really important to me, such as fighting slavery in our world today.  Writing provides me with a unique platform for making people aware of these issues and helping them see how they can be involved in solutions
.
What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   (Or somewhere in-between?)

I am a pretty organized writer. I gather information, then make a fairly detailed chapter outline.  Then I write a first draft: no corrections, no rethinking—just pouring it out. (I love this step!)  Then I write a second draft:  bringing order out of chaos. (This is the painful step.)  Then I do a final draft.

 

 

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

They do, which can be frustrating at times!

What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
  
I’m talking with Abingdon about a trilogy set in India, a saga covering thee generations of a family of “untouchables” and the high caste family that controls their lives, where Christianity collides with Hinduism.
 
What message would you like your readers to take from The Call of Zulina?

Having one foot in each of two worlds and not quite belonging in either is a common feeling, especially for Christians who are “in this world but not of this world.”  I would like readers to see that there is great power in taking a stand, even though there is a cost. The consequences of fence-straddling are far greater.  I also want readers to grasp the blight that slavery is on humanity. More slavery exists in the world today by four-fold than in the 18th century.
 
What is your greatest achievement?

I am the mother of two wonderful children, a daughter Lisa and a son Eric.  They are my greatest achievements.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To write books that make a positive difference in lives and, in Christ’s name, for society.

What do you do to get away from it all?

We have a hot tub spa, and I love to relax in it and read or talk to my husband or do nothing at all!

 


 

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