Dear Dabbers, please welcome Nancy Kimball to the blog. We chat about gladiators, pet dogs, the Colosseum, tough jobs, and so much more. Enjoy!
You’re a self-proclaimed hero-addict and enjoy characters that start out broken and wrecked and rise from that to glory and success. What is it about these characters types that keep you coming back for more? Care to share some examples (from books, movies/TV, or history)?
Oh yes, wounded hero is my absolute reader (and writer) drug of choice. What resonates with my soul in these types of stories is that there is no one so far gone God cannot redeem them. Whether the painful past/present was self-inflicted by poor decisions or circumstances inflicted by others through oppression—and sometimes both, as in the case of my own heroes—there is always hope for redemption. Even if the circumstances won’t change, or get worse, the character can and should change so that in the end, good conquers evil, hope is reborn, and that redemption comes. This is a pillar to my own work, and something I lived first-hand in my own personal story and faith journey.
Some of my favorite examples are Edmond Dantes in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo, Maximus in the Ridley Scott film Gladiator, Job from The Holy Bible, Angel from Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, and Ambrose Young from Amy Harmon’s Making Faces.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own?
Shane by Jack Schaeffer, the classic western. I was about ten years old and came across some old books that belonged to my grandfather, who had recently passed away. I’d never seen him reading anything but the newspaper my whole life, so I knew these books must have been pretty special if he’d read them and kept them. The skinniest one had a cowboy on the front so I was sold. It was the first time I remember being in a story, like I was there, and was the characters, not just reading about them. I still have that paperback too, held together with scotch tape and love.
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (real or imagined, living or dead)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?
Oh that’s easy. My friend Megan Legrue. She has been on Spartan runs, color runs, numerous 5Ks, a half-marathon, is a cross-fit person, and a never-quit encourager and a constant source of support and unconditional acceptance for as long as I’ve known her. She’s who I want next to me in the zombie apocalypse, LOL! At the end of said obstacle course, there would absolutely be a celebratory pint. In my dreams I get to taste Caecubum wine, which was reputedly one of the finest vintages produced in the Ancient World—not from Greece surprisingly, but in Rome. Unfortunately Caesar Nero destroyed the vineyard that produced it when he built the canal to Ostia. So an ice-cold Dos Equis would suffice nicely.
Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?
The favorite aspect for me is connecting with readers. Because I do very limited self-promotion, preferring instead to let targeted paid advertising and reader word of mouth carry my sales and readership growth, I primarily interact with readers through direct contact through my website or replies to my email newsletter. When I do “come out and play” it is typically on Facebook.
I was very blessed to learn early in this business that relationships take time, and technology is instant, thanks to a great book Guerilla Marketing for Writers. So in reader and author groups and organizations, I build relationships where there is common interest in something—whether it is my faith, another book or author, writing, Ancient Rome, audiobooks, how hot Jim Caviezel will always be no matter how old he gets, or whether or not Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen was a better Darcy.
Least favorite part of self-promotion? Blogging. So consequently, I stopped doing it. But what really annoys me is when author acquaintances over-shoot with self-promotion and saturate social media to the point I have to unfollow/unfriend them. So I make sure to try to never be that person either.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
Oh gosh. It was actually a commercial building renovation project I was overseeing two years ago. The ramifications of the decisions I had to make daily, and the success and failure of not only the project but preserving the business relationships involved, rested completely on my shoulders. I’d never found myself in that position before professionally and it was baptism by fire, especially when everything about an already bad situation continued to worsen as the process wore on. I was so stressed out it was making me physically sick, and I wanted nothing more than to just say “I can’t do this” and walk away or hand it off to someone else, but I couldn’t. Not without losing my job which I love. I had to just get through it—with a lot of prayer, a lot of chocolate, and knowing that if this didn’t actually end up killing me, it was going to make me stronger.
That is exactly what my writing process is like. Also how I survived the seasoning process as an author to develop that famous (or infamous) rhino-hide that creatives need to make it in any artistic endeavor. When rejections piled up, or I got miserable contest scores and difficult criticism from industry professionals, or after two failed NaNoWriMo attempts in back to back years, there was so many times I just wanted to quit. Throw in the towel and walk away. Thank God I didn’t, for myself, the readers who embrace my work, and the creative partnerships my author life has blessed me with.
Now, when it feels like I’ll never get the next book finished or am struggling with the self-doubt every author has no matter how many five star reviews or bestsellers or awards behind them, I can cling to the knowledge I’ve been here before. I can make the choice to remember the slain giant behind me instead of fearing the enemy army before me. That reminder comes from the David and Goliath story in the Holy Bible, but really came alive to me as a battle cry for life through the novel Day of War by one of my favorite authors and human beings, Cliff Graham.
You have a pet dog, Eric T. How did he come to be part of your life? Does he serve as a muse to any of part of your writing process?
I came home from work one day and there was this stray puppy on my porch, all ribs and feet. I was NOT going to even feed him because then he wouldn’t leave. I was not in a place financially to care for a dog, and I had a hole in my heart still from the loss of the dog I grew up with and had for fourteen years. So no way was I keeping this dog. No freaking way. Not gonna do it.
Well it’s true if you want to make God laugh, just tell him YOUR plans. Three days later, I was shopping for a crate, collar, leashes, toys and food, making vet appointments, and now I can’t imagine life without him.
Eric is not a muse. When he’s not getting the attention he wants, he will literally bring his toy and drop it on my keyboard. While I’m typing! What he does do is love me unconditionally and sense when Mommy is coming apart at the seams, always there to lick tears from my face, put his head on my knee in comfort when I’m low, and happy dance in greeting every time I get home because he missed me so much. I don’t believe in coincidences, knowing instead those are God things. God sent Eric T. to me in a very, very dark time in my life. And I’m so grateful, even though Eric T. chewed up every single pair of shoes I owned the first three months I had him. And a throw pillow. And the flowerbed in the back yard. And most recently in a fit of anger at being left alone too long while I was volunteering at church, he chewed up my cover model’s wig for the photo shoot for book 2 of my series. But even so, I love him like crazy and he is a constant and tangible reminder to me how much God loves me.
What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Mittelmark and Newman (which is fabulous and I highly recommend it to all aspiring novelists), Ancient Rome by Nigel Rogers and The Gladiators: History’s Most Deadly Sport by Fik Meijer. I also reached out to Dr. Kathleen Coleman, one of the worlds’ most recognized and renowned experts on gladiators (she was the technical and historical advisor to Ridley Scott for the film Gladiator). Dr. Coleman was kind enough to give me access to all of the off-prints and resources I requested, which was generous in the extreme. I made the hero of Chasing the Lion left-handed as a tribute to her and her work to preserve and deepen our understanding of gladiatorial history.
What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?
The Flavian Amphitheater, known today as the Colosseum, in Rome. But not in the first century, that’s for sure. At that time Christians were being persecuted like ISIS is doing now in Egypt and the Middle East. Visiting Rome and standing in the Colosseum is at the top of my bucket list.
I’d also like to visit the Old West in the late 1800’s. California during the gold rush or Oregon in the height of the wagon train days.
Susan, I tried really hard (for about ten minutes) to come up with a third one, but that’s pretty much it—Rome and the Old West. That says so much about me, LOL.
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
The Odyssey by Homer (which my all-time favorite movie ever, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Is based on), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, War and Peace, Moby Dick, The Diary of Anne Frank, any Larry McMurtrey novel, Ovid’s Sorrows (which he wrote after being banished from Rome), and Pliney the Elder’s Natural History. Although sharing that makes me feel someone is going to appear out of thin air and revoke my author card, so great question, Susan!
From the blood-soaked sand of the Roman arena, a divine destiny will rise.
For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him.
His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith.
What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom.
But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.
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