Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NOVEL LOOK AT MOTHERHOOD

An Interview with Kim Stuart

Take one twenty-nine-year-old woman, add a career, add a husband, add a home, toss in a best friend, and you have a great life.

Add a baby. Not a problem. Still can do.

Add a seductive ex-boyfriend moving a few houses over. Hmmm, a little more complicated, but managing.

Add a blonde twenty-something ski bunny flirting with your husband. Uh-oh. Did we mention the postpartum body? Somebody press the panic button.

Pile on returning to work after maternity leave, and sprinkle in a nosey Mommies Group . . .
And you've got a Balancing Act--a hilarious look at the challenges faced by modern women as they juggle careers, marriage, and children.

What inspired you to write Balancing Act?

I was neck-deep in the throes of motherhood and found it could make me laugh until I made unfortunate snorting noises, cry until I needed to breathe into a paper bag, and hang my outgrown roots in forced humility, and all before nine a.m.

I wanted to write a story that would acknowledge both the chaos and the blessing, the euphoria and the nagging doubts involved in mothering a child.

More than anything, I wanted to write a story with authentic, achingly real characters who struggled with faith and morality as well as sleep schedules and diaper rash. I figured if I could imagine my friends becoming engaged with the story, I was on the right track.

Is it true you wrote this novel while pregnant? What was that like?

I was four months pregnant when I attended a writers’ conference and received some very positive feedback from an editor at NavPress. She encouraged me to send my manuscript to Nav’s fiction line when I got a chance.

My “manuscript” at that time was around three thousand words, the very rough beginning of Balancing Act. I found an expanding uterus to be like my own private motivational speech. It was a fixed deadline, so to speak, and I like deadlines. So each afternoon, while my two-year-old napped, I’d waddle over to my laptop and crank out my thousand words. God is good, I finished the book, and my water broke, in that order.

Experiencing mommy-hood for the second time, did you go back and make revisions?
My son, who just turned one, is very different from my daughter, who is now four. Mitchell wants me with him, wants to cuddle, and thinks I’m a rock star even with morning breath. Ana, however, is very independent, cuddles only when feverish, and minces no words regarding morning breath. So I feel like I’m revising all the time, trying to keep up with their very different needs and personalities. My most major revision, however, has been throwing out Neurotic Kim and going for a more laid-back approach out of necessity. Funny how four years of parenting does that to a girl.

Did you use true-life stories in your novel? Can you give us an example?
While Balancing Act is absolutely a work of fiction, there are threads of my own experience woven throughout. Nora, the baby in the book, is loosely patterned after my daughter, Ana. She gets to talking in the sequel, Bottom Line, set to release in May. I see a lot of Ana in that part of Nora’s story.

The protagonist, Heidi Elliott, certainly has my sense of humor. Like Heidi, I taught high school Spanish. Like Heidi, I identify with the tightrope walk of a woman living in this century. I know the chaos of working, mothering, wife-ing, and trying to be plain old me, for crying out loud. And like Heidi, I’ve had a certain amount of distrust for church-run women’s groups, always fearing they’ll make me quilt or something.

But I’ve assured my family that unlike what occurs in the book, there are no skanky dealings in my marriage, that I don’t know any well-endowed heiresses, and that none of my relatives are represented in the characters. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true, but you’ll have to wait to read my posthumous memoirs to get the full scoop.

How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It isn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Far easier to make up a story about the balancing act than to actually do it well oneself. I’ve been known to type while my son drools on my big toe and my daughter screams the soundtrack to “Little Mermaid” in the background. This system does not seem to reap the most productive writing moments. So I have help. God has always turned out to be sufficient when I let Him. My mother, bless her, and my babysitter, Ashley, bless her too, help me out for a couple hours each day so I can write. My husband is a fantastic human being who assumes I can conquer the world and should. My friendships keep me above the surface just when I think I’ll sink.

And on grace-drenched days, there’s always naptime.

Author Bio: After teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, Kimberly Stuart took a huge increase in pay to stay at home full time with her daughter, Ana. She lives in Des Moines, IA. While writing Balancing Act, Kimberly was pregnant with her second child.

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