Act Two: A Novel in Perfect Pitch
by Kimberly Stuart
As a 'forty-something' woman who is going through a career transition (of my own choosing), it was interesting to see a book about someone going through a similar transition, even though hers was not chosen. The main character in this book, Sadie Maddox, is a diva in the opera singing world but she is facing declining popularity because of her age. It is difficult to age in the public eye, and unfortunately she's not handling it well.
In an attempt to keep her income stream flowing, she takes a job for one semester at a small college in the middle of Iowa. Due to a few unfortunate events, she ends up living with a family full of active children on a pig farm...not a very good place for her mink fur and high heels!
Kimberly Stuart provides a lot of laughs as she juxtaposes New York City food, entertainment, and way of life with that of a small town farm. Sadie is quite the diva, but through time she realizes that there is more to life than looks and fame. I'd love to see a sequel!
ABOUT THE BOOK:Sadie Maddox loves New York. She’s the toast of the classical music world and the queen of all she surveys. Sadie is, in a word, a bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are waning, not to mention parts of her anatomy.
When her agent suggests she take on a professorship at a small liberal arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go. Except the college is in rural Iowa, and the closest thing to designer clothes is the western wear shop down on Main Street. Sadie’s colleagues are intimidated, her students aren’t impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals.
Then Sadie meets Mac, a large animal veterinarian. She assumes they have nothing in common—he is, after all, a country music fan. Besides, she’s counting the days until she can end her exile from civilization. Er, New York. Yet when Sadie’s forced to spend some time with Mac, she finds she likes him. Her students, it seems, really need her, and this quiet Midwest community begins to grow on her.
But when the semester ends, Sadie packs up and heads for the city that never sleeps…and finds she can’t either. Will she find the courage and grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?
You can read a sample of the book here, and you can buy the book here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kimberly Stuart makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Marc, and their two children, Ana and Mitch. She began her writing career by journaling during her daughter’s first year of life. At the never-subtle urging of her mother, she entered the University of Iowa Alumni magazine’s annual nonfiction short story contest. After winning the contest, she attended the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference in North Carolina, where she met some key players in the publishing world who were able to jumpstart her career. She is the author of Balancing Act and its sequel, Bottom Line. Stuart’s most recent novel, Act Two, released May 2008, and is the first of three titles to be published by David C. Cook. She continues to revel in God’s grace and counts among her treasures nap time, imported chocolate, and a good story.
For more information about Kimberly, visit her website.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I can’t possibly reveal that to the blogosphere, and I say that only partly because I’ve always wanted to use the word blogosphere. The other reason is that this one percolated for awhile. There was no lightning bolt moment. But I will say that I’m always interested in putting quirky characters in situations that make them woefully uncomfortable and allow the reader to laugh with gusto both at and with the character. A New York opera diva on a farm seemed like a situation that might work for that purpose.
What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
It was intense. Lots of dangerous, Indiana Jones-type adventures, plenty of nights under the stars and without food or running water. Actually, I traveled to New York and was shuttled around by dear friends who love their city and were infectious in their excitement. I loved my time there and still wish I could drop off my laundry for someone else to do, begging out of the chore because my building just didn’t have a washer and dryer. The laundry, the insane number of fantastic restaurants, the ability to wallow in theater, dance, live jazz, high fashion—if I could only afford half of a studio apartment, I’d drag my family for an extended stay. As for research on Iowa….
Have you lived on a pig farm?
I grew up in Iowa, though not exactly on a pig farm. Des Moines has roughly 400,000 residents, which would prove a challenge for group farming. But my roots are rural. All of my grandparents grew up on farms, as did many of our friends and neighbors. For Act Two, I relied heavily on dear friends who own a pig farm in northwestern Iowa. Anything I got right on this end is due to their diligence. Anything I goofed is my fault entirely. My husband will tell you I don’t always listen well.
When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?
I begin a novel with barely more detail than that which I’ve pitched to the publishing house. I have a feel for the main character, the overall arc of the story, the central conflict. But the ancillary characters, the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, how my protagonist changes and what takes her there, those all flesh themselves out in the course of writing the book. My genre, comedic fiction, allows for this kind of approach but I’m sure a mystery wouldn’t be as forgiving. One can hardly decide whodunit as an afterthought. So, yes, I’m often surprised by what happens in my books, how some characters become unlikely heroes or heroines, how others reveal secrets I hadn’t anticipated. All in all, it’s quite the entertaining way to write.
What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?
*Making myself sit down each day and crank out new material, especially on days when I’m feeling about as creative as a paint tarp.
*Pushing through the middle of a novel, when the characters have lost their initial intrigue and it’d be so much more fun to daydream about the NEXT story to write.
*Getting out of the way of the story. That is, allowing the story to flesh itself out without coercion on my part.
*Being able to, as Stephen King writes, “crucify my darlings,” to part with the elements, characters, plot movements that do not serve the story, no matter how fond I am of them.
What part do you enjoy the most?
Without question, hearing from readers who connect with, cry about, laugh because of the stories I write and then take the time and effort to let me know. Unbelievable and lovely.
How do you find time to write?
For every writer asked this question, I’m sure you’d get as many answers. At this time in my life and the life of my family, I write in the afternoons when my daughter is at preschool and my son is napping. This is unfortunate for two reasons: One, my toilets become gross because the time I used to devote to being Martha Stewart is now devoted to being Kimberly Stuart, a woman with far fewer housekeeping ambition and far more dust bunnies. Two, afternoons are not my most creative time, mostly because I’d rather be napping. So I’ve had to force my mind and my body into thinking one o’clock is Do or Die and that by the time Mitchell’s awake and Ana is home from school, I’d better have a new scene or I don’t get any chocolate for dessert. (Okay, that last bit is a stretch of the truth. Self-denial is overrated.)
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Hone your craft. There are lots of fancy stories about getting one’s foot in the door to a publisher, how to get an agent, how to market oneself and one’s story. But the best way to ensure you’ll be ready to take on the publishing mayhem is to work your tail off at writing. Become your toughest critic (short of paralysis, of course), get up the guts to share your work with someone smarter and more well-read than you, spend the hours good writing requires. Most of a writer’s life is very quiet, unromantic, and isolating. Unless you’re ready to devote yourself to the less glamorous parts of writing a good story, you’ll be spinning your wheels for the time when a good break comes.
You can check out what others are saying about Act Two at these websites:
A Christain Romance Writer’s Journey
Behind the Mountain
Blog Tour Spot
Book Nook Club
Book Room Reviews
Canadian Prairie Writer
Footprints in the Sand
Gatorskunz and Mudcats
His Reading List
I Don’t Wanna Blog
In the Dailies
Kells Creative Musings
Life with Missy
Musings on This, That, and the Other
Real Women Scrap
Refresh My Soul
See Ya On the Net
Sips ‘N Cups Cafe
So Many Books. . . So Little Time
The Friendly Book Nook
The Law, Books and Life
The Surrendered Scribe
The Writing Road
Toni V. Lee
Write by Faith
Writing on the Edge