Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nancy Kimball: Not afraid to ask for expert help

Welcome back for our second day with author Nancy Kimball!

Nancy, what’s the most interesting (or unusual) thing you’ve done in the name of research for one of your books?
This one is easy! There are two world-renowned experts in Roman and gladiatorial history, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill of the University of Cambridge and Kathleen Coleman of Harvard University. They would turn up in all the documentaries I was watching for my research and most of the publications. Dr. Coleman was also the historical adviser to the Gladiator film (though the film went against her suggestions quite a bit). I’m a person who thinks big, and I tracked down Dr. Coleman’s contact information and reached out to her. Truthfully, I expected her not to respond, but not only did she respond, she was so helpful in providing me access to the offprints of every journal article and report I asked for. So don’t ever be afraid to reach out to someone beyond your depth/league because you never know if the answer might be yes!

When starting a new project, do you tend to begin with an event or certain time during the war and create the characters to live it, or do you start with characters and then find their story?
The characters. I always glimpse the characters first and then explore them. What do they want most? Why? And what is in their way? Once I have a more focused view of that, I start to mine my historical timelines and see where that might best fit. With Chasing the Lion, it was incorporating the assassination of Caesar Domitian into my story. With Unseen Love, my Ancient Roman romance releasing next year, it was incorporating my blind heroine’s quest for a husband among the forbidden romance blooming with the hero, her guide slave. For them I chose incorporating the great fire under Caesar Nero as the historical event that would undergird their story.

What’s your favorite way to unwind and come back to the “real world” after you’ve been immersed in writing?
Between books I binge on a particular television series and pretty much watch entire seasons in days. And it is eclectic, ranging from Justice, Deadwood, Downton Abbey, to The Sopranos (current series) and an entire anime series once, Full Metal Alchemist. That and start a new campaign of Rome: Total War where I always, ALWAYS play as one of the Roman factions. Depending on how deep the emotional trauma ran to bring a particular story to the page, I will also whip out my coloring book and crayons. I enjoy coloring and find it relaxing.

What advice can you share with novice writers?
Study craft. Read outside your genre. Learn the “rules” and know why they are what they are so that when you break them, you know why you are doing so and can justify it for your story. Always have an answer to the question “why do you write?” and what your primary goal is for your work. Reevaluate both of those things periodically because the answer may change. Knowing why you write and what you want for your work makes all other writing-related decision making much easier.

Reading fiction can be a way to escape reality for a while, but those stories can still teach some valuable lessons. What points do you hope readers take away from your books?
Great question. When readers finish my book, my biggest goal is for them to feel it was time and money well spent. As I write, I allow the stories of my own life to infuse the work with honesty and depth, out of the deep places of my own past. But again and again I find from readers who write to me that the Lord uses different scenes or characters to impact them in different and often unique ways. That’s really been a special blessing to me to share in having been a part of that for my readers.

I can imagine how that would impact any author, and help you realize all the work and honesty really are worth it. Thanks so much for joining us this week – we’ve enjoyed getting to know you better!

And, visitors, don’t forget to answer Nancy’s question to earn your chance at a copy of Chasing the Lion (paperback, ebook, or audiobook forma – your choice!). Here’s her question for you again:

While I’m not the expert on gladiators that Dr. Kathleen Coleman or Andrew Wallace Hadrill are, ask me something about gladiators or their history. I’ll tell you what I know, and it might surprise you. Like it did me to learn rarely was a contest ever to the death.

Ask your question in the comments section and be sure to include your name and email address (spelling out ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to help cut down on spam, please). We’ll see you again tomorrow!

To learn more about Nancy and her books, visit her online:

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Peter Leavell said...

LOVED your book, Nancy! I have a question! Would you have gone to the games, If you lived back then?

Nancy Kimball said...

Thank you, Peter. While my image crafting would like me to say... absolutely not, I probably would have. Both with the perspective I have of them today, and if I'd been born in that time. As I woman, I would have been in the uppermost tiers where they/we would have been allowed to sit, but I would have hoped to catch some of the gifts distributed like bread, meat, or coins and "enjoy" the show. The slavery aspects of it offend my moral sensibilities at every level, but yes, I would have. Great question!