I’m thrilled to welcome author Nancy Kimball to my blog today. Nancy’s debut novel, Chasing the Lion, was recommended by a trusted writer/reader friend and spoken of highly by numerous others in the writing world.
When I finally read Chasing the Lion I was immediately engulfed by the story and the characters. Not to mention the historical detail—Ancient Rome comes alive on the pages of this powerful story about a young man’s journey to find true freedom.
It’s a pulse-pounding, emotional saga of honor, love, political intrigue, and rediscovering faith amidst the brutal life of gladiators, slaves, and those who try to own them.
About the Book:
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.
About the Author:
Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, Ancient Rome and all things gladiator. She makes her home in Houston, Texas with one very spoiled pitbull mix named Eric T. and still doesn’t understand the point of white crayons.
Her industry accolades include a two-time ACFW Genesis finalist (Chasing the Lion – 2012 / Unseen Love – 2013), and a Romance Writers of America Lonestar finalist in the Inspirational Category (Adrift No More – 2013).
K: Nancy, I’m so excited to have you on my blog! Per your bio, I pondered the white crayon deal. Here’s what I came up: white crayons are for Florida natives who’ve never seen/played in/shoveled snow, but want to draw pictures of it. Perhaps I’m reaching?
N: LOL! Could be, could be. Or for colored construction paper. But that whole joke goes back to when I was a small child and I came up to my mom crying. She asked what was wrong and I held up my white crayon and the coloring page I was working on and informed her that this crayon was “broken” and didn’t work. It followed me into adulthood. On the day of my release party, my mother had flown in to Texas from New York. One of the gifts she gave me in addition to her presence was a white crayon with a very special note I will treasure forever.
K: What a sweet gift, and a fun story! Now I’d like to discuss your book. Oooh boy. Chasing the Lion was pulse-pounding excitement threaded with tender and tough, character-driven scenes. Here’s a chicken-and-egg question. Which came first: the idea for the story, or the character Jonathan?
N: Jonathan. I knew that first day after I’d named him that he would be a gladiator (against his will) and unlike biblical Joseph, when things began going from bad to worse for him, he would lose his faith. The rest of the story would be him getting it back. He was, and is, still a character that I feel very inadequate to steward his story. He is very much the heart and soul of the Sword of Redemption series.
K: One of your major strengths as an author is a plot shot like an arrow across an arena. The story took off from page one and kept going and going; there was never a slow moment to stop reading. Great job! Did you work specifically on that aspect of the story while writing/editing?
N: Thank you, Kerry. Yes, I did. In the editing phase which took nearly three years as I was learning my fiction craft and beginning to train this new recruit of a manuscript into a reader ready finished champion gladiator. I do not ever remember which craft book it was or who to attribute the best piece of writing advice I ever received, but it was this—never resolve the conflict until you’ve introduced another one.
K: You pursued traditional publishing for a time; ultimately you decided to go the “Indie” route, becoming an Independently Published Author. More and more authors are going this route with their stories. How was the path to publication as an Indie author? Any bumps in the road?
N: If I could quote the Sela song “God blessed the broken road” here, I would. Making the choice to go Indie was something I struggled with for nearly a year. Agents and editors loved my voice and writing style, but they didn’t want this book. They wanted a different time period or something more mass-market friendly. I wanted to share this book with readers, the story of my heart that redefined me as an author and a Christ-follower, and there was no way to do it but to go Indie. I took the funds I would have spent in contests and conferences for 2014 and reallocated them into producing my debut novel for the market.
I had no bumps in the process at any point. I was fortunate to have Indie friends ready to answer my questions, and spent lots of time researching cover designers, interior formatters, and worked with a freelance editor who had been with both Zondervan and Revell. I surrounded myself with a great team who understood the goal and everything flowed accordingly. Even the production of the audiobook went very smoothly from start to finish, though it had the biggest learning curve for me of every step of becoming a publisher as well as an author.
K: Chasing the Lion’s hero, Jonathan Tarquinius, is one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve read on the page. Flawed, strong, honorable, angry, determined, hurt, searching. (Sigh) What was it like creating this complicated, boy-turned-young man-turned-gladiator-turned-crowd-commanding-man? And do you have a favorite character from the story?
N: Thank you, Kerry. It was a slow process and very early on, before I’d even finished my first draft, I realized something. I wasn’t so much creating him as I was discovering him.
Unlike the other characters in the story that I cobbled together with personality traits and physical attributes to shape them like Mr. Potato Heads—Jonathan emerged as I began to write his story. And much of what I intended for him he completely undid as we went through the writing and editing process.
I had a picture of him on my corkboard and beneath it these words: You did not create him. He is telling you who he is. Honestly, once Jonathan matured as a character and even to this day, I essentially can put him in any situation or story premise and more or less know exactly what he’s going to say or do. Though sometimes we get to a scene together and I realize I’d had it wrong and he surprises me so I just go with it, feeling more like a scribe than an author. That’s Jonathan.
Jonathan is my favorite character, of course, which is also true for most readers. But my second favorite actually will surprise a lot of people. It isn’t Nessa. It isn’t Caelina or Clovis, who are all reader favorites. My favorite character outside of Jonathan is Torren Gallego. He is the antithesis of the biggest villain, Caius Pullus. Torren is a man driven to accumulate wealth and does it on the backs and blades of his gladiators as Caius does, but never at the expense of his principles and a strong moral compass. Of all the characters who are returning to book 2, Torren Gallego is the one that breaks my heart the most in Charging the Darkness. That’s all I can say without giving too much away, but like with Jonathan, I had to allow him to be who he really is and not who I wanted him to be.
K: Your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
N: Edits. I absolutely love editing. Least favorite? First draft. Getting the first draft down for me is the pits. Getting the first draft down for me is an agonizing process but I put myself through it because without that part, there can be nothing else.
K: I was so glad to learn Chasing the Lion is the first in a trilogy. Readers get more Jonathan and Nessa (yay!). Charging the Darkness (love the title) is the second book. How’s the writing process the second time around? Were you eager to get back into the story world of Ancient Rome and revisit these familiar characters?
N: There are things that are more efficient this time around, since most of my characterization is already set for the majority of the cast. I was surprised by how many plot tear downs and rebuilds Darkness has undergone. It is nearly as many as Lion was, but the difference is this time I’ve adjusted to the plot evolutions and changes to see them as part of the process. That’s made a big difference for the better. I was eager to get back to the writing but the truth is I never actually leave the characters or the story world. They’re always in my head whether or not I’m actively writing them.
K: Your life verse is Ezekiel 36:33-36. That portion of scripture speaks of the Lord rebuilding what was a barren wasteland, with all those around knowing and seeing the Lord’s work in that formerly desolate place. Powerful—God rebuilding ruined places until they flourish. Please share how these verses memorialize what the Lord has seen you through, and how those experiences affected your writing and stories.
N: In 2009, my perfect American dream life was ripped completely apart. I call that season my “advanced tutorial” in faith. I thought I’d hit rock bottom and that things couldn’t possibly get worse and then they did, again and again until I was so deep in depression and hopelessness I became suicidal. A life doesn’t get more barren wasteland than that.
In a moment of brokenness in what should have been my final moments, as for Jonathan in the arena with Hulderic, the Lord was there where He’d been all along, waiting for me. And the months that followed were the beginning of healing. Part of my journey back to wholeness and knowing the Lord in a real and personal way was the writing of Chasing the Lion. The pain and brokenness of my past became the deep places that would pour into Jonathan’s story, and as I found hope, healing, and redemption in my faith so did my hero. The Lord used Jonathan’s story to begin rewriting my own and my brand, Fiction from the Ashes, became real. Stories of characters who rise from brokenness to victory just as I did through Christ.
Today my life is no longer a barren wasteland. It had been made like the Garden of Eden in ways undeniably of the Lord’s hand. God did not just restore to me what was taken. He replaced it in abundance and favor so far beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I have a joy now, and a peace that I can draw on. I learned to take the stones of my suffering and build an altar with them. Chasing the Lion is that altar, and it is a privilege beyond words to see that become an altar for others, shared with me in letters from readers.
~ Quick Questions ~
Any pets? Eric T. – a three year old fifty pound pitbull mix that is the love of my life.
Favorite holiday? Christmas
A color we’ll never see you wear? Yellow
Night owl or mourning dove? Night owl
A book you’ll never part with? Shane by Jack Schaeffer
Favorite way to spend a lazy day? Reading!
Nancy, thank you so much for stopping by and answering my questions. It’s only April but Chasing the Lion is already on my top five reads for 2015. It’s a superb story; this eager reader can’t wait to get her hands on Charging the Darkness.
To find out more about Nancy, click HERE.
To follow her on Facebook, click HERE.
To purchase Chasing the Lion on Amazon, click HERE.
**Nancy is offering one signed copy of Chasing the Lion to a reader who comments here, on my blog, or on Facebook!**
Q for readers: What’s one book that was so exciting you couldn’t put it down?
The drawing will be open from Friday, April 17th through Thursday, April 23rd. I’ll randomly draw a name on April 23rd, post the winner’s name here, on the blog, and contact the winner by email. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR NAME AND EMAIL in your comment! Thank you.
(U.S. Residents only, please.)