Thursday, November 3, 2011

Author Interview & Blog Tour: Act of Grace by Karen Simpson

When I asked to be a part of Pump Up Your Books Act of Grace blog tour I immediately went to Goodreads and read up on Karen Simpson's book...the reviews were outstanding from other readers so I knew I was in for a treat! And being a huge history buff, this book fit right in with my favorite things to read.

Book Summary:

Why would Grace Johnson, a bright, African-American high school senior, save the life of a Ku Klux Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore?

That question hovers over Grace's hometown of Vigilant, Michigan, and few people, black or white, understand her actions-especially since rumor has it that many years ago, a member of the Gilmore family murdered several African-American residents. And if Grace had her way, she would not reveal the circumstances that led her to make what some deem to be a foolish sacrifice and an act of treason against her race.

The decision to remain silent, however, is not Grace's to make, for the spirit of her ancestors have emerged and insist, in ways Grace cannot ignore, that she bear witness to the violent racial history that continues to divide the town of Vigilant. But when Grace discovers a century-old tale of a bloodsoaked, eye-for-eye vengeance that includes the mysterious death of her own father, she questions whether she has the ability and the will to accept the mind-bending spiritual challenge in front of her.

As Grace reluctantly embarks on the unlikeliest of journeys and into the magical world of the African-American traditions used by her ancestors to fight slavery and oppression, she undergoes a spiritual transformation that leads to the true nature of her calling: to lead Jonathan Gilmore, the town of Vigilant and her own soul on a path toward reconciliation, redemption and true grace.

About the Author:I am passionate about the craft of writing fiction, the art of quilting, and the discipline of historical research. For me all three of these disciplines are deeply intertwined.

Writing fiction, I have found, is a lot like quilting. You stitch thousands of words together to create an intricate pattern of theme, plot and characterization. Then, one by one, you layer all the pages; to produce what you hope will be an interesting and powerful work.

A historian by profession, I help historical institutions design exhibits that deal with issues of racial and cultural diversity. During my research I often find inspiration for my fiction.

Some other things about me:

I’m a resident of Ann Arbor Michigan, which is a great place for writers and artists.

I am the 2009 winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writers Grant.

I am a foodie and own way to many cookbooks. One of my greatest pleasures is to cook for my family and writer friends.

I also love animals, especially horses and dogs.

You can find Karen Simpson on the web HERE

Author Interview:
1. Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.

Exciting. Exhilarating. Exhausting.

2. What is your favorite genre of literature?

I love reading and writing speculative fiction. For those who might not have heard of the term, speculative fiction is use to describe the breadth of fantastic literature, ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to horror to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern myth-making -- and more. I write speculative fiction, in part, because it offers innovative avenues for looking at the world’s problems.

3. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else but a writer or artist. I didn’t get serious until about ten years ago when I started Act of Grace.

4. What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson. It is literary speculative fiction at it’s best.

5. What do you think is the sole purpose of books?

To enlighten readers about their lives and the lives of others.

6. Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you are serious about getting published, work at writing as you would a career or job. Learn the craft by become a part of critiques groups and go to as many conferences as you can afford. Read all kinds of novels and writing book, but, in addition, read books and blogs about how to conduct the business side of writing. A good book to start with is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.

7. How did you come up with the title?

I wanted something simple, five words or less, for a title. I selected Act of Grace because how and who the protagonist of my novel decides to saves really is an “act of grace”,

8. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I write speculative fiction or contemporary fantasy, in part, because it offers innovative avenues for looking at the world’s problems. It is my hope that my novel Act of Grace leaves you thinking about justice, community, tolerance, love, family, and struggle and healing in new and different ways. I also hope my novel will enable you to have more honest and hope filled conversations about these universal issues.

9. What is it that you like to do when you’re not reading/writing?

When I’m not reading or writing I ‘m working on several quilts.

10. How do you react to a bad review of your book?

I try to remind myself that not everyone is going to love my book and that’s just the way it is.

11. Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?

When I first selected the names for my characters I wasn’t really think about their meaning except for Grace, of course. The other characters names just seemed to fit, so I kept them. It was not until a wonderful woman in a book club discussion group brought up that she had studied the meaning of all my characters names that I became aware that their names closely mirrored their personalities.

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