Author Interview ~ Kathleen Sawyer

Kathleen Sawyer grew up in Phoenix, Arizona before moving to San Diego, California at the age of 15 to live with her sister. During her junior year in high school, she became pregnant with her son Eric and dropped out of high school. This difficult and life-changing event later inspired Kathleen towards teen counseling and working with troubled youths. At the age of 40, Kathleen went back to school and earned her GED, followed by a number of college courses through Clark College. Today, Kathleen is a self-employed counselor and co-owner of a Christian counseling center. She speaks regularly at conventions and retreats on subjects such as women’s sexuality, processing emotions, and post-abortion syndrome. Kathleen and her husband, Tom, live in Brush Prairie, Washington and have two grown sons.

What made you start writing?

I am a counselor by profession and one day a Mom brought her teenage son to see me. This young man had been dealing with a great sadness and Mom said she’d lost her son to the sadness. So God used me as His vessel to set out to help find him. His story changed my life.

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Putting all the moving parts together was the toughest. Until I began this journey I had no idea what writing a book involved. Finding an illustrator was an education and through some interesting circumstances God brought me TJ. And she is an incredible gifted illustrator. She is the niece of a friend and partner of mine in the counseling center we own.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

In “The Day Sad Arrived” I am in the book literally. I had no idea at first I was going to be in the book. TJ’s Aunt (my friend) came in my office to take pictures and she asked me to sit in my chair, she took several pictures. I thought nothing of it. When TJ brought me some of the illustrations to proof, there I was, I am the lady with the “sparkly glasses that sit on the tip of her nose”

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

When a wonderful writer and friend Robin Jones Gunn introduced me to her what I call “the book Doc” Paula was an incredibly helpful. Paula helps you stop and talk about how many balls you’re going to juggle. That helps you not drop them once you start juggling.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

My latest release is The Day Sad Arrived. It’s a story of a young man who could be any of us. It tells of how heavy “sad” can be to carry around 24/7. I share the process of going through the emotion of “sad” and some needed tools to work through the emotion.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

There was one stand out moment that brought this story to life. I was working with this young man and he was stuck in his “sad,” the Lord promoted me to ask, “What day did sad arrive?” It was incredible, there was total clarity for him this wonderful light bulb went on and it opened the door for us to see what “sad” was made up of. The young man said, “Sad arrived the day my Uncle died, he was my best friend.”

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

The main character is a real person. He’s a wonderful young man by the name of Eric. (I have a son named Eric not the same one.) Eric today is 17 years old and has a great love for the Lord and is in ministry.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

The most fun was watching the book come to life! Just like any project you first think about it. Next you dream about it, you begin to start looking at what it takes to bring it to life. That first part is very exciting. I enjoy promoting the book at book stores, conferences retreats or trade shows, that’s fun to me because you meet such wonderful people. When I got into the nuts and blots reality set in. The business end of the book wasn’t much fun for me. I went to writer’s conferences to promote the book I had to approach agents, publishing companies and it felt like I was getting in their face and I was and that’s how it’s done. So there you have it for me the best and the worst.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

That “Sad” is a real emotion and to process that emotion to see what God wants me to gain from looking at “Sad” Our emotions are real and God given and if we stop and see what the emotion is made up of and dig a bit than we gain, I’ve gained freedom even though it was very painful at first. I’m blessed to know Jesus walked this earth and He knows how “Sad” feels so when I go to Him with my emotions He gets it!

What does your writing space look like?

I’m surrounded by 150 foot evergreen trees and a year round creek the bubbles by. In the summer the hummingbirds sip nectar I make. In the fall the trees bring out the brilliant colors God makes. In the winter I’ve been blessed to be writing with the snow gently falling with Christmas music in the background. And the spring brings up incredible new shoots of gifts from the ground from bulbs from Holland to colorful baskets I hang all around our house.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

Oh now you’ve got me, I really feel it’s important to play and to give from a place of full (I’ve given from empty and it’s pretty ugly) I run 3 days a week with my husband we start our day with a run and time with the Lord. I run 2 days a week with my Son Eric we run at a beautiful park next to a river. Am I blessed or what!!! My husband and I enjoy playing golf (we’re not very good but we have fun) we enjoy eating. It wouldn’t be odd to see my husband and I enjoy dinner in a two hour span at home or out. Now you know why I run. Every Sunday night my sons and their families come over for dinner and games. So with all the above it helps me see what’s eternal and what’s not eternal.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

First it was laid on my heart in a big way. I spent time with the Lord to see if it was what I was to be doing. I than set out talking about it pocking at it, asking people what does “sad” look like to you? I laugh now thinking about what I put together to show a very gifted friend who is a very polished writer. She never once made me feel discouraged or said anything negative she only encouraged me. I wrote it re-wrote it wrote it again and oh did I say I re-wrote pages again and again. I had a gal who was recommended to me (I call her the book Doc) go over and over the book to cross the t’s and dot the I’s. Did I repeat page two on page twenty? Does it flow? OK now sit with it a bit and see if it’s feeling ready, oh did I mention lots and lots of prayers?

What is the first book you remember reading and what made it special?

I still have it, Hansel and Gretel it has moving parts. The book is over 50 years old. I remember it was a little scary to me.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

I think it opens my mind up. Reading others work helps me see new colors so to speak, it also helps me broaden my horizons and learn things I may not have thought of. My Grandchildren were helpful with my book I asked them questions about their feelings.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

The writing part wasn’t frustrating to me. I wish I would have researched the process of publishing better. There are endless possibilities and I didn’t know that. I custom published and that’s expensive so I wish I’d done more research.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

I’m marketing all the time whenever I can. I have post cards with my book on the front and information on the back I leave them everywhere. I’m blessed to speak at conferences and retreats and churches. I approached Christian bookstores and so far it’s been a positive response for me. I’ve been with Winepress for one year and I bought their marketing package and they got me four radio interviews. Two cable TV interviews. To date it hasn’t brought much in sales.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’m going to be working on a series of books dealing with emotions. I’m talking to my 17yr old grandson and his friends about what emotions seem to be in their faces.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Yes I do, work in your life to feel your feelings, to share them with someone you trust. We will have emotions for the rest of our lives so we need to begin to work with them. Maybe in using them to teach us they won’t stay around to long.