I’d like to introduce you to the people I’ve met on my writing journey. Going deeper into them is a great way to find out about some authors and their great stories.
I met Karen Sargent at the ACFW Conference in Nashville last year and her first book – Waiting for Butterflies – was launched this year. She loves English (most English teachers do), is inspired by Momhood and powered by a cup of cream and sugar with a dash of coffee.
So I asked her seven questions …
Who are you and what are you doing here?
This is a really great question, one I ask myself at every author event I’ve attended since my debut novel launched in April. I smile incredulously as people tell me they are excited to read Waiting for Butterflies or that they read it and loved it. Usually they are holding a book, extending it toward me expectantly. When I look at the cover, I see a familiar name—Karen Sargent—and I wonder, “Who put my name on that book?” Gripping my purple pen, I go through the motions: take the book, turn to the right page, and scribble my signature. Everything about the event indicates I’m an author, but I feel like an imposter. And I certainly have no idea what I’m doing here…or what I’m doing! I’ve been a wife for 30 years, an English teacher for 23 years, and a mom for 21 years. But an author? I think I’m in the midst of an identity crisis. And it feels really weird. But wonderful. Weird and wonderful!
What inspires you?
Momhood inspires me. For nearly 21 years I’ve loved being a mom, and that’s long enough to look back and realize I expected too much from myself—just like moms typically do. I expected perfection and always fell short because I compared myself to moms who loved to cook (my least favorite book is a recipe book!) and to moms whose homes were spotless (I’m good at moving clutter from one room to another and closing the door). I overlooked what I did well.
Like my own mom, I’m a good listener and I have honest conversations about the hard stuff. I try to remember what it was like to be a young adult and that my girls are still learning how to do life. It took time for me to sort the important from the trivial, but once I did, I was inspired to share. So I started The MOM Journey, a blog where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Being a mom has also inspired the novels I write. Each explores the depth of a mother’s love. I love being a teacher. I love being a writer. But most of all, I love being a mom.
How did you end up being a writer?
More than two decades ago I became an English teacher because I loved to read and write. But once I stepped into my own classroom, I discovered my reading time was dominated by the literature I taught and the essays I graded, and my writing was limited to lesson plans. Then two baby girls entered the story, so I tucked away my writing dream. But my dream wiggled every now and then to remind me it was still there, and a few years ago, I dusted it off and let it breathe again. Finally, in my twenty-third year of teaching, that dream has become my first novel. And while I once believed my career and motherhood put my writing on hold, I now know both prepared me to write Waiting for Butterflies. Teaching my students great literature made me a storyteller. Teaching my students to write made me a better writer. And being a mom gave me something meaningful to say.
Describe a time when your own writing has made you laugh or cry.
I cried a number of times while writing Waiting for Butterflies because I was exploring one of my greatest fears—being taken from my family before my children are grown—which is what happens to my protagonist Maggie. As Maggie mourned being separated from her family and helplessly witnessing their personal struggles, I would tear up and wonder if readers would care about Maggie the way I did, and if they would feel her emotion. Then I came across this from Jerry Jenkins (my paraphrase): When writing, if you are bored, your readers will sleep. If you cry, your readers will weep. Jerry was absolutely correct. I find myself apologizing often when readers tell me the book made them cry. (But my apologies aren’t 100% sincere!)
What do you write and why do you write it?
I write inspirational women’s fiction with a touch of romance. Although Waiting for Butterflies is actually Christian fiction, my current work in progress is inspirational. I discovered some readers won’t consider a book if it’s “Christian.” Yet I can write inspirational fiction, keep the same redemption message in my stories, but potentially reach more readers. While a redemption story can be uplifting to Christian readers, it could be life-changing to an unbeliever—but only if the unbeliever chooses to read the book in the first place. I felt pulled to bridge over to inspirational fiction, but I also felt guilty. However, after “eavesdropping” on a discussion in a Christian author Facebook group I’m in, I realized many Christian authors write inspirational fiction for this very reason. Guilt erased!
What is the most interesting plot twist you’ve ever come up with?
I can’t tell you about my most interesting plot twist because it would give away too much of Waiting for Butterflies! But I love plot twists! I love setting up a plot twist, so when the twist arrives, the reader is surprised, shocked even, but doesn’t feel duped. I want the plots twists to be believable and satisfying for the reader. My best plot twists in Butterflies weren’t planned. I may have been writing a scene—but more likely I was brushing my teeth or driving to the grocery store—when suddenly an idea would explode like a firework, and I’d think, “Oh yeah, that is definitely going to happen!”
The one writer whose book you can’t put down is ….
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the book I cannot put down. As an English teacher, TKAM was part of my curriculum for 14 years, and I reread it with my students every year (until I changed teaching assignments). Not only do I cherish the timeless themes and symbolism in the story, but I admire Harper Lee’s craft and how she skillfully wove multiple storylines into one plot, and how minor subplots add meaningful layers to the themes. Each time I read TKAM, I notice something I didn’t before.
Thanks for joining me Karen!
More about Karen
Karen Sargent creates characters whose imperfect faith collides with real-life conflicts, taking readers on a journey through grace and redemption to discover enduring hope. A romantic element is woven within each story. In addition to writing novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. When she’s not writing, she teaches high school and college English and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters. Waiting for Butterflies is her debut novel.