Tour Schedule and Assignments
March 29--Christian Bookaholic (Review) | Katie's Clean Book Collection (Spotlight, 10 behind the scenes facts about the book)
March 30--Paulette's Papers (Spotlight, Guest post (pre-made/provided by the author) (The Story Behind the Book Cover) ) | Faithfully Bookish (Spotlight, Author Interview (provided by publisher), Quote memes)
March 31--Zerina Blossom's Books (Spotlight, Guest post (pre-made/provided by the author) (Waiting for Butterflies: The Unintentional Controversy), Quote memes)
April 3--Book by Book (Review, Author Interview (via SLB), Guest post (pre-made/provided by the author) (The Story Behind the Book Cover), Author's Top 10 Favorites, 10 behind the scenes facts about the book, Quote memes) | Soulfully Romantic (Spotlight, Author Interview (via SLB))
April 4--Mel's Shelves (Review, 10 behind the scenes facts about the book)
April 5--Debbie's Dusty Deliberations (Review, Author Interview (provided by publisher), Guest post (pre-made/provided by the author) (Waiting for Butterflies: The Unintentional Controversy), 10 behind the scenes facts about the book)
April 6--Smiling Book Reviews (Review, Author's Top 10 Favorites, 10 behind the scenes facts about the book, Quote memes)
April 7--Singing Librarian Books (Review, Author Interview (via SLB), Guest post (pre-made/provided by the author) (The Story Behind the Book Cover), Author's Top 10 Favorites, 10 behind the scenes facts about the book, Quote memes)
April 10--cherylbbookblog (Spotlight) | Fiction Aficionado (Review, Author Interview (you ask the questions), 10 behind the scenes facts about the book)
April 11--Puddletown Reviews (Review)
April 12--Reading Is My SuperPower (Review)
Helpful Tour Information
1. The tour kit for Waiting for Butterflies is now live.
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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 inspirational novels, she blogs at The MOM Journey, where moms aren't perfect and that's perfectly okay. Her writing has also been featured in Guidepost’s Angels on Earth magazine. When she's not writing, Karen teaches high school and college English and resides in the beautiful Arcadia Valley with her husband and two daughters.
(Insert interview here or include the interview via SLB Tours or the Publisher below.)
Interview via SLB
1. What or whom inspired you to become an author?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to write. As a child I was a daydreamer and a reader. I kept a diary and wrote long letters to relatives who lived in other states and to pen pals who lived in other countries. I decided to become an English teacher because I loved reading and writing. However, when I started teaching, I soon realized my reading and writing was dictated by the literature I taught and student writing that I graded. Then I became a mom, so I put my writing dreams on hold. Although I once felt being a teacher and a mom interfered with my writing dream, I realize now both prepared me to become an author. Reading great literature and teaching my students to write made me a better story teller and a better writer, and being a mom gave me something important to write about.
2. What authors do you enjoy? Do these authors inspire your writing?
This may be cliché for an English teacher, but my favorite author is still Harper Lee and my favorite book is, of course, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve taught that novel numerous times throughout my career, and each time, I see something new and astounding in Harper Lee’s craft. There is so much about TKAM that inspires me as a writer—Scout’s strong narrative voice, the layers of meaning within the story, the parallel story lines that weave around one another and eventually interlock at the end. I’ll never achieve the mastery that Harper Lee demonstrated in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I’m not a literary writer per se, but she is the author who has set the standard for me.
3. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did becoming an author ever cross your mind?
I always knew I would be an English teacher but never dreamed I would be an author—although I certainly wanted to! I remember reading books, studying the covers and author bios, looking at the words on the pages and wondering how glorious it must be to have your name on a book and your story bound between covers. What’s funny now is that here I am, holding my own book, and it doesn’t feel like my book at all! It’s so surreal.
4. How long did it take you to write Waiting for Butterflies? When did you first get the idea to write this novel?
The idea for Waiting for Butterflies came to me after my mother-in-law’s sudden and early death at 61. We received the call around midnight. A friend came to spend the night with our daughters, so my husband and I could go stay with his dad. When we returned the next evening, we were surprised to find out our 5-month-old had slept through the night for the very first time. She continued to sleep through for the next week. Finally, on the eighth night while lying in bed, I said to my husband, “Ever since your mom passed, the baby hasn’t woken up in the night.” After a few moments he quietly said, “Mom, if you’re here, you can go now.” The baby didn’t sleep through that night or for the next several months (years really, she was a horrible sleeper!). I don’t know what I believe about those eight nights, but I do know the event gave my imagination a question to play with: What if a mom is taken from her family before she was ready to go? The answer became Waiting for Butterflies. Although the story idea came suddenly, it took me 11 years to start writing. Once I started, I wrote the first half in three months in the evenings and on weekends. Then due to a string of family illnesses, I didn’t write for four years. From January through March 2015, we missed 21 days of school due to snow, and many of those days backed up to weekends. That’s when I finished my book.
5. What do you want readers to take away from reading Waiting for Butterflies?
Waiting for Butterflies is ultimately a redemption story about forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and allowing ourselves to receive forgiveness from others. It’s about the weight of guilt and how damaging guilt can be when we insist on carrying it. But it’s also about the release that comes when we decide to let it go. And of course, Waiting for Butterflies was inspired by and is about a mother’s love—and the enduring love of family.
Interview via the Publisher
1. What is your inspiration for writing the story of a family healing from the loss of their mother?
We received the dreaded midnight phone call that my mother-in-law had passed unexpectedly and too young at 61. A friend came right away to babysit our daughters, so my husband and I could stay with his dad. We returned home the next afternoon surprised to hear our five-month-old had slept through the night for the very first time, which she continued to do for the next week. While lying in bed on the eighth night, I whispered to my husband, “Ever since your mom died, the baby has slept through.” Moments later he softly said, “Mom, if you’re here, you can go.” That night, and for months after, the baby woke up. I’m still not sure what I believe about those eight nights, but a question began to stir my imagination: “What if a mother is taken from her family before she is ready to go?” The answer became Waiting for Butterflies.
2. What is your favorite part of the novel?
THE END. Those are the two most glorious words I have ever written! Actually, the end is one of my favorite parts because surprises occur that even I didn’t expect. My other favorite part is when Maggie is entering Heaven. I enjoyed imagining what that experience might be like for her.
3. Your complex characters are the beating heart of your novel, but which of them was the hardest for you to write? Why?
Maggie was challenging to write, not as a mother but as a spirit. I had to define her as a spirit by determining the rules that governed her existence and by justifying her abilities and limitations. Then I had to be consistent with those rules throughout the story. Sometimes I’d have an idea that Maggie should do something, but then I’d have to change the idea because it was outside the boundaries I had already established for her.
4. You also run the blog, The MOM Journey. How is writing a novel different from writing a blog post?
Writing for a blog is much harder than writing a novel. When I write a novel, I create characters and conflicts in a fictional world. And while my story may expose parts of who I am, it’s not as revealing as a blog post. In order to build relationships with my blog followers, I have to allow for some vulnerability, so my writing will be authentic and my readers will connect. And I blog about the real world not a make-believe one where I can manipulate circumstances to fit my story. I have to reflect and analyze in an entirely different way to write posts that are (hopefully) meaningful and insightful for The MOM Journey.
5. This is your debut novel, but you’ve been teaching writing and literature for 23 years. How does your teaching experience influence your writing?
I become 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. And that was okay because I loved teaching my students and raising my daughters. But my writing dream wiggled every now and then to remind me it was still there. Now I realize my career and motherhood didn’t put my writing on hold. They 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, loving my family, gave me something meaningful to say.
6. How has writing this book, about the grief of a broken family, changed your relationship with your family?
Waiting for Butterflies speaks to two of my greatest fears as a mom: losing a child and dying before my children are grown. Writing this story allowed me to confront those fears on some level. Also, Rachel’s struggle reminds me to listen to my daughters, even when they don’t express their needs out loud. And I appreciate how my husband finds new ways to connect with our girls as they mature into young women because he values that closeness. And I certainly want to hug my family a little tighter when we’re all together, to keep us close, to keep us whole.
7. Obviously, butterflies are an important symbol in Waiting for Butterflies. What made you choose to weave butterflies into your story?
The butterfly symbol was actually one of those pleasant surprises that happened during the writing process. The original title for the book was Her Children Shall Rise Up from Proverbs 31:28. But one day while in a bookstore, I saw a journal with this quote: If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. The quote instantly illuminated the theme of the story for me and butterflies became a unifying thread I wove throughout. The story would be missing a layer of meaning without the butterflies.
8. What do you ultimately want readers to take away from reading Waiting for Butterflies?
The characters in the book, Sam and Rachel especially, fight silent battles with guilt, and that guilt becomes a dividing factor in their family. But once they let go of it, they find forgiveness and redemption and their family is whole. Too often we hold on to past mistakes, our shame, because letting go seems impossible. But we have to let go and seek forgiveness in order to heal and move on. Maggie’s family exemplifies that.
9. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Readers can visit my website at karensargentbooks.com. To connect with me personally, I invite readers to check out The MOM Journey at karensargentbooks.com/blog. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
The Story Behind the Book Cover
We all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But isn’t that exactly what we do? Long before I signed with my publisher, I had a vision for my book cover. I also had a former student, Kinsley, who is a graphic artist. So with my contract in hand and pen poised to sign, I asked my publisher if Kinsley could submit a book cover for consideration. The publisher reminded me an in-house designer would be assigned to my book, but then they surprised me and agreed to “consider” an outside submission.
After I shared my vision with Kinsley, I discovered graphic design is an art—not magic—that required content. I needed a little blonde girl to model, a professional photoshoot, and a budget. I didn’t know a little girl who was the right age with the right color hair with the right “look,” and my book budget was already in the red. So I convinced myself the publisher’s cover design would be fine. Fine.
But disappointment cast a shadow over me for weeks as I continued to dream about my vision. Finally told myself, “Get over it.” That same night as I crawled into bed, a name popped into my thoughts. Briar. I hadn’t seen Briar since she was a baby. I calculated. She would be about four. Was her hair blonde like her big sister’s was when she was little? Did she have curls?
The next morning I texted Briar’s mom, Ashley, who is also a former student and who now teaches in the same school district as me: “I have a strange question. Is Briar’s hair blonde and curly?” Ashley texted back a picture. Perfect! I explained what I needed and that I’d pay for the photoshoot as well as for a little white dress for Briar to wear. Ashley texted back: “No need to pay. We have family pictures scheduled for tomorrow with Heidi.”
Tomorrow! With Heidi, the same photographer I had planned to hire! I immediately contacted Heidi to describe my vision. She turned my excitement into her own and said, “I know exactly what you want.”
But she didn’t. The next afternoon when Heidi sent me the photo, it wasn’t what I had envisioned at all. It was 100 times better! I had wanted a little girl standing in a field with butterflies swarming toward her. Instead, Heidi snapped this sweet picture of Briar and then placed a butterfly graphic in her hands. Although she had taken several shots, this is the only one she sent me because she knew—and so did I—this was the one!
And as soon as Kinsley saw it, she knew it, too. She put her amazing talent to work and created the final masterpiece. I loved the cover so much…we all loved the cover…but would the publisher?
On the day the publishing team met to accept or reject our design, I checked my email every three minutes. Finally the email arrived. I held my breath as I clicked it open and read the final decision: “This cover captures the very essence of the story.”
I’m sure a cover by the in-house designer would have been fine…even fabulous. But this, this is a “work of heart” because so many people are a part of it—former students, colleagues, friends. I hope potential readers judge my book by its cover!
Waiting for Butterflies: The Unintentional Controversy
I didn’t intend to write myself into controversy when I wrote Waiting for Butterflies. Yes, it is Christian fiction. Yes, the main character is a “lingering spirit.” And no, ghosts aren’t biblical. Thus the controversy.
As the story idea began to stir my imagination, I wondered how ghosts fit into the Christian view of the afterlife, especially since I too believe our souls go to Heaven once we die. When I asked my pastor, he referred to the Hebrews 11 “Faith Hall of Fame” roll call that lists Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many spiritual giants who lived by faith. That list is followed by Hebrews 12:1, which states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” My pastor explained witnesses is translated by some to mean spectators. So maybe, maybe, this suggests those who have died can somehow still be present—emphasis on maybe.
This gave me just enough permission to play with the idea of a mother’s love being so strong that she could remain after her death until she was certain her family would heal.
When my manuscript was complete and I began submitting to agents, the response was mixed. Some replied with a simple, “This story isn’t for me.” Some warned, “This will be a hard sell to Christian publishers.” Yet others were more encouraging. Finally my story made it to the desk of an acquisition editor who emailed, “This is the one.” Waiting for Butterflies found a publishing home.
Now that my book is in the hands of readers, most are surprised to hear my topic is controversial. Like me, many believers haven’t really considered ghosts in a biblical context. But a few are adamant that the storyline is contrary to their beliefs. One avid reader said, “We go to Heaven when we die. We don’t come back and walk around and communicate with loved ones.”
I know my story—just like all stories—will not appeal to everyone. But I certainly didn’t set out to offend my fellow believers and sincerely apologize. However, I like this perspective one skeptical reader shared in her Goodreads review:
“While I was initially put off by the idea that a spirit can remain and interact, in a sense, with those still living, the author handled it with sensitivity and grace. We all have ideas about the unknown, but it is just that, unknown, and I could relate strongly to the thought of wanting to continue to influence and connect with loved ones after death in order to help them.”
I appreciate that in spite of the controversy, this reader gave Waiting for Butterflies a chance—and five stars.
Although I don’t write romances, a strong romantic thread runs through every story I create because I’m a romantic at heart. On the rare occasion when I can pop a movie into the Blu-Ray, chances are the movie is one of these:
1. This story was inspired by the death of my mother-in-law, who died suddenly and too soon at 61. I wondered, “What if a mother is taken from her family before she is ready to go?” The answer became Waiting for Butterflies.
2. My protagonist is a “lingering spirit,” which some Christian readers might question. After all, we go to Heaven when we die. But…what if God decided to allow a person (like Maggie) to return for some reason? Does the Bible clearly state that is not possible…if God wanted to allow it? I couldn’t find a clear answer, which left just enough wiggle room for my imagination to play.
3. It took me 11 years to decide to write Waiting for Butterflies. When I finally started, writing was easy because I had been imagining the story for so long, and it was fun to finally meet the characters who had been living in my head.
4. The original title of the book was Her Children Shall Rise Up, in reference to Proverbs 31. Then I saw a quote on a journal in a bookstore that inspired the new title. Waiting for Butterflies adds a layer of symbolism and meaning, and without it, the story would not have been the same.
5. I enjoyed naming the minor characters because I borrowed a first name or a last name from people I know. However, the characters have their own identities and personalities. I can’t wait to see if my friends, family, or former students recognize my “shout out” to them!
6. Some of the best twists in the story weren’t planned. I would be busy with something other than writing, and then an idea would suddenly pop into my head. It was always such a surprise!
7. Although it’s not the usual practice, my publisher agreed to let me submit a cover for consideration. I shared my vision with a photographer friend of mine, which inspired her even-better vision. She snapped the photo of the adorable cover model, who is the daughter of a former student. Then I sent the photo to another former student who worked her graphic art magic. I call my cover “a work of heart.” (By the way, the publisher loved it!)
8. My husband hasn’t read my book and probably never will since it’s women’s fiction, unless an ESPN sportscaster recommends it on TV. However, nobody is more proud of my book than he is.
9. People often ask if the characters in my book are similar to my family. In some ways, yes. In many ways, no. Maggie’s fear of losing a child—or being taken from her family while they still need her—are my deepest fears. Sam’s occupation and the sense of responsibility he feels to protect his family are similar to my husband’s. Rachel is an eclectic mix of my daughters—Randi’s creativity, Kelli’s perfectionism—colored by my experience with teens in crisis that I’ve encountered throughout 23 years of teaching high school students. Otherwise, the characters have their own identities, virtues, and flaws.
10. I thought I’d feel like an author once I held Waiting for Butterflies in my hand. But it doesn’t feel like my book. It just feels like I’m holding a book—someone else’s book. (I still can’t believe it.)
Introducing Maggie & Sam
“What are you writing?”
She clasped the journal before tucking it into the side table drawer.
“Oh, just…stuff. You know—”
“Stuff? I’ll never get that, Mags. When something bothers you, you write. When something bothers me, I need to hit golf balls or chop wood, work through it.” Sam grabbed her hands and pulled her to him.
“Yes, that’s what you always say.” Her smile was gentle. “But it’s not just writing, remember? It’s praying, too.”
“Yeah, I don’t get that either. But that’s okay. Praying about a problem is your department; doing something about a problem, that’s my department.”
Sam’s arms encircled her waist and her body settled into his. His familiar scent was therapy.
“This will be a partner project.”
In most classes those words signaled doom for Rachel, but not science, the only class she shared with her best friend. Quickly she scanned the faces in the lab until she locked eyes with Kristen, sealing their partnership.
Kristen wrinkled her nose. “You’re such a nerd.”
Rachel pushed her elbow into her friend. “I know.” And she did know; somehow she was different. In the hallway, in the classroom, in the cafeteria, she looked normal, just like everyone else. But there was something intangible, something she couldn’t verbalize, that made her peculiar, peculiar in a way Kristen tolerated and some called freaky. Only her mother celebrated her uniqueness, and her words--creative, brilliant, gifted—drowned out the snickers that sometimes followed Rachel in the halls.
“Okay, Lambie, you get to sleep up here by my pillow next to Horsey.” She put her mouth against Lambie’s ear, and her voice lowered to a raspy whisper. “Because you’re my favorite.” Then she picked up a bear and placed him on the other side of her pillow. “Teddy, you go right here. And Baby, I’ll hold you.” She wrapped her arm around a stuffed doll wearing a diaper and a blue bonnet. Then she patted the edge of her bed and addressed them all. “We’ll save this place for Mommy. She can lay with us when she gets tired.”
Olivia moved her stuffed lamb closer on the pillow. “She said maybe she saw Heaven, but she isn’t sure.” She turned to face Sam. “Mommy said it’s gonna be beautiful.”
Hairs tingled on the back of his neck. Olivia’s imagination was remarkable, tempting even him to get caught up in her make-believe. But this had to end. “Honey, you know, people who believe in Heaven think that’s where they go when they die…And, your mom, well, if she were to see Heaven, it would mean she would have to die.”
“She did die, Daddy.” Her blue eyes were wide and honest.
What was going on in Olivia’s little mind? How could he help her sort this out? “Well, if you know Mommy died, why do you keep pretending she’s still here?” It was a gentle question, but he couldn’t mask the accusation in his voice.
“I’m not pretending. She is here.” Olivia squeezed her fists as she hugged her doll tighter. “She died. She just didn’t go away. She doesn’t know why.”
(Insert your review here.)
SLB Tours Giveaway
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Book Launch Giveaway on the Author's Website
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March 29--Christian Bookaholic | Katie's Clean Book Collection
March 30--Paulette's Papers | Faithfully Bookish
March 31--Zerina Blossom's Books
April 3--Book by Book | Soulfully Romantic
April 4--Mel's Shelves
April 5--Debbie's Dusty Deliberations
April 6--Smiling Book Reviews
April 7--Singing Librarian Books
April 10--cherylbbookblog | Fiction Aficionado
April 11--Puddletown Reviews
April 12--Reading Is My SuperPower
SLB Tour Kits will be posted here by the Friday before the tour begins.