Friend and author, Kathryn Ramsperger, joins us this week to chat about The Shores of Our Souls

Author Name: Kathryn Brown Ramsperger

Book Title: The Shores of Our Souls

Book Genre: Women’s Fiction with a literary voice – Awards in Social Justice and Multicultural Subgenres

Release Date: 2017

Publisher: TouchPoint Press

Welcome, Kathy! How would you describe The Shores of Our Souls?

A young woman from the American South and a man from Beirut fall in love, but the sparks that fly are as much from societal judgment as their immediate attraction. Their love will only be able to hold through all the cultural chaos if they share their secrets with each other. 

What sparked the idea for this book?

I fell in love with a Lebanese man who worked for The World Bank while I was working for National Geographic in my early 20s. I’d always wanted to write about love in time of war due to my love of Hemingway and Kingsolver, stories my uncle and father alluded to from WWII, and my own humanitarian work in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I’d spent 20 years writing and sharing the stories of refugees and immigrants, people who had to flee their homes due to conflict, famine or both. The day fighter planes were flying so low over my kids’ playground I could see the pilots’ faces–the minutes after the Towers and The Pentagon were attacked on 9/11–I knew it was time I wrote this novel. 

How long did it take for you to write it? What was the research like?

I published my first short story in high school, so you could say a lifetime. 🙂 

It took 10 months to write Shores’ first draft. I submitted a chapter every other week to my wonderful writing group We Seven at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. It took 10 years of rejection and revision to find an agent and a publisher. The book is better for it, and the world is now ready to read it. 

For research, I visited Lebanon for a couple of weeks. I had been to other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, and had certainly written about it as a journalist, but had never been to Lebanon. I also had my memories from the 1980s, but I triple-checked every fact, because memory is subjective and can be faulty. I was lucky enough to be near The Library of Congress, have a friend at The Senate Library, am great friends with my local research librarians, and of course, used archived issues of the magazine (Nat Geo) and newspaper I worked for during that time. 

I also made sure I interviewed Arab Americans and had sensitivity readers and beta readers, before they were known by those labels. They’re essential if we are to reach our readers. I am indebted to the esteemed author @Marita Golden for her early (and continued) encouragement to write my truth. She gave me the courage and advice to tell my story. The plot is fiction. The love is real. 

What drew you to romantic literary fiction?

It’s my humble opinion that there is no better story than great love in time of war. Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Zhivago, West Side Story, For Whom The Bell Tolls, even Casablanca are testaments to this opinion. Those stories endure for a reason. They pluck at our hearts. What better remedy to war is there than love? Love allows us to walk in another’s shoes. Love, and words of love, are the bridge between cultures.

As far as literary fiction, that’s my voice. It’s tough for me to get the Southern lyricism out of my creative work. It’s the way I talk. There is also great lyricism in the Arab language as well. Think about the lyricism of Khalil Gibran. He was from Lebanon and grew up in its cedar forests on Mt. Lebanon. I also felt that character-driven rather than more plot-driven fiction is best when writing a love story. Though this novel uses some of the tropes from the modern romance genre, it defies the genre a bit, so that makes it literary fiction, too. 

What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?

My favorite parts are “talking” with my characters and connecting with readers. I wrote books to open a conversation and dialogue about other cultures, lands, and religions. I love doing readings and speaking, and I can’t wait until places that allow group connection without a camera are fully open again. Until then, I’m happy to appear online. It’s one reason I began interviewing other authors on Zoom/Facebook Live every Third Thursday in my show called “Story Hour.” I’d always wanted to interview authors from the time I was little, so this is a dream come true. I’d love to connect with more book clubs! I love you all!

I found getting the word out about Shores challenging. It didn’t seem to be an unusual story to me, but it did to readers. I was accustomed to a traditional publishing model, and even the traditional model isn’t traditional now. I don’t mind marketing at all. Marketing is simply connecting with others, but figuring out how to do it, especially mostly online, was and still is challenging. It requires constant innovation. I hadn’t realized that platform building would be a full-time job, but now that I’ve done it, it probably will become less time-consuming (though I’m still working on getting social media followers). I’ve learned a lot, which I’m hoping to share in some upcoming classes with other writers. 

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read The Shores of Our Souls?

If you want to be taken on a journey, you’ll enjoy this novel, but I think the best answer to that question is in my reviews:

Arya Fomonyuy of Reader’s Favorite https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-shores-of-our-souls said: 

Ramsperger creates characters that are psychologically and emotionally rich, characters that will win the sympathy of readers instantly. The conflict is strong, piques the curiosity, and it makes for a great reading experience. This is a story with a strong premise, a well-developed conflict that escalates quickly, and that features a satisfying denouement. It was an exciting read for me and I grew to love the characters so much.

Thanks to Tiffani C:

The Shores of our Souls is a beautifully written story that struck me as a modern-day Romeo & Juliet meets Jonathan Livingston Seagull. In an almost prescient sense, Ramsperger makes the book feel even more timely now than it would have been in its 1980s setting. There is so much of this book to love and relate to, from how the author perfectly captures war-torn Beirut and a New York City coming out of a recession to intertwining major geopolitical conflict and macro-socioeconomics with the intricacies and delicacies of dating that flourishes into a full relationship. In short, it’s a human story, very much about the human experience and what we all go through in some form, at some stage of our lives.

And I’m grateful to WILLA-award finalist author Kathleen M. Rodgers, who left a review before we’d met and become fast friends:

A compelling book that breaks down barriers!  In a stunning debut novel that both enlightens and entertains, Shores is a story for our times. Ms. Ramsperger’s skills shine brightest when she pulls us into Qasim’s life as he is torn between duty to his family and his beloved Lebanon and his feelings for Dianna. The author is skilled at writing from different points of view. This novel teaches us that we are more alike than we are different.

What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?

I didn’t realize at the time of printing that most printers are now overseas. That created some unexpected snags and delays, but such is publishing! I worked in the time where I visited the printers for Red Cross and Red Crescent publications, and you could go fix problems in person, though. I still miss that smell of the first run, ink on paper. I didn’t fully understand the process of print-on-demand, which is how most books are printed now. 

I’m also surprised but delighted about how fast audio books have taken off. I can’t wait for my two novels to be on audio, and I hope that will become a reality. Another surprise for me (though I ran a 7-staff-member publications department for the biggest nonprofit in the world, producing 50 books a year in 4 languages, so it should have surprised me), how small the staff was on a small press publishing team. They do incredible work on a shoestring budget.

Any words of wisdom you give to a new writer?

Look for my courses in the next year. I have a lot to share. 

Bottom line in terms of business: Read the contract and share it with an attorney. Get verification about what that contract lingo means. Get prepared to launch while you submit (head shots, back cover copy, tagline). Don’t rush submission. Make sure your book is ready for your reader. And that means making sure exactly who your ideal reader is.

Bottom line in terms of motivation: Believe in your books and these characters you’ve brought to life! Do everything you can, including self-care, to keep your passionate soul fire burning.  Follow your intuition. If one beta reader says to change a part of your book, but is the only one who says that, then let your heart be your guide. If everyone is confused, revise. When in doubt take it out, delete it. Don’t read your less than 5-star reviews until you have some 5-star reviews, but learn from your 4- and 3-stars. If this has always been your dream, do it now. Make it your job to write. 

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I coach other writers in a creative model I trademarked, Step Into Your Story!(TM)  It’s part creative coaching, part book coaching, and part intuitive life coaching, which I’m also certified in. Most writers need to learn to listen to their intuition better.

When I’m not coaching, reading, reviewing, teaching, or writing, I am in nature. I love traveling, and I love writing about my travels. I hope to get to South America and Antarctica in this lifetime. (I’ve visited the other continents.) I move to keep my mind calm, so I walk, have a morning meditation and yoga practice, and I hike when I can. I’m a film buff, who loves old movies as much as new ones. I love to dance–from ballroom to tap to flamenco–and I used to do wedding and funeral gigs, as I’m a trained mezzo soprano. But most often, you’ll see me with my cat on my lap or shoulder, reading. 

I do my best to be a good literary and global citizen, and my donations of time and money are usually to children who have lost their parents in war, famine or some other duress (my daughter is adopted and was born somewhere between Nanjing and Shanghai). I also support cultural causes, especially international ones, and spiritual organizations with my time.

Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.

The sequel to Shores, A Thousand Flying Things, is slated for publication early 2023. My protagonists Qasim and Dianna are back again. They once again must choose between their work and their love.Will they find the strength to stand up for both love and a lasting peace? The story, which is a sequel, but can be read stand alone, opens in South Sudan in the early 90s, where Dianna is teaching kids to read there. Another chance meeting in Nairobi brings Dianna and Qasim together again. Culture shaped them. Love transformed them. Will a child unite them? Wait for the twist! 

My work-in-progress is a memoir about my early womanhood. I found that readers were as interested in my life as they were my stories, and I coach a lot of memoir. It’s working title is My First Fiance: My Early Adventures in Love, Squalor, and Misogyny. It’s full of all three.

I also have some speculative fiction, which you coached me on in a wonderful Story Genius workshop (thanks), which I write when inspired, all about words, love, and war. 

Where can readers find you?

I’m working on a new author website that will encompass most of my online writing this year, but until then the best place to find me is at https://shoresofoursouls.com. Shores is available there and at most online retailers, including bookshop.org. You’ll find the most reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, though. 

If you’d like to read another great interview, check out @Claire Fullerton’s, here: https://clairefullertonauthor.org/2020/11/01/interview-with-author-kathy-ramsperger-the-shores-of-our-souls/ 

I also blog on my coaching site https://groundonecoaching.com/blog

You can find almost anything you want about my upcoming events by googling me or clicking https://linktr.ee/kathyramsperger I was just on a great podcast Maria Tomas-Keegan’s “Transition and Thrive,” talking about creativity at work. 

I’m also a featured Pulpwood Queen Author this month, and you can tune in to my February book chat with @Kathy L. Murphy on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 @ 8 pm EST/7 pm CST: https://www.thepulpwoodqueens.com/calendar-of-events/

You can find my Story Hour podcasts archived both on FB and Youtube. My facebook page is https://facebook.com/kathyramsperger

Thank you, Kathy! The Shores of Our Souls is available everywhere now.

She’s a sheltered American. He’s a Middle Eastern diplomat. Can their love lead to lasting peace overseas?

New York City, 1981. Dianna leaves her small southern town for the bright lights and rich culture of the Big Apple and a prime job at the Met. Sparks fly when she crosses paths with a charming Lebanese diplomat. A shared night of passion launches her into an exciting romance and opens her eyes to a bloody conflict far from home. But as warring factions take hold overseas, she can’t shake the feeling that her new love is hiding dark secrets.

Qasim has never known peace. When he gets the chance to bring his country’s troubles before the United Nations, he abandons his family obligations to heal his war-torn homeland. But his true mission takes a detour when he falls for a beautiful American woman. Against the urging of his closest friend and mentor, he wants to share his heart and hopes with her.

In the face of cultural barriers and mounting war, can Dianna and Qasim find the strength to stand up for their love and a lasting peace?

The Shores of Our Souls is a moving, romantic multicultural novel that dares to defy convention.

If you like star-crossed chemistry, accurate historical details, and tales of redemption, then you’ll love Kathryn Brown Ramsperger’s award-winning tale of love against impossible odds.

Embark on a barrier-breaking love story today!

BIO:

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger (Kathy) is a lifelong award-winning author, journalist, and humanitarian, as well as a recognized intuitive creativity coach. Her first novel, THE SHORES OF OUR SOULS was an America’s Best Book, a Reader’s Five-Star Favorite for its treatment of social issues, a Foreword Indies winner for multicultural fiction, and a 2022 International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys featured selection for February. It also was a DC Public Librarian’s Choice in 2020. Its stand alone sequel, A THOUSAND FLYING THINGS, is slated for release in early 2023 by TouchPoint Press. She also has a memoir in progress, with the working title MY FIRST FIANCE. All of Kathy’s work helps connect and inspire the world to move toward unity and peace. When she’s not writing, reading or coaching, Kathy’s traveling, hiking in nature, or inspiring and guiding others to Step Into Your Story! (TM) so they can contribute to humanity’s Greater Story. She lives in the DC Metro Area with her husband Brian. Together they have two adult children and a funky feline named Rhapsicle, who enjoys perching on Kathy’s head as she writes.