Meet My New Virtual Assistant: Kara Swanson
Today I am delighted to introduce my new virtual assistant, Kara Swanson. Whenever I’ve found myself in need of a new VA, God always sends me just the right person. And He certainly has done that with Kara! I know you’ll love getting to know her too.
Tell us something about yourself and how we connected.
I’m a teen writer who first met Kathy at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2015, I think. Her vibrant spirit and vast knowledge immediately drew me in. I continued to run into Kathy at various other conferences throughout the next year, and when I found out she was taking submissions for her Fiction Lover’s Devotional Series, I was eager to submit. Every time our lives have crossed, it’s been an immense pleasure working with Kathy—and my position, as her assistant has been such a wonderful journey. I actually found out about the job from my friend Kelly Harrel, Kathy’s Social Media assistant.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sleep? 🙂 In seriousness though, I like to spend time with my family—I have four younger siblings and they are always an adventure. I also play with my huskies (and their five new puppies!).
What do you do to relax or blow off steam?
Watch movies, listen to music and read. Because I live in the middle of the woods, if I’m feeling stressed out, I like to just sit on our front porch, listening to the birds and the soft swish of trees. Praying. Reflecting. Breathing.
Tell me something that’s quirky about you.
Which one? 🙂 I grew up in Papua New Guinea (above Australia), and some of the habits I picked up from spending 16 years in the middle of the jungle are still rooted in my heart. I’m not very comfortable with cars—driving or being around them. Not sure why. I still ride in them, of course, but they kind of unnerve me.
What ministries are you passionate about and involved in?
I’m a junior counselor at the camp where we live, called Camp Alandale—a place where abused foster kids find hope in the love of Christ. I absolutely love it. I also am in and teach several Bible studies, and I just joined the music team at our church.
When do you have your devotional time with the Lord, and what do you do during that time?
When I wake up, I usually read the “verse of the day” on my Bible app and pray about how to apply it specifically throughout the day, then launch into reading at least one chapter in whatever book I’m making my way through (1 Peter right now). I also am doing two Bible studies, so I read the corresponding chapters from those, digging deeper into the Scriptures and reflecting on all its depth. Last, I pray again and then start my day—trying to rely on His strength, not mine.
Tell about a favorite family ritual.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed is our family movie nights. Everyone sitting on the living room floor, eating homemade pizza and watching some family-friendly flick and relaxing together.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Siren by Kiera Cass. And Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore.
Tell about an experience in your past that God used to put you where you needed to be in order to do something He called you to do.
As the daughter of missionaries, I spent 16 years in the middle of the jungle in Papua New Guinea. We lived in a remote tribe. I didn’t really have a choice about that, as I was two years old when we went over, but I doubt being older would have made a difference. I was the only English-speaking teenage girl there. I didn’t miss department stores, busy streets, Internet, or TV because I’d never had them to begin with. As I grew up, I was introduced to these modern marvels, and my outlook changed. But I was still able to view the world through the perspective of a third-world culture. To see the importance of the simple things. To be thankful for a roof over our heads. To reach out to the broken, the impoverished, and realize they need Jesus’ hope as much as I do.
Now, as I minister at a camp for abused foster kids, I can relate—or at least understand—many of the things they’ve gone through because of my childhood on the mission field. I know what it feels like to be an outsider. To see brokenness morph into anger. To wonder where your next meal will come from. To try to be strong for your siblings—to want to protect them.
What interesting jobs have you had?
I once sold homemade tortillas! And I’ve taken care of a friend’s pet snake. I’ve also juiced lemons and sold lemon juice. 🙂
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be either a vet or a singer. It never occurred to me when I was younger that I could write for a living!
What books have you written?
I’ve written six novels, all speculative, spanning several genres—paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and everything in between. When I was seventeen, I independently published a story filled with mermaids, pirates, and fantastical worlds, with a Christian allegorical undertone. Pearl of Merlydia is available on Amazon Since then, I’ve gathered some very encouraging interest from publishers and agents. In the meantime, I’m working on a secret project I’m planning to release in early 2017. (Shhhhh.)
What do you love most about writing?
Whoo. How to answer with just one thing?
I think, overall, the thing I love most about writing—and why I will continue to do it even if no one ever reads my words—is getting to take the broken pieces of my soul and weave them into a story that shows hope. Shows light. Shows broken characters and warped childhoods being turned into something glorious. To let the Author of our lives use my words to not just bring worlds and characters to life, but to communicate something deep and life-changing. To take a tale of redemption and present it in a new and unique way.
What do find most challenging about writing?
My story is constantly growing. Just when I think a chapter is perfect, I end up rewriting it because I realize there’s an even better way to show the story’s progression. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it can be very exciting. But at the same time it’s overwhelming to constantly develop new plots and rewrite the same thing over and over. I keep reminding myself, though, that in the end it will all be worth it.
Share one of your most rewarding moments connected to your writing.
I’ve been able to mentor a lot of young writers because of this gift God sort of dropped in my lap. There are so many stories of sweet little children who have been impacted by Pearl and of elderly women who were brought to tears by the implications of the allegorical themes in the novel. As a junior counselor at Camp Alandale, I cannot tell you how many kids I’ve met who are reserved and withdrawn, even angry or depressed. All broken. Yet when I talk about my writing, and being able to escape to worlds of paper and pen, they light up. Many of them talk about the books they’ve always wanted to write. Others just listen to mine. Writing is something everyone can be affected by, even those who don’t usually read.
Name one thing that’s on your “bucket list.”
If you could be any fictional character, or star in any movie, which would it be and why?
I’d rather meet a character than be one! But either way I think it’d be James Patterson’s Maximum Ride. Max is a sassy, clever teenage girl with wings and a penchant for trouble. I think she’d be fun to both portray and meet.
Besides Jesus, which person from the Bible would you most like to talk to, and what would you ask or say?
Is C. S. Lewis in the Bible? Because I’d love to talk to him! 🙂
Seriously, though … I’d like to talk to the author of Hebrews. Because a) No one really knows who wrote the book, so it’d be amazing to actually find out. b) Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the Bible, filled with so much depth and perspective. So much hope.
I’d also love to meet Paul.
What story in the Bible do you wish had a different ending? Or in what biblical story do you wish you knew what happened next?
I want to know what kind of woman Rahab was after she converted to Judaism. How she managed to merge the lifestyle of living fully for Adonai with the person she used to be. And what kind of man did she marry? What did she tell her kids about who mommy used to be before God rescued her?
Thanks for sharing with me and my followers, Kara!
Thank you for having me, Kathy. It’s been such a pleasure!
Kara Swanson writes speculative fiction. She has also published many articles. She received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015. Her short story “Distant as the Horizon” is included in Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. You can find her online at readwritesoar.com (soon to be karaswanson.com) or on her Facebook page (Kara Swanson, Author), Twitter (@kara_author), and Instagram (@karaswanson_author).