Interview by Kelly Hall, SNU Media Strategies Intern
Southern Nazarene University graduate, Kimberly McKay’s (’95) novel, Finding Kylie has recently been published. Through this novel, McKay hopes to reach out and touch the life of each reader by showing God’s power, love, and presence through life’s struggles. McKay is shares her journey before, during, and after her time at SNU and the inspiration for her first book.
What lead you to SNU?
“My family has always gone to SNU. I’m a third generation alumnus. My father, from when we were young, told my sister and I that if we were going to get college paid for – then we were to go to SNU. Although I looked at different colleges/universities, SNU was only the real clear choice for me.”
What did you major in?
“I had a multi-disciplinary degree in Marketing and Mass Communications, which I feel has served me extremely well in the writing industry.”
What was your favorite SNU moment?
“Ok, here’s where it gets tricky. There are too many memories to count, and find 1 favorite. I wasn’t your typical SNU’er. I don’t have memories of class parties or group functions, as I didn’t get involved on campus by choice.
My good memories come from the little things, shared with the amazing friends I gained…like harmless pranks or late night runs to taco bell or arby’s. Memories of burnt popcorn from my best friend’s microwave … or of friends who would hide up in top of their closets, in their dorm room to scare unsuspecting guests. Even memories of breaking a few rules here and there … nothing that was dangerous though. We just were young kids, straining to live in an environment with a lot of rules.”
How did your career as a student at SNU begin to lead you where you are today?
“Upon entering SNU, my parents were still overseas. It was a rough freshman year, as I couldn’t fly home that first year … not for Christmas, or breaks. Thankfully my sister and extended family lived here in Oklahoma, so at least I had someone to stay with. But being alienated from your parents takes a big toll your first year away from home. It’s a scary time for any child, let alone one, who was going through what I was. ( I’ll get to that in a question below )
Although I would have never guessed it back then, SNU had a huge impact on the ‘young know it all’ kid I was. As a military brat, I grew up all over the world, with different cultures and languages being the norm. Then I came to a small town, Bethany, and thought I was in the movie, ‘Footloose’. And in some ways back then, this may have been true.
I grew up in an open culture, where I chose Christianity and being a follower of Christ. However, I could dance at parties, go to movies, and wear bathing suit tops and shorts where ever I felt like, as I grew up mostly on islands. Then I came to SNU, where I would get fined or kicked out of school for any of those things. I felt very confined and resentful of the environment I had been placed in.
What I didn’t know then that I do know now, is that with the events that were getting ready to go on in my life, I needed those rules. I had some major obstacles I was up against, and those rules and their consequences gave me an outlet. I used this to focus my anger on instead of dealing or acting out in a much worse way. I focused my angst on getting away with the little things, like wearing shorts on campus or sneaking in to a bar to dance without being caught – instead of having the freedom, like I would if I were attending a state school, to drink or dabble in anything else.
Even though I was a good student, I know now as an adult, I would have never made it without the professors and mentors at SNU. Prof. Harris used to literally call my dorm room to remind me to get to class. When I wasn’t in her room by a certain time, she’d faithfully pick up her phone. Back then if you missed three classes, you failed. Prof. Harris also had my sister in her class 6 years prior, so felt responsible for me.
If it weren’t for the personal attention I received from many caring staff members, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because my professors and student mentor cared enough about me, I had a successful stay at SNU.
Although the education and business ethics taught at SNU are outstanding, my major sustaining factor on where I am today is due to the attentiveness I received. Knowing that someone cared and prayed for me, has had a huge impact on me, as a person, today. There is no other place I could have received that – except at SNU.”
Where did your career first take you after graduating from SNU?
“I was a sales person for the Days Inn Hotel, off of I-40.”
If you could describe your career with one adjective, what would it be?
What led you to become an author and have you always aspired to write?
“I wrote a book in the 4th grade, for a class project. My teacher entered it into a state contest for elementary writers. Out of all the schools in Virginia, my book won ‘best author’.
I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pen and formulate words to paper. Even before then, I created stories and characters in my head – that I so desperately wanted to put on paper. So much so – that I sat at my parent’s old typewriter at the young age of 2, typing away with whatever my little fingers could punch in – and creating my stories with amazing characters and plots. Though to anyone else it would have looked like this: lkgjaor;iguerlknlo;giu :)
I’ve always been a writer. It’s just in me. God has blessed me with an amazing gift, that I do not take for granted. How amazing is it to know you can place someone in the shoes of a character, and allow them to feel what and who that character is all about? So much so that by the end of the book/story they’re not ready to let that character go. That is what inspires me. I want each reader to be affected so much that they internalize my characters, and fall in love with them.”
What inspired Finding Kylie?
“I’ve had this story, Finding Kylie, in my head and heart for over 18 years. I am a survivor of date rape. At the tender age of 15, after my first kiss, I was raped and soon after thought I was pregnant. Thankfully I wasn’t, and I praise God every day that I didn’t have to deal with any decisions resulting from that. But I had to face my attacker after the rape, on campus at SNU for two whole years before he thankfully graduated, after my sophomore year. After finally confronting him and standing up for myself, I had two years to begin the healing process without sight of that person at every corner.
A part of me always wondered, ‘what if I had been pregnant? How would my life and the life of that child end up?’ This book is that child’s life…the child I never had. Although Finding Kylie is completely fictionalized, it takes one on the journey of a young girl discovering who her mother truly was, and in result understanding more about her life and the world around her. Finding Kylie is simply a story of survival and self-discovery.
I want this book to speak to victims and those families/friends of victims, to point out signs of the effects of trauma in one’s life. I want to encourage everyone out there, who’s been trough any trauma, to strive for the life of being a survivor!
We all go through life with our own chaos … our own devastations – but not all of us see the blessings and abundant love available to us. Finding Kylie, I hope, will inspire everyone that reads it to know how much they have available to them in the means of support, through friends, family, and ultimately God’s love.”
What are your hopes for your novel?
“I’ve always said I don’t care if I make 20 dollars off the book. All I want is for it to touch people and make an impact.
God tapped on my heart the entire time I was writing this asking me, ‘Where am I in this Kim?’ I, of course, ignored Him for a while, as that’s what most of us do if we really admit it to ourselves. When God calls you to do something, how many of us really drop everything and jump in headfirst?
After I was midway through the book, he knocked harder on my heart. ‘Kim! Where am I in your story?’ I responded with, ‘Lord, you’re not in my story…this is my story!’
He gently responded, ‘Without me, you wouldn’t have your story.’
That hit home hard, but it still took God all the way to the very end, where I was writing the last three chapters before I finally stopped being a brat and resigned. And I resigned with a sigh, thinking, ‘Okay Lord. I’ll put you in.’
I thread a small bit of Christian culture through the book, but by the time I finished it was obvious that I had to give an ending that would glorify God and all He’s done for me.
Finding Kylie has a impactful Christian ending that I hope will plant a seed in many, who would never pick up a ‘Christian’ book.
I want those who finish the Finding Kylie to take two things away from it…. 1) Without God we’re nothing and 2) We need to embrace life every second of the day as you never know when it will be your last.”
Is there anything in particular you would want potential readers to know about your novel?
“Finding Kylie is a dual story line that follows mother and daughter through a series of family twists and turns.”
What if… after laying your mother to rest, the mother who has been the only real family you’ve ever known, you discover her secretive past in a set of hidden journals? What would you do if she was the only link to the father you never knew? A father you’d been told was dead, but was indeed very much alive…
Twenty-five year old Chastity searches through her mother’s belongings in hopes of finding any shred of evidence that leads to her father. A man, she’d always felt was out there…somewhere. Any glimmer of hope is dashed when she reads one tiny line scrawled across the back page of her mother’s notebook. One traumatic sentence is all it takes to unravel her life long desire in a matter of seconds.
Chastity uncovers the sordid truth, a truth that her mom, Kylie, tried to hide at all costs. This newfound information plunges Chastity into a new world of control, power, and hurt. With the help of her mother’s best friend, Cheryl, and Timothy, a handsome attorney hired before her mother’s death, Chastity sorts her way through her new found family ties and the costs that come with it.”
When are you expecting the sequel to Finding Kylie to be completed?
“ Facing Redemption is in progress. I am in the process of acquiring a different publisher, so I’m not sure when it will be released. Here is the book synopsis for Facing Redemption:”
Two things we can count on, is that we all have redeeming qualities and flaws. Some have balance between the two, but some of us are self indulgent in our dark side. The question is how do we forgive ourselves when we’ve done something so horrible that we can’t live with ourselves? How do we break free from the shackles binding us when we’ve done something so hurtful … so unimaginable … that it devastated someone else for life?
Facing Redemption, the sequel to Finding Kylie, deftly follows John Mikale’s journey in facing the crimes of his past. Even though he can’t begin to shake his guilt for the hurt he’s caused, he still strives to make up for his actions.
John, now married and expecting a child, is haunted by cryptic dreams. Driven to bridge the gap with his adult daughter, Chastity, he sends her letters. This futile attempt is the only way he knows how to release his past and heal both their wounds. But how can he even imagine being forgiven, when he can’t begin to forgive himself for the hurt he’s caused the mother of his first child?
Chastity Wayne, finally free from her mother’s past, is ready to move on with life. On the verge of a great relationship and about to start her burgeoning art career, she’s still pulled to read the letter she’s promised herself she never would, and the emotional freedom she’s tried so hard to find from her father’s life is slowly being taken line by line.
Facing Redemption is a dual story line that follows the path of an unwanted father and daughter’s journey, through a trail of self-awareness and final acceptance. It is also a continuance of the many unanswered questions from Finding Kylie. Follow your beloved characters as they give Chastity the strength she needs to face her father and find herself.
Read along and learn that even the worst of us, can have a changed heart and earn the right to redemption.
What are your future plans for Finding Kylie?
“A film producer, from London, contacted me after reading Finding Kylie. He fell in love with the book and asked me to partner with him in writing the screenplay for the book. We just finished converting Finding Kylie to a screenplay format, and are currently at the editing/refining stage of the game. His film company is first in line to look at it, so we may be at film markets soon trying to sell it or it may be bought right out of the gate. We’ll see… but I know God has big plans in store for it.”
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
“Every artist/writer can only hope what they do will touch the lives in such a way, that those affected will think or take action from their work. This is the most rewarding factor, that those who see or read one’s work will take a lasting impression from it.”
Kimberly McKay has already touched the lives of many with her novel and hopes to reach even more with her upcoming publication. McKay’s beginnings at SNU began preparing her to impact Christ on the lives of others through her talents.
To read more about Kimberly McKay and Finding Kylie, visit http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Kimberly-McKay/41841532306 or go to Amazon to buy it. Search for Finding Kylie under books ( http://www.amazon.com/ )