~Creatives on the Journey~
When we pursue our passions—life opens up in magical ways.
Featuring Novelist Kimberly Russell
Kimberly writes Contemporary Fiction. And she has just published her debut novel Journey to ChiYah.
Journey to ChiYah is a fantasy novel. Stay tuned to learn more about how Kimberly came to write outside her chosen genre.
Prepare to be inspired
Let’s learn a little about Kimberly. To use a writerly term, will you please share your backstory?
I live in a tiny house in southern lower Michigan with Toby, the Shih Tzu, who allows me to be his roommate.
Retired for four years, my day job was that of a civil servant in the Michigan Department of Corrections at the local prison complex. I served as Warden’s Secretary under two female wardens in a three-prison complex of 2500 medium security male inmates.
The highlight of my career was the role of Program Coordinator for the first inmate-dog training program in the MDOC. Since its inception in 2003, thousands of rescued greyhounds and “pound puppies” have been through the program, and it has expanded to many other facilities in the Michigan system.
I’ve been divorced for twenty years and still keep in contact with my three step-children—I’m Nana to ten! Family is super important. I have two sisters, one nephew & three nieces, and am a Great-Auntie to too many to keep track of. Cool trivia: 3 years ago, I also gained a brother through Ancestry DNA. Bill and his wife live in Minnesota and we keep in regular contact. Talk about the most awesome thing ever!
I live a quiet, reserved life that I adore. My days are spent creating literary magic, hanging with friends and family, and pursuing my pickleball obsession. (YouTube it if you’re not familiar—such fun.)
What inspired you to choose writing?
I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me.
Finding my purpose was a lengthy endeavor, but out of dark times and my own quest for wholeness, God birthed His intentions for me: “The Grrrr of a Writer.”
What started out as a pitiful mewl grew to consume my soul and comes out roaring like a lion that cannot be silenced. Although it’s hard work, I can’t NOT write. It’s in my soul and needs somewhere to go, which was confirmed when God told me that my words would go on assignment. My hashtag, #SharingHopeThroughWords, says it all: If I can help someone else through the talents He’s blessed me with, my assignment has been accomplished.
You’ve seen your name in print, and now on the cover of your debut novel. Would you please tell us about your published works?
Writing has been an evolutionary process that has spanned many years, beginning when I was coming out the other side of some emotional struggles. I asked God, “Well, now what?” The answer? Write.
In 2009, I joined an on-line writing community called FaithWriters (where I met Rita.) I regularly took part in their weekly writing challenge and had some success. High-ranking finishes led to publication in the 2015 & 2017 FaithWriters anthologies.
Branching out to become a columnist for a local entertainment publication called Frank Talk was a challenge I didn’t expect after the publisher allowed me to be a guest contributor in their “Critter Corner.” But when I approached him about a fictional component, he was hesitant then agreed to a trial run of The Adventures of Miranda DailyLife, I authored the column for over a year and enjoyed an enthusiastic readership.
I have also been published in Dog Life Magazine and completed three full-length manuscripts from participation in the National Novel Writing Month challenge held in November each year (writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.) One of these-Photo Finish-is my next project—stay tuned!
What sparked the idea for Journey to ChiYah? Did you begin with a name or place? Did scenes start playing in your mind? Or perhaps your characters began chatting?
I’ve always struggled with emotional issues, and God has untangled much over the years. When I began attending a new church where we learned about restoration, my healing accelerated, as did my creative juices. Everyone would see me scribbling furiously during sermons, taking notes, and journaling as God worked me through the healing process, but at the same time, He downloaded ideas that intertwined with my own twisty road, and soon Journey To ChiYah took shape. Life got in the way for a while and it took me several years to finish the first draft, but after I retired, I knew it was go-time.
Journey to ChiYah is a fantasy novel. How did this change in genres happen?
Journey is indeed fantasy genre but generally I write contemporary fiction. This one was an assignment from God and no one was more surprised than I that it fell into a genre I'd never dream of willingly writing in.
Is there a message in Journey to ChiYah you want readers to grasp?
The message is that God can heal and restore us from our past if we cooperate during the process. It’s often a bumpy road, but as we persevere, He is faithful and true to restore us to His original, best intent, then send us on assignment to share with the world.
How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript? Did it fly from your fingertips, or did the story emerge slowly?
All my journaling and notes were one big mess, and I was very determined to weave every bit of it into the story—surely I didn’t want my reader to miss anything important. Good thing God is patient with me… He finally told me to stop going in circles and get on with it. Once I let Him be in charge-me trying to control? Pshaw!-the story came together nicely to become exactly what HE wanted it to be.
Do you have a creative muse you rely on to enrich your writing life?
My imagination runs rampant and must be reined in regularly—it tends to romp out of control and often needs a stern talking to or we’d never get anything done.
Toby is part of the process, too. He’s my sidekick, writing buddy, and general Snuggle Coordinator-a very important role-although sometimes he gets impatient when I spend too much time on my laptop.
Based on your publishing experiences, what advice do you have for a writer eager for a byline or to see their name on a book cover?
Several things come to mind:
Do NOT be in a hurry to publish. There is no substitute for taking the time to produce the best possible product. You’ll get sick of your manuscript, but just keep going until you are confident that it is as polished and strong as it can be.
Never scrimp on editing or your cover. I heard it over and over and totally agree: once your work is published, you can’t take it back, and a manuscript riddled with errors is the kiss of death. Also, a well-designed, professional cover is crucial.
Do research and learn, learn, learn. Since Journey is my first novel, there was a lot of extra time spent educating myself as I went along, but I needed to gain the knowledge to put together what works for me. Whether it was honing my craft, marketing, or the mechanics of writing, I always researched, asked questions, and conferred with others until I was satisfied I was making good decisions. Even then, I made plenty of mistakes, but am hoping my next novel goes smoother as a reward for my diligence. That’s the plan, anyway…
Kimberly, it’s an honor having you as a guest on Creatives on the Journey. Thank you for sharing your story. And inspiring and encouraging others in their own journeys.
Grab a copy of Kimberly Russell's debut novel, Journey to ChiYah.
Come along on the adventure of a lifetime, and maybe you’ll find someone you never knew you lost: Yourself.
Jade Pepperdine has a problem: Her life is crumbling beneath the weight of the past, events of the present, and fears for her future. Things need to change, but she doesn’t know where to start.
Answers come in the form of an unexpected opportunity when Jade finds herself stuck in a mythical land. She meets Mayor Dudley, who insinuates she is emotionally broken and in need of repair... a fact she’d just as soon ignore. He offers to help her get home if she is willing to face her issues through a process of restoration. Frightened and skeptical yet out of options, Jade grudgingly agrees. And soon figures out that change is a journey, not a destination.
Journey to ChiYah is available:
Amazon in the Kindle Store, in Paperback, and Kindle Unlimited
Visit Kimberly online:
Social Media links:
Thanks for stopping by. May you find the magic in your own journey.
Rita Garcia writes Stories that Warm the Heart. Romance is a big part of her
novels—hope is an even larger element of her contemporary women's fiction.
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