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Interview with Sylvia Stewart


Today our interview guest is Sylvia Stewart. She and her husband were missionaries in Malawi, Africa for many years, and her first novel, Kondi’s Quest, the story of a young Malawian girl, was published last year. 

When did you decide you wanted to write?

 I’ve been interested in writing ever since I can remember.  The first writing effort that I remember was in the sixth grade – a poem about a lisping pig.  (He had to lisp to make it rhyme right.)  I formally started writing in my 30’s.  The first short article I sent out was bought immediately and I thought, “This is a cinch!”  Since then I’ve learned that it isn’t always a cinch. I’ve been published in magazines, on-line magazines and websites.  My book, KONDI’S QUEST, was published last August.

Do you enjoy reading?

 I read for a couple hours each evening – after the day’s chores are finished and I can relax.  I prefer fiction, but occasionally read a non-fiction book – mostly writing craft books.  I love a good story, but pure romance is a bit bland for me, so I prefer a bit of suspense to spice things up.

Do you think it’s important for writers to read?

For an author, reading is essential.  I’ve absorbed a lot about sentence structure and story structure just by reading stories that others have written.  My mother read to me before I could read, and I did the same for my own children.  Reading helps you pattern the tales you want to tell.

What are your favorite genres?

My favorite genre would be romantic suspense, I suppose.  Historical romance is great.  I enjoy a good western, too, providing that the language is clean.  I have several collections of novels by English authors that I re-read on a regular basis.  Fantasy and allegorical stories seem like too much work at the end of a busy day.

 Which authors do you enjoy most?

Miss Read, James Herriot, D.E. Stevenson and Mary Stewart are great English fiction writers.  Mary Stewart’s suspense novels are so well-written.  I’d LOVE to write as fascinatingly as she does.  Louis L’Amour portrays life in the American west with accuracy and intrigue.  John Grisham’s “lawyer” novels are well-written, but I often finish his stories feeling a bit depressed.  Mary Higgins Clark’s novels are almost too scary for me.  In Christian fiction, Francine Rivers, Angela Elwell Hunt and Karen Kingsbury all write great stories with an inspirational depth.  And I loved Lynnette Bonner’s debut book, ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS, with its assurance of God’s love for those who feel unlovely and unloved.

Can you tell us what you believe has had the greatest influence on your writing?

My faith in a loving God permeates everything I write.  He is the strongest influence in every story, article, devotional and novel.  Without understanding His love and claiming His Son’s sacrifice on Calvary to cleanse me from sin, I wouldn’t have much to offer anyone.

Also, I was fortunate to having a very special writing instructor and mentor.  Marjorie Stewart taught English and Creative Writing at Northwest College for many years.  She and the members of my critique groups have been special blessings in my life and have enhanced the quality of my writing a great deal.  As I used to tell my Writing Better English students in Ethiopia, “Good writing is re-writing.”  These ladies have helped me take a poor rough draft and make it shine.

Would you give us some background on your novel, i.e., what prompted you to write that particular story?

I lived and worked in Malawi, East Africa for 21 years.  We spent another 11 years working in Ethiopia and traveled through Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa rather extensively.  The plight of the children of Africa always tugged at my heart.  Because a high percentage of African children die before the age of five from malaria, cholera and dysentery, small children may be poorly clothed and under-fed.  I wanted to leave a small legacy of story for all African children.

Then, during the twenty-four years it took me to finish and publish this book, my own grandchildren began arriving.  What a blessing to be able to share with them, through story, the Africa I love!

How did you prepare to write the story? Did you do any special research?

I did no research for KONDI’S QUEST.  I was so blessed to have lived there and I resorted to memory to write this book.  As they say, “Write what you know.”  So the setting and Malawian culture was printed on my heart.  I knew their people and spoke their language, Chichewa; I had eaten their food and traveled their roads.  It was almost like going home again to write about Malawi, The Warm Heart of Africa.

I’ve been incredibly blessed that KONDI’S QUEST was picked up by the first publishing house I presented it to:  OakTara.  They put together a lovely book that I hope will have ministry potential in Malawi, my second home.

Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing your experiences and insight with us. 


Sylvia Stewart is the author of Kondi’s Quest.  You can find out more about her novels, mission, and writer’s journey at her website, Sylvia-Stewart.com.


16 comments on “Interview with Sylvia Stewart

  1. Nona
    March 19, 2012

    What a great bushel of blessings and challenges you have had Sylvia. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Thank you, Nona. Yes, God’s been very good to me. I’ve had an interesting life!

  2. Dana Pratola
    March 19, 2012

    Hey Sylvia! I agree, it is SO important for writers to read. I wish I had time to do it. Miss you in chat =-) Blessings!

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Dana, someone said — can’t remember who: “What we read, we are.” Reading is important and shapes the way we write. It’s also important to be careful what we take into our minds through reading and watching TV. What goes into our minds comes out in our lives.

  3. Ann Gaylia
    March 19, 2012

    So glad to hear your plug for Mary Stewart’s suspense mysteries. I haven’t read her in a while, but always loved her books. I feel the same way you do about John Grisham’s novels.

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      I’d LOVE to write like Mary Stewart. (She’s no relation, by the way, even though our children claimed her as an aunt when they were in boarding school.) She describes her settings so well, but keeps the suspense tension going. John Grisham writes a terrific nove, but I’m always depressed with the endings of his books. So often, the protagonist gets “the loot” but in a questionable way.

  4. Yvonne Lee
    March 19, 2012

    Thanks for letting me know about this Sylvia. A brill interview, so good to learn a little more about you. I too love a good thriller.
    What a fascinating life you’ve had, and I must say your love and knowledge of Malawi really shines through Kondi’s Quest.
    It’s a lovely book and I’m thrilled to own a copy.

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Thank you so much, Vonnee. KONDI’S QUEST was a delight to write. It took me back home.

  5. Maria
    March 19, 2012

    Lovely interview, Sylvia! What an amazing background you have to bring to storytelling. I know so many people who have gone to Africa and are forever homesick for it. You have such a powerful setting for your novels, for those longing to return to Africa and for those of us who have never been.

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Ahhh, thank you, Maria. I love Africa — and Malawi especially, although Ethiopia also has a claim to my affecitons.

  6. Betty alexander
    March 19, 2012

    Sylvia this is so great to get an interview. Your book is so good and your own story of the life and country of Africa makes it all real. God’s blessings to you in the journey of crafting books that warm the heart and glorify God.

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Thank you so very much, Betty. I miss Malawi with an ache in my heart that rarely lets up. A sequel to KONDI’S QUEST is brewing.

  7. Barbara
    March 19, 2012

    Great interview! You have a rich background in serving the Lord on the mission field and can now bring some of your experiences to life in your books for all of us to enjoy. What a blessing!

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 19, 2012

      Thank you, Barbara. I’m SO GLAD to have your for a critique partner. We work well together. Hugs

  8. Cory-Lynn
    March 20, 2012

    Loved your insights Sylvia.

    What a great place this blog will be to connect readers and writers.

    I enjoyed Kondi’s Quest thoroughly, and have shared it with friends. I am going to order another copy today so that I have one to loan out and one at home- as I’ve started reading it to the kids.

    How special that your grandchildren can experience “your Africa” in such a precious story.

    Amazing that the children of Malawi will also be touched and ministered to, through Kondi’s Quest. Praying for much fruit!

    • Sylvia Stewart
      March 20, 2012

      Thank you so much, Cory-Lynn. Kondi is a composite of many Malawian girls I knew. She’s witty, thoughtful and smart; and she lives a joy-filled life in unhappy circumstances. We all have days that are downers, but we can choose joy.

      I hope your loaner book will be a blessing to those who read it.

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This entry was posted on March 19, 2012 by in Author Interviews and tagged , , .

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