Meet Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron is a vintage-inspired storyteller writing from the space where beauty, art, and history intersect. She’s a Christy Award-winning author of historical fiction, including the bestselling novels, The Butterfly and the Violin and The Paris Dressmaker, as well as nonfiction titles. She also serves as a literary agent with Gardner Literary.

Her work has been named to: Cosmopolitan Best Historical Fiction Novels of 2021, Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Carol Award and Christy Award finalists, and received a 2020 Christy Award for her novel, The Painted Castle. She's also been featured at: Cosmopolitan, Publishers Weekly, Once Upon a Book Club Box, Frolic, Book Club Girl, BookBub, Country Woman Magazine, and (in)Courage.

A self-proclaimed history nerd, Kristy loves to chase all things research, going behind the scenes at a Ringling Bros. Sarasota mansion, touring a former TB sanitarium, making bee friends at a working honey farm, or embarking on a back-roads jaunt across Ireland being a few. She holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing and spent 15 yrs in education and leadership development for a Fortune 100 corporation, partnering with such companies as the Disney Institute, IBM/Kenexa, and Gallup before stepping away to pursue her passion for storytelling.

Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three basketball-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a peppermint mocha latte and a good read.

Kristy Cambron was featured in the September 2016 Adult box for her novel, The Ringmaster's Wife. The box hint was "Vintage Circus".

A Conversation with Kristy Cambron

In November 2016, author Kristy Cambron sat down on an Instagram post with Once Upon a Book Club and their readers to discuss The Ringmaster's Wife, her writing process, and more. Please enjoy the following transcription of that conversation as it was written on the Instagram comments on that day. Enjoy!

What inspired you to write about the Ringling Brothers?
Kristy Cambron (KC): What inspired me? 2 things: My mom, who inspired me to love classic films from a very young age (The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952!), and my publishing family, who just knew Mable Ringling had a story to tell -- so they asked me to write it. I am humbled and so glad they believed in me enough to let me do it!

Some of the characters were fictional to enhance the story, but for those people and events that were real, how much time did you spend researching for the book before you sat down to write?
KC: Tons of time. We spent a total of 3 days researching onsite at the Ca' d'Zan mansion in Sarasota. I also worked with curators at the museum and Ringling/Burton family members to learn all I could about the Ringlings. You can go to my YouTube channel and see the film footage of a tour -- in the EXACT mansion where the story is set! It was so cool.

What was your favorite place and/or part of doing the research?
KC: It's so hard to narrow that down! Ha ha! But I would have to say... that outdoor ballroom with the marble terrace overlooking the bay. It captured me from moment one. You could almost feel the Gatsby-era parties that happened there! The history was so thick and I fell in love with Mable's Ca' d'Zan in that moment! I also had the honor of attending John Ringling's 150th birthday celebration at the Ringling Museum this past May -- a 1920s lawn party with John Ringling's restored 1923 Rolls Royce there onsite! I was able to meet the Ringling/Burton families (who were so gracious and helpful). It was a researcher's dream.

What was the hardest part of the book to write?
KC: It was Mable's story that took the most courage to write. It's semi-biographical fiction and I didn't want to get it wrong. I wanted so much to honor her, the Ringlings' legacy, and to wrap in a story of redemption at the same time. I spent much more time focusing on Mable's view just because she really lived, and I'd come to respect her so much.

Was there anyone in particular that inspired Rose or was she completely of your own imagination?
KC: Rosamund is entirely from my heart. Honestly. Both she and Ingenue came to my heart long before I knew I'd be writing a circus story. I just knew that I was called to the Jazz Age and wanted to tell their story. 🐎🌹

What does your writing process look like? Where do you write? How do you develop your characters?
KC: I write everywhere! I do a lot of writing on my phone, actually. I wrote my debut novel (The Butterfly and the Violin, on the art of Auschwitz) almost entirely on my phone. I have a favorite corner in a local coffee shop that is a very inspirational space. There are kayaks hanging on the wall and I sit at a table right under them, lost in story world.

Is there anything about Rosamund that reminds you of yourself?
KC: YES! I'd stepped away from my former 15-year career in Corporate America just weeks before I began writing the novel, and it very much felt like a leap of faith. I didn't have to cross an ocean like Rosamund, but I did have to step out into the unknown and that could be terrifying at times. Both women inspired me as I wrote their story -- isn't it funny how characters can inspire our own real-life stories?! ;)

Do you have a favorite character?
KC: A favorite character?! Ooh, Girl! That is tough!!! :) I would have to say... Mable, in this story. Simply because the research I did all told about her poise, wisdom, kindness and generosity. She was as wonderful as I tried to write her, which felt honest and lovely at the same time.

I really enjoyed the book and learning about a big part of American history/culture which I didn't really know about ( I live in the U.K.) Rose was a very strong woman who was so brave to follow her heart. I was so hopeful for a happy ending for her...which I know it was but a bittersweet one. I was wanting her to have everything but why did you feel she couldn't?
Hello, sister in the U.K.! I love that you asked this. I wanted Rosamund's story to end well, but realistically at the same time. We may have happy endings with seasons in life, but they rarely look exactly like we imagine they will at the start of a journey. I wanted there to be a hurdle for her to rise above and love for her to cling to. I think (without Spoilers, ha ha!) Rosamund and Colin make a great team in that way. Love is a choice. Sometimes, it's a choice in the tough moments of life and that's so inspiring to me -- not when things are easy, but when we make a choice to love and stick to it. ❤️

I felt like Sally made such an impact in the short amount of time she was in the book, especially on Mable. Was she based on someone that Mable really knew?
KC: Sally's story is purely fictional in the novel, but I think the root of her journey is a familiar one. Too often we look back in regret over the "what if?" moments in our life. I wanted Sally to inspire Mable to move in a different direction, to never do that. To live her life in the relentless pursuit of love. My faith drives me and I wanted Sally's view of life and loss to serve as an example of the love that's found in Christ.

What steps do you take to ensure you're being authentic to the original story?
KC: I learn best with hands-on experiences. So I like to travel to onsite locations -- example, I am stopping by a vineyard to learn about French wine-making, as my next book takes place in Loire Valley, France (wine country). I type notes on my phone, takes TONS of video footage, interview as many experts as I can, and carry a journal and pen everywhere I go. I even name characters from life experiences. A character in my next book, The Illusionist's Apprentice, is named for an amazing barista at my local coffee shop (Olivia).

Are you planning to write more historical fiction novels?
KC: YES! My next book comes out in March - a Jazz Age story of a female illusionist (and one-time apprentice to Harry Houdini)! It's The Illusionist's Apprentice. I am also right now writing book 1 in a three-book historical series about abandoned mansions in Europe (and a journalist who is researching the origins of fairy tales onsite) -- set for release in 2018-2020. So excited to share these stories with you all!

How did you think up Mable and Rose's conversations together? They seemed to be very good friends.
KC: It's what happens with every story -- the conversations, the scenes, the themes... they come to me and I document them. (Yikes! Not a helpful answer at all. Lol!) But truly, I try to imagine what life in that time/place would look, feel, smell, sound like, and how relationships would form in those spaces. I think Mable's friendship with Sally affected her mentoring of Rosamund. She didn't want to miss an opportunity to bless a younger (courageous too!) woman if she could. I firmly believe in mentors. I have many and I am blessed by them daily. I highly recommend bringing loving women into our journey -- I wish Mable could be that for us too!

What was the most challenging scene to write?
KC: Little known secret... there was one scene that wrecked me in the book. I had tears running down my face when I wrote it. It was the final scene between Sally and Mable. I am a BIG believer in dreaming, stepping out to dream chase and to find our calling. That scene impacted me in so many ways -- to choose to love, always, and to never be afraid to dream big. ❤️🎪

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