Today, Summer Kinard is visiting the Storage Room. Summer and I live in the same city, so I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Tea & Crumples earlier this month. Summer read from her book while the audience drank tea and nibbled on tea cakes. Everyone had a lovely afternoon.
I was intrigued by Tea & Crumples and have asked Summer to chat a bit about her book. I hope you enjoy getting to know her better.
What was the inspiration for Sienna’s journey in Tea & Crumples?
I’m fond of a three-stranded plot. I always knew that Sienna would struggle to get the teashop off its feet and that her husband Peter would have a medical crisis at the same time. I was taken by surprise by the third strand of grief, but it fit. When I was in seminary, I first got an inside look, through the stories of friends, of those scandals one sometimes hears about, where a person of faith stupidly engages in affairs when his or her spouse is ill. I asked myself why they might do that. The answer comes partly from family systems theory, partly from my awareness of sins and temptations, and largely from my reading of the desert fathers and mothers.
When did you first become interested in tea and the rituals associated with it?
My great-grandmother drank tea and had a collection of teapots. My grandmother also had a few teapots that she never used. I would clean them from time to time and admire their beauty. I suppose contact with those beautiful things was my earliest impression of tea. I didn’t have an immediate family that was especially prone to order and ritual, and I craved those things. My parents exposed me to a lot of wild and natural beauty, but I was always wanting something older and more elegant. I collected vintage costume jewelry and antique hats as a little girl. When my dear friend, now my husband, returned from a semester in the UK with tea habits, we started having tea together regularly. Tea fed my need for ritual and elegance and beauty, and it will always be associated as a spot of warmth in a cold winter that heats the air between me and the man I love.
What is your favorite tea, and why?
My favorite tea is Harney & Sons English Breakfast, which is a mellow Keemun that reminds me a bit of berries and chocolate. I don’t like tea to be bitter or strongly astringent, but I like a full-bodied tea that can stand up to milk and a little demerara sugar. This one fits the bill. I love the smell of the brewing leaves and the smoky berries that float up from the cup. I pour it from a little higher than necessary so I can hear it sing.
You have an academic background in religion, as well as a strong faith practice. Which informs your writing more?
Faith and learning aren’t an either/or for me. Even though I’m a married woman with five children, I strive for a few monastic ideals. One of them is that all work is God’s work. Another is that the love of learning and desire for God build on one another.
You are a prolific writer, a talented vocalist, and the mother of five young children. How do you find a work-life balance?
I don’t find balance in the sense of everything being even or equal. If you saw a pie chart of any given day, it wouldn’t match the days before or after it. I also don’t buy into the idea that my house should look like a magazine. I’m not trying to sell the house. We live here. If we welcome a guest, sure, we make ready as best we can, but it’s far more important to me to show up emotionally and mentally than to show off physically. (This is just one of the ways that I Do It Wrong according to the popular advice, but I just don’t have time to bother with the judgmental silliness of strangers.) When I’m writing, I’m not also watching TV or cooking big dinners every night or going out to meet people every day. What it comes down to is discipline. There’s no space in our culture to talk about women’s disciplines apart from weight loss and housecleaning, but the truth is that any woman who’s accomplishing a lot is doing so through rigorous discipline. I don’t have a magic schedule or balance maker. I just work very hard and very regularly.
As a hybrid author, why do enjoy working with a small press like Light Messages?
Light Messages has an editor I love working with, and they have a good ability to reach the audience for meaningful fiction. My self-published books are curricula and Orthodox fiction. I know from homeschooling that lesson plans are easiest to share in a simple ebook format. Orthodox fiction has such a specific niche audience that I need to work on spreading the word more before I can ask a publisher to assume the risk. That’s my generous way of saying that there’s no established market for Orthodox fiction, though I’m finding through experience who likes it and how to reach them.
It’s been a week or so since Tea & Crumples was released. What has the book been received by your readers?
So far readers have loved the cast of characters and the complexity of the story. I think a lot of Christian fiction has been focused and softened in order to fit into narrow genre categories, but readers like to have clean fiction that doesn’t give easy answers. The consensus from readers is that the spiritual depth and richness of characters make the story feel real.
If you could go back to the beginning of your writing career, what advice would you give yourself?
Calm down, and spend less money. On the money front, I got lured into basically worthless ad purchases the first time around. Now I know better how to evaluate reach. I’ve spent less than 1/10th of the money and reached a much larger part of my audience. There are so many things about being an author in these rapidly changing times that just come with experience. You can’t rush it. I’ve made time to read several marketing books and listen in on lots of craft and marketing conversations in these past few years, and what I’ve learned couldn’t have come to me in a brief timeframe. Other writers have been tremendously helpful, too. It’s ok to take a little more time doing things to do them well.
What is next for the staff of Tea & Crumples?
I give a little hint at the end of the book that I don’t want to spoil. But beyond that, I can tell you that some of the characters have roles in Tea & Stones and Tea & Symphony. They are very different stories with a different main cast, but you’ll have the occasional update. I also have a couple of short stories up my sleeve that will showcase some of the people you already love.
Welcome to Tea and Crumples where tea brewed strong with grace has the power to bring people together. The click of chess pieces and susurrus of fine papers mingle with aromas of warm pastries, tea, and the caramel of hospitality. Through it all, the steady love of God pours out in daily rituals.
Meet Sienna, whose spiritual gifts are the heart of the shop. Walk with her as she struggles to believe in miracles even while she walks in the shadow of death under the weight of temptation.
Tea makes Sienna remember. She remembers pain in order to hold fast the joy of her lost daughter and happiness gone in order to hold fast to Peter’s love. Tea is there with Sienna when every bit of her has been poured out. So are her friends. They keep vigil when all that’s left is faith, tea, and love.
About Summer Kinard:
Summer Kinard is the mother of five, a tea lover, soprano, and author of inspiring novels and curricula for active learners. She writes about faithful people trials with the help of tea, friendships, and love. Summer’s first novel, Can’t Buy Me Love, was a USA Today Happy Ever After pick for Women’s Fiction. Her paranormal Orthodox Christian romance, The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin, has received glowing reviews from readers. Summer writes about faith, tea, and love in journeys of healing. Follow her family’s journey with tea at TeaAndCrumples.com. You will find up to date posts on her writing life at her site: WritingLikeAMother.com, or follow her on Instagram.