Featured Author

There is little that FaithWriters member, Kathie Thomas hasn't done. Besides being an accomplished writer and published author, she's won or been nominated for many awards, most recently the 2009 Australian of the Year award. She has impacted the home-business world and maintains several blogs. In a nutshell, she's done it all! Join interviewer, Lynda Schab, as she talks with Kathie about her Christian testimony, her family, and all of her impressive accomplishments.


LYNDA SCHAB: Start by telling us about yourself and give us a brief Christian testimony.

KATHIE THOMAS: I was brought up in a non-Christian home, although mum and dad did take us (my 2 sisters, brother and me) to church when we were young. But they didn't stay at church and would have us walk home or come back and get us. I think probably it was the only 2 hours a week they had alone together without 4 young children. I was the eldest. To this day mum and dad still do not know the Lord and this saddens me. They are very aware of my faith and mum has read one of my books and many Christian fictional stories (like the Left Behind series) but still nothing – at least not that I'm aware of.

I grew up always knowing God, though, and remember talking to Him when playing alone in the backyard. I can't remember a time I never talked to Him.

When I was 14 years of age, a visiting Christian gospel group came to my high school, and while they were performing, I had a vision. They were singing 'He Is My Everything' to the famous tune that Engelbert Humperdinck sang all those years ago (giving away my age now).  The crowd of school girls in the hall faded away and there was Jesus, standing in front of me, smiling and nodding. I had tears coming down my cheeks, and as the crowd around me began to show up again, I saw a couple of other girls wiping away tears. Did they see him too? I don't know, but from that day on I made a commitment and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour - long before I even knew what that really meant. It was never taught at the church I attended.


LYNDA: You had three daughters when you married your husband, who brought two of his own daughters to your relationship. How did you and your husband meet and how did you adjust to your new role of "step-mom"?

KATHIE: We married December 1991 and at that time, the girls were all under the age of 11 – can you imagine 5 girls aged between 5 and 11 all together? 

I was Graham's secretary in the Dept of Defence in South Australia. Yes, bosses and secretaries do go out together! But we had to keep it secret as we knew there would be gossip as soon as people realised what was happening and we didn't want gossip to interfere with a relationship that was just beginning. We managed to keep it hidden from almost everyone – except our immediate boss and a couple of close friends who were sworn to secrecy. No-one knew we were an item till after it was announced that Graham had gotten a job transfer to Melbourne and co-incidentally I was going too! By that time I was sporting an engagement ring.

People began inviting us over to dinner to farewell us but instead we invited them all to a barbeque at his place. We got married that afternoon and when everyone rocked up, it was for our reception – they just didn't know it till they arrived. Our 5 daughters were all flower girls for the ceremony.

Graham's daughters accepted me quite readily – they were only 5 and 7 at the time. And I was already looking after 3 daughters in a similar age group (3, 5 & 9) so 2 more really didn't seem that much of a problem. Thank God they weren't teens – it would have been a very different story. I think I adjusted quite well and quite quickly and my heart really went out to these gorgeous little girls whose mother had left their home. I wanted to fill that gap.


LYNDA: Tell us a little more about each of your girls.

KATHIE: Very proud of our girls and they have all achieved so much.

Melanie, our eldest, is 28, been married 5 years, and is due in November to produce our very first grandchild. She has always been keen on sewing and was a real girly-girl when little. She used to make clothes for her dolls, then her sisters and herself and then friends and even me. She participated in fashion shows when in high school and even had a gown on the Denise Drysdale show on TV in Melbourne. We're very proud of her. Today she is establishing her own bridal and formalwear business and has been getting quite a few bookings for weddings and other outfits.

Meredith is 27 and works in the Dept for Education in Canberra. She was the last to leave home and completed Uni last year. For a while, it felt like she was a professional student but she achieved really well and now has a Masters. She has a love for international politics and I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up being a diplomat sometime in the future. She loves to travel too.

Our next daughter, Miriam, was very bright and had a head for mathematics – way beyond anything I knew and understood. Her father also said it was beyond him – and he's an engineer! We were very proud of her and she had secured a graduate position with a major bank in Melbourne. Unfortunately, we lost her late last year at age 24 and we are still coming to terms with our loss. She was very beautiful and full of life but hid her sadness and there was a side to her we did not see or know. She'd been living with friends for some time and we didn't see her as often as we would have liked. We found out things about her life after she died and wonder why she never told us – we could have helped her or got help for her.

Christine is also 24 (7 months younger than Miriam) and is mad about horses. She could have left school at age 15 because that's all she wanted to do, but elected to complete her schooling in case she ever changed her mind about what she wanted to do. She has just a few weeks ago bought her very first home in the country (3 hours north of us) and works on a horse stud, breeding and managing thoroughbreds. She's writing her first book and it's nearly finished. Mum is going to help her get it published! She also writes a blog called Equus which seems to attract a lot of authors of horse books and she gets to write reviews for all these free books that get sent to her! Her blog was also researched by a TAFE here in Victoria a couple of years ago when looking for information on horse courses and she was invited to come and teach for a term last year. She's been invited back this year – it was funny because she was often mistaken for one of the students by other teachers! Her long-term goal is to own her own property, breed horses and teach teens and young adults about horse care.

Angela, our youngest, is almost 23 and has been married nearly 3 years. She and her husband Ben were the first of our kids to buy a home. She worked for me part-time for 2 years while in high school and walked straight into an insurance job after leaving school. She had no ambition other than to get married and get a home – both of which she's done now. Her husband is the son of a Pastor who actually performed their wedding ceremony. They're currently doing a camping holiday tour of the Simpson Desert in South Australia with several members of his family.


LYNDA: My heart goes out to you for the loss of your daughter, Miriam. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for you. Each of your girls sounds lovely.

Early in your marriage, you had a great government job but made a decision to work from home. What brought you to that decision? And what type of work did you begin doing from home? And, finally, how did it change your life?

KATHIE: I simply wanted to be home for my 5 daughters and was fed up with traffic, public transport that was always faulty, constant meetings when I just wanted to be at my desk working, and not being home when a daughter was sick and needed her mum. I knew I had good admin skills and had supported high level executives so felt confident that I would be able to run a business too.

I began doing home-based secretarial work - simply typing or data entry into spreadsheets and databases. Over the years, I've progressed much further along and today manage databases online, design and maintain websites and blogs, teach about blogging and social networking, coach people who want to be in the virtual assistant industry, and write books. My main client base consists of business coaches, professional speakers, and authors. However, my virtual assistant team looks after a much wider range of clients and industries

My business is now over 15 years old. I never guessed I'd still be running it by now. Also, I am the founder of this industry (Virtual Assistants) in my country - guess that's something special? My life is tremendously different to what I thought it might be (in my thinking as an adult), but on the other hand, it's exactly what I dreamed as a kid. To be my own boss, to be a published author, to do things my way. And now I'm pursuing photography too – another love I had as a teen. I think if I were still in the corporate world, it's unlikely I would have achieved and experienced the things I have from a home-based office.


LYNDA: It's clear that now you can definitely be described as a successful businesswoman, as you have had several notable achievements throughout your career, including the aforementioned, "founder of the Virtual Assistant Industry in Australia." You've also won several awards in the small and home-business-based categories, as well as were a nominee for the 2008 Australian of the Year award. To what do you attribute your success? In other words, how do you do it all?

KATHIE: And 2009 Australian of the Year too. Who would have guessed? Not me.

I'm not really sure how I do it all – I just see things that need doing and do them. And with respect to my awards for my business – clients have nominated me in most cases and I expect that's been because they've liked what I've done for them and appreciated it. For the 'Australian of the Year' Awards – not sure who nominated me either time but I do know I've helped hundreds of women here in Australia alone, to be able to meet their dreams, stay home with their kids and so on. Something else I never thought I'd be doing is simply just being here to listen to people and be a sounding board for them. I know that's of God. If I was in a corporate office somewhere, I wouldn't have the freedom to just drop things and be here for others. I did that for our girls as they were growing up, and their friends, and it has extended to clients, associates, friends – anyone, really. I know I've become a role model for lots of women, particularly mothers, and I take that seriously. It's not unusual to spend a long time on the phone just listening to a woman and encouraging her. Thank God my boss doesn't mind!


LYNDA: Today, you are not only a writer, but a published author. Your latest book, More than Rubies, which is based on the Proverbs 31 woman, has been wonderfully received, not to mention has earned the FaithWriters Gold Seal of Approval. Tell us about the book.

KATHIE: Well, the book started out as a blogging exercise. I wanted to learn more about using Wordpress as a software tool because it was available on my webhosting server and I wanted to offer it as a service for clients. But to do that, I had to understand how it worked so I decided to write a blog about the Proverbs 31 Woman, well, more like a private study. But anything on the web isn't private. I started from verse 1, not knowing the Proverbs 31 Woman started from verse 10, and in the process attracted the attention of a US journalist who was writing about a senator who had a drinking problem. I'd written about verses 4 & 5 which talk about leadership and alcohol.

Unknown to me at the time, God was really just setting the scene. The journalist's story and link to my blog invited thousands of visitors – many of whom were women just seeking for more information about this famous woman. There was a sweep across the US on this very topic and I didn't know it! So, as I began to write the blog further and my personal thoughts on what each verse meant I had a following of readers, writing, asking for information, sending me their life stories, asking for advice – both in the comments section or by email. I became a kind of counselor/listener to those in need online. When I finished writing the blog, I had over 4,000 visitors a month and my business coach told me I couldn't just leave it there. I needed to do more and he suggested I write the book, using the blog as the foundation. So that is what I did.

A date was set for releasing it – based on a conference I'd been invited to speak at. The conference didn't go ahead, but my book did, and today it's sold in stores in Australia and also via Amazon.com, as well as my own site.


LYNDA: You really do have quite a heart for women and, more specifically, for mothers.

KATHIE: I feel so blessed that God gave me the ability to set up a business at home and be there for our five daughters. And it turned out not to be just our daughters, but their friends too. So many parents were thankful that I was home and opened our home to their children. I don't know how I would have coped all those years if I had to be in a job out of the house.  I love what I do today but in the early days, I just took on anything I could so I could stay home. And the girls needed me.

Today I speak at women's events and in churches about the importance of the mother (or a parent) in the home, and how much our children really need us. Especially in light of the fact that there are so many children in moral danger with care-givers or others who do not have a real interest in the welfare of those children – it's more about money or self gratification. And children suffer for it, as does the family as a whole. Society has really damaged the family and if I can do something to help women return home to where they belong, while still contributing to the household income, just as the Proverbs 31 Woman did, I'll do it. Being a role model in that regard has become really important. I sometimes find it overwhelming to be in that position.


LYNDA: Blogging is also a big part of your life. I was surprised to discover how many you maintain! Give us a brief rundown of the blogs you have and the issues they focus on. Also, what benefits can you give other authors for starting a blog?

KATHIE: Well, you already know about the Proverbs 31 Woman blog. I own another called God-Incidence.com (http://www.god-incidence.com/) and that also birthed a book called "It Happened By Design" (http://ithappenedbydesign.com/) which was published last December. I'm toying with doing a second book on that topic.

I've got two others that are holding bays for future books, one about Mary and Martha, and the other on the Titus 2 woman.

I also have a blog that is for the virtual assistant industry and linked to my business website and another that is for the home based business in general called SOHO-life.com (http://soho-life.com/blog/) which stands for Small Office, Home Office.

Then I have a family one called Thomases.org (http://thomases.org/family/) and a photography one called KathiesPhotos.com (http://kathiesphotos.com/).

Oh, and there are others – some I just own but have contributing authors as well. Because I own my own webhosting service and am a reseller for domains, you could say I'm a bit of a blog junkie. I get an idea about something, know I could write a fair bit on it, so start up a new blog. Too easy!

Blogs are a great way to test content with your audience to see reaction and to get more ideas as they contribute via comments. You might not be sure if you have enough material, or you might be worried that no one would be interested. Or perhaps you are just practicing your skill as a writer. Whatever the reason, blogs are good for writers. And who knows? Maybe someone will pick up on it like the journalist did for my Proverbs 31 Woman blog.


LYNDA: So what does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a routine or does each day bring its own agenda?

KATHIE: When the girls were home, I did have a regular daily routine. See Graham off to work, take the girls to school, pick up my mail, come home and do my work, stop when the girls got home so I could spend some time with them, make the evening meal and welcome Graham home, then continue on with work once the kids had gone to bed.

It's a bit different these days. I used to work 7 days a week at first, and eventually got it back to 5 days a week. Today, I work 3-4 days a week (thanks to my business coach) so that I can spend time writing, doing photography, or read or anything else that takes my fancy. So my days are less structured, although I still see Graham off to work and go pick up the mail at the same time every day.


LYNDA: What do you like to do when you're not working?

KATHIE: You probably have a good idea of that by now. Photography! Usually seascapes and landscapes. I enjoy gardening, too. And writing on my blogs or planning a new book. I also like to go out and have cake and coffee with friends.


LYNDA: Finally, what are you working on now? And where do you see yourself in ten years? Any other accomplishments you hope to add to your long and growing list?

KATHIE: I was going to publish a new book this year, but since losing our daughter less than twelve months ago, I haven't been so focused and find some days not doing a lot. I expect it will get put aside for a year and I'll continue later. So I'm mainly concentrating on the photography, and have a site at http://www.photosbykathie.com/. Graham is a mountain bike racer and I attend most of his races – took over 800 pics at the last one, as I wasn't just photographing him and his team, but all the other riders too. I have noticed that the number of photographers that used to attend these events has dropped off so I'm hoping I might be able to build a small side business photographing the races and selling the photos to the riders – if they're interested.

My main photography interest, though, is nature: landscapes, wildlife, etc. I'd love to be able to develop a name as a photographer over time and sell my images – either digitally or print/framed. My favourite Australian Photographer is Steve Parish and his work has always interested me.

In 10 years? Who knows? Depends on what technology throws our way and what takes my fancy. Graham plans to retire in a few short years and we're currently house hunting for a place in the country. And we enjoy travelling. We've just gotten back from a month in Canada and Alaska (I took over 4,000 photos!). I had been invited to speak at a conference at Niagara Falls and we decided to do a tour too – travelling all that way for only 5 or 6 days seemed a bit much. Now I think of it, I wouldn't mind doing more international speaking engagements… and lots more travel!


LYNDA: Sounds wonderful, Kathie. And, for some reason, I think you'll achieve whatever you set out to accomplish. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and give us a glimpse of how God is using you to touch others and impact His world in such a positive way. God bless you and shower you with success in everything you do!

To learn more about Kathie and read her work, visit her FaithWriters profile: http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=24309


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