Author Charissa Stastny has a new book. I’ve read it and can tell you that even though I’m not a romance reader, this one entertained the likes of even this cynic. Between Hope & the Highway is a delightful read with great, unique characters. I’m a fan of Charissa’s writing and Between Hope & the Highway did not disappoint. Today I’m asking her a few questions so you can get to know this joyful and fun-loving author.
Charissa, how did you get started as an author?
C: I’d always wanted to write a book, but never seemed to have time between being a mother, a caregiver, and then a preschool and art teacher. As my children matured, I suddenly found myself spending lots of time waiting for them at sports practices. That’s when I started bringing notebooks and hashing out a story (which ended up being my Bending Willow Trilogy). That hooked me on the writing process…and now I don’t want to stop.
Most writers are readers. What are some of your favorite books?
C: I love The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, any of the Harry Potter books, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and anything by C.S. Lewis. Contemporary romance authors I can’t get enough of are Jennifer Peel, Taylor Dean, and Amy Harmon. I can reread their stories and not tire of them.
What suggestions would you give a potential author to help them become a better writer?
C: There are so many great writing books out there. Read as many of them as you can, and apply new techniques as you learn them. Go to a writing conference each year if you can, and learn how to plot. I’ve done the pantser method for my first three books, and it’s fun…but very inefficient. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks has been the most helpful writing book I’ve found for me.
Who is your favorite author and why?
C: Probably C.S. Lewis. His words are amazing; his thoughts so clear and inspiring. Everything he wrote deserves a place on my shelf and his quotes on my fridge.
Any special talents?
C: I’m not super good at any one thing, but am proficient at lots of stuff. I’ve tried my hand at painting, crafting, photography, piano, organ, teaching, crocheting, gardening, scrapbooking, basketball, mountain biking, triathlon, and now writing.
If you could have lunch with any character from a book (other than your own), who would it be, where would you eat, and what would you discuss?
C: I would dine with Dumbledore from Harry Potter. We’d eat sushi at Sakana’s (my favorite eating joint) and talk about anything he liked. Seriously, I can’t even think of a good enough question to ask the most powerful wizard ever. If he wanted to discuss Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans…then so be it.
Tell us a little about your family.
C: My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married who is an interior designer/architect, one who served a mission in S. Korea and is now in school for dental hygiene, and one who’s leaving on a mission to Armenia/Georgia and speaking Georgian for the next year and a half before studying to become a P.A.) and one incredible son in high school. We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.
What got you started on your writing journey?
C: I’ve dabbled with writing since I was a kid. I loved reading clean romance as a teen and wrote many cheesy scenes between handsome cowboys and milkmaids in my journal. The world will NEVER see these! They are cheesier than a Walmart tuxedo.
Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?
C: After my husband read my first book, he commented, “It would have been better with a zombie in it.” Since then, the Search and Find feature on Word has become my best friend. I always use it before I send out drafts to readers, because unfortunately, my husband is skilled at sneaking zombies into files. There is nothing worse than when the masculine hunk in my story tells the girl of his dreams that ‘he wants to eat her brains.’ Ugh!
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
C: Quite a lot. There is always one character I identify with—usually the shy, awkward one with a good heart who doesn’t know how to accessorize. My cool characters are my dreams of how I wish I could be. It’s fun as a writer to live vicariously through our characters.
Do you have a favorite character?
C: I love Suvi and wish I could meet her in real life. Austan’s pretty cool too (he’s a hoot to write), but I don’t know if I’d be brave or confident enough to meet him in person. I wouldn’t be able to come up with witty comebacks fast enough. Bentley is the cutest character I write (he’s 13) and I love him to pieces.
What does your family think about your writing?
C: They think I’m crazy to sit and play with imaginary characters all day. And I am! My 2nd daughter laughed hysterically when she read my early draft of Eyes of Light. She highlighted sections and wrote: “Cheesy! Please Mom, don’t ever publish this. I will be embarrassed for you!” My husband also gave me advice: “Before you publish, you might want to do a search for the word ZOMBIE.” Their tips saved me. Also, my oldest daughter designs my covers and keeps me looking presentable.
If you were stranded on a deserted tropical island with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
C: Since I can’t build a fire or catch fish, I’d need someone who could be responsible and take care of me. In my mind, that would be James Hinton (from the Bending Willow Trilogy). I imagine he was a Boy Scout when he was young, so he’s very handy, self-reliant, kind, creative, and honorable. I’d feel safe with him.
What kind of trials do your main characters in your newest book have to endure?
C: Liz’s hen-pecking mother has always belittled her because her dreams didn’t align with hers. This has caused internal strife with regards to her self-esteem that she has to overcome (once she realizes it’s there). Liz has also just lost her fiancé in a terrible automobile accident. That’s why she leaves home to escape painful memories. Rawson and Bentley Law are dealing with survivor’s guilt from an accident they were involved in five years ago as well. They each have secrets that have the power to destroy their present happiness.
Why should we read your books?
C: Two reasons: 1) there is a powerful message of forgiveness and redemption woven into the pages that will make you appreciate life more fully, and 2) the characters are witty, vulnerable, charming, and just plain awesome! If you’re like me, you will fall in love with them.
What is one silly fact about you?
C: I can do a ‘mean’ monkey imitation. When I did this at Biblical zoo in Jerusalem, the monkeys spit at me though. I don’t know what that means.
If you could have plastic surgery, what would you change?
C: Nothing. I think wrinkles are earned and are a sign of wisdom. I’ve worked and lived too hard to let some doctor take that away from me.
Now that you know her a little better, I hope you’ll follow her on her website: http://www.charissastastny.com/
I also hope you’ll buy her book, Between Hope & the Highway. You can find all of Charissa’s books at: