An Interview With Charissa Stastny

cover-between-hope-and-the-highwayAuthor 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.

author-photoAny 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:

https://www.amazon.com/Charissa-Stastny/e/B00847JD1I/

 

THE MAGIC OF PLACE

Today’s blog is written by C. Hope Clark, an author friend of mine from South Carolina. I’m so proud to know her and call her friend. She’s a smart, strong woman and a fiercely good writer who is both Traditionally and independently published. I asked her to tell my readers about her Edisto book series. This is what she has to say…

Echoes of Edisto

I love a strong sense of place in my stories, as writer or reader, so when given the opportunity for a new mystery series, I leaped onto the chance to place my mysteries on Edisto Beach in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

The hardest of hearts and the saddest of souls can find peace on the sand, waves lapping at their toes. How many stories have been written and movies made about the ocean, and how people have used that ebb and flow, soft breezy environment to get away, seek answers, and let go of life’s burdens if even for a few days?

In my Edisto Mystery Series, I take a broken main character running from an eroded law enforcement career, and help her escape to the beach where she hopes to heal. But of course I do not let that happen, and what was supposed to be a long-term retreat for Callie Jean Morgan turns into death, injury, mental anguish, and a vicious cycle of life-threatening events. Amidst the waves, gulls, swaying palmettos and salty balmy wind, danger abounds. And in the newest in the series, Echoes of Edisto, just when Callie thinks her life is finding a new norm in the island paradise, death rears its head as she loses someone close. And the deeper she delves, the nastier the facts she learns about people she trusted.

Callie is often her own worst enemy, and since she operated in Boston for years, she views the beach from a detective’s eye, so even where island residents don’t see danger, she does. Without that juxtaposition of locations – big city rubbing against beach village – the magic wouldn’t happen nearly as well.

From another angle, she is Southern, reared in a political family in a mid-sized town about forty miles from the coast. Forever clashing with her socialist mother and ladder-climbing father, she graduates from a South Carolina college and takes a job up North, a smack in the face of any deep Southern family. She marries a Bostonian, but then I kill him off, forcing her to almost lose her mind and retreat to her roots. The class of place appears here as well. I make her life a yoyo, with setting often holding the string.

Setting can often assume the role of a character. When a tale can’t be told better anywhere else, setting has morphed into a player. Frankly, that’s my preference in reading material – those stories where even the very ground the character stands on has an impact on the plot.

But the beach . . . especially one as secluded as the real Edisto Beach . . . is romantic, magnetic, and beckoning. Who doesn’t enjoy the salt and surf. Add to it the signature marsh, oak trees dripping with moss, loggerhead turtles and pelican vees gliding two feet above the wave crests at dusk. It’s relaxation clashing with melancholy, peace going up against crime, the joy of endless waves versus the pain of no one to share it with.

Imagine Sherlock Holmes in other than England. Or Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum in other than New Jersey. Or Tony Hillerman’s western mysteries without the Navajo west? There are many mysteries that could happen in any urban setting, or any rural setting, or any country, for that matter. But doesn’t it enrich the storytelling so much more to know that where the players fight, love, live and die impacts how the tale all turns out?

Edisto March 3BIO

  1. Hope Clark inserts strong setting in both her award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries and Edisto Island Mysteries, all set in rural South Carolina. Her newest release is Echoes of Edisto, book three in the Edisto series, available August 5 wherever books are sold. When she isn’t writing mysteries, she is editor of FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning site to aid professional writers in their careers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central SC when she isn’t walking the coast of Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com

BOOKBUB PROMOTION RESULTS

how-to-get-amazon-reviews

Thorns of Rosewood Amazon Review

If you click the link above, it takes you to the Amazon page where a reader gives me a 5-star review and says this about my book, Thorns of Rosewood:

“This woman can write!! And tell a great story too. I wish I could give it more stars. The characters all come across as very real people with their own joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. Great reading.”

The person who left the review, I only know as, Kindle Customer. It could be a guy or a gal, an older person or a younger person, someone from the little Nebraska town next to mine, or someone from across the world. I don’t know, and I probably never will. It’s exciting to get reviews from complete strangers. Especially positive ones. So far, since the ad for my book, Thorns of Rosewood, ran last week on BookBub, I’ve received eighteen new reviews, and all but one were four and five stars.

To everyone who picked up Thorns of Rosewood free (59,978 of you!), I say THANK YOU SO MUCH!! To those who after the free day was over, bought the book (216 of you!) I say THANK YOU EVEN MORE!! To the 594 people who bought Book 2 in the Rosewood series, Flames of Rosewood, I am ever so grateful!! And my reader stats show that 97,224 pages of Thorns have been read since the promotion. Wow.

To all the writers out there who are thinking about buying a BookBub ad, I’d encourage you to keep trying until they accept you. I’ve earned three times what I paid for it. But, oh, for the new readers—that is the true benefit! What a joy. My thoughts are running through their minds as they read. That’s quite a connection, now, isn’t it?!

Oh, and just for the fun of it, here is a screen shot of my ranking on Amazon during the promotion. For a little moment in time, I was number 1!

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An Author’s Voice

I’ve been kind of idling in neutral when it comes to writing. I think it’s because I’m second guessing my abilities. Wondering, even, if I have a style or a voice worth reading. I am what I am, and I want to write and tell stories, but… is the way I word things, the phrasing I use, the images I paint, unique enough? Or mainstream enough? Or just … enough?

As I drove into town to work today I tried to look at my small community like an outsider might. We’re a little weird like everyone is a little weird everywhere. Meaning, what seems very normal to us might be quirky or odd to someone else. We park in the middle of the street. Two full rows of parking around the square of our downtown. There’s room. It’s always been that way. Makes perfect sense to us. We have a noon whistle that blows at… you guessed it… noon. Very loud. Reminds us it’s time to take a break. Just always the way it’s been. Takes at least ten minutes on a quick day to get fast food in the line at our two fast food restaurants in town. Nope. Nothing really fast about it, but hey, we don’t have to get out of the car, so that’s progress!

Living in a small town seems like an easy life. It is in some ways. It’s harder in others. It’s easy in that when I want to go to the grocery story, I drive up, park by the front door, and go right in. I don’t have to time my shopping around rush hour or fight construction or wait at lights. I don’t have to park at the end of the lot, or circle the parking lot to find a closer spot. If there are more than two people in a check-out line, the cashier gets right on the intercom and calls for more checkers. Standing in long lines is a very rare thing.

What can make small-town life challenging is the same thing that makes being famous challenging. If a celebrity goes out on the town and has a couple too many drinks, it’s in the tabloids by morning. Same thing in a small town, but instead of the tabloids, it’s the big story at the coffee shop or hair salon. Now, if you get a fine driving, then that’s in the paper, but it’s okay because the paper only comes out once a week. Maybe by then you can put some spin on the gossip so it goes over better with your grandma when she reads it.

Yes. It’s hard to live under the spotlight, so to speak, and yet, the only folks around here who are real celebrities are the kids in high school who win the game, and that’s just fine. Most of us cringe when attention points our direction.

Back to this writing thing. My voice, my style, is certainly formed by my surroundings. I write in my way, the same way we do things in our own way here in our small Nebraska town. It’s normal to me.

When I write a book, I let you see me through my story-telling voice. I draw from cousins and aunts and uncles, neighbors, and silly little sayings and legends of the area, and mispronounced words and turns of phrases. I write like I think… like I talk. I don’t try to polish it. I want to make sure it’s real and… small town… but honest.

I want to show that it’s easy, but hard at the same time to live small. Small town life has as much duality and intrigue as any other life in any other place. It mustn’t be discounted because it’s ordinary. If anything, it’s special because it’s ordinary. That’s what I try to show when I write. Maybe that’s why I think I need to write—because I know I’m willing to be honest with my “voice.”

The voice I use when I write is the only voice I can imagine using when creating stories about people who might be like those I’ve lived around, in towns similar to the one in which I live, carrying out simple lives, just like me and mine. Simple lives, full of relationships and love and frustration and sorrow… the most honest basic feelings at the core of every story ever told.

 

The Bending Willow Trilogy—Charissa Stastny

1367813145I’m so tickled to tell you about a friend of mine. A friend I’ve never met, but one I have a lot of respect for just from following her blog and reading her books. She has such a good heart. We meet so few people like that and when you meet one, it’s important to keep that kind of positivity in your life. This world needs all the good examples we can get!

I picked some questions for Charissa that tell about her Bending Willow Trilogy, but even more importantly, questions that share the essence of  Charissa —a person with a beautiful soul. Her books are exciting, heart warming and well written, but when you read about her, you’ll see her goodness and that is what shines through in her writing.

Read her books. You’ll thank me.

And now, I’m honored to give you a glimpse into the author, Charrissa Stastny. She loves her family and they love her. She loves life and God and writing and she’s fun, too. Read about her and see if you don’t agree!

  1. If you could revisit one day in your life, which would it be? In 2009, I spent a week with my grandma taking care of her. I would revisit any of those days and just drink in her smile and laughter.
  2.  Tell us a little about your family. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married, one serving a mission in Korea, and one still in high school) and one son (in high school). We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.
  3. Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader? 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!
  4.  How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? 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.
  5.  Where did you get your inspiration for this book? My muse started with a door-to-door salesperson. An Israeli girl named Suvi with a nose ring and a vivacious personality knocked, charmed me into buying one of her oil paintings, and then talked to my daughters and me for an hour. After she left, a story started to form around her in my mind. As I wrote my imagined story for Suvi, I wanted to help my own daughters be aware of hidden secrets people carry so that they would be more merciful in their judgment of others. We never know what awful circumstances and experiences have led someone to act in certain ways.My little brother was my inspiration for my James character. He served a mission in Guatemala and I used his letters he wrote home to cast Elder Hinton. I tease my brother that James Hinton is him…only cool!
  6. Did you put real experiences in this book? In Eyes of Light, the missionary scenes are almost all taken from real-life experiences my brother had while serving in Guatemala. I found his letters captivating and used them to form my character James. In Secret Keepers, there are several scenes—like the Garden tomb and Wailing Wall—I described from being in Israel as a college student. I also stayed on a kibbutz in the Galilee and based Suvi’s experiences there on mine.
  7. What is one silly fact about you? I can do a ‘mean’ monkey imitation, actions and all. When I did this at Biblical zoo in Jerusalem, the monkeys spit at me though. I don’t know what that means.
  8.  If you could have plastic surgery, what would you change? 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.

Blog Tour Giveaway (ends March 1st)

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