Glowing Author #26
A book recently released and another coming up in June. What a way to start the New Year! And that’s exactly where this week’s Glowing Author finds herself. Let’s find out more…
Welcome Carla! Tell us a bit about Chasing Lilacs, your recently released book.
Some have called it a coming of age story, and in many ways, it is. It’s the story of a young girl in Texas on the brink of adolescence. Elvis is on the radio. Summer is in the air. Life should be simple and carefree. But not for Sammie Tucker who has plenty of questions about her mother’s “nerve” problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her. As her life careens out of control, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears. Her best friend with an opinion about everything? The mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him? Or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on? Then, there’s the elderly widower who seems nice, but has his own dark past.
Wow! And I understand it’s gotten some good reviews, too.
I’ve been honored to receive lovely reviews, including a Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly and 4 ½ Stars from Romantic Times. It’s been quite an experience for me as a debut author.
I should think so. What compelled you to write this particular story?
As a child of the 50s and 60s, I was always curious about those forbidden subjects people whispered about but were too polite to discuss. What would it have been like if a young girl’s mom had these problems? At the same time, I always wanted to write a story set in a tight knit petroleum camp like the one where I grew up. In 2004, I took a solo venture to the camp (which is now a ghost town). A few miles away, I saw the smokestacks on the horizon. My breath quickened. As I rambled over the vacant ground where my childhood home once stood, wonderful memories washed over me. I knew I’d found not only the setting for my story, but also the theme of the book—the power of community that shapes our lives.
Who is your favorite character?
Slim Wallace, an elderly widower who befriends Sammie and embodies for me what life used to be like—intergenerational concern and respect. He’s sort of a rough around the edges character, but he’s nonjudgmental and wise, a grandfatherly sort. He’s had heartache in his life and experiences reconciliation with an estranged daughter near the end of the story. He was fun to write, and one little lady at a book club told me three or four time, “I sure liked Slim.” I did too!
Sounds as though you may put a little of yourself into your main characters. Do you think so?
Not intentionally, but I know I draw on my past experiences to find my characters’ emotions, and the setting of Chasing Lilacs is very much like the place where I grew up. My characters often say or do something that I would.
How do you manage to balance your writer’s life and the rest of life?
It helps that we are empty-nesters and I don’t work outside the home. I have the daytime to myself for writing and promotion. Although people were quick to tell me that promotion took a lot of time, I don’t think I realized how much until this book came out. I’m not sure I’ve found a balance, but as I’m preparing for the release of my second book, things seem a little more familiar, so hopefully it won’t seem so daunting.
One thing that helped this past year was that instead of taking a vacation, my husband traveled with me to ICRS, conferences, book signings, and even on a research trip. We would tack on a day or two and feel like we’d been on vacation. We also have four kids and six grandchildren and we put a lot of priority on family, so there are times when they simply come first and the writing has to wait.
You mentioned the personal experiences that pop up in your first book. How about your second one?
I chose the town where we now live—Tulsa, Oklahoma—and I had a lot of fun with that. I used a lot of “real” places and made up others. One of the topics is Alzheimer’s, and since I’m a nurse, I’d had some experience professionally with people who’ve had it. Sadly, the month after I received my contract, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s so I ended up with more personal experience than I would have liked.
Oh, I’m so sorry! Tell me, is there a part of writing that comes most easily to you?
Characterization. And as soon as I learned about staying in POV and scene and sequel, those made perfect sense. I do love the challenge of improving my writing each time I sit at the computer.
What part do you find most difficult?
Plotting. I’ve read books, watched films, attended classes, and studied the Hero’s Journey, but I still struggle with getting that story arc just right. I’m getting better and feel this is where a great critique partner or freelance editor can strengthen my writing. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone.
That is so true! What are you working on at the moment?
My second book, Broken Wings, releases in June, 2011, so I’m gearing up for promotion on that. It’s a story of the friendship between an aging female jazz singer and a much younger paralegal who’s engaged to an abusive attorney. It’s a tender story of providence and grace.
I’m also well into my next novel, currently called Stardust, that has an East Texas bayou country setting—1952, at the height of the polio epidemic. All my novels are women’s fiction and are either nostalgic or have a strong nostalgic element.
Sounds like another good one! We’ll be watching for all three. Thanks so much for coming by, Carla.
Thank you, Kay, for having me. I’m honored to be here on your blog. I’m so thankful for fellow writers and the support we give one another.
Find out more about Carla and her books at www.carlastewart.com.
She also welcomes Facebook friends, and is now tweeting at www.twitter.com/ChasingLilacs.
“I’m learning to just do what I can every day, and through God’s grace, it all seems to get done.”