Kristy, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Interesting question, Lena. Of all the interviews I've given, I've never been asked that, or at least in that way. Horace said, “Mutato nomine, de te fabula narrator." That's Latin for, "Change the name, and the story is told of yourself." Lots of novels are thinly disguised biographies, and that's okay, if that’s the story the author wants to tell. Sometimes there are disclaimers in the opening pages of novels saying none of the characters represent real people. That said, authors write from their worldview. Things are bound to come out of your heart and find their way onto your pages, such as characters or philosophies or ways of doing things, etc. I'd say a little bit of me is in all of my books so far (nine titles). In my first title, American Dream (Barbour historical 4-in-1), my heroine Corinn in "I Take Thee, A Stranger" relies on Matthew 6:33 to see her through dire circumstances including an arranged marriage. That's one of my life verses that I love and live by. In Wedded Bliss? (Barbour contemporary 4-in-1), my heroine Felicia is married to a sports nut and longs to be swept away by her husband, i.e. more romance and tenderness. Influenced by her feelings and her friend's misguided advice, she asks for a separation. Only when Hebrews 12:1, 3 NLT seeps deep into her heart does she come to know the answer to her dilemma. That, too, is a special verse in my life—and in my marriage!
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Got an hour? Or more? GRIN I'm the queen of quirk, in that I've seen lots of quirkiness (I’m a pastor's wife, remember? I've met all kinds and breeds) and done quirky things. One quickly comes to mind. The B&B Caper. One after, we were passing through the Smoky Mountains coming home from a conference. I had an old issue of Southern Living I'd picked it up for a quarter at the library (think, old). It featured an article about a B&B in Tennessee that had a cave you could explore. I begged Milton (my husband) to stay there that night. It would be interesting, I reasoned. He had in mind a quick in-and-out at a Hampton Inn and said so. We might make some new friends, I cajoled. There are all kinds of interesting people at B&Bs. Or, we could pretend we were Tom and Becky in the cave, I said. No takers. Or, it might provide fodder for my writing (boy, did it ever! a part of the experience is in my novella in Room At the Inn!). Finally, he relented. Excited, I called the number, made the nonrefundable reservation through Master Card, and we set off, our plan being to check in then go to town and get a steak. We got lost myriads of times on those narrow curving roads high up in the mountains (think, irritable husband), but at last we arrived--about 8:30 p.m. We were starved (think, more irritable husband), and the dark two-story house was an apparition under a black, moonless sky (think, haunted house). Long story short, it was a DEFUNCT B&B. No people around anywhere, in the B&B or up or down the dark road (after the proprietor left us). Cob webs streaming from the chandelier in the living room onto the yellowed keys of the grand, (think more haunted house), no lock on the bedroom door, the bathroom down a long eerie hallway, sheets that had been slept on? (horrors, blech). And no nearby restaurant, the proprietor said, unless you went back to the Interstate two hours away. But our stay was paid for so there was no way Milton would leave. So we shared one of those tiny bags of potato chips and went to bed hungry and need I say disgruntled. Oh, and I was scared to death as my writer's mind imagined someone making their way up the dark staircase in the middle of the night and murdering us. I didn't sleep a wink. I declare I heard a wolf baying every time I checked on things out the window. He snored like all get out.
I assume by he, you mean Milton, the disgruntled husband, not the wolf. When did you first discover you were a writer?
These are great questions, Lena! I've always loved to write. Adored writing term papers, though I sometimes included drawings. Wrote newsy family letters and church bulletins. One day in my twenties, the Lord said deep in my heart, "I'm going to use you for My glory in writing." He might as well have said, "You're going to be an astronaut." It seemed that far-fetched to me. At the same time, the Lord said the same thing to Milton plus He said He would use us together in writing. Later, Milton told me about his experience, and I told him. What a confirmation. I didn't go noising it abroad though. I did what Mary, the mother of Jesus did. I pondered it in my heart. A strong desire surfaced in my heart to earn a degree in journalism, but my ministry duties didn't permit me to. So I did my own studies by checking out armloads of library books on how to write, how to get published, where to submit to, etc. Then I started writing articles, and they began to get published, soon by the hundreds. Too, Milton and I have written together, for instance, our article "How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage." Now I've written over 600 published articles and worked for two New York Times subsidiaries. Along the way, one of my dreams was fulfilled. I earned a degree in mass communications/journalism. In the 1990s, I had a strong desire to write and publish Christian fiction. I'd always loved fiction, since elementary school days. Victoria Holt. Willa Cather. Charlotte Bronte. Louisa Mae Alcott. And more. I had scads of favorite authors and books. When my mother put Christy by Catherine Marshall in my hands when I was a teenager, well, it was an epiphany moment, in that it was a gripping story that touched my heart. So in the 1990s, I started studying the craft of fiction diligently, attended a weekly fiction-writing course at the community college for four long years, and got a critique partner. Now I have nine titles with many more in my heart.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
All kinds. Biographies. Fiction. How-tos. Autobiographies. Self-helps. I think a writer needs to be well-rounded in his/her reading.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Published novellas in: Kiss the Bride, Wedded Bliss? Room At the Inn, Holiday At the Inn, Church in the Wildwood, Sweet Liberty, American Dream. Published novel: The Tender Heart (Heartsong Presents). Contracted novel: Heart of the Matter (Heartsong Presents; pub date April, 2007). "Prepublished:" four long novels--two contemporaries and two historicals. They're women's fiction with a strong romantic element. I also have a few more novels in the works.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Going to church, church, church. I'm not kidding. In every service I attend, the Lord speaks to me. I go not because I'm the pastor's wife, but because it's a place where God speaks.
I'm with you, Kristy. I love to be in the Lord's house, worshiping Him with other believers, listening to the preacher, but more importantly, listing to the Lord speak to my heart. How do you choose your characters’ names?
They just come to me. I love old-fashioned names for my historicals and keep a list from my extensive reading. For contemporaries, I use contemporary names, of course. For all the names, I love it when the meaning of the name plays a significant part in the story. For instance, in Sweet Liberty (Barbour historical 4-in-1), my heroine Winkie in "Free Indeed" is an embittered former slave in the Civil War era. Trying to help her, her auntie tells her that her full name is Periwinkle, and that it'll be the key to her change of heart. Winkie looks in a lexicon and finds "periwinkle" means "a shrub that's a source of medicine." "It be a riddle," she tells her auntie. Her auntie explains that a medicine relieves pain and cures ills. She says the Good Book says God comforts us so we can comfort others. "Periwinkle," her auntie says, "the day I named you, I looked into your big brown eyes and said, 'One day you going to bring the healing touch of comfort to others.’" She says, "Don’t run from your destiny no longer, child." Later, through her auntie's wise instruction, Winkie comes to know the Lord, and her destiny becomes what her auntie said.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
It's not when my novella in Church in the Wildwood won third place in the 2004 ACFW Book of the Year Contest (novella category). It's not when I was voted to the 2004 Favorite New Authors List by Heartsong Presents (Barbour) readers. It's not the other awards I've won. It's the times I received these three letters from readers: 1) "I'm sharing your books with some women in my neighborhood. One just renewed her faith in the Lord Jesus after reading your novella in Sweet Liberty." 2) "Are you black or do you have a special gift of empathy?" 3) Your story in Room At the Inn spoke straight to my heart. I don't generally identify so strongly with stories, nor do they cause me to change the way I do things or think. Yours did. Your writing, and in turn, you, are a blessing to me."
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I don't know.
What is your favorite food?
I used to write a weekly food column, "Kristy's Kitchen," for a New York Times subsidiary. A better question would be, "What food do you not like?" The answer would be, "Nothing I can think of."
It's fitting that this book comes after that last question. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
Kiss the Bride (Barbour contemporary 4-in-1; which came out in September. Coauthors: Kristy Dykes, Aisha Ford, Vickie McDonough, Carrie Turanksy. It was great fun to write because it was interactive. Four young restaurant owners meet at a restaurant convention and bemoan the lack of romance in their lives. One buys the last apron in a shop that says, "Kiss the Cook," and they agree to pass it around until each finds Mr. Right. The four novellas tell the romance of each couple. The last groom crosses out "Cook" and writes "Bride" on the apron and shows it to the other three couples when they all meet again. As of now, we coauthors are planning to sign Kiss the Bride at the book signing at the ACFW conference in Dallas in September, 2006. We just might have a Kiss the Cook/Bride apron with us!
Your coauthors did wear the apron. I loved it. Thank you for this fun interview, Kristy. I look forward to seeing you in Dallas next year.
Readers, you'll love Kristy's books. Be sure to leave a comment for a change to win a free one. If you don't win that one, you'll want to get one anyway. If you go to Signedbytheauthor.com, you an get a personally autographed copy. You can still leave comments on Jill Nelson's interview, too.