Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
There are elements of me in both Becca and Claire. I was very shy and bookish as a girl, like Claire, but my mom tells me that I was always leading my sister into adventures. In the story, Becca is much more vivacious and playful than I’ve ever been, but she is the baby sister of the family—a role I was given as well. If I had to pick one, though, I’d say I’m much more like Claire than Becca.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I don’t know about quirky but I can tell you the craziest thing I ever did—ride the “Dueling Dragons” rollercoaster at Islands of Adventures (Universal Studios) theme park. Lord, have mercy! That ride just about killed me!
I have an interesting story about a rollercoaster, too. Maybe I'll share it sometime. When did you first discover you were a writer?
When I was young, my mother used to read Bible stories to us five kids every night before bedtime. We'd gather in a circle around her and listen wide-eyed to those stories, and through the early years her reading to us fostered a love of storytelling in me. I wrote my first book in second grade--a stapled, hand-illustrated book about horses--but it was a college professor of English who pulled me aside after class one day and told me I had a writing gift that I shouldn't squander. With his encouragement, I joined the staff of the college literary magazine and newspaper. After that, choosing a major in communications/journalism was a natural path for me.
My first publication was in the college literary magazine--a short story. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I lean toward edgier fiction, stories that aren’t afraid to show characters’ all-too-human failings as well as their triumphs. The best example of this I’ve ever read is the Starbridge series by Susan Howatch. An English author, her books are not CBA fiction, but she writes more compellingly about faith and failings and redemption than anyone I know. Other authors whose writings have influenced me are Gail Godwin, Sue Monk Kidd, Leif Enger, C.S. Lewis, and the Bronte sisters. On the nonfiction side, I like the occasional memoir or biography, but I’m a true fiction lover.
Me, too. I do read occasional non-fiction, but give me good fiction any day. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My first singles book, Where Have All the Good Men Gone? came out in March, and I’m starting to rough-draft a follow-up book to Skizzer. In 2004 I wrote a spirituality book titled Jaded: Hope for Believers Who Have Given up on Church but Not on God (Baker). Other titles I’ve written were mostly work-for-hire devotionals or compilations and ghostwriting projects. They are listed on my website http://www.ajkiesling.com/
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Hmmmm. Can I get back to you on that? Seriously, I take time out to pleasure read, go see movies, and otherwise “recreate” with my daughters and good friends. I’m a great believer in sunset gazing—you know, really stopping to see the wonder of nature all around us, so maybe that helps as well.
I know what you mean about an amazing sunset. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Some names, such as for the character of Colin Lockwood—the English gardener Claire falls in love with—sprang into my mind without any effort at all. Other names, including those of the two sisters Becca and Claire, took more thought. After a while I settled on Claire because it’s my youngest daughter’s middle name, and it suited who the character is in the story. Names are very important to me, so much so that sometimes it bugs me when a character seems misnamed in a book or contains one of those silly “romance novel” names that no real person ever does.
I talked to a woman on the phone whose name is Sabra Valentine. I aksed her if I could use it in a romance novel. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Without a doubt, I would have to say my two teenage daughters. They are beautiful, talented, witty young women who are a delight to be around. Since I’m a single parent, we’ve developed a “bachelorette pad” over the years, and I consider them both my friends as well as my children. In second place: writing Skizzer. It’s something I wanted to do for so long (write a novel), and it feels good to finally have accomplished that.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A cat because they are so cool and aloof and have such incredibly EASY lives! They can even sleep all day if they want to. It must be nice to be so coddled and petted and loved.
What is your favorite food?
Spaghetti (I’m still a kid at heart!)
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I’m a terrible procrastinator, and constantly putting off writing was something I struggled with for years. Finally, a good friend of mine who is also a writer lit a fire under me, saying, “You know, you’ve been talking about writing a novel for more than 10 years…when are you going to do it?” She also threatened to write one herself. That got me moving!
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Without a doubt, write what you know. It’s the oldest advice you’ll ever hear about writing—and the soundest. When you write from your own experience (the people, places, feelings you know) your prose gains a clarity and authenticity it will lack if you try to write about something you know little of.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you for spending this time with us and letting us get to know you better.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Skizzer. The giveaway will be on Saturday, October 19. So check back to see if you are the winner.