Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS - Eileen Key, Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips, Cynthia Ruchti - 3 Free Books

Here comes another wonderful Christmas novella collection from Barbour. We'll talk to Eileen Key first. How did your story for the collection come about?

I was invited by Cynthia Ruchti to join the novella group. Me, a Texan!

Texans are good writers, too. I'm a Texan. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Ronie Kendig’s book, Nightshade.

I love Ronie's book. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

My first book was a cozy mystery: Dog Gone. The novella came second. My next cozy is with Avalon and doesn’t have a scheduled release date.

Don't forget to let me know when you get that pub date. We'll feature it here. What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?

The timing! Moon phases, snow depths, landscapes.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

What a fun group! We’ve formed friendship though this endeavor. Through strife and stress, the group pressed on, praying for one another daily.

That's the best way. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I try them on my tongue first. I like them to resonate with me. Graduation programs are great for that!

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?

Love can happen in the twinkle of an eye when the Lord sends someone your way.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?

Yes. ACFW is my support group of choice! I’ve formed lifelong friends there and learned most all I know about the craft through them.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?

In 2003, Tracy Peterson told me to keep writing. I did.

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

http://www.eileenkey.com/ and of course on Facebook! Thanks, Lena! I appreciate what you do for all of us.

My pleasure, Eileen. Now we're going to talk to Becky Melby. How did your story for the collection come about?

One of the things Door County, Wisconsin, is famous for is theater, so my first thought was to create a comedy dinner theater staffed by some fun, oddball characters. I had to invent some conflict for this troupe, so I stirred things up with a little betrayal and a destructive thunderstorm. Now I needed someone to save the day. Enter Jillian Galloway, niece of the theater’s owner, who thinks she’s come to Door County to savor the fall colors, heal from her broken heart, and use her advertising degree to promote Door Buster’s Comedy Theater. Of course, she finds out otherwise. And, since this is, after all, a romance, the most delightful part was creating my hero. I wanted someone who seemed out of place in the colorful landscape soon to be covered with snow. So into this peninsula first inhabited by Scandinavians, I brought Ricky Jimenez...dark, mysterious, with a knee-weakening Brazilian accent. Ricky holds the only key to Door Buster’s future, but Jillian is warned not to trust him. And that’s when the fun begins!

Sounds like my kind of story. What are you reading right now?

Books on the Underground Railroad for research, The Testament by John Grisham, and John Piper’s What Jesus Demands from the World. Oh, and I love starting the day with Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

I loved, loved, loved The Testament. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve co-authored nine Heartsong Presents titles with my long-time friend Cathy Wienke. The most recent release is a 3-in-1 titled Minnesota Moonlight. We also wrote a novella, Over the Wall, in a collection titled Race to the Altar. I’m currently working on the first in a three-book series for Barbour. Tomorrow’s Sun is a contemporary story with a historical thread dating back to 1852 in a small town in Wisconsin. And then there’s Treasuring Kate, the full-length women’s fiction Cathy and I wrote that’s “curing” in a file waiting for an extensive rewrite, Dragons Never Sleep, a YA novel languishing in a drawer somewhere, and a children’s story called Little Lizard. (Any editors out there desperate for a talking dragon story?)

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?

With four stories set in the same county, we had to divvy up all the fabulous things to see, do, and taste! There was such amazing teamwork with these ladies—anytime it appeared two of us had scene elements that were too similar we easily worked out the details.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

Number one: I made new friends! God miraculously worked out the details for the four of us to meet in Door County, Wisconsin, to plot out our stories while experiencing the sun setting in Peninsula State Park, the quaint lighthouse pictured on our cover, a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, and local delicacies like stuffed French toast and a (warm cherry and hot fudge) Door County Sundae. Laughing, praying together when the power went out, and sketching out stories with these women was a precious gift. Can’t wait to see all three beautiful faces at the ACFW conference in September.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I’ve had my main character’s first name tucked away in a mental file since I saw Ann Jillian in a movie—maybe twenty years ago. I needed a Latin name for my gorgeous Brazilian and Ricky Ricardo came to mind! For my secondary characters, who are truly characters, I brainstormed names that would fit their personalities...Buster, Mort, Wilma, Huey, and Ardis. Baby name books and Web sites are great helps.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?

The takeaway I hope readers grasp in every story I write is that God is the granter of second chances. In Christmas Crazy, Jillian is licking her wounds and pride after a break-up, Ricky is running from a life that pulled him away from God, and Uncle Buster is on the verge of losing his business and his miniscule shred of faith. I hope their stories will infuse readers with a desire to persevere and trust in God’s perfect timing.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?

Yes. The writing life can be lonely. Through ACFW, I have made dear friends who speak the same “language.” At the first conference I attended, I connected with two other writers in the first hour at the hotel. By the end of the conference, we’d formed a critique group. Their help has been invaluable. I’ve learned so much in the online loops and I can tap into this bottomless well of knowledge for information on any topic under the sun. I love feeling connected, rooting for other writers, celebrating victories, exchanging encouragement in times that feel like defeat, and knowing there’s an extended family always available to offer advice and prayer.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?

As I began pondering this question, my gaze shifted two inches to the right of my computer. A white mug sits on a Texas Bluebonnet coaster. Both are gifts from my Door County Christmas sisters. The side of the mug facing me reads “Write Anyway.” That pretty well sums up the best advice I’ve ever received! I love those tingly muse-moments when a bit of dialogue or a story line wakes me in the middle of the night demanding to be written. But if I were to write only in those glorious moments, I’d be cranking out about eighteen words a week! At that rate I may produce one full-length novel before I succumb to senility. Instead of waiting for the muse, five days a week I plunk my backside first in my prayer chair (“Start with prayer” may actually be the best advice!) and then glue that part of my anatomy onto my desk chair. Often, the first few sentences seem flat and uninspired, but as I reacquaint with my characters and God honors my plea for fresh ideas, the story comes alive in my head all over again.

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

beckymelby.blogspot.com/   or http://www.melby-wienke.com/
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Lena.

My pleasure. Here comes Rachael. How did your story for the collection come about?

Many romances include conflicts that involve parental resistance. I thought an interesting twist in a Christmas romance might involve opposition from Grinch-y grown children who would not want their widowed parents’ romance to bloom. My female and male lead characters in Ride with Me into Christmas share an interest in cycling, as my husband and I do, which worked well in Door County’s beautiful vacation setting. I also placed them on a tandem bicycle for the first time, and like us, they learned lack of communication and cooperation can mean a crash!

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading DiAnn Mills’ Breach of Trust. What an addictive book! It’s a good thing I can classify reading as “research,” because I can hardly quit reading it to work. In my Bible study, I’m reading the book of Nehemiah. What practical, yet deeply spiritual wisdom I’m learning from its pages! Nehemiah, a man of prayer and action, knew how to follow God.

I love that series of DiAnn's What other books have you written, whether published or not?

I’ve published four Heroes of the Faith biographies with Barbour: Frederick Douglass, Billy Sunday, St. Augustine, and It Is Well with My Soul, a collection of hymn writer mini-biographies. I co-authored Women of the Bible (Barbour) with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna, which will release in February 2011. Unpublished: I’ve finished writing a women’s fiction, Kneady Women, a book about an off-beat group of bread bakers called the Loafers, that I just sent to my agent. I’ve also written a YA historical, Song of the Orphan Train, that won the Genesis YA in 2007. I wrote The Refuge, a suspense, a few years ago.

I'd love to feature your Women of the Bible on my blog. What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?

Becky, Cynthia, and Eileen are such team players that even the more difficult aspects went well. With all our stories set in Door County, WI, we made a special effort to ensure our characters, plots, settings, calendars, clocks, and weather didn’t overlap or sabotage those of our partners—e.g., when one author needed major snowfall the week before Thanksgiving, another didn’t have her protagonist running around in shirtsleeves. We met for a few days in a Door County, WI, bed and breakfast to get to know each other and work out the details, as well as the main points of our plots.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

I wish every first fiction author could work with such a fun, knowledgeable, creative group. I knew Cynthia before we became novella-writing partners (it was she who approached me), but I did not know Becky or Eileen. Not only have they become good friends, but all of them have taught me so much about writing fiction and working with editors and publishers. The only negative aspect? We all like Door County Hot Fudge and Cherry Sundaes way, way too much.

Now you're making my mouth water. Wish I could taste one. How did you choose your characters’ names?

 Joanna and Paul, like many of my characters, appeared in my imagination already named. I did take note of the era in which they were born (1940s) and checked websites such as the Social Security page of baby names http://bit.ly/92jLUZ ). Cynthia suggested Joanna’s last name, and I chose Paul’s Scandanavian-sounding name, Sorensen, because the action takes place in Wisconsin. I often check phone books for names. Originally, Joanna’s son in the novella was named David. But after I finished the book, I wasn’t sure my son—also named David—would appreciate it. So I changed him to Andrew. Thank the Lord for the “search” button on the toolbar!

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?

The lesson my main characters, both grieving the loss of their spouses, learn: God can help them recover from their hurts, overcome obstacles, and experience joy again. Isaiah 61:2-3 summarizes the fact God desires “to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” NIV_

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?

Absolutely. In this organization, a fiction writer finds career opportunities, endless educational, spiritual, emotional support—and just plain fun! An author also learns how to serve and share the good things God has given us writers.

 What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?

God is loving and good—but He usually follows His own timetable. (Sometimes that means a thousand years is as a day.)

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

My Web site is http://www.rachaelwrites.com/ . I’m on Facebook and also have another Facebook page, Rachael M. Phillips, Author (http://bit.ly/cbJQ01 ). I’m on Twitter (http://twitter.com/rachaelmphillip ).

Aren't we having fun? The only one left to visit with is the president of ACFW, Cynthia Ruchti. Welcome, Cynthia. How did your story for the collection come about?

Years ago, shortly after I joined ACFW in 2002, I wrote a novella about a woman who escaped to Door County, Wisconsin, (one of my favorite places to visit) to heal from a painful relationship. Original, huh? The novella served as good practice for me and yet it wouldn’t stay put in the file where I’d stuffed it. The location is charming. The characters charmed me, too. My thoughts kept returning to that story.

In 2008, shortly before the ACFW conference, a Wisconsin author friend—Becky Melby—who also appreciates the unique appeal of both the rugged natural beauty and the quaint shops and artisans of Door County brainstormed with me about a project we could collaborate on. A Christmas novella collection! With an endearing balance of romance and comedy, two things in which Becky excels. Ideas began to hum, but we needed two more voices for our quartet. Two other ACFW authors came to mind: Eileen Key, a Texas author with little experience with snow and cold (Oh, would it be fun to thrust her into that environment!), and Rachael Phillips (an Erma Bombeck award winner), a Midwest author familiar with snow as well as non-fiction author working toward a fiction contract.

Our quick brainstorming sessions via email produced four distinct yet related storylines. I’d hoped to resurrect my original Door County story. How easy would that be? All I had to do was make it funny. And better. I didn’t know whether to be surprised or grateful that I’d grown so much as a writer since 2002 that The Heart’s Harbor in A Door County Christmas (Barbour Publishing) bears little resemblance to the original.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading middle grade historical stories written by my agent, Wendy Lawton. I admire her attention to research details and the wealth of literary information she carries in her brilliant mind.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Like many writers, I have complete novels collecting dust. I have others pounding the pavement, looking for employment. My debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—released in May from Abingdon Press. It’s been gratifying watching it find its way into the hearts of readers.

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?

The four of us authors found ourselves thinking so in sync that during the critiquing portion of our collaboration, we’d discover we’d chosen a similar way to describe eye or hair color, or we’d used a clever phrase we’d thought was our own. It made us laugh and thumb wrestle for the privilege of using the phrase.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

Some novella collections are written with little interaction between the team members. We decided early on that we wanted to be engaged with one another and each others’ stories. We worked hard to keep threads of continuity without stepping on each others’ plot lines or character quirks. We wrote and critiqued chapter by chapter and kept each other to deadlines but applied grace where needed. We prayed for and with one another, and bonded on a research trip to Door County to make sure we got the details right. The level of comfort we felt with one another strengthened our stories and us.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I consider age of the characters, a mood I’d like to convey, nationality, and often the meaning (whether subtle or obvious) in the name. I especially enjoy choosing names for sidekicks and neurotic dogs.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?

Even though The Heart’s Harbor is a Christmas story and a love story and a humorous story, my prayer is that readers will also catch the underlying concept that sometimes healing comes through serving… and that Ernine is a mighty fine name for a camel.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?

I’m a member of ACFW because they wouldn’t let me be president if I wasn’t! That, and the fact that ACFW is THE place to be if you want to learn how to write Christian fiction and produce novels that are both God-honoring and skillfully crafted. ACFW has provided training I needed (and still do) and camaraderie I craved (and still do). I had a desperate need to grow in my understanding of the industry and credit ACFW with pointing me in the right direction. The networking and friendships I’ve gained bless me every day.

That is so true. What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?

Before I knew how important it would be, I was told not to believe the best things said about my writing, nor the worst. Great counsel.

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

I write stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark, a tagline that has proven itself fitting in everything I’ve written to date, whether the subject matter is heavier, as in They Almost Always Come Home, or more lighthearted, as in The Heart’s Harbor in A Door County Christmas. So readers can find me at http://www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com/ or http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/. I love to connect with readers and writers on Twitter and Facebook, too.

What a fun group you've been. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Readers, here's a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 6 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment. Here’s a link.



Cindy W. said...

Hi Lena,

Loved the interview. I love books set during the Christmas season and to have a collection of novellas would be pure heaven for me. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of A Door County Christmas.

Many Blessings,
Cindy W.


Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D. said...

I have two in my Amazon cart, so far, for Christmas gifts to family up North. Door County is supposed to be such a fabulous place and should be a wonderful setting for this Christmas novella. Don't enter me as I am buying one for myself. Should be fun reading before the Advent season.

holdenj said...

They look like such a fun group of women. I'm glad they met up in Door County for research!
Thanks for the chance to win!

Donald said...

I would love to win a copy of this! Thank you.


Patsy said...

What a great prize you're giving away. Really enjoy reading Christmas time stories. Looking forward to reading these. Thanks for giving away copies.

Robyn said...

Hooray for Christmas books! Love them.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Thanks, Lena, for the chance to connect with your blog readers! We're looking forward to the interaction these next few days...and to meeting all these wonderful readers in the pages of A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS!

Katrina said...

I would love to win a copy! Thanks for the great interview!

Ginger said...

This sounds great -- I love country, Christmas and romance...

Eileen Key said...

Carrie, Door County is amazingly beautiful. This Texan really enjoyed the scenic beauty! Thank you for filling up your Amazon cart.

holdenj, we four women bonded AND survived a power outage over pizza.

Patsy and Robyn: Christmas is only 121 days away!

misskallie2000 said...

I enjoyed all the interviews ladies. This Novella sounds like a great book and I can't wait to read. I love Christmas stories and this book has 4, yes 4.. Thanks for stopping by ladies and chatting with us.
Thanks Lena for hosting this giveaway and the opportunity to enter.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

cynthia said...

What a great interview. It's interesting to see how authors collaborate on a book. I love books set during Christmas time. Thank you for entering me in the book drawing.

Rachael Phillips said...

Thanks, everyone! Cynthia, Eileen, Becky and I are thrilled to invite you to share our Christmas story camaraderie. We had a blast in beautiful Door County asking questions, taking pictures, and standing look-out for each other as we sneaked around checking out local architecture along Green Bay, trying to find just the right homes for our characters....

Debra's Reading Corner! said...

Hey Lena!

Great interview! I love Christmas stories. With the Holidays just right around the corner "A Door County Christmas" sounds like a great book to start off the season with.
Thanks for the opportunity on a chance to win a copy.


Cherie J said...

Wonderful interview! Sounds like a delightful anthology of stories. Would love to read these.

Becky Melby said...

Echoing the thanks of my sister writers, Lena. What a wonderful opportunity. A Door County Christmas is a cozy, curl-up-by-the-fireplace read, but when the box of books arrived on my doorstep this week I just had to open a book and savor the stories all over again--even though the thermometer's hovering around 85. I know these stories so well, but I just have to brag up Cynthia, Rachael, and Eileen for creating characters a reader will want to go back and meet all over again next Christmas. And thank you to all of you who stopped by to visit.

Bakersdozen said...

I so appreciate the interviews and would love to read this book. vidomich(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Great interview, please enter me.

ebeandebe at gmail dot com

Keiki Hendrix said...

Wow, what an interview. Many thanks for posting it.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Thanks Lena for doing such an insightful marathon set of interviews with this great bunch of ladies.

I think the best takeaway from the whole article, not withstanding that each lady is a talented writer...is that each lady is a member of the great ACFW, where Christian fiction draws us together.

grannyvon said...

I enjoyed the interviews, that is what got me signed up for this blog. I would love to win this giveaway. Thanks for the chance ybutler@oppcatv.com

Anonymous said...

I have heard rave reviews about these authors from one of them! Becky told me about the novellas they were writing and how much fun she had getting to know the others during their Door County trip. Anyone who hasn't been to Door County, Wisconsin, before reading the books will definitely want to afterward! Becky's book is fabulous fun....she gave me a sneak peek! Woo hoo! I am eager to read them all.

Jan Glas

scottsgal said...

It's never too early to start thinking about those feel good christmas stories - thanks for the giveaway
msboatgal at aol.com

Linda Kish said...

Great interview. It was nice to get to know the authors. I love Christmas settings. And 4 stories in one book is great.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)'

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Nancye said...

This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Merry said...

A Door Country Christmas sounds like a delightful collection of stories. I've been watching for it since I read Cynthia's excellent debut novel, I can't wait to read another one of her books. Thanks for a chance to win a copy!

Edwina said...

These were great interviews! I enjoyed learning a little about each author.

Christmas romance stories are one of my favorite and I'd love to win a copy of the book.


Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

wmmahaney said...

These stories sound wonderful.

apple blossom said...

Oh, please include me in this book giveaway this week. Thanks
ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Theresa N. said...

I love reading Christmas stories, it's my favorite time of year.
Theresa N

Anonymous said...

I would love to win this book. It sounds like it was written with a great deal of care.


Kameko said...

Each interview was a joy to read - such unique personalities! The premise of the four stories sound so good and to be combined into one book - what a treasure to hold in your hands. I've not had the pleasure of traveling to Door County myself, but have read many wonderful things about it.
Thank each of you for your contribution to this book & for a chance to win it. Lena, thank you for presenting these wonderful women to us.

Blessings to all of you~

Brenda said...

Please enter me!

dancealert at aol dot com

K said...

Christmas! One of my favourite times of the year!!! Books set in the Christmas season are always a favourite of mine! :)

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Thank you from each of the four Door County authors. We hope you'll feel the snow crunching beneath your feet, sense the view from the cliffs and the curve of the shorelines, smell the French toast stuffed with cream cheese and sweet cherries, and hear both jingle bells and whispers of Love in your ears as you read A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS! And please let us know if you do. :)

Rachael Phillips said...

I echo Cynthia's descriptive sentiments and hope I get to meet some of you at ACFW conferences or elsewhere--and if that doesn't work out, we'll someday celebrate Christmas in heaven together :-)

Blessings on you all!

Anonymous said...

The book sounds like a real winner. The sundae also sounds like a real temptation in a bowl.Shirley.

Carole said...

This interview really made these four authors come alive. I always enjoy novellas, but especially Christmas-themed ones. Thank you for the chance to win A Door County Christmas.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

A J Hawke said...

A four in one interview! Excellent.

Please enter me.

A J Hawke

Maureen said...

What a great interview. Loved that 4 of you got together for fun and writing. Great time of the year for a good book. Love Christmas Stories!


Judylynn said...

I'd love to win this book. Please enter me! Thank you.


peachykath said...

Yeah another Christmas book. Please enter me in the drawing for this book.


lotus82 said...

Great interview.


Bluerose said...

I would love to be entered!