Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
The Christine Sterling Mystery series—PAYNE & MISERY, THE DUNN DEAL, and PARRISH THE THOUGHT—is a cozy mystery trilogy written over about ten years of my life. At the beginning, I needed a diversion from the insanity of my raging hormonal dysfunction during menopause. Then, I had no idea God planned the writing to be used in any way other than getting me through my days and nights, so I wrote about things that were happening or what I was thinking about.
I packed the first book, PAYNE & MISERY, with every injustice, oversight, or neglect I ever suffered or imagined to suffer. I produced quite an odious tome of complaint. I exposed much more about our relationship and about myself than I ever intended the public to know. Of course, the book had to be rewritten ten times before it became publishable and much of the whining had to be excised. But when people point out similarities between the main characters (Jesse and Christine Sterling) and my husband Bob and me, I merely smile and nod.
In my next book, DYING TO BE NOTICED, I created a whole new set of characters just to prove I can.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I never broke into the neighbors’ house like Christine did. Through Christine I’ve done really nutty things. But my husband would probably say the quirkiest thing about me concerns my fascination with subways. When I visit a big city with a subway, I am compelled to explore it. So I’ve managed to get lost in
Chicago, and New York.
on the way to the theatre, a man approached my daughter and me as we exited the
subway. He politely inquired whether we were ladies of the evening. In Boston, Bob and I went a stop too far on our way to Cambridge and ended up
practically running at dusk through a rather questionable neighborhood.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I never dared refer to myself as a writer until quite recently, but I have always loved to write. I love words. When I was thirteen, I fell in love with a boy at church. He had the most amazing thick reddish-blond hair and he smelled good. We seldom spoke, but I pined fervently, mostly from afar, replaying his few words to me over and over in my mind and endlessly fingering the few cards and notes he sent.
One day he called to say his parents didn’t want us to sit together at church any more since we were too young to be getting so serious. I was crushed and closeted myself in my bedroom to write our tragic love story. After shedding many tears and writing four dramatic chapters, my mother coaxed me out of my room for food. I kept the start of that novel, certain that one day I would complete it. During high school, I would always begin writing term papers the day they were assigned, a practice I kept secret after once being called weird.
Later, I wrote a few children’s stories for my girls and for my grandchildren. To this day, I keep files with ideas for stories. But I really began to write in earnest about twelve years ago when menopause hit. Today, I call myself a writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
In my home are many shelves full of books. Most are fiction, but occasionally something like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott comes to my attention. Mysteries are my favorite diversion in the reading world. Special authors include Marcia Muller, Elizabeth George, Tony Hillerman, Sue Grafton, Sibella Giorella, Charles Martin, and Nancy Rue. I have been known to read truly good books a second time. I also sometimes listen to books on tape after I have read a particularly wonderful book. I did this recently after reading Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
My best hope to stay grounded is Bible Study Fellowship. I have attended one group or another of this international Bible study for over twenty-five years. The format includes daily homework, discussion groups, a lecture, and notes to read. I need this kind of discipline to keep me in God’s Word on a regular basis. I didn’t begin to grow up until I started to study the Bible. When I get crazy or allow the stresses of life to overwhelm me, it’s always because I have gone too long without prayer and Bible study.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I keep a cache of names filed in my head in case I ever need one for a character. For example, Lila Kliner (in PAYNE & MISERY) was a little girl I played with when I visited my aunt in
Oregon each summer of my childhood. Russell
Silverthorne (also a character in PAYNE & MISERY) was a distinguished man I
met at church. Baxter Dunn (THE DUNN DEAL) was a dishonored sheriff I read
about in the newspapers who happens to have a great name for a character.
I also use names of family members from time to time. Once, a friend of my daughter asked me to name a character after her. That’s how a nurse named Brenda Gonzales became part of DYING TO BE NOTICED. My goal is to make the sound or connotation of the name fit the characteristics of the person being named. I often check the national census website looking for popular names during the period my character would have been born.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Raising two incredible human beings—my daughters. They are both very intelligent and highly educated, one with a PhD in microbiology and one an excellent nurse. But better than that, they are compassionate, kind, gentle, loving people, good citizens who make a difference in the world.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A border collie. High energy level, zest for life, fierce loyalty, cuddly, loves people, needs to work and enjoys work, lifelong love of learning.
What is your favorite food?
I am a foodie. How can I name my favorite? Best I can say is Mexican food always wakes up my taste buds. You can never go wrong with shrimp. Anything with chocolate is high on my list, but pie is my favorite dessert.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I have never been able to conduct an interview that gets me a job, which doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten jobs, just never once because of a stellar interview. So when it comes to selling a book, forget it. I just don’t sell myself well. I even freeze up when sending out queries. Consequently, at present I still do not have an agent. Even after offering manuscripts to maybe a dozen in person and having four books published, I haven’t even found an agent willing to actually look at my work.
For this reason, I am extraordinarily grateful to my publisher, Rochelle Carter of Ellechor Publishing, for looking past my fumbling, rambling interview to see the book I had produced. It was just a matter of not giving up, of continuing to press myself into situations and conversations where my work might be noticed. Entering contests was helpful, as was attending writer’s conferences without knowing a single person who could hold my hand through the experience.
Of course, it might also be that God’s plan is unfolding in precisely the way He intended. As I push outside my comfort zone, I must rely on Him for power more and more. God delights in strengthening the weak.
Tell us about the featured book.
PARRISH THE THOGUHT
Unlovable people plague Christine Sterling’s pristine church-lady world—filthy homeless men, a possibly homosexual veterinarian, dark Goth teenagers, to name a few. Although she desires to exhibit Christian love, when it comes time to convert her faith into action, inner struggles weigh her down. These people simply don’t belong in her life.
Then during a storm, surly Goth teenager, Amanda Colter, makes a middle-of-the-night call begging for Christine’s help. Amanda has somehow gotten mixed up in the untimely death of a prominent
matron, Bessie Parrish. But agreeing to help Amanda thrusts Christine onto a
dangerous path. Along the way, her search for truth forces her to confront the
ugliness of her own prejudiced heart. Nevada City
Sounds like a wonderful book. Please give us the first page.
A man in the women’s restroom?
I slipped on a take-charge attitude and shoved through the mumbling huddle of waiting women. Past pointing fingers and impatient faces, I managed to enter the three-stall bathroom off the church foyer. Sure enough, scuffed boots with significant holes protruded toes-up from under the handicap stall. I bent to inspect them and found one hiked-up pant leg revealing a calf with dark coarse hair. Definitely male.
A neon alert blinked “Warning!” in my brain. I censored the unchristian exclamation that almost tumbled from my lips. Where else but
would you find a man sprawled on the restroom floor?
Of all the nerve! He had also managed to track red
clay onto our clean shiny floor. A whiff of alcohol and cigarettes reached out
to me like clawing fingers. I didn’t try to disguise my disgust. Nevada County
“Excuse me, sir. Can I help you?”
The shoes didn’t move.
By then, a pack of female onlookers had congregated behind me. At the sound of my voice, they all protested at once like a flock of hens. I faced them, waving my hands and clearing my throat. Their clucking ceased as quickly as it had begun.
“I’ll get help. Meanwhile, please use the restroom downstairs.” I produced a smile and pointed in the general vicinity of the stairs.
You have me hooked. How can readers find you on the Internetfirstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Catherine, for sharing your life and book with us.
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Parrish the Thought (Christine Sterling Mystery) (The Christine Sterling Mystery Trilogy) - paperback
Parrish the Thought (The Christine Sterling Mystery Trilogy) - Kindle
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