Welcome, Autumn. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
A lot! They are far from autobiographical, but I do draw on my own experiences and my own emotional and spiritual journey when I write. Especially for the characters’ spiritual growth, as I do include a strong faith arc in my romances. The characters are usually Christians, but maybe a bit lukewarm, or with areas they haven’t fully surrendered to God, and getting right with God is often part of what they need to do to heal the emotional stuff getting in the way of their Happily-Ever-After. What I’m finding, story after story, is that God is hammering me with my need to grow in the exact same areas as my characters. Maybe it’s the other way around and He is writing the characters into me? It can feel like an emotional and spiritual boot camp sometimes! In a good way J
I so understand. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Hmm, tough! Maybe skydiving? Doing a tandem jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet strapped to an instructor is probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. I screamed and prayed all the way down! But that wasn’t the quirky part. The quirky part was doing it again next time a skydiving team was in town, just to prove I could. Oddly enough, the second jump was a wonderful experience. I don’t feel any need at all to do it a third time!
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Young! I remember writing stories in kindergarten, and making “books” when I was about eight, folding and stapling paper and spending all Saturday afternoon writing out my stories as neatly as I could. In my teens, I sent a lot of short stories and poems off to magazines. They were all rejected, though I did have one article published when I was sixteen. My first ever paycheck from writing- a whole $5! Despite that, I believed all the folk who told me I couldn’t make a living writing, got a sensible job, and spent the next thirty years having other adventures, reading a lot, and writing on and off. I was 48 before I decided to truly commit to writing again.
Good for you. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
As a kid and into my teens and twenties, I read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on. Romance, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, crime, literary.
I still read as much as I can, though one of the things I don’t like about writing is that I have less time to read now! The time I used to read in is now the time I use to write. My Kindle is stacked with hundreds of books I want to read!
I don’t read stories with unhappy endings now, there’s enough of that in the world. I read to be comforted and uplifted. So that means I tend to choose sweet romances with a faith element. Regencies, Western romances, Harlequin Love Inspired and Heartsong (so sad that line is closing), sweet inspirational romances from indie authors. I love going back to old stories I can read and reread like the LM Montgomery books. The Blue Castle is one I especially like.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Pray a lot, and make sure I get my quiet time. I don’t have quite as much of a daily routine as I would like, but I take time when I first get up to write in my journal, and a lot of that is prayer and seeking God’s guidance. And I end the day with meditating on a Bible verse that has particular meaning for me at the time, even if that is just a minute or two. It bookends the day. I really notice a difference when I don’t do those things. I tend to be more scattered through the day and less likely to turn to God for guidance and support.
I keep reflecting on the story from Matthew 14, about Jesus walking on the water. Peter gets out of the boat and walks toward Jesus. He’s doing it; he’s walking on water too! How amazing must that have felt! But the second he takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the storm and the waves, he sinks, and Jesus needs to rescue him.
I take two things from that-
We can do amazing things if we keep our focus on Him, not on our external circumstances.
Being human, we’ll get scared and sink, but Jesus is always there to lift us up. All we need to do is ask.
I’m pretty good now at the second part, still learning how to do the first!
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I love baby name books and all those online sites that give the meanings of names. I’d love to say I put a lot of thought into names and looked up what they meant and they had special symbolism. But often, the names just are there in my head, as part of the character. I don’t even necessarily like them sometimes!
Like the Gallagher twins in Books 3 & 4 of my Love in Store series, Tiffany and Zoe. Those are lovely names, but I kept thinking as their father is a pastor, surely they’d have Biblical names? I tried giving them other names, but they just didn’t work. Their names are Tiff and Zoe, and that’s it!
In one book, I kept forcing a name onto a character. By the middle of the book, I had to go back and give her the name she had wanted. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
That is a hard question! I think I’d have to say my marriage. We’ve been through some tough times, but we’re still together, very much in love, and getting closer and stronger all the time. I’ve been blessed to do many other things I’m grateful for in my life, like publishing my books, but that’s still the biggie and the one that means the most.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A cat. Whatever they do, they do 100%. They are so good at finding joy in the simplest things, from a comfortable place to sleep to a sunbeam to chasing a leaf in the garden.
What is your favorite food?
I have a few too many favourite foods! I try to grow at least a little food, and do love a salad fresh from the garden. Spinach and white cheese thin crust pizza. Bean stew with lots of herbs and garlic and chunks of crusty bread. Hummus and oven roasted tomatoes. I’ve been making a lot of Thai spiced vegetable soup now the weather is cooler. Chocolate anything. Fresh raspberries. Um, this list could go on quite some time!
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
For way too many years (at least thirty!), I wrote a lot of first chapters of stories, then stopped. I’d go back to try to edit, I’d judge the writing, I’d know it wasn’t right, and I’d give up. So letting go of judgment long enough to complete stories was my biggest roadblock.
The main thing getting in the way was that I was trying to write a “publishable story” straight off. I was comparing my first draft of chapter one to the stories I was reading, that had been through multiple drafts and edits, and of course it came up short! Quality in writing is important, but not in the first draft, and not when needing the writing to be “good enough” stopped me from writing altogether.
What freed me was giving myself permission to write badly. To write for fun, not something good enough to submit to a publisher. When I decided I wanted to write again, I did JanNo (like NaNo, but in January), where it was all about word count and not at all about quality. Totally liberating! I had so much fun, and for the first time ever, I finished a story. That year, I went on to complete three full drafts for 50,000 word category romance length stories.
They are complete messes! I still had a lot to learn about craft and story structure and a whole lot of things. I still do have a lot to learn. I don’t believe we should ever stop learning and improving our craft. But it’s okay that they are hot messes. They showed me I could finish. They showed me that having a bad but complete first draft I could edit counted for a lot more than having a first chapter and nothing more.
I read recently that this is a common issue for writers who managed to get by on first drafts all the way through school and college. We feel we’ve failed if we can’t produce perfect first draft. But the challenge of writing a book length story is completely different to a short story or an academic essay. So the one thing I would say to a writer feeling stuck and not completing anything is to write for the joy of it first. To switch off judging as they write, and make finishing the book their first goal.
I find ten minute timed writing is a total blessing to get unstuck. Just set a timer for ten minutes, open a new document file, and write as fast as possible without stopping. The goal is to get as many words as possible, not necessarily good words in the right order. This is also great for writers who feel they don’t have time to write. We all can find ten minutes somewhere in the day. Ten minutes writing, when we don’t stop to think or judge, can produce about a page. A page a day is a whole book in a year!
The most universal writing rule though, one that works for everyone, is to pray before writing! It’s amazing how easy it is to forget to do that. J
Tell us about the featured book.
I’ve chosen to make Believe in Me, Book 2 of the Love in Store series, the featured book. It’s a Christmas romance, set in
London, and is on offer
at 99c this week!
This is a story that means a lot to me. It started off as a sweet secular romance, written for a publisher’s Call for Submissions that had a very specific theme. The stories all had to be based on the Christmas song, “Santa Baby.” But the contest was for short novellas, and the story grew to twice their permitted word count!
Then last year, I realized what the story lacked was a faith element. The heroine Cara couldn’t possibly let go her heavy burdens without God’s help. I rewrote the story, submitted it to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, and was blessed that the story semi-finalled, and caught the attention of the Heartsong editor, but wouldn’t be published until late 2015. I prayed, and felt guided to indie publish the book. And here it is!
A London Christmas, a gift of faith a love.
All Cara Talbot wants for Christmas is for it to be over.
The workaholic accountant has good reason to hate Christmas, along with charmers like actor Nick Callaghan, playing celebrity Santa at the failing
department store she has the thankless job of managing.
She’s determined to save her staff’s jobs, Hollywood golden boy Nick just wants to live up to his Mr Unattached reputation and enjoy life. They couldn't be more opposite. But if accepting Nick’s dare – dates showing her the magic of a London Christmas – can raise enough publicity to keep the store open, she’ll do it. Even if she risks falling in love with him in the process.
Can this surprising Santa allow love to deepen his untested faith and learn to commit, while helping Ms Scrooge believe in Christmas, and in God, once more?
Book 2 in the Love In Store series of sweet inspirational romances.
The series is set around a stately old
London department store, and the same
settings and staff pop up in each book. But there is no need to read them in
Every story is a complete romance, following a different couple through the trials and joys of a developing love, to their happily-ever-after.
Please give us the first page of the book.
All Cara Talbot wanted for Christmas was for it to be over.
She hated everything about the holiday.
The false cheeriness. The materialism. The impossible expectations.
Street, the heart of London's shopping district, she couldn't
escape it. A week into December, Christmas was everywhere.
Even at eight in the morning, getting out of the Underground station became an obstacle course. She battled her way to the stairs through leafletters handing out advertising, carollers singing off-key, and charity collectors in Santa suits rattling buckets.
Scrooge had the right idea. Peace and goodwill? Humbug!
Christmas was a sales opportunity, nothing more.
Except Pettett and Mayfield's department store wasn't selling nearly enough, and it was her job to change that somehow. Deputy assistant manager sounded good, but all it meant was she got landed with the management jobs no-one else wanted, and the blame when things went wrong.
Like picking up the pieces after Mrs Pettett's schemes, which started with a bang of hopeful expectation, then always ended in a fizzle of dismal sales.
Nothing suggested the old lady's latest publicity stunt, bringing in Nick Gallagher as the store's celebrity Santa, would be any different. It would take more than some B-list American soap star in Santa's Grotto to bring in enough sales to get the store back in the black.
Divine intervention was closer to the mark.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My Amazon Author page is:
My website is:
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and on Twitter (not so often!) as @autumnmacarthur , https://twitter.com/autumnmacarthur .
You can also subscribe to my mailing list - http://mad.ly/signups/116735/join
Thank you, Autumn for sharing your Christmas book with us today. I know my readers will love it.
Readers, here’s a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
Believe In Me: A London Christmas, sweet Christian romance (Love In Store Book 2)
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