Saturday, October 27, 2007

'Tis the Season - Another Christmas Collection

Today, we're talking to the authors of A Big Apple Christmas.

Lynette Sowell

Carrie Turansky

Gail Sattler

Vasthi Reyes Acosta

Some of these authors have already visit on this blog, and we welcome them back. And you'll enjoy getting to know the others.

How did your story for the collection come about?

Lynette: I have always enjoyed novellas, and I really wanted to write a Christmas story. One of the most sparkling, beautiful, and romantic places at Christmas is New York City. A few years ago one November, I watched on TV when the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrived in New York. They usually tell where the tree comes from. That year, the 75-foot spruce in Rockefeller Center came from a widower in New England. The network showed the family’s pictures through the years, the yard, and their tree. And that’s when my idea began. What if a widow ends up having her tree selected for Rockefeller Center? And what if her daughter’s former college roommate lives and works in Manhattan, and the two women cook up an early Christmas gift to send Mom to the Big Apple? The story snowballed for me from there.

Carrie: My novella, Moonlight & Mistletoe, features a professional organizer who likes to control everything in her life. I wanted to contrast her with someone who seemed to be her opposite, so I chose to make the hero a carefree children’s poet. Thinking about their differences and their underlying similarities helped me develop the story. I live only about an hour from New York City, and I thought that would be a fascinating setting.

Gail: Actually the group had already thought of it before I joined, and then we brainstormed for individual story ideas.

Vasthi: Growing up in New York City, as a small Puerto Rican girl, I loved the fact that Christmas didn’t end Christmas day. I still had El Dia de los Reyes (Epiphany or Three Kings Day) to look forward to. We received gifts on that day as well. The night before Epiphany, tradition dictates that water and grass be left out to assist the wise men and their camels on their trip to worship the new born king. In return the three kings left a small gift. Curiously, I never worried about how they reached a fifth floor apartment. Santa Claus made it up there, why couldn’t they.

In addition, I have a collection of three kings’ figurines that is rivaled only by a good friend’s collection which fills a whole room. But not to fear, I’ll catch up. Anyway, when I think of Christmas in New York City, I think of Three King’s day and the story emerged from there.

What are you reading right now?

Lynette: Glory Be! by the Benreys; The Measure of a Lady by Deanne Gist; Death Benefits by Hannah Alexander.

Carrie: I am reading Siri Mitchell’s Moon over Tokoyo and loving it. I just finished Linda Windsor’s Wedding Bell Blues and enjoyed that too.

Gail: A manual on playing upright bass. (For those of you who don't know, Gail's a musician as well as an author.)

Vasthi: I’m always reading more than one book at a time.
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez, a young adult novel that describes the fight for freedom from the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher.
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck. Loving it!

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

Lynette: This is my fourth novella for Barbour. Right now I’m working on my second cozy mystery due out next fall for Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, titled The Wiles of Watermelon. The first cozy mystery in my series, A Suspicion of Strawberries, releases in spring 2008. (I have no idea where the fruit theme has come from.)

Carrie: My published books include novellas in Wedded Bliss and Kiss the Bride for Barbour. I also wrote Along Came Love for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I have four other completed books and one other novella that are unpublished.

Gail: Some Heartsong Presents, some Love Inspired books, other novella anthologies, and a few non fiction projects.

Vasthi: I’ve written two books of a three book series titled, Mangoes and Apple Pie, a contemporary adaptation of the Book of Ruth with Latino characters. It is not published, yet.

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

Lynette: Sometimes when you’re starting, you’re not exactly sure how the package as a whole is going to come across to readers. Since our characters don’t even know or meet each other, we didn’t have the issue of continuity as in family or generational novellas—except we did have to keep track of the weather.

Carrie: The most challenging part is coming up with the ideas at first, especially if the stories are tied closely together. Allowing the other authors to help you brainstorm is great, but it takes time and patience to work it all out when you have different ideas.

Gail: Writing short. You still have to come up with a whole story, and get it out in only half the word count.

Vasthi: This was my first experience and the hardest thing was cutting out parts of the story that I really liked but weren’t necessary.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?

Lynette: I was happy to learn that according to Vasthi, I “got” New York right. I haven’t been there in about 18 years, but I loved the colors and variety of the city and its people. I enjoyed seeing how each of us brought a different perspective—Gail with her tourist, running away for the holidays; Carrie with her pair of city residents getting to know each other; Vasthi and her vivid Latina heroine; and my Gwynn and Theo, and older couple enjoying the season and falling in love.

Carrie: I enjoyed working with this team. Each author has strengths, and they shared those as we critiqued our stories for each other. Being able to ask Vasthi questions about New York was a great help too.

Gail: It was fun, and I feel I made some new friends.

Vasthi: Tremendously! I learned so much from my collaborators. I appreciated their honest critique and am a better writer because of it. A true blessing!

How do you choose your characters’ names?

Lynette: Sometimes, they just pop into my head. I’d heard the name Gwynn before, and it seemed to fit my mature heroine. Since she is from New Hampshire, I chose a French Canadian surname. Theophilus Stellakis seemed to fit a crusty Greek professor who walks to the university and picks up his paper at the newsstand every day. Of course Gwynn shortens it to Theo, much to his chagrin. Makes him feel young again.

Carrie: I look through a book of baby names, or I check on-line lists of popular names for the year my character was born.

Gail: The first names just come to me. Then I look in the big phone book to get ideas for last names.

Vasthi: I play with different names in my head until I find the one that feels right. Sometimes I’ll start a story with one name, knowing it’s not exactly the right one. When I find the right name I just replace it.

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

Lynette: In this story, I wanted to capture the warmth of New York. Yes, it’s possible for a city to have a warm spot. Also, Gwynn had a very full life in New Hampshire. But her trip to New York allowed her to spread her wings and care for herself. Sometimes we women don’t do that enough.

Carrie: I hope Moonlight and Mistletoe will carry readers away for a few hours of relaxation and enjoyment. But I also hope they will be touched by my characters’ struggles and learn more about the issue of control and how faith can help us overcome our fears.

Gail: That God can and does work all things work together for good.

Vasthi: That trusting in God isn’t always easy but definitely best. And I wanted them to have a taste of what Christmas is like in a Latino home.

Why are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers?

Lynette: It’s THE organization to belong to if you’re serious about fiction writing. I can’t begin to say how much I’ve had the opportunity to learn over the years, and all the mentors who’ve come across my path.

Carrie: I love ACFW! It is a great group of aspiring and published authors who are seeking to grow and serve the Lord with their gifts. I have learned a tremendous amount from being a member. There is so much encouragement and practical help in this group.

Gail: It’s a great group of writers whenever I need another writer to bounce ideas off, or just to talk about nothing to do with writing, and everything in between.

Vasthi: I met Carrie Turansky at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference and she encouraged me to join this fabulous group of writers. I am so glad I did! ACFW has been a lifeline of resources, support, teaching and fun.

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

Lynette: Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep learning.

Carrie: There is always more you can learn and ways you can grow and improve your writing. It is a never-ending journey.

I want to invite everyone to stop by my website, where you can read the first chapter of Moonlight & Mistletoe,” Just click on the cover of the book on the home page and it will take you to the Big Apple Christmas page.

Thanks, Lena. We appreciate you!

Gail: I’ve received lots of great advice, actually. The one that comes to me now is that a person’s ability to become a good writer greatly depends on one’s ability to glue one’s butt to one’s chair.

Vasthi: Write, write, write. The more you write the better you get.

Thank you, Ladies, for spending this time with us. I've really enjoyed it.

Now Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a free copy of this book, leave a comment. There will be 4 free books with this interview. Someone will win them. It might as well be you.


Janna said...

I love novella collections (especially about Christmas) please sign me up!


Margo Carmichael said...

Christmas in NY sounds wonderful. Thanks for a chance to win.

Lori said...

Great interview! It's a joy to learn more about you ladies. :)
I'm going on record here as a huge Vasthi Acosta fan. You all don't want to miss this new author!

lollipops said...

I love Christmas stories! Sign me up!

Cherie J said...

This anthology sounds great! Would love to win! I was born and raised in NYC so I can really relate. I was thrilled to read what Vashti wrote as well since I am of Puerto Rican ancestry as well. So cool!

Stormi said...

oh oh pick me, I love Christmas stories! :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Lena and Friends,

Thanks so much for interviewing us and giving your readers an opportunity to learn more about A Big Apple Christmas. I love seeing it on the shelf right next to Lena's new Christmas book Montana Mistletoe! These stories will put you in a holiday mood. Blessings, Carrie Turansky

Hannah said...

great interview! i'd love to enter to win! i love christmas novellas!!! hsmuda[at]gmail[dot]com

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I have decided to read the Christmas books in November. That way reviews of them will go up on my Shoutlife profile. The reviews will also be in the newsletter that posts on my web site in early December.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Lena - I'm getting addicted to your site! It's such a different experience to read a book once you have knowledge about the author. Thank you for sharing the talent behind the story!

Please enter me in this drawing -- I'm ready to get into the Christmas spirit!


Anonymous said...

I really want to read this book!! sign me up it looks awesome!! =)

Rose said...

Great interviews. I love the novella collections.

I am curious how the writers choose or are chosen to be included in the collections, though.


Anonymous said...

Christmas, New York, Romance. They all seem to go together. I'd love to win a book.

Lydia said...

Thanks Lena, I enjoyed the interview and the chance to learn a bit more about these ladies and their stories.
Please count me in for the drawing.

Lynette Sowell said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Lena for having us as her guests. I haven't been to New York in a looong time, but I sure enjoyed writing about the city and a few of its colorful people. :)

Norma said...

I LOVE Christmas romances - please enter me!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! It's nice to learn more about you ladies. I love Christmas novella collections . This anthology sounds great! Please enter me!

cathikin said...

Sounds like a great collection. I need some Christmas stories!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a great book!
please enter me!

ChristyJan said...

I love holiday reads. I'd be thrilled to win a copy of this book.

Anonymous said...

Novella collections are always fun. Sign me up, please!

windycindy said...

Hi, What a wonderful reading collection for the start of the holidays! Please enter me in this fabulous contest. Thanks, Cindi

windycindy said...

What a wonderful sounding book. They mention taking a reader away and it sounds very positive. Please enter me in the holiday season book contest!Thanks, Cindi