Wednesday, June 09, 2010

CHASING LILACS - Carla Stewart - Free Book

Brief author bio:

A two-time ACFW Genesis winner, Carla Stewart is a Guideposts Writers Workshop alumna and has been published in Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and several regional magazines and anthologies. Her debut novel, Chasing Lilacs, releases this month with FaithWords. Carla enjoys a good cup of coffee, weekend getaways with her husband, and the antics of their six grandchildren.

Welcome, Carla. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I don’t intentionally write myself into them, but I know I draw on my past experiences to find my character’s emotions, and the setting of Chasing Lilacs is very much like the place where I grew up. Still, my characters often say or do something that I would.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

According to my husband, I am a quirk :-) A few years ago, for our 50s-themed Christmas Banquet at church, I talked three shy, stage-frightened friends into performing a pantomime quartet for the entertainment portion of the evening. We wore matching poodle skirts and did our choreographed mime to “Mr. Sandman” and “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.” We were the hit of the evening.

Sounds like fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

In the sixth grade I wrote a “steamy” romance (to me anyway) and sent my only copy to a Hollywood producer, convinced they would cast Sandra Dee and Richard Chamberlain in the title roles. I never heard back. The sting of rejection lasted forty years while I busied myself with writerly tasks like church bulletins, chatty Christmas newsletters, and critiquing my kiddos writing projects for school. So, I guess I’ve always written and dreamed that someday I would write a book, but it wasn’t until nine years ago that I began to pursue writing in earnest.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I read a bit of everything – mysteries (Dick Francis and John D. MacDonald are favorites), mainstream and literary fiction (Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Monk Kidd, Sara Gruen, Rosamund Pilcher), and for the past few years, a lot of great Christian fiction (Susan Meissner, Lisa Samson, Mary DeMuth, W. Dale Cramer, and a host of newer authors). I especially love to read books that transport me to the character’s world, teach me some factoid about history or have a psychological twist. I also enjoy quirky humor now and then.

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

Chasing Lilacs will be my first published book, but the first novel I completed was a mystery, followed by a few abandoned women’s fiction attempts. I have a completed Young Adult novel that was a Genesis winner in 2008, and I’ve just finished my second contracted book, tentatively titled Broken Wings. It, like Chasing Lilacs, is women’s fiction with a nostalgic thread.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

It helps that we are empty-nesters and I don’t work outside the home. I have the daytime to myself, and in the evenings, my husband and I spend time working on the yard, taking our doxy for walks, and discussing our day. We sometimes attend jazz concerts and Broadway shows that come to our city. Taking weekend trips to visit family (and grandkids) gives me a break from my normal writing routine. Even though writing can sometimes be hectic, I’m learning to just do what I can every day, and through God’s grace, it all seems to get done.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I wish I had a method, but usually the names just come to me. Since I write nostalgic fiction, I have a lot of fun choosing names that give flavor to the era or sound the way I want my character to be perceived. I also like to use nicknames (Slim, Red, Bebe, Waggs, etc.) or even make up names sometimes.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Raising four boys and surviving to tell about it!
I didn't get my boys until grandsons. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A dachshund like the one who sits on my lap while I write (Zelda). She is faithful, loves me even when I leave her at the kennel, and is always ready for an adventure. She also has a mind of her own and is not afraid to let me know. Those are qualities I love and think I would make a great pal to my owner if I were a pooch.

What is your favorite food?

This is a loaded question: sort of like picking your favorite child. I do love seafood, though, especially shrimp. I often work shrimp into my recipes at home. But I also love Mexican food when we go out to eat.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

As a new writer, I knew little about the “rules” of the craft – backstory, point of view, goals and motivation, how to write scenes and sequels. When I became aware that I needed to learn these things, I went at it like I was training for the Olympics. I took internet classes, attended workshops, and let others critique my work. Eventually, I started entering contests. I still read craft books regularly and study my favorite novels to see what makes great prose. I’m not sure it’s possible to learn all the nuances of great writing, but my goal is to continue toward excellence and to continue learning all that I can. The challenge of that is what keeps me moving forward and makes me fall in love with writing all over again each new day.

What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Learn the craft. Attend writers’ groups and conferences. Allow others to critique your work. Then, just write with abandon and let your voice come through. Don’t be afraid of being unique and writing the novel of your heart.

Tell us about the featured book.

Chasing Lilacs is Women’s Fiction with a nostalgic flavor. In this coming-of-age story set in Texas, the year is 1958, Elvis is on the radio, and summer is in the air. The times are simple and carefree. Or should be, but twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker has plenty of questions about her mother’s “nerve” problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother even loves her. When tragedy strikes and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears. Her best friend with an opinion about everything? The mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him? Or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on? Then, there’s the elderly widower who seems nice, but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie’s ever done.

Please give us the first page of the book.

That June, right after I finished sixth grade, Norm MacLemore’s nephew came to Texas for a visit. Benny Ray Johnson brought home a new Edsel. And Mama tried to take her life for the first time.

We lived at Graham Camp then—a petroleum plant with company housing. A spot in the Panhandle of Texas where the blue of the sky hurt your eyes and the wind bent the prairie grass into an endless silk carpet as far as you could see in every direction. God’s country, some people called it. While it may be true that God created that corner of the world, it crossed my young mind that he must have been looking the other way when it came to Mama. Why else would Mama’s spells, as Daddy called them, drive her deeper into her quilts? Lights out. Shades drawn.

Her spell that June had gone on longer than most, and she seemed to be slipping farther away. I hoped my being out of school might snap her out of it, and I had no trouble inventing excuses to linger in the house and be of some use to Mama. Mostly, she let me fetch her things. An ice bag for her headache. Another one of those pills from the brown bottle.

I tiptoed in and out with her requests and studied her for signs of improvement. With every smile or pat on my hand, my insides lurched. Maybe today she’ll suggest we bake a cake. Or take a walk down to Willy Bailey’s store. I would have settled for just having her sit with me on the couch and watch television.

Please don’t get me wrong. Mama was the primary thing on my mind, but a few days into the summer, I began to get restless. Itchy. As I scribbled ideas for the newspaper my best friend, Tuwana Johnson, and I planned to write, my mind drifted, wondering what the next three months would hold. When the floorboards creaked beside me, I looked up, startled to see Mama shuffling into the front room. A little flutter came into my chest. Mama’s robe hung limp on her thin frame, the belt trailing behind.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website is
My blog is Carla’s Writing Café:
Twitter: www.twitter/ChasingLilacs
You can also find me on Face Book, Good Reads, and Linked In.
Thanks, Lena, for having me as your guest and for the work you do in promoting Christian fiction. God Bless.

Thank you, Carla, and thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your life and your book.

Readers, here's a link to the book. By using the link 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.


Katrina said...

For some reason I just love coming of age books...would love to read it!

Robyn said...

Sounds like a very poignant book. Thanks for the sharing with us...and congrats on surviving four boys. My grandma did as well--it's a true achievement.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

MoziEsmé said...

I'd love to read this book!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

carla stewart said...

Good Morning, Lena. Thanks for having me here today and for the fun questions.

Katrina, coming of age are some of my favorite books as well, and I'd be honored if you read Chasing Lilacs.

Robyn, your grandma and I could tell some wild stories, I bet! I also had five grandsons before we got our first (and only) granddaughter. Good luck in the drawing.

carla stewart said...

Hi MoziEsme! Glad you dropped by. I'm always thrilled when someone wants to read Chasing Lilacs. Good luck in the drawing.

karenk said...

i would love to read this novel...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! Please enter me.

ebeandebe at gmail dot com

Casey said...

I really want to read this, please enter me!! Thanks so much!

carla stewart said...

Hi karenk and Wendy! Love that you're interested in Chasing Lilacs. Good luck in the drawing.

Sue said...

Would love the chance to win this book, sounds good. Thanks for entering me.

carla stewart said...

Casey! So good to see you and glad you've thrown your name in Lena's hat (or whatever she uses for her drawings!). All the best.

grannyvon said...

I would love to read and win this book. I am so thankful for all you Christian writers and the interviews you do with them. Thanks

Erica Vetsch said...

Carla, my copy of Chasing Lilacs arrived yesterday! Woohoo!

Myra Johnson said...

Even though I've known Carla for four years, I'm still learning fun new stuff about her!

Sandra Dee & Richard Chamberlain? Boy, does THAT take me back! (I personally would have gone for Troy Donahue.)

kathy taylor said...

Chasing Lilacs looks like a beautiful read. I can't wait to get my eyes glued to it!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I don't often make comments on these interviews, because they're here for the author, but I had to comment on Myra's.

I have a cousin who looked like Troy Donahue when I was around 12 years old. When we went to Minnesota to visit Daddy's family, I had such a crush on my older cousin. I probably drove him crazy following him around.

carla stewart said...

Lena, you and Myra crack me up. I did like Troy Donohue, but Richard Chamberlain was DR. KILDARE - oh my stars! I was in love!

Sue, I'd love for you to read my book. Keep your fingers crossed.

grannyvon - I love your bloggy name, and yes, the Christian writing community is like a big family. We're as proud of other authors work as we are of our own. So glad to have ladies like Lena who do a fantastic job of promoting Christian fiction.

carla stewart said...

Erica, I can't wait to hear what you think about Chasing Lilacs. Thank you for ordering it - that makes me smile :-)

Myra - you just think you know me - bwaahaahaa! I had quite the imagination even as a klutzy book worm kid!

Kathy, thanks for stopping by. And I'm also wanting to know what you think about the book. Hope you get to read it soon.

Lena, I'd love for you to jump in the conversation. I have a feeling there are lots of fun things we could learn about you too. I really enjoyed your questions!

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this book. Thank you trishbazin(at)

Michelle said...

I am certainly intrigued by this novel, and will be adding it to my list of "must reads". After reading the sample posted here, I'm looking forward to getting this book . . . . SOON!!

Thank you for entering me!

scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

carla stewart said...

trish (anonymous) - Thanks for stopping by and entering!

Michelle, your excitement is contagious. Warms my heart, and I hope you are able to get your hands on a copy soon as well. Would love to hear your response when you do.

Cynde, I'm so glad my writing tips helped. I'm a big believer in following you dreams and giving it your all. There is such a need for Christian fiction for YA and it's a growing genre. I'm not familiar with the sub-categories of YA, but think you could easily say YA Mystery. And I wish you all the best in your writing. I hope to someday hear of your own writing success.

Blessings to all of you who've commented!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I need to explain what I just did. I removed Cynde's comment. In the instructions at the end of the interview, it states that I remove comments with added links. I did email Cynde and invite her to leave a comment without links.

Since the blog is so popular, many people have tried to leave comments that take the readers to a lot of places. Some of them have been objectionable sites. I want this blog to remain a safe place for the readers.

Silverbill said...

Carla I wish you God's speed on reaching out through your writing.

2boyzmommy said...

Looks like a good book. I would love to win it! I'm always on the lookout for new Christian fiction authors that I can check out at my local library.

Nancye said...

I would love to win this book! Thanks for the chance.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

carla stewart said...

Thank you Silverbill for those excellent words about reaching out. My hope is that people will be not only inspired but also to know they aren't alone.

2boyzmommy! love your moniker! Many libraries have purchased the book so I hope you are able to find it. Let me know how you like it.

Cindy W. said...

Sounds like a bittersweet story and I would love to read it. PLease enter me.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Dorathea Maynard, Writer said...

I love coming-of-age stories, and this one sounds interesting. I'd love to read it.

Linda Kish said...

Please include me.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

carla stewart said...

Thank you Nancy, Cindy, Dorothea, and Linda. You've all been so nice with your interest in Chasing Lilacs. It is part coming of age, and yes, a little bittersweet. But hope is woven in, and that's my wish for you all - hope in Jesus.

And a little good luck in the drawing, too.

Thanks, Lena, for an enjoyable day spent here with you and your readers. Blessings.

Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

Carly Kendall said...

Please enter my name for the drawing. Thank you.

Wendy said...

Please enter me. This book sounds good.

Carole said...

I was glad to see W. Dale Cramer on Carla's list of authors she enjoys because I think he is a wonderful writer - and he goes to my church! I recently read the manuscript for book #1 in his new Amish series and loved it.

Congratulations on being published, Carla. I definitely want to read Chasing Lilacs and appreciate the chance to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Sheila Deeth said...

Lovely to meet you. I love your story of sending that first novel to Hollywood! There again, sending my first attempts to established publishers is probably just as bad.

Anita Yancey said...

Sounds like my kind of book. I would love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!


rbooth43 said...

WOW! This is my kind of book, coming of age in my teenage years, Elvis. Reminds me of my yesterdays when life was easier and living was fun. I would love to read Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart.


A J Hawke said...

Got to read an author who loves Dick Francis mysteries.

Put me in the drawing for a free copy of Chasing Lilacs.

A J Hawke

Marla said...

Would like a chance to read this book. sounds very different than what I'm used to reading. Thank you.

holdenj said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. Thanks for the info and chance to win!

Brenda said...

I would love to read the book!

Thanks for the contest!

dancealert at aol dot com

Judylynn said...

Please enter me in this giveaway - Thanks!


Michelle V said...

I really want to read this one! Please enter me!

Michelle V

Maureen said...

Wow I feel sorry for that little boy! Would love to read the book!

carla stewart said...

What a nice surprise to see so many more comments. You bless me with your interest in Chasing Lilacs.

Carole, interesting about Dale Cramer. I hadn't near about his new series.

Best of luck to all of you!

scottsgal said...

This sounds like a wonderful book I think I'd enjoy reading
msboatgal at

Megan (Inspired by Fiction) said...

Oooh, I really want to read this one!!

Annette W. said...

This looks like a great book!
derekannette at gmail dot com

Naasom A. Sousa said...

I want read this book!! Please enter me in this giveaway! Thanks.


janimar said...

I heard and read good things about this book and would love to read it.

Katie said...

I'd love to read this one!