Author Interview: Lisa Dunn

My guest today is Lisa Dunn, author of the YA Fantasy series, The Chasmaria Chronicles.

Lisa, thank you for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born in Michigan, raised in Florida, reside in South Carolina, and dream of settling down in a remote cottage on a wild, windswept shore where I can soak up vast beauty and pour it into stories that move readers’ souls. A great-aunt referred to my grandmother as “a rare mix of mystic and common sense,” and I may have inherited more than my fair share of that. Even I can’t predict whether I’ll meet a tragic situation with tears, philosophy, or bizarre humor. Truthfully, it’s usually a socially awkward combination of all three.

What is your series about?

THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES is a trilogy that follows Grit of Berth and Stone from a village that puts self above all to a kingdom where truth, goodness, and beauty reign. In the sequel to the series, HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG, readers journey into a monster-infested land with two of the trilogy’s supporting characters taking the lead. HEARKEN is all about holding onto hope despite our failures and devastating circumstances.

What is the inspiration behind your books?

THE CHASMARIA CHRONICLES sought to answer the questions of what a world without love would look like and what would happen if love crashed into it.

HEARKEN THE SONG OF KILCARRAIG addresses deserts of faith—the fears, regrets, guilts, and sorrows we bury deep in our hearts and that stand in the way of hope. The bulk of the book was written during the isolation and uncertainty of the early phase of the pandemic, and I think that helped me get a little deeper into the mindset of Clan Crowley, as well as to understand Slate’s frustration with them and Bard’s love for them—in short, to grasp the reality that most of us, even if we disagree, are just doing the best we can with where we are and what we have.

Now for some questions that readers want to know the answers to:

What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?

I grew up surrounded by books. My father tucked my sisters and me into bed with impromptu tales peopled with characters from C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald and characters of his own imagining. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing with stories in my head. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when one actually made it onto paper, but it was a big, wonderful surprise when one, two, three, and now four made it into the hands of readers I’ve never even met.

Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story? 

Always. I tend to have a relatively decent idea of where a story is headed before I start, but I never fail to discover something I hadn’t anticipated in a character, whether it be a motivation, a fear, or a facet of their background or nature that changes everything. For example, when I first conceived the plot for HEARKEN, I imagined Slate as an upbeat, ambitious young man, but when I started writing in earnest, the events of the trilogy hit hard, and I realized that Slate had a lot of baggage to deal with. The same applies to Bard. I thought he was a sweet, lighthearted poet, but the boy has some serious issues. Getting to the truth of who each of these characters is was a challenge, but one I hope paid off in the end.

How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?

I get this question a lot, probably because I was very intentional in naming the characters in the trilogy. You’ll have to read the books to find out the significance of individual names, but I’ll say this much: Grit’s community waits until a baby’s first birthday to bestow a name, which the dame (mother) bases upon characteristics she’s observed in the infant. The names aren’t necessarily complimentary. In fact, some of them are downright rude. But each name winds up having a deeper meaning that offers a sense of  hope and redemption to the one carrying the name.

What does your family think of your writing?

It’s a mixed bag, actually, but I’m okay with that. I don’t expect everyone I know to read my work, and some of them haven’t. Nor do I expect everyone to enjoy my work. Most, but not all, have enjoyed my books, but I don’t take it personally if they don’t, knowing we all have our own preferences. My daughter, for example, wasn’t a fan of my Fantasy, but she is THE BIGGEST FAN of an unpublished Contemporary Young Adult story for which I’m currently seeking publication. The important thing is that every single one of my family members—husband, children, siblings, mother, in-laws, and beyond—have been supportive in different ways, granting me time to write, listening to me untangle plot and character development knots and challenging me in the process, buying books, recommending them to others, and gushing, gushing, gushing.

Who was the first person you allowed to read your completed book?

My sister has been the first reader of most of my books, chapter by chapter in the beginning. She has a knack for pointing out weaknesses and nudging me deeper into the heart of whatever story I’m writing. After having her at my side all the way through the Chasmaria trilogy, it was actually kind of terrifying to send HEARKEN into the world without  her feedback. I was enormously relieved when she remarked that it was the best book yet.

Do you have a favorite author or book?

That award is going to have to go to A SEPARATE PEACE. John Knowles has a gift for writing deep, complex, incredibly human characters, characters who tell us so much about the human condition, and each time I’ve read A SEPARATE PEACE, Knowles digs deeper into my heart.

Thank you for joining us today, Lisa.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently seeking a literary agent to represent the Contemporary YA novel that turned my daughter into a fan.  After that, I have a completed epistolary YA novel that deals with who we are and how we and others perceive ourselves. Finally, I’m working on a coming of age, twisted fairy tale that fans of ONCE UPON A TIME and INTO THE WOODS will love.

Before we go, where can readers find you online? 

https://lisadunnwrites.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/authorlisadunnImage
https://twitter.com/AuthorLisaDunn

Christmas Novella Spotlight

Author’s Inspiration:

            After my first book was published and family and friends read Christmas Confusion, they wanted the other sisters’ stories. So, I hurried, wrote Sweet Summer, and submitted it to the publisher. The publisher liked the book, but they didn’t have room on the schedule to release a full novel that year. I didn’t want to wait two years for my next book, so I looked around and visited my sister’s vacation home on Hatteras Island. We visited the December after Hurricane Dorian devastated Ocracoke Island. We took the ferry and drove around the island. I wanted to write a story that highlighted the island and its people and all their needs—and courage. Christmas on Ocracoke resulted.

About the Book:

Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband, because more than anything, she wants to get her son away from his father’s partying and neglectful ways. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.

When their parents died in a tragic car accident, Trey Kingsley dropped out of college to raise his sister. Now that she’s grown and moved away, it’s his turn to find a life of his own. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, it surprises no one when he offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke?

Excerpt:

What a way to make a fresh start.

Annie Hanahan glanced back via the rearview mirror and said a quick prayer of gratitude that her baby boy was too young to know what was going on right now. She’d die in shame, or eternal pre-teenaged mockery if he was, say, a decade older. Instead, her two-year old son waved his hands in the air and grabbed a toy Brontosaurus from the diaper bag propped open next to his car seat. 

The police officer drew even, and she lowered the driver’s side window. Up till now, she’d gone her whole life without a ticket.

“Good morning, ma’am. I’d ask if you knew how fast you were driving, but I’m guessing you figured that out by now.”

Annie concentrated on her breathing and not crying. “Yes, sir. I was going 80 in a 65.” So was every good ole’ boy along this stretch of the road, but if she’d been the low hanging fruit, so be it. “I’m sorry.”

The state trooper started to smile but must have remembered who he was and squashed any close-to-human expression from his face. “Well, ma’am, sorry is a good thing. Can I see your license and registration?”

This morning’s almond milk soured in her gut. “I can give you my license, but I bought this car yesterday and only have a temporary registration. My proof of insurance is for the old car.”

“Just give me what you have, and we’ll go from there.” Cars raced past them, behind his back, undoubtedly confident in their own speed now that one of their own had been sacrificed for the cause. 

She located her license and handed the card to the officer. 

“Annie Hanahan?” Officer–she squinted against the morning sun–Parker, looked from the license to her. “Any kin to Coach Hanahan?”

            Annie grimaced. Switching names was difficult, but leaving behind her well-known family might be impossible.

About the Author:

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and the American Title IV Contest where she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include Christmas Confusion, Sweet Summer, Christmas on Ocracoke, and Why They Call It Falling. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the LowCountry of South Carolina with her husband, two children and her crazy cat Chessie Mae.

Author media links:

Website/Blog: https://www.christinasinisi.com/ 

Social Networking Sites:

Twitter: @ChristinaSinisi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Christina-Sinisi-Author

Instagram: @csinisi123

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/csinisi/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101218889-christina-sinisi

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/christina-sinisi

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Falling-Christina-Sinisi-ebook

Buy Link:

Meet the Author: Suzie Waltner

Good Morning. My guest today is Suzie Waltner, author of Midnight Blue, a Christian romance.

Suzie, thank you for being my guest today. Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

I am a busy single gal (although, I’m probably past the age where I can get away with “gal,” LOL!) who writes in her free time. During the day I work in the mortgage division of a large bank. I love my church and my group of friends, dog sit for a few people, and love watching my Predators (National Hockey League) play.

What is Midnight Blue about?

Ten years after Jake Turnquist broke up with his high school sweetheart in order to pursue his music career, he crosses paths with her again. Scarlett Sykes now has a daughter, but Jake is interested in renewing a friendship with her. What he doesn’t know is that Harmony is his daughter.

When he discovers the truth, Jake scrambles to orchestrate a way to spend time with Scarlett and Harmony—the family he’s always wanted but never knew he had. He once gave Scarlett up to pursue his music. What will he have to surrender to win her back?

So tell us, Suzie, what was the catalyst for your interest in writing?

I don’t have the typical story where I loved writing from a young age. I did write, but I didn’t really think much of it. In fact, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian up until my second year of college when I passed out during a sheep surgery. It was after that little episode I decided that I wasn’t cut out for the vet life.

Long story short, I ended up taking a lot of detours in college and ended up with an English degree, but I wanted to be an editor, not a writer (although I did take some creative writing classes).

Fast forward several years and a co-worker had posted something on Facebook about NaNoWriMo. When I saw her at work the next week, I told her I’d always wanted to give it a try, but it was usually halfway into November when I saw people talking about it. This particular year, I saw it in October. My co-worker encouraged me to do it, and I did. And then I kept writing and discovered I enjoyed it.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?

I do have a 40-hour-a-week day job, so most of my writing is done on the weekends when I can dedicate large chunks of time to my stories. I love writing sprints, but they’re usually not running when I am writing so I will find a pre-recorded video or two on YouTube because it makes me feel like I’m writing with others plus those sprints provide for short breaks. Isn’t it funny the mind games we can play with ourselves to get something done?

Who was your favorite character to create?

Harmony (Jake and Scarlett’s daughter) was a fun addition to the story. It’s through her we see how differently Jake and Scarlett react to their daughter. She also adds some fun elements because kids are unpredictable.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I am 100% a pantser. I’ve tried to plot a few times, but the characters refuse to follow my outline, so I’ve learned to let them steer the story. The one downside of being a pantser is that edits are more intense since I don’t have all the plot points worked out at the beginning of the book.

What does your family think of your writing?

My family is extremely supportive of my writing. I am the only one of my siblings (one brother and one sister) who is a reader, but both of them order my books. And my parents are always recommending my books to others or picking up another copy to give away.

Are you part of a writing group?

Yes, I am part of several writing groups. I belong to a couple of the big organizations like ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers. I am also involved on more local levels as the current president of the ACFW Middle Tennessee chapter and I have two critique partners I work with weekly. I also love encouraging people who are interested in writing or new to it.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently writing book three in the Love in Color series while awaiting edits for book two. Readers are introduced to the entire band in Midnight Blue, and each member is getting their own story over the four-book series.

Thank you for being my guest today, Suzie.

Before we go, where can readers find you online?

Website: https://suziewaltner.com

Newsletter: https://suziewaltner.com/join-my-newsletter/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/suziewaltnerwrites

Instagram: https://instagram.com/suziewaltner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nashpredsfan

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/suzie-waltner

Buy Link:

Meet the Author: Sharon Rene

My guest today Is author Sharon Rene. She is here to tell us about her new release, a young adult dystopian novel entitled Defying Destiny. This is a prequel to her Divine Destiny Chronicles Series.

Sharon,, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Mississippi and have lived in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. I now live in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m an only child and have always been close to my parents. My father passed away years ago and my mother lives with me now.

I taught in the youth department at my church for over fifteen years. I’ve also participated in the drama, puppet and prison ministries as well as going on several mission trips.

What is your book, Defying Destiny, about?

In 2042, Twenty-year-old Sierra Stone leads a group of Irish rebels in an attempt to stop Hunter and River Wallis from conquering the planet. Country after country falls to the powerful brother and sister duo, but Ireland refuses to surrender. Until Sierra is captured by the enemy.

Imprisoned in an ancient castle, Sierra faces the biggest challenges of her life. River Wallis wants her dead, and Hunter wants to win her heart. She knows how to fight River, but her battle skills prove useless against Hunter’s charm. Now, Sierra must decide if she’s fighting for her personal freedom or for world peace. No matter what choice she makes, one thing is certain–For the first time ever, the Irish rebel may face defeat.

What is the inspiration behind your story?

Defying Destiny is a prequel to Hesitant Heroes and Relentless Rebels. Both of these books are dystopian young adult but without the unsavory elements found in some of the mainstream YA. The books have a Christian worldview.

When I was writing Relentless Rebels, I realized that the adults in the book had really exciting lives when they were younger. I decided to write the prequel.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?

I work as a legal assistant at a large corporation. It’s never easy to find time to write. The weekends are usually the best time for me to squeeze in some writing.

What book do you wish you would have written?

The Hunger Games.  That book got me interested in Dystopian Young Adult fiction. I wrote Hesitant Heroes after reading The Hunger Games series.

Who was your favorite character to create?

I love all the characters, but I had the most fun writing the villain, River Wallis. River is completely evil, but she doesn’t see it that way. She has reasons for every terrible thing she does, and it was really fun to create this type of character.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I’m a little bit of both but definitely lean more to panster. I didn’t have an outline when I began Hesitant Heroes and was still devising the plot in my head. It was a lot of fun.  I would just write and see what happened next. In Hesitant Heroes, Christian students start disappearing from the main characters high school.  I wrote at least half the book not knowing what had happened to these kids. I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. I had to write to find out what happened.

I did much more plotting for the sequel, Relentless Rebels. Defying Destiny is a prequel, so I already knew all the major events and plot points before I even started the book.

Are you part of a writing group?

I am a member of American Christian Fiction Writers both national and local. I have learned so much from my local Memphis group. I was a member of the Scribes critique group online through ACFW and now I am in a smaller young adult critique group with ACFW. I can’t imagine being in this writing world without these wonderful groups.

Who was the first person you allowed to read your completed book?

Mom, of course.  Now my critique partners read my WIP as I go. At first, I was intimidated by the idea of a critique group but now I love it.  They have helped me develop as a writer and also become good friends.

Sharon, thank you for joining me today. Your book sounds very exciting. What’s next for you as an author? 

I have completed a Romantic Suspense set in New Orleans and I’m currently working on a middle-grade book about four seventh grade girls who want to be detectives.

Before you go, where can readers find you online?

Website:  www.sharonreneauthor.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/sharonreneauthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SharonRene4

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/sharonrene2019

Buy Link:

Meet the Author: Michelle Lowe

Today I’m interviewing author Michelle Lowe about her new book, The Autumn Keepsake. Michelle, I’m happy to have you here. Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I live in Asheboro, North Carolina with my husband, Brian, and our eighteen-year-old son, Jake. We have a very spoiled bluetick hound-mix named Daisy. I am a Registered Nurse as well as an author. I work part-time for a small company out of Raleigh completing nursing assessments during the week, and I enjoy writing whenever I have free time. I also enjoy cooking and searching for Native American arrowheads on our property.

What is The Autumn Keepsake about?

Tessa Stanley survives an unimaginable childhood tragedy. Her best friend, a sweet old hound dog named Laura, has been with her through thick and thin– even more recently during a broken engagement.

When Tessa befriends an eccentric neighbor, and accidentally calls the police on the woman’s great-nephew who also happens to be the local fire chief, she and Laura embark on a special journey reconnecting her with the past and the reason behind her dog’s personifying name. And most importantly, she learns the events in her life, good and bad, have all been a part of His greater plan.

What is the inspiration behind your story?

I love dogs, and as you have probably gathered, our sweet Daisy is partly the inspiration for this story. She has been a faithful friend to our entire family! The grandparents even love her and bring her special treats!

I also lost my mom to Multiple Sclerosis many years ago. And although this loss is still very painful, I can see many blessings in my life, too.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I am definitely a morning person. I got into the habit of going to bed early when my son was small, and I still go to bed before anyone else in our house, sometimes around 8:30 p.m. or so! I’m usually pretty tuckered out by then! I am much more creative and ready to go early in the morning.

How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?

I often look at lists of boy or girl names until I find something that fits with the character I have in mind. For example, the name Tessa just seemed to fit perfectly for the strong heroine in THE AUTUMN KEEPSAKE. When I chose this name, I could picture my character, with her chestnut-colored hair and her pretty brown lace dress, in one of the last scenes.

What are your favorite three books?

I have read almost every book by Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I have my mom’s old hardbacks which I treasure. This is kind of funny, since these are historical romances, and I write contemporary romances. My favorite books by these authors are:

THE BLACK OPAL by Victoria Holt

THE INDIA FAN by Victoria Holt

DREAM OF ORCHIDS by Phyllis Whitney

What does your family think of your writing?

My family is very supportive of my writing, and I am grateful for this. My son, Jake, even read my first novella on his tablet. Being an eighteen-year-old, I’m not sure he’d want anyone to know this, but it sure meant the world to me!!

What’s next for you as an author?

I have a Christmas novella which will be released on November 4th by Anaiah Press, and another novella set to be released next summer in July. I am very excited!

Where can readers find you online?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authormlowe/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichelleSLoweAuthor/

Link to buy THE AUTUMN KEEPSAKE: https://amzn.to/3d1mhNE