Saturday, October 2, 2010

Author of Note: Carla Stewart

I am so pleased to welcome Carla Stewart to The Bookshelf. This author has recently released her debut album, Chasing Lilacs, and already has a second ready to release next year.

Carla, we’ll be talking about your writing journey, and I also have a few just-for-fun questions. First, however, I’d like you to tell us a little about Carla Stewart, the lady next door.

I am literally the lady next door, walking my little doxie in my neighborhood, dashing out to the curb in my night gown to put out the garbage (I do check to see that no one is looking), and pulling weeds in the flower bed. The only difference in me and my neighbors is that while they flit about to jobs or lunch with friends, I’m chained to the computer. And I love it! I never dreamed I would be enjoying my empty nest years so dearly.

Isn’t it wonderful to be able to do what you love to do? Would you share a little with us about how you got started as a writer? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew that’s what you wanted to do?

I’ve always wanted to write a book. Always. But I kept waiting for the kids to grow up, for my job as a nurse to settle down . . . the usual “when I have more time” excuses. Only when I turned fifty, I realized I was running out of time if I was going to write very many novels. That was the first aha moment. The next came when I was wrestling with whether or not I wanted to quit my job where I drove sixty miles to work one way. All those hours on the road gave me time to think and pray about becoming a writer. Then I read the verse in Matthew that says, “Let your yes be yes and your no, no. Anything else is from the evil one.” I knew God had planted the desire to write in my heart so my struggle was not with Him, but from the doubts and fears planted by Satan. I quit my job and a year later had finished my first novel which shall remain forever unpublished, but I was on my way. I’ve never looked back.

Your story and mine share many parallels. We’ll have to chat a bit at the next WIN meeting. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

They usually arise from the legendary “what if.” Chasing Lilacs came from my childhood curiosity about “nerve” problems as they were called in those days. I wanted to explore what it would have been like for a young girl to have a mother with those problems. The story was born.

For my novel which comes out next summer (see below), the inspiration was a newspaper article about the renovation of the Big Ten Ballroom in Tulsa, a landmark from the early jazz era of Tulsa. I wanted to have a former jazz singer recall what her life might have been like. The story evolved from that.

And it sounds fascinating! How much time do you spend writing?

I’m on the computer ALL day long, but when I’m working on a novel, I try to spend a dedicated 3 to 4 hours on just that without looking at email or FaceBook or Twitter. Some days work better than others.

What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

Network with other writers. Find a writers’ group and attend a conference. It will inspire and educate you and save you a lot of time in the long run.

Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

You can’t polish what hasn’t been written.

Good one! Tell us about your newest release, and what inspired you to write it.

Oops, I already gave you a hint of that above. What I didn’t tell you was that Chasing Lilacs is set in a petroleum camp very much like the one where I grew up. I chose to set it there after making a visit to the camp which is now a ghost town. The emotions flowed from me as I stood on the street where I’d lived and remembered the magical childhood I had. In that moment, the theme of the book—the power of community—washed over me. After that, I couldn’t NOT write the story.

What can we expect from you next?

Broken Wings releases next June and is the story of an unlikely friendship between two women, one an aging jazz singer, the other a young paralegal who is engaged to an abusive attorney. A strong nostalgic thread weaves past and current events together. I’m very excited about this book and can hardly wait for its release.

I look forward to it, as well. Now for those off-the-cuff questions I mentioned. If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question, what question would you ask of whom?

I don’t want to get too serious with “off-the-cuff” questions, but the disciple I most relate to is Simon Peter—he was hand chosen by Jesus and he tried to be a good follower. I know he had faith, but he was weak, as I often am. So with that in mind, I would ask Peter, “What was your visceral reaction when the cock crowed three times and you knew—you knew you were the one who had denied Christ?”

Wow. I can’t even imagine what he must have felt! Carla, what books are on your bedside table right now?

I’m almost finished with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Next up will be Susan Meissner’s Lady in Waiting and Alice Wisler’s Hatteras Girl. I’ve also just purchased three Elizabeth Berg novels that look very tempting.

What word annoys you more than any other?
Oh, don’t get me started. How about "my bad" or "doable." And "paradigm." Ugh!

LOL! What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

It has nothing to do with writing, but I would love to have the ability to fly. I sometimes dream I hold out my arms and soar around the room, over the clouds, and it’s so effortless and freeing. Funny for someone who’s afraid of heights, no?

I seriously think most human beings have had that same dream. I know I have. Now…share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

"Between you and I." And I’m not sure if it’s a grammatical error or just using the wrong word, but misuse of "effect" and "affect" drives me crazy! Nuts!

Isn’t it funny how certain words antagonize certain people? It makes me want to choke someone when I hear the (un)word “et.” You know, “Have you all et supper yet?” (((Shudder!))) Another one is saying “retch” instead of “reached.” Gag!

Thank you for hanging out at My Book Bag for awhile, Carla! I have enjoyed chatting with you. Where can readers find your books?

Everywhere books are sold! Most stores have me in the Christian fiction section, but in a surprising and lovely turn of events, Barnes and Noble has Chasing Lilacs in the Fiction and Literature section. Very cool to be on the same shelf as The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Cool indeed! Thanks again for being with us.

About Carla:
Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. Carla launched her writing career in 2002 when she earned the coveted honor of being invited to attend Guidepost's Writers Workshop in Rye, New York. Since then, her articles have appeared in Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and several regional magazines and anthologies.
More recently, Carla received two American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis awards for unpublished authors. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, great books, and weekend getaways with her husband. Chasing Lilacs from FaithWords (Hachette) is her debut novel.

Contact Info:


carla stewart said...

Thanks, Delia, for featuring me on your beautiful Bookshelf Newsletter. I loved your questions!

Delia Latham said...

Thanks for chatting with me, Carla. I loved having you here!