Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Sweethaven Homecoming

A little over a year ago my friend Courtney and I crossed over from blog buddies to real life pals. I picked her up at the airport on the way to a writers' conference and withing minutes, I knew I'd find the real deal (which was excellent news since we were sharing a hotel room for the next four days.)

Courtney's second novel, A Sweethaven Homecoming, recently hit the shelves and I thought it would be fun to pick her brain a little about things like snack, superstitions, writing advice (I have a "friend" who's trying to write a book. Ahem), and the nitty gritty about her Sweethaven series


FPFG: Girl, I screamed the day I saw A Sweethaven Summer hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Congratulations! A Sweethaven Homecoming is set in Autumn in a picturesque Michigan town. What else can you tell us about the overall theme?

Courtney: The overall themes for the entire series are friendship & forgiveness...two things that really intrigue and challenge me. I set it in a little cottage town in Michigan (one I made up by melding together several little cottage towns in Michigan) because I secretly want to own a cottage in Michigan someday. :)

FPFG: I'm in love with the way God speaks through art. For me, art has always felt exciting and risky. It's hard to put your soul into something designed for public consumption. Can you tell us a little bit about how God made it clear to you that He wanted you to write fiction?

Courtney: It's funny because I wasn't the person who "always wanted to write a book." In fact, it never really occurred to me because I always thought I'd be an actress. It was my dad who commented on my writing when I was going off to college to major in theatre. "You need to do something with your writing," he said... to which I responding "What writing?" Funny how parents see those things in their children before they even do. Anyway, it dawned on me not long ago that ever since I graduated (I majored in theatre AND journalism, to appease the P's), I've been writing...I worked at a newspaper, then started writing scripts, then started writing for a scrapbooking magazine, then on to two scrapbooking books...but when my husband transitioned from worship pastor to children's pastor I realized he'd found his calling--working with kids. But that wasn't MY calling (did you know you don't have to have the same exact calling as your spouse? Even in ministry?) That's when I started seeking God's voice. "What do you want ME to do?" I asked...and he answered clearly. "Write." 

I knew there were stories inside me--I'd been telling them on the stage...it was time to challenge myself with the big one...a novel. I wrote three novels no one will EVER see just to get used to the idea of creating a whole book.

FPFG: What has been one of the most nerve-wracking parts of your writing journey and how did you find the courage to push through?

Courtney: Actually, the most nerve-wracking part is the waiting, I think. You know, you put a proposal out there but there is a lot of waiting before you hear anything back. It reminds me of going on auditions...the best thing to do is audition and then put it out of your mind, but I never did master the art of that... I'm a worry-wart.

FPFG: I devoured the first book in your series, A Sweethaven Summer and can't wait to get my mitts on A Sweethaven Homecoming. Without giving too much away, tell us a little about how Campbell is growing through the series. Specifically, how is she learning to be brave?

Courtney: It's interesting how Campbell is at that point in life where she's learning to follow her heart. I think that's a difficult thing to do, especially when you have "the voices of reason" in your ear... even well-meaning voices can distract you from what you're meant to do...but Campbell is making those hard decisions and very much growing up over the course of the three books. Homecoming also introduces Meghan...the book really focuses on her. I just love her story. :)

FPFG: One of the things I loved most about A Sweethaven Summer was the yummy food that was woven throughout the story. Will we be getting some Fall goodies in A Sweethaven Homecoming? (Please say yes!)  

Courtney: Food is VERY much a part of all three books. Adele was inspired by the fabulous Paula Deen, so naturally she had to have loads of yummy dishes to share. Just wait till you see what she's cooking up for Christmas. :)

FPFG: You also pick really fantastic names for your characters. What's your trick?  

Courtney: I find names my husband hates and use those. hahaha. (He seriously hates the names I pick, no joke.) But Campbell...that one is special to me because when I was pregnant with my youngest, I was SURE he was a girl. I mean, SURE he was a girl. I chose the name Campbell early on and just clung to it...and then found out he was a boy. I kind of mourned the loss of the name (how ridiculous am I?) and decided if I couldn't name a real person Campbell, then I'd name a fictitious person Campbell. :) 

Another word on names...a lot of times, that's how the characters become real to me. It's VERY hard if I ever have to change a name once I've chosen it. To me, they come alive once they are named. It's one of my favorite parts of writing novels!

FPFG: I have a couple pairs of lucky knee socks which I believe bring me magical words when it's time for me to put my hiney in the chair and write. Do you have any weird writing rituals or superstitions?  

Courtney: Yes, I am familiar with your lucky knee socks. In fact, whenever I picture you, I think of the green & white striped magical knee socks... for me, it's Pandora. With three noisy kids, I had to find a way to block out the noise when I write (which is sometimes when they're home.) I LOVE the soundtrack from the movie "The Piano" so I created a station full of movie composers...Michael Nyman, James Horner, John Williams, Danny Elfman...there are TONS more and I LOVE the way it inspires me.

FPFG: Fave writing snack?  

Courtney: Does coffee count? I would eat candy all the time so I try to only have drinks at my desk. Otherwise, I'd kill a whole bag of Starbursts in one sitting. (Yes, I am a grown up.)

FPFG: My readers might not know this, but you have been one of my biggest cheerleaders as I stumble through writing my first novel. What advice can you offer to those of us who feel art blooming on the inside, but feel like we're not good enough, not ready, or just plain scaredy-cat?  

Courtney: My best advice is to do the work. I am a HUGE fan of immersing yourself in knowledge. A lot of times people say they want to write, but they aren't willing to read, to learn, to study, to grow... and you absolutely have to because that's what this life is all about. The other thing I would say is to take each step one by one...if you'd told me what it would take, how hard it would be and how many rewrites and on and on, I would've gone fetal in the bathtub...but if you focus on "what do I need to do today..." you'll get there (and with a lot less headache.) Finally, for me, it's about praying a lot. God walks me through each and every facet of this journey...and it's quite a process in trusting in him. And trust is not my strong suit...

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Okay, see? This is why I adore Courtney. There's something so cool about reading a novel written by a dear friend. Her wit, personality, sensitivity and kindness come through on every page.


For the month of November Courtney is hosting a "Share and Win" reader appreciation party on Facebook. Click here and like her page to join the fun. (You can also scope out all three amazing covers in her Sweethaven series. I always judge a book by its cover!)

And for the love of Pete, grab a copy of A Sweethaven Homecoming right here.

Courtney blogs here.
Follow Courtney on twitter here