Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Welcome debut author Carla Stewart!

Hi, Seekervillians! Myra here. It’s my delight to introduce our guest today, award-winning author Carla Stewart. I first met Carla in 2006 when I joined WIN (Writers of Inspirational Novels), the Tulsa chapter of ACFW. I could tell from the start that she was serious about her craft, so when I had the chance to participate in a critique group with her, I knew it would be a great experience. She is an insightful critiquer and an excellent writer!

The crit group eventually parted ways, but Carla and I have remained the
best of friends and continue to trade the occasional critique while alternately celebrating and commiserating over various aspects of the writing life. Believe me, nothing beats having a friend along on this wild and crazy ride!

Please join me in welcoming Carla to Seekerville. You’re in for a treat!


Hello Seekers! Thanks for letting me make a stop at Seekerville! It’s always
fun to have a day on the island and hang out with so many lovely (and handsome, if there are male guests out there today) and talented writers. You all inspire me and make me laugh, and the food is always a temptation!

asked me to talk about how I chose my characters and the setting for my debut book, Chasing Lilacs. I started the book so long ago that I had to really concentrate to remember just exactly how it all began.

This idea sprang from my own childhood curiosity when people often whispered about so-and-so having a nervous breakdown and getting shock treatments. It wasn’t something discussed openly, and for a kid with an overactive
imagination, I dreamed up all kinds of scenarios.
  • What if a young girl in the fifties has a mom with “nerve” problems and goes for shock treatments?
  • How would that play out in her family and in her social circle?
  • What if the shock treatments went awry and the mom took her own life?
  • How would the family and neighbors react to this?
  • What would be the path of coping and healing for the daughter left behind?
This is the knot that I chewed on for a while before I decided to proceed and populate my story with characters. Let’s make this perfectly clear—I love making up characters! They are my “acceptable” imaginary friends. I cry when they hurt and blow smoke out my ears when they’re mad. They become my family, and like “real” families, there are a few stinkers in the bunch. So I just ramp them up and make them even more despicable or clueless or whatever the story calls for.

Although I don’t use a specific tool for developing characters, I knew that certain character types
were essential to drive the story.
  • Protagonist
  • Sidekick
  • Mentors (sometimes called advisors or helpers)
  • Antagonists / Villains
  • Those who are foolish, selfish, or flawed (unlikable maybe, but not horrible people)
  • Some neutral characters such as bystanders or enforcers (law officers, school principal)
In other words, I needed a variety of characters with specific roles that would enhance, hinder or ease some facet of the protag’s struggle. This is where the real fun begins!
I knew the protagonist almost immediately. An adolescent girl called Sammie. She would be tall, thin, responsible, not yet savvy about boys but getting close. In others words, ordinary. But I also made her book smart and gave her the ability to pop off the occasional sarcastic remark. She usually regretted it, but she wasn’t afraid to stick up for herself. THEN I gave her all these problems to work out and brought the other characters on stage.

Here are a few of my favorites and the roles they played.

Rita: (Flawed, sympathetic) A fragile, yet beautiful mom. Sammie is somewhat captivated by her mom which makes it more heart-wrenching to see her mom suffer.

Joe: (Strong, but flawed) A blue-collar dad with quiet strength, Joe grieves in a completely opposite way from Sammie by retreating into his pain and thereby ignoring the needs of his young daugh

Tuwana: (Sidekick/best friend) I had fun with Sammie’s friends. Tuwana is vain, selfish,
opinionated, and a typical blonde cheerleader—the polar opposite of Sammie which created great conflict when they were together and allowed me to give them different growth arcs. Her redeeming quality was that in being so shallow, she was quick to forgive and remained loyal to Sammie.

Cly: (First love/soul mate) Another character who was fun to give depth to. A Fonz type at the beginning, he has his own baggage and ultimately is the one who understands Sammie and becomes a rock solid friend. Late in the story, he assumes the role of rescuer.

Vadine: (Villainess) Sammie’s aunt. She’s the character who everyone loves to hate. And indeed, she appears to have no redeeming qualities. I enjoyed developing this character and found her the most challenging because I believe there is a reason why people are awful. By not disclosing her motivation and past pain until late in the story added a layer of suspense.

Goldie: (Mentor) A genteel, older woman who loves unconditionally and offers sound advice, but lets Sammie “get it” on her own. She’s the woman we all would love for a grandmother.

Slim: (Mentor) An older man who mentors not only Sammie, but her dad and Cly. He has a mysterious past and ends up with his own subplot. MY FAVORITE CHARACTER. This was not planned, but as the story developed so did my love for this rough-on-the-outside, yet gentle sage.

This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea. Having a role, though, isn’t enough. Your characters
must also be unique: Speech, pet phrases, clothing style, social status. And quirky! Not in an outrageous way necessarily, but something that sets them apart. In Chasing Lilacs I have a gum smacker, one who sucks on cherry life savers, one who compulsively takes lilac bubble baths, one who counts things. The fun thing about quirks is that you can also use them as metaphors or triggers that move the story forward. (I think that’s a whole ‘nother post).

And of course, you must have character goals and motivations. I don’t write all this down for each character, even though Myra has supplied me with her famous spreadsheets and I love them! They’re so organized and pretty. But I get bogged down if I sketch in more than one or two characters. I’m too impatient to get on with writing the book.

One last thing on characters. I like to introduce them early in the story, even though they may not make an appearance until later. Aunt Vadine, for example, is mentioned on page 11, but doesn’t make her physical entrance until page 124. She’s crucial to the plot so I give her a few mentions—enough that the reader anticipates this character will show up and it won’t be a good thing. This early mention makes for a smoother read later because you don’t have to stop the story and explain that Aunt Vadine lives in Midland and works in a truck stop and was unpleasant the last time Sammie met her.

If you haven’t surmised by now, this novel captured me in every sense of the word. It was the “novel of my heart.” Partly because it dealt with my childhood curiosity about “nerve” problems, but also because I chose to set it in a place similar to where I grew up. The place itself was unique—a close-knit petroleum camp with company housing—each one a cookie cutter of the others in the camp. No “keeping up with the Joneses” here. What I remember the most about living in this idyllic setting was the freedom we had to be kids—there were few dangers and everyone knew and watched out for the others. Oh, if only we could go back to those simpler times.

And for a
season that’s what I did when I wrote this story. It’s one that has been in my heart and in the making for six years. I’ve been smacked down with rejection and it’s gone under the writer’s knife many times, but I am now shouting “Hallelujah! It’s here!”

Before I go (or get kicked off for being so long-winded), I just want to say—Write the novel of your heart. Let it simmer and develop. Then pick a cast of characters that will dance off the pages. Write your heart out and don’t give up. In the grand scheme of things, six years is not really all that long. And it is worth more than words can convey to hold your debut novel in your hands.

Thank you for having me here! It’s always a pleasure!

About Carla Stewart: 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 in June 2010 with FaithWords. Carla enjoys a good cup of coffee, weekend getaways with her husband, and the antics of their six grandchildren.
About Chasing Lilacs: Elvis is on the radio and summer is in the air. Life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother’s “nerve” problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.
As her life careens out of control, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious boy 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 has ever done.

Leave a comment on today's post
to be entered in a drawing
for a signed copy of Carla's book!


Linda said...

This hits close to home. I would love to read this. Please enter me.
Thank you.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Vince said...

Hi Carla:

I have an ARC of Chasing Lilacs. Can you tell me if there were many changes in the final book? I don’t believe I am allowed to quote the ARC because it is subject to change. Perhaps you might want to comment about your views on ARCs.



Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement! Congratulations on your first novel! What a cast! Sounds like a good movie in the making.

EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks for joining us in Seekerville. Congrats too on your debut novel. How exciting and I like the cover.
Coffee's on. Chocolate velvet of course.

Mary Connealy said...


It's so nice to see you here. Are you and Denice coming to ACFW???

I've missed talking with you.

YAY on the book. Double YAY!!!

KC Frantzen said...

Carla!! Congratulations on publication and welcome to Seekerville!

Beautiful cover, and sounds like a splendid story. Please enter me!

may at maythek9spy dot com

to Vince's question: Great! Since I'm new to all this, never thought about it. What is the time variation between the ARC's and final? What happens behind the scenes?

(HI Vince by the way.) :)

Ok, I'm bleary-eyed. But I DID get my WIP off to the writing coach with 6 minutes to spare for my deadline, she cackled madly. (Think Mary's hair from yesterday.) Yippety Doo Dah!

Tracy Krauss said...

this book sounds intriguing. Congrats on your debut!

Renee said...

Congratulations on the debut! It sounds like an awesome book. I don't recall shock treatments, but as I was reading your post I was kind of reminded of Stand By Me. Probably because of the era.

Thank you for sharing your cast of characters with us.
reneelynnscott at gmail dot com

Ruth Ann Dell said...

Congratulations on your debut novel Carla, I love the title.

I too remember people whispering about nervous breakdowns and shock treatments when I was a child, so the description of your book has me hooked.

Please enter me in the draw.

Best wishes

ruthanndell (at) mweb (dot) co (dot) za

Cindy W. said...

Graham Camp sounds like an interesting place to visit..even if it is between the covers of a book. I love 'book' travel. I would love to win a copy.

Cindy W.


Julie Hilton Steele said...

I love reading books that cover a theme or concept not explored often. Your book definitely fits the bill. To echo others, it does sound like a movie for sure.



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Carla, what a wonderful way to make your debut! Chasing Lilacs...

To a girl from "Lilac City" (Rochester, NY) that's a totally great title!

I'm chugging Sandra's great coffee and I brought breakfast in the form of anything that ISN'T from the Connealy kitchen.

The only reason she DOES that stuff is to get out of cooking, you know.

Oh, yeah. It's a plan.

Carla, welcome aboard, I can't wait to read this. You've brought up a subject that touches hearts and souls.

Toast and jam on the sideboard. Caramel and Amaretto creamers...


Dianna Shuford said...

Your characters sound fascinating, Carla. Thanks for explaining how you created them. Enjoy your debut novel and congrats on hanging in there.


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

This sounds like an amazing story. Congratulations on bringing the story to life just the way it should be.

I read the reviews..and look forward to reading it.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We interrupt this lovely blog for a commercial message:




Thank you.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

carla stewart said...

Okay, looks like the folks in Seekerville wake up way earlier than I do. Thank you for the great welcome and your comments. I'm having some of Sandra's coffee now, so let's get to right to it.

Linda, I hope that Chasing Lilacs does strike a few chords. I've been surprised at how many people already for whom the book strikes close to home. I hope it blesses you.

Regina Merrick said...

Carla, this sounds wonderful! Your character sketches are great, and I can't wait to read your book! I'd love a chance to win a copy...

And by the way, I have some lovely cheese danish I'd be happy to share...


carla stewart said...

Vince, that's an interesting question. For Chasing Lilacs, the cover change was the main difference from the ARC. An endorsement page was also added in the front, but the text was unchanged. You're safe to talk freely about what you read. I'm really looking forward to what you have to say.

ARCs do vary from publisher to publisher, and I've heard of some books undergoing a lot of changes between the ARC and final versions. Not sure why.

My views on ARCs? They serve a purpose for having a short print run to send to reviewers, and in my case, my publisher even provided copies for an online book club who read the book prior to publication. They are to get the word out and are not to be sold, but already I've seen copies of mine for sale on the internet. Hmmmm.

Does that answer your question?

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Eva Maria, for your kind words. A movie? Now that would be something, but as nervous as I am about the book release, I'd probably turn white-headed overnight if there were a movie version.

Loving the coffee, Sandra, and I'm glad you like the cover!

carla stewart said...

Mary!!!!! I've missed seeing you, too! And I can always use a dose of Mary. Yes, I'm going to ACFW. Not sure if Denice has decided yet. Can't wait to see you and catch up.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Carla! Congratulations on your debut! I can relate to so much of what you said. Childhood fascinations turning into a book, getting rejected and revising a million times, etc.

Love the sound of your quirky characters! I hope you sell a million copies!

carla stewart said...

Thank you, KC, for the encouraging words. Congrats on the deadline to your writing coach. It's good to have forces in our lives to keep us on track! Yay!

About the timeline. I think the ARCs for my book came out in January, so about 5 or 6 months before the book release. Since it's my first book, I don't know if that's normal or not. Some of the Seekers would know a LOT more about that than I do.

Debra E Marvin said...

You know...if someone asked me I would have said Carla Stewart was already published. I'm trying to place why you seem so familiar - apparently your 'platform' or your 'tribe' is well established

I hear good things about this book and I'm pleased to get to know more about you here in Seekerville. It's the place to be, you know...

Another fan of Myra's worksheets, I see!
Your characters do sound wonderful, Carla! Thanks!

carla stewart said...

Tracy, they actually still do shock treatments today, but the technology has improved greatly and is much more precise. In the fifties, the results varied widely. I read some real horror stories and chose sort of a "middle ground" for my story.

Yes, it was "shocking" (pun intended) what they did only fifty years ago.

carla stewart said...

Renee, good to see you here. A huge part of my writing the book was to convey the nostalgic feel of the fifties, so if you liked Stand By Me, I think you'll enjoy my book (I hope!).

carla stewart said...

Thanks Ruth Ann for your comment. Sometimes I think it's strange the things we remember. And I'm so grateful to my publisher for suggesting we change the title. I've had many nice comments about that.

carla stewart said...

Cindy! I love feeling like I'm in a real place in a book, too. Graham Camp is based on a place which is now a ghost town. I chose to give it a different name and make the exact location more obscure, but I think grounding our fictitious stories in real places adds authenticity.

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Julie, for your interest. My family and friends have always thought I was different, so it makes since that my book would be so too - LOL.

KC Frantzen said...


Thanks. Now you've intrigued with another question. What was your original title and why? And why are you pleased with this one?

I'm back for Danish & coffee now that I had some ZZZZ's. I wasn't up early, I was still UP at the time. :)

carla stewart said...

Ruthie! I couldn't wait to come on Seekerville so you could heckle me, and then you just said the sweetest things and rolled out the sideboard with all these yummy goodies. Which I do appreciate!

I didn't know Rochester was known as Lilac City - ooooh, I'd love to visit there someday!

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Dianna! I did have fun creating the characters. Now if I could just quit talking to them :-)

carla stewart said...

Oh, Tina! Your words really encourage me. Thank you.

carla stewart said...

Regina, the cheese danish is great! I actually included character sketches with my proposal. I was surprised when I got them written how they had told the story - sort of a different type of synopsis.

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Melanie, for your observation. So grateful for a writing community and peeps who understand the highs and lows of this writing gig. And CONGRATS yourself on landing that awesome book deal. Let's talk about your book, okay??? Great feeling, huh?

carla stewart said...

Hmmmm, Debra. That's cool that you thought I was already published. A few people have told me that I know everyone, which is a total untruth. I've never met you, but now that you've posted, I would really like to.

You do bring up an interesting point, though. It is important to get your name out there (in a positive way). Sometimes I think I fail miserably, esp. when I neglect my blog or put up lame posts, but it does seem to have an accumulative effect. Going to conferences, talking on other blogs, FB, etc. Great point, Debra!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Carla! Congratulations on your debut novel! Chasing Lilacs sounds like a fascinating story. I will definitely have to read it. Thanks for the great tips on who to people our stories with and how to make those characters pop off the page.


carla stewart said...

KC, the original title was A Dandelion Day, but the publisher wanted more of a Women's Fiction feel. Chasing Lilacs is a much better metaphor for the relationship between Sammie and her mom which is the main tug in the story. My agent still calls it by the Dandelion name half the time and gets strange looks.

The reaction to Chasing Lilacs as a title has been very positive, and now I'm glad we went that direction.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Carla, sooooo good to have you here, girl, and what a great blog!

First off, I LOVE the title of your book because lilacs are my favorite flowers, so you had me there right out the gate. Then the cover is so good, too, hooking readers in right away. And now, after hearing about all these amazing characters in this equally amazing story, I'm guessing you have a winner on your hands here, girl!

It's obvious from this post that you know how to write characters and write them well, so I am looking forward to meeting them all. I LOVE the idea of introducing characters who appear later very early in the book via reference -- very cool idea that I might well steal!!

Congratulations on what sounds like an award-winning debut, my friend, and may you empty the shelves in every bookstore!


carla stewart said...

Good morning, Janet! So good to be here with Seeker friends. Making up characters is my favorite part about writing. Wrapping the plot around them is a wee more difficult. Hope you'll let me know how you like the book.

carla stewart said...

Julie! I always feel I've been given a gold star when you comment. There's just something about the smell of lilacs that brings sweet things to mind. I love them, too!

And the technique for introducing characters early is probably something I just stumbled on, but you are totally free to take it and run with it. Sort of a type of foreshadowing.

And thanks for the good wishes on sales. That's the part that makes us all tremble, isn't it? You're a blessing to me, Julie!

Erica Vetsch said...

Woohoo! Amazon informed me that my copy of Chasing Lilacs has shipped and should arrive any day now.

Sally Bradley said...

I like how you identified the roles of the characters. That's something I may do in my current wip since so far I've only identified hero, heroine, and villain.

carla stewart said...

Oh, Erica, I'm thrilled that you ordered a copy!! So blessed to have you for a friend. And yes, a few people have gotten their Amazon orders. Can't wait for you to read it!

Angela Bell said...

Great post. I'd love to read your book. The characters sound really interesting. :)


Vince said...

Hi Carla:

Yes, you answered my question.

When I read the first notice about your book, I just had to have it fast. (An ARC is almost always available if you search wide enough. I got mine on Amazon the first try.)

I grew up in the 1950’s and shock treatments were likened, in my mind, to the Frankenstein movie: people got the treatments as a last effort to save them before they were locked away in the insane asylum. I believe they were discontinued for many years but are back now.

I’ve only read the first few chapters of your book and already you have so many things that take me back to the 1950’s, it's like being in a time machine! Wow, what a job. I love lots of ‘history’ in my historical novels. (However, I’m not sure I like my childhood being considered historical! :))

The reviews for “Chasing Lilacs” have been fantastic! (RT 4 ½ Stars -- Top Pick!) Which brings me to anther question I’ve always wondered about. When you work six years on the ‘story of your heart’ and it finally becomes a reality, and then the reviews are sensational, how do you go about writing another book after all that? Do you have a “second book of your heart”? I’m not sure how I would react to this situation.


P.S. Just for fun: if you like to read mysteries, Donna Leon’s book, “The Death of Faith,” has a main character who is a priest in Venice who collects and grows lilacs from all over the world. He has over 150 varieties! : )

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Angela, for your sweet thought. Good luck in the drawing.

Casey said...

Oh this looks like such a good book, first off, please enter me!!

Second great post! I love your character sketches and the fact that your villian's name starts with a "v". :)

Thanks for sharing and I wish you the very best with your book!!

Email in profile. Thanks!!

Kav said...

Carla, Chasing Lilacs sounds intriguing -- definitely different from others in the market at the moment.

Would you consider your book to be Women's Fiction or YA Fiction or both? I ask because I work in a school board library and create novel sets for teachers to use in the classroom and am currently looking for 'grittier' realistic fiction that still carries a thread of hope and isn't peppered with swear words. A tall order these days. I'm thinking that Chasing Lilacs might fit the bill if you'd think it an appropriate read for 12+

carla stewart said...

Wowsers, Vince, thanks for all your great input into the conversation. Hmmm. Let's see. I'm totally flattered that you were so anxious to read the book that you picked up an ARC on Amazon. I don't think I've heard of anyone doing that before. You are not SUPPOSED to resell them, but I know it's done. And some part of me thinks that my ARCs may be collector items because they have the original cover - fat chance, LOL!

And just to get things straight, Vince, let's just pretend the fifties are NOT historical. I'm pushing the word nostalgic, a step back into a gentler time. Which of course is an irony if we think of shock treatments being more "gentle". They weren't. However, a lot of people did find relief for depression from them, so I don't know that they were all bad, just sort of unpredictable. Most people did have issues with lost memory which was the desired effect, I suppose. But it affected the quality of life, too.

Since you've read the book, you know that one character wonders about the vats of ice water or long needles. Ice water shock was, in fact, used, but w/out much success. Also, insulin shock was tried where they gave people large doses of insulin to change their level of consciousness. The theory being that somehow this would rid the person of depression. So maybe there were WORSE things than having electricity to the brain. Thank goodness, the understanding and treatment of mental health has progressed.

Unfortunately, people still suffer from depression, and my heart aches for them, but at least there are more humane ways of treating it today.

On to your last question about the novel of the heart. I think because it was the first book to be published, Chasing Lilacs will always be the novel of my heart. However, I've already written and turned in my second novel, and you know, I LOVE it. Because I adore creating characters, I've fallen in love with a whole new set of them. Although the main story is contemporary, I wove the rich history of jazz music into a nostalgic thread. I'm not going to elaborate more than that, but the title is BROKEN WINGS. Maybe you can get an ARC of it early, too, you rascal - just kidding.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I had no idea there were 150 varieties of lilacs.

Thanks, Vince!

Myra Johnson said...

Oh, oh, oh!!!! I can't believe I'm popping in so late in the morning when Carla is MY guest! As usual, I got distracted by a million other things on my way to the computer, including a techno-challenged hubby trying to upload photos of all his old (ancient???) fraternity buds.

I have to agree with you, Carla. Creating the characters and watching them come alive on the page is THE most exciting thing about writing. Yours are all so quirky and unique--truly masterful!

And since I have already had a sneak peek at Carla's next book, I can promise you it's another winner!

Since it's almost lunchtime, I've set out a build-your-own fajita station. Beef or chicken, flour or corn tortillas, plenty of guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and cheese!

Oh, and your choice of virgin or regular margaritas, frozen or on the rocks, with or without salt.

And sopapillas with honey for dessert!

carla stewart said...

Hi Casey! So glad this post has gotten your interest. And LOL about the "V" for villain. Yes, I tried to pick a name that depicted villain, but I also didn't want to pick the name of anyone I knew. I've never met a Vadine, and my apologies to anyone if you have a favorite aunt with that name :-)

nmetzler said...

Sounds like an interesting novel!

natashasiegrist at hotmail dot com

carla stewart said...

Kay, I so appreciate you stopping by. In the beginning, I pondered whether this was YA. A couple of people (editor types) thought because of the subject matter (depression, suicide) and length (80K) that it was better suited for Women's Fiction. I still think it could be either way. Certainly a book that mature teens could enjoy. No bad language. A couple of benign references to sex. And it does have a hopeful resolution.

You might read the book before you recommend it. One large book club has selected it for their YA division, their criteria being suitable for teens and older.

I'd be honored if you chose it for your school library. Oh, one Christian review site also recommended it for YA readers. I'll let you decide.

But it is definitely a more wholesome choice than some of the stuff out there - I agree!

Thanks, Kay!

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Carla, I hope to see you ACFW in September. Your book sounds wonderful. Congratulations on all the great reviews you have received. I hope to read it soon.
carrie (at) turansky (dot) com

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Natasha, for leaving a comment and entering the drawing. I appreciate it.

MYRA - fraternity pics? That's your excuse? I'm so afraid, Seekers, that Myra has been hitting every Mexican joint in town assembling this buffet and letting us think SHE fixed it. And I like my margaritas on the rocks, thank you. With salt. And I may need one before this promotion gig is finished.

You're so sweet, though, Myra, with your kindness about my quirky characters and the next book. You're the best critique lady in the world. So glad you invited me to hang out here. I'm having a great time.

Did you say you brought guacamole?

carla stewart said...

Carrie, thank you for coming today. I keep waiting for the ball to drop with the first nasty review. Myra will have to pick me up when that happens. Or call for help :-)

Yes, I'll be at ACFW and can't wait to see you and all the authors who've enriched my life. Isn't that the best part about writing?

Love you, Carrie.

Myra Johnson said...

Of course I brought guacamole! Homemade! I promise you, my guac is OUTSTANDING!!! Only the freshest, squishiest avocados. Chopped tomatoes, some Pace picante sauce, a spoonful of mayo, and a dash of lemon juice. Plus salt and pepper to taste.


Myra Johnson said...

Madame Zelda does not foresee any negative reviews in Carla's future. She told me personally. Or at least she would have if I could track her down. She is quite the elusive one!

carla stewart said...

The guac sounds yummy. I'll take two scoops. One for me and one for Madam Zelda, who has been looking at me cock-eared for having such a good time on Seekerville today.

Pam Hillman said...

Chasing Lilacs sounds like an awesome book! Congrats on your debut, Carla!

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Pam! Good to see you here. How have you been?

Kathy said...


Your book sounds very interesting. I am from the city of the original "Lilac Festival", like Ruthy and I love the title.

I am a newbie writer and you have really captured my attention with your ideas about giving the characters quirks and foibles of various kinds. Two of my characters interact while working with a language barrier, and I think giving them their own trademark gestures or habits will help immensely.

I would love a signed copy of your book!

carla stewart said...

Kathy, I'm so glad my post has given you some ideas. Your book sounds very interesting with the language barrier and could make for some great misunderstandings. Great fodder for making your characters unique as well. I wish you the very best as a new author. Trust me, I feel like a beginner myself, and I've been studying the craft for nine years. It's like an ever-opening flower petal - new layers every day.

A town with a lilac festival sounds like heaven to me!

Debby Giusti said...

Your debut sounds wonderful. Love that step back into the Fifties!!! Great character names, and the personalities seem perfect to join forces and create a dynamite story!!! Congrats!!!

We met at the last ACFW conference, thanks to Myra!!! So glad you could be in Seekerville today.

BTW, I just heard a sad story of a troubled man in my part of the world who had undergone shock treatments. I had no idea they were still being used.

Loved your reference to "nerve problems," which I recall my Grandmother mentioning to explain a wide range of ailments

Pepper Basham said...

Hi Carla,
Great to have you here.
What an informative and encouraging post.
And wow...what a premise!

Love your question. I'd like to hear the answer too.

carla stewart said...

Hi Debby! It was fun meeting you at ACFW, and we do have great taste in friends. Myra's the best, isn't she?

Yes "nerve" problems seemed a blanket term for anyone struggling with mental health issues. Then there was also "female trouble" which was another puzzling term. Makes me feel old that I remember hearing those phrases.

Thanks, Debby for your encouraging words.

carla stewart said...

Hi Pepper, great to see you here. Even though it's taken forever, I have had a lot of fun writing this book and finally seeing it in print.

Check my answer to Vince, then if I didn't cover your question, let me know. I do tend to go around in circles.

Myra Johnson said...

Whew! Just ran an Office update that took FOREVER!!! Makes you wonder why they can't get these programs right the first time.

I will always remember an exhibit we saw 20-some years ago at Williamsburg, VA, some REALLY ancient and truly barbaric treatments for mental illness! The field of psychiatric medicine has come a long, long way since then. Thank goodness.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thanks, Carla, for an inspiring interview. I've worked with patients who suffered from depression. So I'm sensitive to their situation and needs. I'd love to win a copy of Chasing Lilacs. I can remember while growing up hearing the term "mental breakdown" mentioned and being curious as to what this meant. Reading about your writing journey and how you develop your characters was useful. I try to give my characters quirks, too. Many blessings on your writing and congratulations on the release of your debut novel.


Mary Connealy said...


I just registered for the ACFW Conferences.


Getting to see Carla and my Seeker buddies and all the great folks who hang around Seekerville is the best part.


John said...

Carla, it was great to have such a nice visit with you this afternoon via Seekerville! I've loved meeting you at ACFW and you've always been sooo supportive of me and Christina. I'm thrilled for you about your debut novel and am very anxious to read it. Would love to win it, but if not, I'll buy it!


sherrieashcraft at yahaoo dot com

Sherrie Ashcraft said...

Sorry, I didn't realize my husband, John, had used my computer! The above comment was really from me, not him!


carla stewart said...

Pat, my hat is off to you in working in the mental health field. I worked in a pediatric psych hospital for a couple of years (I'm an RN). Loved it, but when I had my own children, I was afraid I would displace all those diagnoses on them!

Good luck in your writing and glad that you got something out of my creating characters post.

carla stewart said...

Mary, I saw that registration was open. I need to make up my mind about what workshops I'm taking and get cracking.

Can't wait to see you. The countdown begins!

carla stewart said...

John . . . er Sherrie! Thanks so much for your sweet comment. You really had me going there with the John thing. I was doing a brain scan trying to remember just who John was and thinking that maybe I was going "mental". Glad you cleared that up.

You and Christina are two of my favorite people in the world!

carla stewart said...

Myra, thanks for asking me to be on Seekerville. I've had so much fun hanging out here today. I love a blog that actually engages in conversation. If only I could count this as word count for the day :-)

Sorry about the update taking so long. that may have been the one that I clicked on to update later.

Have a great evening! I'll check back in before I go to bed.

christicorbett said...

Wow! What a great interview! Please enter me in the drawing for the book, I would love to read it.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the chance to read carla's novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

carla stewart said...

christi c and karen k - Thanks for stopping by to enter.

I had a "groovy" time on Seekerville today. See y'all later!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great interview and helpful about characterization. As usual, always something I ponder about how to apply. I like the fact that you mention the characters early if they will be important later on, gives me an idea for my own character. I'm definitely going to check out Myra's character sheets.

I definitely want to read this as I posted at your site, Carla. Beautiful cover, great reviews, not to mention mental illness has hit several generations of my family.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Great interview and helpful about characterization. As usual, always something I ponder about how to apply. I like the fact that you mention the characters early if they will be important later on, gives me an idea for my own character. I'm definitely going to check out Myra's character sheets.

I definitely want to read this as I posted at your site, Carla. Beautiful cover, great reviews, not to mention mental illness has hit several generations of my family.


Patches of Life said...

I am anxious to meet these characters and see how they play out the story.

Missy Tippens said...

Carla, I'm so sorry I didn't make it by yesterday to chime in and help celebrate your deubt!

I think your book sounds wonderful!! and I already love the characters. :) Congrats on the release!!


Debra E Marvin said...

Came back to read all the rest of the comments and see if there were any fajitas left. So what if my work verification is fatiness!

It was so nice to get to know more about Carla!

lotus82 said...

Oh this books sounds like it was written for me, to at T. I've had it on my to read list for awhile now. I would love to win a copy.


Ann Lee Miller said...

Please enter me!

Ann Lee Miller

Michelle V said...

I really want to read this one! I've heard so many wonderful things about it!

Michelle V

Linda said...

I can't wait to read my old friend (think late 60s) Carla's book. I always knew she was smart, but never knew she had these stories in her!