Award-winning author Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. Her desire is to take readers to that familiar place in their hearts called “home.” Her three previous novels have won both local and national awards, including the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She’s been an Oklahoma Book Award finalist the past three years, and Stardust was recently short listed for the INSPY Award. She and her husband have four grown sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren. Sweet Dreams is her newest release.
We are so blessed at Novel PASTimes to have author Carla Stewart visiting us this week! Welcome, Carla, and tell us a little bit about your latest novel, Sweet Dreams, by introducing us briefly to the main characters.
Dusty Fairchild and Paisley Finch are close-knit cousins but opposite in every way. Blonde and top in her class, Dusty has lived a sheltered life, raised on a Texas ranch by her widowed, oilman father. She’s never lacked for material possessions but yearns for a life of adventure and studying geology in college. Instead, her daddy sends her to finishing school in East Texas.
Paisley, has grown up traveling the country with her bohemian mother, and is wise to the ways of the world. Dark haired and clever, she’s grateful to her uncle for letting her join Paisley at Miss Fontaine’s. She’s weary of the “grasshopper” lifestyle of her mother and ready to live a settled life.
At Miss Fontaine's, their loyalty to each other binds them, but when they fall in love with the same handsome young man, their relationship teeters on shaky ground. Only after a tragic accident do they learn where their true hearts-and dreams-lie.
What drew you toward writing books set in the 1950’s and 60’s? What do you like most about it?
What I love the most is the music! Pop, doo-wop, some of the early country, the love songs. They’re the soundtrack of my growing up years, times of both emotional highs and lows. And so many questions about life. I’ve always been drawn to those that were different (like Paisley) or who had a rough time. So my writing nostalgic stories is my attempt to explore those things I was curious about and give voice to some of those characters.
The topics of your women’s fiction novels are filled with depth, compassion, and some difficult storylines. Did any personal experiences prompt your plots or are they strictly writer’s imagination?
Thank you for saying that they have depth and compassion – I do strive for that, so I appreciate the comment.
They’re all from my imagination, but they stem from questions I had growing up – what is a nervous breakdown? What are shock treatments? What if a girl wanted to pursue a non-conventional career? What would it be like to be a famous jazz singer? What if someone I loved contracted polio?
I love taking two or three unrelated and unusual scenarios and weaving them together into a story. I’m constantly amazed at the struggles people have gone through when, on the surface, they seem so calm or ordinary. We each have a story to tell – I just take bits and pieces from people I’ve known – or wish I’d known – and turn loose my imagination.
What sparked the idea for Sweet Dreams?
This is funny! I had long wanted to write a story about a girl who wanted to be a geologist. I had several early attempts that just didn’t work, but I knew I also wanted to write a story that paid homage to my teen years – the glorious and turbulent sixties. I wish I could say there was a match that sparked the flame, but it really was more a collaboration of my ideas and the input from my genius editor. The story that emerged is so much stronger because of her input.
I do know that when I decided to include Patsy Cline and her music that I had that spine-tingling inspiration for the title. Never mind that a dozen other books have the same title!
Sweet Dreams is your fourth novel. How did you balance the publicity and marketing for one book while going through writing and editing for another project?
Not very well at times. Spreadsheets and calendars help. Multi-tasking is not a skill that I was blessed with so having a daily reminder of what I’m to do helps keep me on track. Since I’m more creative with writing in the afternoons and late at night, I’ve found that I can do marketing tasks and social media in the morning. Staying connected with readers is important to me and by doing promotion in small chunks on a daily basis, I don’t feel guilty for turning off email, Twitter, and other interruptions so I can concentrate on word count. I chart my progress daily with a “soft” deadline in mind for having the first draft completed. I try to allow for enough editing time that I don’t feel pressured. And in a perfect world that’s how it would be . . . sigh.
The reality is that I resort to fast food and frozen dinners, and have piles of laundry on the floor and weeds in my garden when I’m on deadline or in a promotion cycle. But I have a sweet, understanding husband who’s very supportive (and helpful!).
Are you a full-time writer or do you hold a day job? What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?
To learn the answer to this and more questions from our guest, come back tomorrow for Day 2 of our interview with author Carla Stewart.
To be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Sweet Dreams, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and answer this "Question of the Week" from our guest author:
In Sweet Dreams, the cousins have always made up a dream list of things to do each summer (like a bucket list). What are three things that are on your bucket list?
The contest this week is available only to US or Canadian residents.