By Sarah Whitney
Our next 2012 Conference Blog Spotlight is an author whose expertise in humor, romance, non-fiction, and young adult fiction will help conference attendees of all types add a little southern sass and spice to their writing. I’m pleased to introduce award-winning romance author Christie Craig who will be giving three breakout sessions & a master class in this year’s conference.
Christie Craig grew up in Alabama, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and regularly rescued potential princes, in the form of Alabama bullfrogs, from her brothers. Today, she’s still fascinated with lightning bugs, mostly wears shoes, but has turned her focus to rescuing mammals. She now lives in Texas with her four rescue cats, and a prince of a husband, who for the record, is not a frog.
After selling four novels in one day in 2006, she has gained a reputation for writing romance fiction that has both witty humor and a suspenseful, sexy tone. Her next humorous romantic suspense series, Don’t Mess With Texas, hit books stores this past August to fabulous reviews, and even a little extra publicity (if you can call it that) thanks to the Texas Transportation Department. As if that wasn’t enough, her first young adult novel Awake at Dawn, writing as C.C. Hunter, will be released this month.
Christie’s breakout sessions are as follows:
· Making Money While You Make your Way up to Nora Status: Writing for Alternative Markets
· The Great Agent Hunt
· It’s not Just Adding a Naked, Tattooed Guy: Using Humor in Your Writing
She will also teach a 3-hour Sunday Workshop Session called “Going Deeper: Taking Point of View to the Next Level,” where she will explain how to bring out deep POV by consciously using setting, plot, dialogue, internal thoughts and characterization.
Christie, thank you for adding a few minutes to your busy schedule to do an interview with me for the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference preview. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on writing humor and advice for our blog readers now and later this April.
Christie: Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for having me. I love sharing my passion for writing almost as much as I love writing. And I can’t wait to see everyone in April.
Question: You are known for your humorous and sassy writing style. Please, on behalf of the rest of us writers not blessed with such cleverness, how did you get so funny? And could you give us one insight (beyond the naked, tattooed guy) into how to use our own experiences to inject laughter into our writing?
Christie: Humor was beat into me as child, right along with being polite. Seriously, my family sort of used humor as a coping method. We had a lot of things to cope with, so we used a lot of humor. The thing people need to realize about humor is that it’s basically a surprise. When you expect someone to say one thing, and they say another it causes a short circuit in our brains that stops us and that induces humor. So . . . to say…”Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll run out and buy a bass boat.” It’s the last unexpected part that causes us to chuckle.
Now as for our own personal experiences…
First, it generally takes a while before our most embarrassing moments become material for our books. But we all have things that happen to us that are unlikely, surprising, or unusual. Any time our lives go a little haywire, this is material. In Shut Up and Kiss Me, I had poor Jose, a secondary character accidentally put his head though a sheetrock wall. Believe me when I tell you that when my hubby read it, he was a mite surprised. “You used me again!”
Question: I’m really quite curious about your answer to this next question. How is it possible to sell four novels in one day? Could you please tell us that story?
Christie: Oh, it’s possible and was an amazing trip. My agent had sent out two of my manuscripts. One almost a year earlier. One editor from a smaller house contacted my agent with interest, but they didn’t make an offer. The other manuscript was still on an editor’s desk at Dorchester and had been there for over a year. I finaled in three contests with three different editors at Dorchester. When one editor, a different editor than the one who had my manuscript, requested to see a complete, and the editor who had my manuscript requested to see another of my books, well, my agent made a few calls.
The editor who had my original manuscript told my agent, “Don’t send anything to anymore else. Let me read what I got this weekend.” On Monday, my agent got a call and wanted to know if I had other books. We sent him the other books. I think it was on Thursday when he got back to my agent and made an offer on three books. The same day the other editor with the smaller house called with an offer on my other book.
So, when I got the call from my agent. She asked me. “Are you sitting down?”
I told her… “I’ve worked my tush off, I think I can take this news standing up. I sold a book, didn’t I?”
Her response was… “No.”
My heart dropped and then she said. “You sold four.”
My reply was… “Oh shit. I gotta sit down.”
Q: You’ve described yourself on your workshop web page as a contest diva. J Why should writers consider (or not) entering their work in contests? And, I’ll also add, when is the best time to enter, say a first chapter, contest – before or after the novel is finished?
Christie: I really believe in contests. I sold my first book back in ’94 through a contest. I got my agent sort of through a contest. And I sold those four books due to a contest final.
However, if you have a novel that comes anywhere close to bending a craft rule of any type, it’s hard to final. Too many contest judges are against any bending of rules, even when the slight deviation is what makes the book stand out. So, writers who write outside the box, may not find it as easy to place in contests.
Contests can also be expensive. And I’ve seen a lot of people spend their milk money on them.
I’ve entered books into contest before they were finished. However, I had also completed numerous books and knew how long it would take me to finish the book. Many times when I would enter an unfinished book in contest, I would use the date that the contest was to be announced as my own deadline to have the book completed. Contest usually take months to announce, so depending on how fast you write you can have the book completed, or at least close to being completed.
Q: To say that you’re a busy person seems to be an understatement. You’ve entered and won tons of RWA contests, accumulated 3,000+ non-fiction publication credits, plus built a successful career as a novelist. What time management skills, drugs, writing processes, etc. have you utilized to do all of this and still remain sane?
Christie: Drugs? Drugs are always good. LOL. My drug of choice is caffeine. But I even limit that or I would be on the ceiling.
My biggest piece of advice is to love what you do. So then when you have to work a lot of hours, it never feels like too much.
Second piece of advice is….put butt in chair and work. You can talk writing all day, dream of writing, but you have to write.
I also do not allow myself to embrace the idea of writer’s block. My father was a plumber, and I never ever recall him getting up in the morning and saying, “I can’t go to work today because I have plumber’s block.” I know there were days he didn’t want to work. Days his job was pretty crappy. But he went to work.
I have borrowed my father’s work ethic. I go to work every day. Sometimes my output is pretty crappy, but most of the time I can save it for the next day. We all have good days and bad days, but I will work through them. Oh, and about remaining sane? I didn’t know that was a requirement for a writer. I gave that up years ago. LOL.
Q: On your writers’ corner page, you listed Ten Commandments for writers. I was surprised to see that Commandment #10 was “Thou shall not be afraid of change.” Could you elaborate on how this fear applies to writers, and what we can do to keep this fear from influencing our own writing lives?
Christie: Change is hard. Change is scary. But to fight it means you stay in the same place, you don’t learn anything new, and you don’t force yourself to grow. Our comfort zones are well…comfortable, but a better word for them is a: rut.
When St. Martins came to me and wanted me to write a YA, I came so close to saying, “No, thank you.” I wasn’t writing YA, I didn’t feel comfortable writing in a new genre. I felt well-knowledged in writing humorous romantic suspense. What if I tried and failed?
But at the last moment, when I realized it was fear talking, I forced myself to tell them I would give it a shot. What would I lose? Other than a little time writing a proposal. Boy howdy, am I glad I said yes. I now have found a new exciting genre where my books are well accepted, but having to learn something new energized me. It made me a better writer all around.
Maybe you don’t need to jump into a new genre, maybe you just need to add a thread of something different into your work. Maybe you need to attempt to self publish one of your books, or maybe just write a book in a different POV. Change usually equals growth. And as writers we should always be growing. This is the entertainment business, and it’s always changing. If we don’t change with it, we’ll be left behind.
Q: Over at the Killer Fiction Writers Blog, you post as Christie “Crime Scene” Craig. Would you explain how you got that nickname? And, what is your favorite crime scene that you’ve written?
Christie: That’s because I kill so many people. Gemma Halliday actually gave me that nickname. But I think it’s fitting. If someone needs wacked, I’m your person. Everyone who knows me well has heard about compost pile where I bury the bodies of the people who tick me off. You’d be amazed how many contest judges and editors are in that compost pile. At least they are there in my mind. Even my agent knows about my compost pile. She regularly asks me if I’ve buried her there yet. LOL.
Q: And finally, you have two great, previously mentioned books just released, and I’m sure even more coming out next year. Could you tell us about them, and which one would you recommend we read first?
Christie: Don’t Mess With Texas released August 23rd. It’s the first in my Hotter in Texas series. It’s a funny romantic suspense with lots of humor and heart. Dallas O’Connor and two fellow officers were accused, and convicted of a murder they didn’t commit. After sixteen months in jail they’re exonerated. Let down by the justice system and the women they loved, they guard their hearts closely. Opening up a PI business, they are determined to find the man who framed them and to offer justice to others falsely accused. Nicki Hunt has just found her dead ex-husband in the trunk of her car. Oh, and she’d just been overheard threatening to kill him. Not that she did it. She was just blowing off a little steam. But things are going to get a lot steamier when the good looking PI shows up to help prove her innocence. The second book in the series, Blame it on Texas, is set to release September 2112.
Just for fun, how about I give you my list of fifteen surprising things you’ll learn by reading Don’t Mess With Texas:
- Never, ever feed a dog broccoli.
- You might be surprised how the weight of a dead body in the trunk of your car can go unnoticed.
- Don’t ever joke about killing your ex . . . in front of witnesses.
- In the right situation, vomiting on someone can endear them to you.
- When a good-looking detective steals your underwear, he may not be a pervert; he could just be looking for blood splatter evidence.
- Some men think hospital gowns are sexy, especially when a breeze comes by and a detective already stole your underwear.
- When your grandmother is getting more action than you are, something’s not right with that picture.
- Bed bugs are nasty little creatures but they can come in handy when trying to get someone to fall back in love with you.
- In the right set of circumstances, morphine can be an aphrodisiac.
- The consumption of five cupcakes when your heart is hurting is not always a bad thing.
- The way a couple shares an ice cream cone tell the viewing public if they’re sharing bodily fluids.
- Nothing can bring all the unresolved issues to the surface in a romance more than finding a naked woman in your boyfriend’s bedroom.
- The journey to fall in love isn’t all sweetness and light; it can also have its darker moments where you hurt like hell but it’s still a journey that makes life worth living.
- Love can make you laugh so hard you pee in your pants, but it can also make you feel like as though a pit bull just used your heart as a chew toy.
- Things really are hotter in Texas.
Awake At Dawn released Oct. 11th. It’s the second book in my Shadow Falls series that I write under the name, C.C. Hunter. It’s a paranormal romance about a sixteen-year-old girl with a huge identity crisis.
This isn’t just about who she is, it’s about what she is. Imagine being sixteen and being told you’re not all human. Sent to Shadows Falls, Kylie searches to uncover the truth of her heritage. Once there she finds herself surrounded by witches, vampires, werewolves, faes and shape-shifters. Not only does Kylie find herself fitting in for the first time in her life, she finds herself torn between a sweet caring Fae and a mysterious werewolf. In April of 2012, Taken at Dusk, the third book in the series will release.
Here’s the back cover blurb of Awake at Dawn:
Step into the world of Shadow Falls, a camp that helps teens tap into their special…talents. Once you visit, you’ll never forget it—and you’ll never, ever be the same.
From the moment Kylie Galen arrived at Shadow Falls Camp, she’s had one burning question: What am I? Surrounded by vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, fairies and witches, Kylie longs to figure out her own supernatural identity…and what her burgeoning powers mean. And now she’ll need them more than ever, because she’s being haunted by a new spirit who insists that someone Kylie knows—and loves—will die before the end of the summer. If only she only knew who she was supposed to save. And how…
But giving Kylie the most trouble is her aching heart. Gorgeous werewolf Lucas left camp with another girl, but he’s still visiting Kylie in her dreams. And Derek, a sexy half Fae who’s always been there for her when she needed him, is pushing to get more serious—and growing impatient, especially when Lucas returns. Kylie knows she needs to decide between the boys, and it’s tearing her up inside.
Yet romance will have to wait, because something from the dark side of the supernatural world is hiding in Shadow Falls. It’s about to threaten everything she holds dear…and bring her closer to her destiny.
Win Your Own Copy of Don’t Mess With Texas or Born at Midnight!
Thank you to Christy for such a fun interview! I hope everyone learned a lot. If you did, please share this with your friends through Facebook, Twitter or writing your own blog post with a link to this interview. Help us spread the word and you will be entered into a drawing for one of two of Christy’s books, she’s offered as give away prizes: Don’t Mess With Texas or Born at Midnight.
Just leave a comment by 10/28, telling Tricia and I how you shared this blog and your name will be entered once for each way you shared. (Blog Comment below, 1 entry. Facebook post, 1 entry. Twitter with link, 1 entry, etc. Your own blog post with link, 1 entry)
You can find out more about Christie at www.christie-craig.com, www.cchunterbooks.com or you can check out her Shawdow Falls Fan Page on Facebook or follow along with her on Twitter @CCHunterBooks.
By now, our blog readers have hopefully had a chance to check out the 2012 Conference Speakers Line up. Tricia, the 2012 Conference Chair, has pulled together an impressive variety of national speakers who should be a huge benefit to writers of all skill types.
My next blog spotlight will feature The Writer’s Workout Coach Christina Katz. Many of you might know her from her books Writer Mama and The Writer’s Workout. Be sure to come back and visit us on Nov. 5 to find out what you can be doing to get into shape for the 2012 “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference.
In the meantime, don’t forget to renew your Guild membership in order to get the membership discount for this year’s conference. Head over to www.missouriwritersguild.org to download the PDF registration form and mail it in. Or you can complete it online and pay by Paypal.
Don’t forget! Early bird conference registration opens in two short weeks! Register before Dec. 31 to lock in the discounted conference rates of $135 for guild members, $145 for chapter member and $165 for the general public.