DC: Hi, Regina! I’m thrilled to be here. A Christmas Gift is very dear to my heart. I wrote it with passion and love because although my new release is fictional, the setting and different events are based on true experiences.
RA: What was the inspiration behind this work?
DC: I had thought of writing a story about my father for a long time. His life was hard with his mother’s rejection at a young age so he was raised by various relatives. Some homes were better than others, because he stayed at times with an alcoholic uncle. Even though both parents deserted him, he had a deep faith and was able to be a good father to me and my siblings.
Also I wanted the young daughter to be the one to help her dad with his disability. I thought it fitting that she could make him believe that his obstacle could still be overcome at his age. In turn, he gives her a beautiful gift that comes from his heart.
RA: How does this work relate to other works you’ve written?
DC: A Christmas Gift is written in first person and my chick-lit mystery, A Fiery Secret, is also written in first person. Another way this work relates to my other books is the fact that faith plays an important part in A Christmas Gift as well as my inspirational romances.
RA: Concerning the relationship between character development and story line, how do you proceed with these two aspects?
DC: I think of the character first with an interesting conflict. For a few days dialogue, scenes, setting and characters parade across my mind before I write anything down. When I start writing, I put the big scenes down before even starting the first few pages. My characters tend to take over so I don’t make a detailed outline.
RA: Do you deliberately coordinate the geographical setting with your primary theme when writing?
DC: I did coordinate the geographical setting with my primary theme of A Christmas Gift. It was necessary to have a farm setting where I grew up since I included many things from my childhood. It lends an authentic feel to the whole story and love seeps through the characters in this setting.
In my women’s fiction, Never the Same, I wanted the main character to live in Chicago because of her career and it plays an important part in the story’s theme. Small towns and rural areas seem to work the best for my other story themes.
RA: Lots of writers have issues with conflict. What was your process of developing and resolving the primary conflict in this particular work?
DC: Justin Reeves feels shame about something that he has hidden from his family. I resolved his conflict by having his young daughter reach out to him. Adults hadn’t realized what needed to be done, but she gave her dad exactly what he needed – prayers that started the ball rolling and faith he could accomplish his goal.
RA: Did the conflict in this work relate to any other of your works? How?
DC: The conflict in this work didn’t relate to any of my other works.
RA: There’s a saying, “write what you know”. What do you think of this? How does it apply, or not apply, to your work?
DC: A Christmas Gift is inspired by true childhood incidents so I definitely wrote what I knew and it was helpful to this particular story. The investigative reporter in A Fiery Secret is based loosely on a daughter, Christina. A secondary character was inspired by our daughter Amanda. She was born with Down syndrome and is quite an amazing young lady.
I did research for my other books and enjoyed giving careers to my heroines that I knew nothing about with the exception of my inspirational romance, Marrying Mallory. Mallory is a junior high school English teacher. I taught English to both jr. high and high school students.
RA: You’ve created many characters! Any particular favorites, and why?
DC: My two favorites are probably Whitney Benson and Debby Reeves. Whitney is a former New York producer and moves back home to take care of her ill mother. I can relate to Whitney because she’s the youngest sister and has two older sisters. I happen to have three older sisters so it was fun to write Whitney in Charge with older sisters playing matchmaker to their little sis. And, of course, I have to say Debby is one of my favorites because she’s so like I was at a young age…a brat but lovable. LOL
RA: What do you do to renew and refresh your creative energy?
DC: It’s hard because I have a lot of responsibility with having two daughters with special needs. I take breaks from my writing to take care of family. But here are some ways I refresh my creative energy: spending time with my children and husband watching movies and TV, swimming, bicycling, baking and reading.
RA: Tell us please about the presence of both faith and evil in your work. How do you reconcile these two seemingly incongruous entities?
DC: All my books have faith in them even if they might not be considered Christian books. I like to have an inspirational quality to my story lines.
Sometimes an evil character in my books might become a wholesome and loving person because of a faith-changing event.
RA: Many writers have discussed writing humorous scenes. What are your thoughts about creating humorous passages?
DC: I have a blast writing humorous scenes. Whitney in Charge has a few humorous passages that readers have told me they enjoyed. I couldn’t get through my own challenges in life if I didn’t have faith and a sense of humor.
RA: How long have you been writing? What’s the most rewarding aspect of it? The most frustrating?
DC: When our oldest daughter Sara was a toddler (she’s 34 now), I started writing nonfiction. I wrote a partial book, Born to Love about her. I never finished it because no book publisher was interested in the story, but I did get a few magazine articles out of it. One was in Virtue magazine, one in Down Syndrome Today, and a few other publications. In 2001, my first short book was published and later I switched to writing fiction. My first inspirational romance was published in 2006. I’ve also been published in Woman’s World and have several articles on writing published at WritersWeekly.com
The most rewarding aspect is when I get positive feedback from readers saying something in my story line or the characters touched them in some way. When book reviewers also like my books that makes it all seem rewarding too.
The most frustrating is being a slow writer. I’m always amazed how other writers are able to finish their books so quickly while I’m still working on the same one.
RA: Do you belong to a writer’s group? Have you in the past?
DC: I belong to an award-winning group called the Jewels of the Quill. There are twelve of us and we all write in various genres. They have a monthly newsletter and giveaways. Here is their link for more information: JewelsoftheQuill.com. By the way, I’m Dame Morganite.
I used to belong to RWA and it was helpful in promoting my print books by getting reviews posted in their magazines. You have to be a RWA member to advertise in their publications. My membership has lapsed but I’ll probably join again.
RA: What would be the best advice you could give a beginning writer?
DC: Even thought I’m published now, it’s been a long road to publication for my books. Getting published has never been easy. But I made it with self-discipline, faith in my writing, family support, and determination. If you are an aspiring writer wanting to get published, hang in there. You have to continue to write and to believe in yourself. Writing is not a career for the weak. You have to be persistent and develop a thick skin when it comes to rejections. Remember this is a subjective business so don’t get discouraged.
RA: Time to get personal! Could you tell us about yourself?
DC: I’ve been married to the same wonderful guy for thirty-five years. We live in southwestern Ohio. We were blessed with six children – five daughters and one son. Two of our daughters were born with Down syndrome and live at home with us. They are wonderful but can be challenging, so we try to get away for a day or two once in a while by ourselves. I have a seasonal job in the spring and summer scoring tests that students hate to take.
RA: Time for a quirky, but interesting question: who’s your favorite artist, musician and First Lady, and why? (…actually, I slid in six questions, didn’t I? ** hee hee*)
DC: Thomas Kinkade is my favorite artist. Years ago I bought Christmas cards designed by him and fell in love with his artistic style. I have a framed picture of one of his scenes on my living room wall. It has this beautiful verse: “He has made everything beautiful in its own time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11. My favorite female musician is Kelly Clarkson. For male musician, Nick Lachey and favorite group is The Fray. Laura Bush is my favorite First Lady.
RA: And what’s next for you, writing-wise?
DC: I’m working on a story about a father and daughter, both teach at the same college in Virginia. The father is anxious for his daughter, Lexi, to get married and give him a grandchild. Lexi thinks her father needs to move on with his life. Her mother died three years ago on the way to the bridal shop to pick up Lexi’s wedding dress.
RA: Could you tell us what to expect in any other books you’ll be releasing?
DC: I also have a sweet story, “The Proposal’, in A Christmas Collection Anthology with three other authors. It’s available in print and ebook formats and the publisher is Victory Tales Press.
RA: Thank you so much for sharing with us. Good luck with your releases and please come back again soon!
DC: Thanks so much, Regina. I’ve enjoyed visiting on your lovely blog! Here is the prologue from A Christmas Gift. Happy Reading!
It was 1957 when I saw something that I wasn’t meant to see. I have never forgotten this night because it had such an impact on me. I was only seven years old, and what I saw my father doing confused me. Finally, I had enough courage to ask my mother about it. After she explained everything to me, I was shocked and saddened.
What happened after I learned my father’s greatest secret was extraordinary to our family. When my father, Justin L. Reeves, decided to conquer an overwhelming disability in life, he was fifty-four years old. He gave our family an incredible gift to last a lifetime because of what he accomplished at this age.
His triumph made me into the woman I am today. My three older siblings were able to make the best decisions of their adult lives because of our father’s influence.
This is a story of determination and hope. My father’s journey was not easy. But if it had been easy, I wouldn’t be telling his story now. After you finish reading this book, I pray that the true meaning will linger in your heart and mind; just as the outcome of my long ago memory has remained in my soul for fifty-three years.
My name is Debra Reeves Cunningham, and I am sixty years old. It’s not hard to take you back to the beginning in 1957 when I was seven. My life was good and simple. My memories of this wonderful year are crystal clear. We lived on a farm with eighty acres outside of Findlay, Ohio. My petite mother, Lucille, worked hard doing whatever needed to be done on the farm. She was a big help to my dad when it came to dairy chores. With no milking machines, they milked seven cows by hand in the morning and again in the evening.
My siblings didn’t help with this time-consuming job. My oldest sister, Gail, was twenty-five and lived at home, but not by her choice. Whenever she mentioned moving to an apartment, our mother insisted that wouldn’t be proper for a single woman. Gail worked as a secretary at the impressive Ohio Oil Company in Findlay. She always dressed in pretty clothes and went out on dates all the time.
My brother, Carl, at the age of twenty-one was in the Army, and he hated it. He wrote me the best letters. The past summer, we all traveled in our blue Mercury car to visit him in North Carolina.
Next in the family was my fourteen-year-old sister, Kathy. We shared a bedroom, and she never complained about sharing a room with a younger sister. She only worried about not being able to dance. From the time she was a small child, she wanted to be a dancer. She watched all the Shirley Temple movies and practiced on the kitchen linoleum floor. I was told how her dancing entertained me when I was a fussy baby with teething pain.
A short time after Kathy celebrated her seventh birthday, she was stricken with polio. She wore a brace on her left leg because the polio had weakened these muscles. Dancing was no longer a realistic dream for Kathy.
It’s time to take you back to the night when what I saw made me question everything. From my siblings, I learned that sometimes we see only what we want to see, and only face the truth when we can no longer deny it. I remember everything about that night so well. In my mind I see my bare feet softly walking down twenty-two steps. I enjoyed counting the steps and jumping off the last one.
It drove Gail crazy whenever she was in a hurry and behind me. “Why do you have to count these stupid steps all the time?”
“I like to count them. I always get twenty-two.”
And so on this particular night I counted them again. With no light on to guide my footsteps, I didn’t want to fall in the dark. I didn’t switch the hallway light on because it would shine through the register. My parents might wake up and see the light from their bedroom. Mommy liked to keep a door open for air circulation in their small room. I knew that I had to be very quiet since I wasn’t supposed to be up at this late hour. I skipped the jump off the last step so my parents wouldn’t hear me. With a racing heart, I slowly opened the old stairway door, hoping it wouldn’t make a sound.
Christmas Blog Contest: If you leave a comment on Regina’s blog, my other blog stops or my own blog, you’ll be entered in my drawing on Dec. 8th. I’m giving away a signed copy of A Christmas Gift or winner may choose my other Christmas release, an angel ornament, and a $10 GC. More details are on my blog: http://www.dianecraver.com/blog
Buying link for A Christmas Gift: http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Gift-Diane-Craver/dp/1936167360/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289773725&sr=1-1