Am I Wasting my Life?

The title of this post asks a question that crosses my mind all the time. It’s a common thought that sneaks into my subconscious, clouding any clarity I might have had moments before.

For me, this question arises in reference to my writing career and its relation to my faith. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a Christian and my faith isn’t far from most of my thoughts. I have thoughts like, “how are my novels sharing my faith?” or “how are they making a difference in people’s lives in relation to my faith?”

For that reason I find myself in an interesting conundrum when it comes to writing fiction. My stories are not what you would classify as “Christian” genre. I write mysteries and I’m working on a romance. My characters aren’t always Christians, nor do they make decisions based on those values.

In fact, I really never wanted to be classified into the Christian genre. Why you ask?

Because how many non-believer’s peruse the Christian section of a bookstore? 

Don’t get me wrong, Christian books are wonderful tools and great for someone who’s already a believer, but they do nothing for someone who isn’t.

There are wonderful writer’s who speak to the Christian heart and encourage us in our daily journeys that I admire and adore. And this isn’t to say, I can’t write Christian stories or non-fiction. I used to write weekly devotionals for my church in college and loved every minute of it, but I’ve always felt strongly about the fact that I want my fictional stories to reach beyond the Christian genre. I’m not closing the door to the opportunity to write Christian fiction, its just not where I feel I need to be at the moment. In the future that may change.

There has always been this nagging voice in the back of my head that says I’m wasting my life on pointless stories that I want to put to rest once and for all.

I recently ran across an article by Jon Bloom for which asked the question as to whether J. R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy wasted his life by writing and creating an intricate fictional world called Middle-earth. 

It’s been well documented that Tolkien was a Christian. So why did he spend so much of his time writing about a fantasy world?

Bloom writes, “Tolkien never intended his tales of Middle-earth to be a desertion from reality, but a means of seeing beyond the confined walls of our perceptions to a much larger reality beyond.”

I think this is a wonderfully accurate statement about fictional stories. Fiction can help us better understand and connect to the world around us. Look at  the history of fairy tales and their original intentions. They weren’t stories created for escapism, but as lessons for children in particular. Very rarely does a work of fiction not have some questions within it that make the reader have to think beyond the surface of the story.

Bloom goes on to say, “There is a deep, profound reason why God created us to be story-makers and storytellers, and why, when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), he frequently spoke in stories. The best make-believe stories help us better understand the real world. And in our day, such stories are needed more than ever.”

I’m in no way saying that The Kings of Charleston is on the scale of J.R.R. Tolkien, but I hope that people can see beyond the skin of the story to what’s really going on (because there is something deeper, I assure you).

And please don’t take this post to mean that Mr. Bloom’s article justifies every fictional writing or that his opinions are an infallible truth. His words simply resonated with me and what was already going on in my mind and heart when it comes to my writing.

I hope someone who reads The Kings of Charleston is having an internal conversation with themselves, questioning what’s most important in life and what’s right or wrong. I don’t want them to merely read about Casper, I want them to experience her story and ask themselves what they would do if they were her. I hope my stories point to my Christian faith, but I don’t want to outright give them the answers.

After all, does anyone simply believe that God exists because someone told us He does? No, deep seeded faith has to be felt and experienced.

I hope my stories don’t shout at the reader, but whisper in a way that God does to us everyday.

I Can Re-Write History

Time-travel is a popular theme in books and television, but why? Sure, some people want the ability to roam with the dinosaurs (Jurassic Park cured that fascination for me), or see an important time in history (I’m looking at you Colonial America), but I think time-travel fulfills a much bigger need in us. If someone told you they had invented a way to travel back in time, I have a feeling a lot more people would go back and change past events in their own lives instead of fulfilling a fantasy.

There are countless websites, blogs and the like that pose the question: “What would you tell your younger self?” There’s several books with this premise, asking individuals to write letters to their younger selves. We all wish we had the opportunity to go back and fix certain things in our past that could have been prevented  or altered with our current knowledge.

As an author I have a unique chance to do that. No, I haven’t invented time travel, but I have a pretty nifty tool with similar powers…my pen (okay, in this day and age my keyboard).

Let me explain.

As a reader, I become engulfed in the stories I read. When I’m in the midst of a book that’s captivated me, those characters leap off the page and come alive in my mind. Admit it…when you get into a story those characters take on their own lives. You take journeys with them that feel practically real. The same goes for a beloved TV show or movie. That’s why we enjoy storytelling so much. They have a power to transport us.

As an author, the same thing happens. Casper and her friends (and enemies) in The Kings of Charleston felt so real to me, even though they’ve never existed in reality. I didn’t write endlessly about her likes and dislikes, but you could ask me anything about Casper or Cal and I would have a quick answer. They took on lives of their own.

With The Hurricane Effect, I have an advantage to truly experience changing history for me. This story is based on my real life. The main character isn’t exactly the same person, but she’s an more intense version of myself. Some of the characters are completely made up, while others truly existed (won’t you have fun guessing which ones?). I’m combing through my past experiences and getting the chance to mix them with different outcomes. That’s what puts this story in the fiction category, rather than non-fiction.

If I choose to I can change my response to a particular situation and re-live it in my mind. Although its not the same as truly traveling back in time, its a weirdly satisfying position to be in. I can take the knowledge and wisdom that I didn’t possess at the time and apply it to a past situation.

Writing this story has been so much fun, but I’ll admit its been tough. There’s been some instances where I wanted to wipe away the bad experience or bad decision, but I realize that some of those things are what made me “me”. And in retrospect, if I “purify” everything in my life, I no longer am relate-able. I’m no longer a multifaceted human being with good and bad attributes. As I reflect back on some of the things from years gone by, I realize that a lot of the experiences have brought me to exactly where I am today and I would never want to change that outcome.

10 Things You Don’t Know About Marcus Gray

Marcus Gray was introduced in the last half of The Kings of Charleston and has had a presence ever since. He’s quickly become a fan favorite and so I wanted to share a little about him.

1. I am an athlete all the way. I love football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse…the list goes on and on.

2. Until we moved to Charleston, I had only ever lived in New York City. Talk about a serious change.

3. I had some culture shock moving to the South, but I’ve come to embrace sweet tea and grits.

4. My favorite pro football team is the New York Jets with the Baltimore Ravens being a close second.

5. I was scouted by Ohio State University and University of Florida to play football, but I had to tell them no after we joined Kythera.

6. I always try to look at the optimistic side of any problems I have.

7. Casper is like the little sister I never had (even if she is the same age), and I feel the need to protect her.

8. Charlotte is my first real girlfriend. I’m a real romance guy at heart, I just don’t show my friends that side of me.

9. I love all types of music, including Country.

10. I’m not as confident as I try to pretend to be with everyone.

10 Things You Don’t Know About Casper Whitley

Keeping in line with the post I mentioned Wednesday, here are 10 Things You Don’t Know About Casper Whitley:

(1)        My favorite horse race to go to is the Royal Ascot.

(2)        I hate roller coasters, but I’ll still ride them if you ask, so I don’t look like a wimp. I’ll probably cry the whole time.

(3)        I’m addicted to Coca-Cola and I have it hidden all over my house.

(4)        When I was five, I escaped from my parents while we were at Disney World. I’d wandered off to find Minnie Mouse. I’ve not been back since.

(5)        I’m beyond upset that Kat H. Clayton met Grumpy Cat and didn’t even bother to tell me or invite me to come along.

(6)        I’ve met Henry Cavill and didn’t bother to tell or invite Kat H. Clayton to come along.

(7)        The Queen has stayed at Ghost Hill Farms a couple of times when she comes to buy horses from the yearling sales at Keeneland.

(8)        I’m a music junky and I love Adele, Imagine Dragons and Justin Bieber (don’t judge…I’m a teenager and allowed to have questionable taste) .

(9)        I love to read. I love the classics and trashy romance novels alike. My favorite book of all time is National Velvet.

(10)      I’m terrified of butterflies…not kidding at all.

Sneak Peek of… The Kingdom’s Revolt

In my history class last year, I studied the French and American Revolutions. Histories of people who weren’t satisfied with the status quo, who felt their governments were unfair and taking advantage of them. They wanted freedom. Freedom, we’re taught in history, is something worth fighting for, but I never thought I would have to fight for it.

No, my struggles against Kythera may never be recorded in the history books, but I’ll always remember the time I started my own revolution. -Casper Whitley

Blog Tour Schedule

Lots of wonderful things are happening in the book world for me this week. Sometime this week, I’ll get a chance to see the cover for the sequel and the print book will be finalized for publishing (the ebook is all ready to go once the cover’s done!) and all print review books were sent out for The Kings of Charleston blog tour.

Click below to see the blog tour schedule and stop by each blog on the designated day to read about The Kings of Charleston!

Upcoming Events

Yellow Umbrella…Book Review

Hey everyone! Go check out Brittany’s very cool blog Yellow Umbrella and her review of The Kings of Charleston. She’s a freelance graphic designer with some amazing designs (click here for her online store) and she loves to read.

She’s also giving away an ebook copy of The Kings of Charleston, so hurry and sign up to win a copy!

The Biggest Compliment

When I hear someone can’t sleep, I often feel bad for them. Isn’t sleep the one thing we just never seem to get enough of in our busy lives? But  as an author sleepless nights are your goal…for your reader that is (okay it often happens to the author trying to finish by a deadline too).

A mark of a good book to me is when I just can’t put it down, and you are willing (or forced) to stay up in the wee hours of the morning trying to finish it. Although the next day I’m a wreck, I love those kind of books that beckon you to stay to the very end. I’ve had a lot of books that have contributed to my lack of sleep. The most recent was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I forced myself to put it down so I could make it through work the next day, but then I found myself reading during lunch to try to finish, and then I would read a page at every stop light on the way back to work (I promise I didn’t drive and read, only at complete stops). Another memorable book was The Help. I read that book while I was visiting my parents in Kentucky and I stayed up till three or four a couple of nights, and read while I was drying my hair, brushing my teeth (I stopped short of reading in the shower).

Books like that can be exasperating, but they are the good ones in my opinion. So when someone tells me they stayed up all night to finish my book, that’s the ultimate compliment. Sure, I’m contributing to the loss of sleep of an already sleep deprived world, but it’s all in the name of a good story. So here’s to more sleepless nights, hopefully due to The Kings of Charleston.

Thank You

After thanking my English teacher, Ms. Chafin, I started thinking about everyone who has helped me along the way. I was always told that being an author was a lonely profession, but it’s been my experience that’s not the total truth.

There were plenty of nights I spent by myself staring at the computer screen, occasionally feeling the need to pull my hair out (okay, 99% of the time). But other than those times, there was a lot of help from friends and family.

I would want to thank my wonderful husband, Michael Tyler, for being there and supporting my goals. He was often the push I needed to keep going when I felt like giving up and he was that much needed sound board when I had writer’s block. He was fully engaged in the writing process with me and willing to sit with me for however long it would take to fix the problem. He should also consider becoming an editor (seriously, I think he missed his calling in life), because he came up with many of the same suggestions as my actual editor did.

None of this could have been possible without my parents, who have always encouraged me to go after my dreams. No matter what crazy idea I might have (and I had plenty), they always told me to go for it. Finally, one of the crazy ideas paid off.

I’ve had several great readers who’ve were a tremendous help as well. Thanks to one of my best friends, Karey, who was the first person to read the entire first draft. I’m grateful to her for not only taking the time to read, but knowing when something needed improvement (a/k/a when something was crappy and just didn’t make sense).

Thanks also to Alicia, who took the time to read and was enthusiastic about the story at a point I was really frustrated with the the process. Her enthusiasm was truly contagious.

My in-laws, Mike and Kaye, were (and are) great supporters as well, in reading and taking an interest in my book. I truly got lucky in finding such a great family to bring into my own.

I have to give thanks to my editor, Marlene, who was phenomenal to work with throughout the editing process.

And a big thanks to Dixie Cook and DSC photography who took the beautiful head shots for my website and book. She was so much fun to work with and has such a great eye for photography.

I know before the process is over and the book is out, there will be more people involved and to thank for bringing it all together.