(I had to say that. 80’s for the win!)
So it’s time for another exciting author interview. I love interviewing people, hearing about their experiences, and getting some good food from thought.
Please welcome, Carol Grace Stratton! Carol is an author of contemporary and Christian fiction. As a Christian myself, I appreciate works that are faith promoting and uplifting and admire writers who undertake the task. Carol recently released her first novel, Lake Surrender, which won this year’s Illumination Award Medal for Inspirational/Romance Fiction.
Official Plot Summary:
Quicker than you can say “downsized, unemployed, and divorced,” Ally Cervantes finds herself with the Pacific Ocean in her rearview mirror as she and her two children head to Lake Surrender in rural Northern Michigan to live with her aunt. The dry hills of California are a metaphor for her empty soul, but she can’t afford to wallow in self-pity with an autistic son who can’t make eye contact and a precocious twelve-year-old daughter counting on her to get it together.
With no other available jobs, Ally steps through the only open door for employment, working as head cook at a dilapidated Christian camp. Problem is, she doesn’t cook and doesn’t like religious fanatics.
But despite everything, she finds herself strangely hopeful as she learns her journey ends where the lake begins.
Find it on:
Amazon | Goodreads
On to the interview!
Q. Tell us about your journey to authorship. When did you decide to start writing books? Have you always been a writer at heart?
A. I’m not sure I wanted to write when I was young, but I was a voracious reader, reading in the bathtub at night while the rest of my siblings banged on the door. I had my first piece published as a sixth grader in the local newspaper, which was very exciting. I really liked English and song writing but didn’t become serious about writing until I was middle aged. 9/11 had just happened and I felt moved to write about it. I walked into the Zionsville Sentinel two days later, handed them my piece, and asked if they wanted to print it. Yes, just like that…boy was I green. And to my astonishment, they did!
What I have learned about myself is I love to communicate (just ask my family). I did have a personality test done recently and came out as someone who likes to entertain people, which is what a good story does. If you find yourself drawn to telling stories, you might be a fiction writer too.
Q. Lake Surrender begins with your protagonist, Ally, in a rather dire but all too real situation. Why did you decide to begin the story like this? Was it inspired by real life events?
A. James Scott Bell, a wonderful author, taught a fiction class that changed my life. One thing I remembered him saying is that readers love to see the protagonist in trouble. Think about it! We want to emphasize and cheer on some one who is struggling. And a good story starts off with a lot of conflict. I felt a single mother with an autistic child is someone who fights against the odds in life. I appreciate and applaud them. Although I’ve been married for years, I have a lot of single friends and I’ve taken bits and pieces from their lives.
Q. Ally’s son is autistic. This always hits home for me with two autistic brothers. What experiences do you have with autism? Do you know an autistic person? Why did you include this in the story?
A. My degree is in Recreation Therapy and even though I don’t have a special needs child, I have friends that do. I also have a nephew who is on the spectrum. Although Lake Surrender isn’t my first book, it’s my first novel. I worked in an autistic classroom for 2 1/2 years and knew I had to write about my kids.
One of my goals while writing the book was to introduce an autistic child, describe, and show some of their behaviors (i.e. spinning and hand flapping) so that those who haven’t been around them can understand them better. I make Benjie a likeable kid and give him a starring role in solving a mystery so that he is a hero at one point in the story.
Q. Ally becomes the cook at a Christian camp. You yourself went to camp. Any funny camp stories you’re willing to share?
A. I have a funny camp story about my youngest daughter who went to Bair Lake Bible Camp in Michigan. When I drove down to pick her up, the entire camp was preforming some songs. I was far back while watching the show and saw my daughter with what looked like a tumor growing out of her head. When I met up with her I saw she had a tangle the size of an orange on the side of her head. She told me she couldn’t get it out the first day so just decided to not comb it all week. I ended up cutting all of her hair short. Ahh, ten-year olds!
Q. Your faith is obviously very important to you. How does your faith affect your day to day life?
A. I have had a personal faith in Jesus Christ since I was a teenager and love to write about living out one’s faith in real life. As I have raised four children, lived through my parents’ divorce, the death of a grandchild, 22 moves, job layoffs and rebellious teenagers, I can say I don’t live in a Christian Bubble. Because I have the comfort and friendship of the Lord, I want to share my faith naturally through my life, conversations with others and writing. If Christianity was fake, I would have dropped it years ago. I have a long track record with Jesus and He is worthy to serve.
Q. And last but not least, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. As someone who has 33 rejections on my first novel, an unpublished children’s story, I had to learn to persevere through a lot of failed attempts. My advice, if you want to be a published writer, is to start wherever you are at and write. Write for a school newspaper, letters to the editors, or for freebee magazines in your community who are looking for content. If you cut your teeth on articles and smaller pieces, you will learn how to write tight, cutting out unnecessary words. Those clips will open doors to new opportunities.
As you develop confidence, you will discover your voice and your genre. And when you get that first published piece, frame it and go out to dinner to celebrate! You’ve accomplished a lot.
Thanks again, Carol, for the insights and advice! It was a pleasure working with you, and we here at Fictional Fox wish you continued success!