I've asked Christine Hart back to promote her second book, Best Laid Plans, and because I just enjoy talking to her! She's such a neat person and has some true life adventures!
Don't believe me?
Well, I happened to catch her before she has to leave for her fellowship. Her fellowship is taking her to Kenya where she'll be taking some writing workshops! Talk about an adventure for Christmas!
Speaking of adventures, going to college or university might not sound like an adventure, but for some people it is.
Because getting there isn't easy. Some people has finances in the way, some have their own ambitions (or lack thereof) in the way, and some have family in the way. For Robyn, her family has always struggled with money. When they inherit an apple orchard in British Columbia from her grandmother, Robyn begins to hope that she'll be free to attend university. However, her hopes are crushed when her parents still struggle to pay the bills and need her to pitch in with her hard earned money and quit school to work in the orchard. Robyn soon realizes that if she wants her dreams to come true, she'll need to leave her family behind. But she's a smart girl, she knows she can't leave without a plan or she'll end up lost and alone on the streets.
So, does her plan work? Is she able to leave town? You'll have to read the book to find out what kind of obstacles she encounters along the way!
In the meantime, let's get to the interview:
Q: Do you have a movie that you must watch every Christmas? What's your favorite Christmas movie? Do you have a favorite Christmas character or character type?
A: I have a few favourite Christmas movies, but our family tradition is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – every year. I come from a family of comedy fans.
Q: Do you have any Christmas traditions like decorating your house, having house parties, making cookies etc.?
A: I used to decorate my house more than I have in the last few years, mostly because I’ve been busy writing, but also I moved back to Victoria, BC, away from friends and family. My husband and I usually travel back to the British Columbia Interior during the holidays.
Q: If you do make Christmas Cookies, what kinds will you be making this year? What was your all-time most favorite Christmas Cookie that you ever made? Why? Care to share the recipe?
A: I’m a gingerbread gal all the way – including decorative icing. I used to use store-bought dough, but I try to make from scratch now. I recently worked for a local spice company that manufactures an awesome blend of Gingerbread Spices.
Q: Do you celebrate St. Nick’s Day? Why or why not? On what day do you celebrate it, on December 6 or some other date? Are the stockings a big deal? What is the biggest present you’ve received/given for St. Nick’s Day?
A: I feel a bit silly answering this one; I hadn’t heard of St. Nick’s Day before this question. I’m familiar with Saint Nicholas, of course, but we don’t celebrate on December 6th in Canada – that I know of.
Q: Even if you don’t put one up, do prefer real or artificial trees? Why?
A: I prefer artificial trees. I wish I could say it was strictly environmental, although that’s a huge factor. I have an artificial tree for convenience. It saves the time spent getting the tree and it’s easier to clean up after.
Q: Have you ever made your own Christmas presents or decorations? If so, what were they? Were they successes or failures? Did you have fun while making them?
A: I’ve been making arts and crafts since childhood, so it seems natural to me to make centerpieces, gift decorations, and even presents, handmade from scratch. I definitely always have fun!
Q: What foods will be at your Christmas celebration this year? What is the most unusual food that you saw at a Christmas feast? Would you eat the fruitcake or use it as a doorstop?
A: This year Christmas looks a bit different for me. I’ll be attending writing workshops in Kenya, but I’m really interested to find out how they celebrate over there.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas on the Eve or Day? Why?
A: We have a family dinner on Christmas Eve, but save presents for the morning. Then we have another family dinner that night. I’m not really sure why. It’s just our tradition.
Q: Who, if anyone, in your family plays Santa Claus to hand out the presents? Or do they just “magically” appear under the tree? How do you handle presents that just don’t fit under the tree?
A: Our presents do tend to magically appear, but I suspect my mother wears the Santa Claus hat. My sister and I have outgrown the big presents that wouldn’t fit under the tree, but if I think back, a few tree branches were sacrificed to make room for the odd box many years ago.
Q: Tell us 3 funny or strange things that happened to you, or someone you know, on past Christmases.
A: When I was a kid, I had a strange knack for coming down with a major cold or flu each Christmas. I’d often manage to get sick on other holidays too – Halloween, Easter, birthdays – all the good ones.
Q: Do you send out greeting cards to your friends and family? Why or why not? What greeting do you like to see on the greeting cards you send? On the ones you receive?
A: I used to send out greeting cards, thoughtfully written in lovely metallic pen. But they’ve gone the way of decorations and baking – crossed off the to-do list when writing takes precedence. I’ve sent electronic cards before and even posted a card collage on my blog. Not having time for real cards makes me appreciate the ones I receive even more, so regardless of what they say, I’m impressed.
Q: Other than money (because who doesn’t want more of that), what would your ultimate gift be?
A: Travel. I love to experience faraway places and connect to new and interesting parts of the world. It doesn’t make sense to everyone as it leaves behind only souvenirs as a tangible presence. But I’ve never been much for expensive things or acquiring ‘stuff’, so a fascinating trip is the best present for me.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
Q: Why the young adult genre? What was the draw for you?
A: I found my way to YA literature through a bit of meandering, actually. Trained as a journalist and business communicator, I had technical writing skills. But I still loved to draw and paint. It didn’t take much searching to connect the two pieces, so I started out trying to write picture books and illustrate them myself. However, it had been many years since art class and the stories that came more naturally fell into the young adult category. I started dabbling and soon had my first manuscript.
Q: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
A: Personal. I tell stories that, while fictional, come from my own experiences or those of the people closest to me. I take the saying, “write what you know,” very much to heart. I try to create characters that make meaningful connections with readers, inspired by the many characters in other stories that have stayed with me over the years.
Q: With the current movement to encourage people to give books as gifts, what, in your opinion, makes your story unique? What makes it stand out among all the others?
A: I think my setting is unique, for young adult readers, in that I try to authentically represent rural British Columbia. Much of the YA literature I enjoy is, naturally, set in urban environments that foster fast-paced stories. But coming back to, “write what you know,” I’m best suited to writing within the parts of BC I know best – the Okanagan and Vancouver Island.
Q: Do you prefer throwing snowballs or serving hot cocoa? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
A: Today, I’d have to say hot cocoa. I even have a recipe (hint: the secret ingredient is vanilla extract). But I used to throw snowballs and I’m always trying to find that girl again, even if only in my head.
Q: Who decides what your characters do, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one stuffing the stocking?
A: My characters make most of their own decisions, but I do have to take over from time to time. Every so often, one of my protagonists will crawl too far into her head and I’ll have to step in and keep her moving to get the story back on track.
Q: What character did you have the most fun creating and why?
A: I’m working on several projects at the moment that have all been fun so far – a new young adult title and a trilogy for more of a “new adult,” or early twenties audience. I’ve been envisioning my trilogy as sort of an older youth cyberpunk story. I heard the term “new adult” recently and I got excited, realizing that if the term had arisen, then enough authors were thinking of their stories in the same terms.
Q: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why?
A: I’ve been writing speculative short stories for adults – I’d love to meet any of those characters in person. All the usual suspects are in there; demons, witches, cursed women, mutants.
Q: Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
A: Well, I’d have to say Ryan, the antagonist from Watching July. He’s the only one of my characters that is an actual murderer. I think he’s pretty dangerous.
Q: If you could give any of your characters a Christmas gift, who would it be and what would you get them?
A: I would get Robyn, my protagonist from Best Laid Plans, a gorgeous winter pea coat. She’s in Ontario now and has never had a proper warm coat to begin with.
Q: If you could be any Christmas Character, who would it be and why?
A: I’d like to be Cindy Lou Who. It would be so wonderful to experience the holidays again with that level of anticipation and excitement.
Robyn Earle has dreamt of a better life as long as she can remember. Trapped by poverty, an alcoholic father and a depressed mother, Robyn feels like her dreams of attending university and having a career are impossible.
After meeting her first boyfriend, tasting the affluent life of her aunt, and watching her younger sister deal with an unplanned pregnancy, Robyn understands that only she can turn her life around – and the only problems she can solve are hers.
Clinging to the hope that she can both fix her family and make her break for a cosmopolitan life, Robyn is forced to make a choice between her family’s future and her own.
After a quiet, tense car ride, Robyn arrived home to find the front screen door dismantled on the porch.
“Why exactly is the screen door off its hinges?” she said, knowing fully that she was looking at another one of her father’s repair projects.
“Never you mind; I’ve got it under control. Go eat your dinner,” her dad grumped.
“Mom … Dad’s wrecking the door!” she called ahead bravely as she walked past.
“Don’t be such a wiseass!” said her dad with a snap.
Robyn knew he was going to have a lot of trouble with that door. He had tried to fix the tool shed, several tattered apple baskets, broken ladders, and even the roof last year. His attempts to fix things usually ended in a crappy job, the problem made worse and left hanging, or marginally improved by one of his buddies coming to ‘help out’ with a six-pack.