Monday, December 8, 2014

Author Interview: Cindy Christiansen

Cindy Christiansen
author, The Merchant Street Series

Give us a bit of your background (where are you from, your family, traveling adventures):

I grew up on a twenty acre farm in Hunter, Utah surrounded by subdivisions and a city.  It was kinda like living in two worlds.  I married a small town farm boy who had aspirations of moving to the big city and becoming an engineering technician and that’s just what he did.

My adult life has been fraught with multiple health problems, but I don’t let it define me.  At one point in my life when I was bedridden, I began writing my first book and adopted my first dog. These two things saved my life and continue to enrich it every day.

After seven years of marriage, we finally had our first son, and four years later had our second son. Both boys have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism, along with other conditions.  My writing was put on the back burner for a number of years until they got a little older.

My family is, and will always be, the most important thing in my life.  Therefore, I’m not a prolific writer and don’t write full-time.

Fill in the blank favorites - Type of hero. Type of heroine.

I like imperfect heroes and heroines because that’s how we are in real life.  What is important to me is that the characters have grown for the better by the end of the book, because, I don’t care how old we are, we are always learning and growing.  I have trouble reading romances where the hero is a millionaire and will do and buy anything for the heroine from the beginning of the book.  I like real men with real life jobs.  That’s why my heroes are a funeral director, dairy manager, student studying to be a veterinarian, a gun shop owner, and a home renovation specialist, etc.

What is your favorite genre to write? 

I found an old college story I had written, and guess what?  It was sweet romance with a dog in it.  I never realized then that I would be writing the same thing decades later.  When my first publisher asked me to increase the offensive language in my first book, I began to determine what kind of writer I really am.  That desire to be published is very tempting and you find yourself willing to do anything after many years of rejections.  However, I stuck to my guns, refused to add the swear words they wanted, and laid out an outline of what my books give to readers.  Here they are:

* A clean read with no bedroom scenes or offensive language.
* A tantalizing, fast-paced plot.
* A story without a lot of boring description.
* Down-to-earth heroes and heroines with everyday jobs.
* A rollercoaster ride of emotions you face right along with the characters.
* A special dog to steal your heart.
* A few added facts, a good message, and that important happily-ever-after ending.

What is one silly fact about you?

That I was proposed to by a real-life king. In my teens, The King of Tonga visited our farm and asked my dad for my hand in marriage as one of his wives. Yeah, awkward!

Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance?  Do you write steamy romance as well?

Although I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have always found writing about a character's relationship with God to be private.  I find the same thing to be true of the intimacy between a couple, whether fictional or not.  I choose to let the morals of my characters speak for them through their actions, words and thoughts.  Sweet romance is all I write and all I plan on ever writing.  I think it’s important for readers to know what they can count on from an author.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?  

My novelette, A Clean Romance, is about a heroine who loves cleaning.  I had a reader contact me and tell me I must love to clean. I must have written the character very well.  I hate cleaning!

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

There’s a part of me in all my characters.  I like writing from actual experiences and emotions.  To me it makes the characters real.  I had a shock during the writing of Hazardous Hideaway when I realized the heroine needed to uncover the mystery without ever asking questions about it.  That experience happened to me at one point in my life, and I had never thought about putting it in a book.  When I recognized that this needed to happen, everything fell into place.

Where do your ideas come from? 

Anything that I hear from the news, online, from friends, etc. that intrigues me and makes me want to figure out why the person did what they did.

How many books have you written, and how many of those have been published?

Every one of them.  I have 8 full-length novels through my publisher, Sweet Cravings. I also have 3 novellas, 1 novelette and 1 non-fiction book that I have self-published.

Please share about your book:

Blurb: Risk-taker Zeke Abberley knows how to be bold when it comes to his antique shop on Merchant Street in Salt Lake City, Utah. He successfully bid on a collection of 1800s antiques in Nauvoo, Illinois that may contain a valuable Hayez painting. However, love is another matter. Afraid that all women are users, he’s always injuring his dates, particularly Lavinia Vega, who works at her father’s art gallery.

Studious Lavinia Vega is tired of proving to Zeke that she has no ulterior motives. When Zeke brings her a damaged painting to restore and authenticate, she is eager to help but not get involved. When she uncovers a hidden map behind the painting that leads to valuable buried coins, the game plan changes. Or so Zeke thinks.

When I laid out outlines for The Merchant Street Mystery series, I knew I was going to be writing about some kind of hidden treasure from the past in Fortune for Fools, however, I never dreamed that I would be getting into almost historical-type research. I do a lot of factual investigating for my contemporary books, but have never delved into history quite like what was required for this book.

With a setting in Utah, what would work better than a pioneer story?  I had to research the timeline of the Mormon pioneer exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah and I had to coordinate it with a painting and the hidden map behind it. I also had to synch all of that with the time the treasure was hidden and found. I had to research buried gold coins, Mexican bandits, writing implements and paper of the seventeenth century, quilt symbolism, antique furniture, artists, paintings, and more. Sheesh!

Because I am also an artist, I really enjoyed researching Italian artist Francesco Hayez and his painting, Il bacio, (The Kiss). As you can see, it works in wonderfully with a romance book. It is not only Hayez’s best known work but also represents the best of Italian Romanticism. It was commissioned by Count Alfonso Maria di Saliceto and completed in 1859. It is considered amongst the most passionate and intense representations of a kiss in the history of western art. I am intrigued by the shadowy forms lurking in the background. How about you?

Of course, I also had to research that artists oftentimes painted more than one painting of the same subject but with different lighting and coloring. This gave me the opportunity to still use the painting even though the original is in the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery in Milan since Count Alfonso’s death.

In Fortune for Fools, I feel that you get two romances in one:  Zeke and Lavinia’s love story as they work together to discover the truth about the pioneer couple and the hidden treasure, and also Robert and Abigail’s love story as more and more history is discovered through bones, a quilt, the LDS Church History Library, antique furniture, letters, and journals. You won’t believe what poor Abigail went through.

Through researching some of my own ancestor’s history, I have found that I have relatives buried under Lake Powell in southern Utah. My ancestor’s on my mother’s side brought over the Nauvoo Bell in their wagon to Salt Lake City. I have a family member’s journal about this event and hope to someday write a non-fiction book about it.

If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be?

Description of Lavinia (Nia) Vega: serious, quiet, organized, observant, secretive

Description of Zekeal (Zeke) Abberley: charming, impatient, earthy, clear-headed, risk taker (except in love)

Do you have a favorite character you have written so far? 

I really enjoyed writing Chilean Daniela Estrada in the series.  She is the heroine in Hunting for Happenstance, Book 2.  It is a first for me to have a main character with a prominent accent, and I was worried about it.  I had my good friend, Anna del C. Dye, read it before it went out, and she gave me a thumbs up!

Contact Links:


Buy Links:

Sweet Cravings Publishing:
Barnes and Noble:
All Romance ebooks:

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