Courtney Walsh is a published author, scrapbooker, theatre
director and playwright. Her debut novel,A
released this month by Guideposts Books. It is the first in a series of three.
She has also written two paper crafting books,Scrapbooking Your FaithandThe Busy Scrapperand is currently working on her
third,which will be released February, 2013. Courtney has been a
contributing editor forMemory
Makers MagazineandChildren’s Ministry Magazine. She lives in Colorado with her husband
and three kids where she consumes entirely too much coffee.
Tell us about your new release:
A Sweethaven Summer is the story of Campbell Carter,
who finds part of an old scrapbook just after her mother’s death. The scrapbook
contains evidence of a life in a tiny beach town in Michigan—one her mother had
never spoken of. With the scrapbook as her guide, Campbell travels to
Sweethaven, where she meets her mom’s childhood friends and searches for the
identity of her real father.
mind, this is a book about friendship and forgiveness—two things we all need a
lot of in our lives!
Was there a specific 'what if'
moment to spark this story?
I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in our friends’ cottage, and it was
in that community that I started to imagine old friends who returned every
summer, working on their scrapbooks and watching their kids grow up together.
That trip was the spark for the whole series.
Did anything strange or funny
happen while researching or writing your book?
it wasn’t related to my research, but while I was on deadline for this book, my
husband applied for, interview for and accepted a job in Colorado. We had one
month to pack up our house, sell it (we didn’t—we’re renting it) and move
across the country. Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I survived that!
Do you ever bang your head
against the wall from writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
there’s a head-shaped indentation on my wall! For the first two books in the
series, I didn’t plot or outline the entire book. I had a general idea of where
I wanted to go and I sat down and started writing. Both times, when I got about
half-way through, I got SO stuck I had to get up and walk away. In the end, the
only way I overcame it was to go back, read what I’d already written and let
the momentum of that carry me through to the end.
third book, I opted for a chapter by chapter road map with most of the details
already outlined. So far, I haven’t had to bang my head into the wall on this
one, but I’ve just hit that half-way point! (Be praying for my head.)
Do you consider yourself a
visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
Absolutely. I think my
experience in the theatre lends itself to being very visual. I act scenes out
while I’m writing them and tend to research every aspect of the town or event
I’m writing about. (Saving files of photos along the way.) I also find images
of people I think look like my characters (a trick I learned from my friend,
Deb Raney.) This helps me keep
clear pictures in my head.
Novelists sometimes dig
themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of
other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
I am the master at showing something and then telling the reader what I’ve just
shown them. I also have a tendency to write whole chapters about what my
characters are going to do instead of
just having them do it. My constant questions as I write are: “Does this move
the story forward?” “Is this active?” “Am I showing this?”
What's your strength in writing
(characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?
have to say characterization and dialogue. Again, I credit the theatre with
this. Ever since I was about twelve years old I’ve had a huge passion for the
stage. Plays are remarkable tools because they’re straight dialogue with
limited stage directions. You have to be so concise and make sure you’re
showing with every scene. I didn’t realize that my stage training and writing
for the stage would come in so handy down the road, but I utilize elements of
it every time I sit down to write.
Did this book give you any
problems? If not, how did you avoid them?
this was my first novel, it certainly gave me problems. I’d be horrified to go
back and see what the first draft looked like! My main problem was keeping my
characters active. Thankfully, I’ve had wonderful and patient editors. I’ve
learned SO much!
Where do you write: In a cave, a
coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
Before I moved to
Colorado, I wrote at Barnes and Noble faithfully every week. I loved that
place. I had the luxury of my mom’s help with the kids. But now that I live
here, without any family around, I write at home, usually under a pair of
headphones in my office or holed away in my bedroom (which is hard on the
back!) I love to write to the Michael Nyman Pandora station (with a little Hans
Zimmer, James Horner and John Williams for variety!)
Some authors report writing 5-10
thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to
tweeze each word out?
such a funny question to me because I get really
caught up in my numbers (both word tallies AND the ones on the scale!) I’m
under a pretty tight deadline for my third book so yes, I write fast. I have
to. I work from home, so I only have three good writing days every week and I
make the most of them!!
What’s the best writing advice
get it right, get it written.” How liberating!
How do you balance your writing
time with family and any other work you do?
don’t do a very good job with this! I have a day job at Webster’s Pages, which
is a scrapbooking manufacturer (I love it!) so I save most of my writing work
for Fridays-Sundays. My husband is the one that gets me out of my writing cave
and back into the real world. Otherwise, I might never resurface! (And I
definitely would never do laundry!)
Do you have any parting words of
God puts something on your heart to write, don’t question it, just write it.
You never know how he’s going to use it to bless someone else. That and don’t
take up writing novels unless you’re comfortable with a LOT of hard work. Next
to childbirth, writing a novel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done!
A Sweethaven Summer
Campbell Carter has come to Sweethaven in search of answers about her mother's history. Just before losing a battle with cancer, Suzanne Carter sent letters to childhood friends from her hometown of Sweethaven, Michigan. Suzanne's three friends -- Lila, Jane, and Meghan -- haven't spoken in years, yet each has pieces of a scrapbook they made together as girls.
Suzanne's letters have lured them all back to the idyllic lakeside town, where they meet Campbell and begin to remember what was so special about their long Sweethaven summers.
As the scrapbook reveals secrets from the past, old wounds are mended, lives are changed, and friendships are restored -- just as Suzanne intended.