The Summer of Cotton Candy Blog Tour Questions
Q. What inspired you to write The Summer of Cotton Candy?A. My husband, Scott, and I love theme parks. We have held annualpasses to a dozen different parks. Someday we would love to buildour own.
That was the inspiration for creating The Zone, a placewhere education and excitement meet. I have worked for two differenttheme parks and a church (among other jobs).
What is interesting about working at one of those two places is that you are working somewhere a lot of people go when they're not working. How many people get paid to go to church? How many people get paid to go to a theme park?
A lot, actually, but both settings seem more exotic andstrange when you're working there. I thought the theme park was a perfect place for Candace to learn and grow.
There's a sense of hyper-reality to working in a theme park.
Personalities, conflicts, everything seems exaggerated when you work someplace like that.
As such it is a good testing ground to learn who you are and what you believe.
Q. Do you have a favorite scene from the book?
A. The Scavenger Hunt. I laughed myself silly writing that one.
Q. Do we "see" some of you in your characters?
A. It's nearly impossible for an author to take themselves completely out of a story. There is an amazing amount of bleed over and often where you'd least expect it. There's a tiny piece of me in many of my characters but you have to know what you're looking for. In this book particularly, though, there are two things that come to mind.
First is the scene where Candace tries to win a stuffed animal at the ring toss game. I don't know how much money I've spent over the years at carnivals, fairs, and amusement parks trying to win that game! I've won stuffed animals at every other game, but never that one. It drives me crazy and I let Candace share my frustration. Then I let her have the victory over it that I wish I could have!
Second is in the character of Becca. The character of Becca is a combination of people I know, one of whom is me. I am allergic to Vitamin C. When I drink orange juice I become completely hyper and out of control just like Becca does when she has sugar. It's a well-known fact among my friends who have often exploited it by providing or denying me orange juice depending upon what their goal was. Too much orange juice and I'm practically swinging from the chandelier!
Q. If you were casting actors for a movie of The Summer of Cotton Candy, who would you choose?
A. This is a constant topic of discussion in my house!
Candace - I could see Christy Carlson Romano, Miley Cyrus or Olesya Rulin as Candace.
Becca - Ashley Tisdale would make a great Becca.
Kurt – Sebastian Stan and Michael Cassidy are possibilities.
Josh – I kind of like Justin Hartley for the role
Gib - Gib would have to be played by Kevin McNally. I actually wrote that character with him in mind.
Tamara - I envision Tamara as having Raven's voice but she looks very different so Raven wouldn't really be right to play her. Shanica Knowles might be able to pull it off.
Q. Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favorite authorsor books both Christian and/or secular?
A. I read Frank Peretti. I wish I was independently wealthy and couldpay the man to write another sequel to This Present Darkness.
Generally speaking, my reading tastes are eclectic to say the least. My favorite author is western author Zane Grey and my favorite book of his is The Lone Star Ranger.
For mysteries I like Dorothy Gillman's Mrs. Pollifax books, particularly the first one.
For young adult books two of my first loves - Walter Farley (The BlackStallion) and Jim Kjelgaard (Snow Dog) - still shine bright.
Q. Can you share a little of your own personal faith journey with us?
A. I was a pew baby, born and raised in the church. I actually remember the day I accepted Christ as my Savior. I was four.
I take my faith very personally and believe that the relationship aspect is critical. I have seen God perform miracles in my life and lives around me. I believe that too many people spend too much time playing at being a Christian and not enough time living as one.
Being a Christian should color who you are at the deepest level and be an intrinsic part of your personality. I've seen too many people who only talked to God on Sundays or when they thought someone else was looking.
I also believe that there is a freedom that comes from living in Christ that you can't get anywhere else. I'm often the lone Christian in a group of people who have a seriously damaged view of Christians.
More than once people have told me, "You can't be a Christian" followed by "you're not preachy", "you're too nice", "you are fun to be around", "you are hyper" or something similar. It surprises me time and again that so many Christians are working so hard to keep themselves living in an ivory tower away from the world that they don't even notice the pain and longing of those around them. The best way to minister to people is to walk among them and try to understand them. That doesn't mean acting like them, it just means allowing yourself to be approachable and friendly.
When you live your faith you'll be surprised at how many people want to talk to you about it.
If you try to talk your faith, you'll find yourself speaking to an empty room.
Q. Can you tell us what's on your desk right now? What can readers look forward to in the years to come?
A. Another fun, quirky YA series that readers of Sweet Seasons will love! I'm also working on a Christian mystery series.
Q. Please briefly describe your latest book:
A. Girl. Job. Theme park.
Too brief? Kidding aside, The Summer of Cotton Candy is about a girl who gets her first summer job working for a theme park. She doesn't want to be there and one thing after another goes horribly wrong. Slowly, though, she begins to make friends, find her routine, and even gets a boyfriend. It's the most chaotic summer of her life and not at all what she wanted but it turns out to be exactly what she needed.
Q. What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
A. My number one priority is that readers have fun. Life is stressful enough I don't need to put anything heavy on them. I believe that entertainment should have as its primary goal to entertain. If I've accomplished that, then I'm happy. However, if I can show readers that personal growth, though painful, is worth it and that faith is a real, living, breathing thing then I consider that a bonus! The series has themes of self-discovery, being true to yourself, and living your faith in a way that's real. It would be nice if those helped somebody along the way. If all I accomplish, though, is taking one person out of a terrible day and allowing them to laughthen it's all worth it.
Q. Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, anoffice)?
A. I love this question!
The answer is: anywhere that I can! Seriously, probably ninety percent of the actual writing is done on the computer with the other ten percent scribbled out in restaurants, waiting rooms, cars, etc.
When it comes to thinking about the stories and working out plot points, though, take those numbers and flip them! I'm most creative when I'm not home. My husband and I will go to the beach or a restaurant and talk over the story. I take home a lot of paper placemats and napkins filled with scribbled notes!
Q. Your favorite book, and why?
A. The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey. He's my favorite author and it was the first of his books that I read. I love westerns and he is the master of them. I love the story because it's about redemption and also has a lot of action and romance in it as well.
Q. What book are you currently reading?
A. None, sadly. Writing leaves me very little time for reading.
Q. What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
A. Another fun, quirky YA series that readers of Sweet Seasons will love! I'm also working on a Christian mystery series.
Q. What one tip would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?
A. Persevere! Don't let yourself get discouraged by rejection or criticism. The way to become a published writer is just to keep working at it. Eventually you'll meet the right person who loves your writing. Until then, work at making that writing as strong as you can. Count every rejection letter as a friend that gets you one step closer to your acceptance letter.
Q. Why did you choose a young adult audience?
A. To be honest, I didn't. The first series of books I had the opportunity to write with Nancy Holder I had no clue were targeted to YA until we were halfway through writing the third one. My experience there has led me to other YA projects. I would have to say, though, that at least half the fan mail I get is from adults. I don't write anything that can't be enjoyed by people of any age.
That said, I think I do well with books targeted towards teens because in many ways I'm still a teenager. I dress like I'm seventeen, right down to my babydoll Supergirl shirts. I engage in the same types of social activities (lots of shopping and movie watching) as I did then with friends who are like minded.
I tell all my secrets to my stuffed animals, which I still collect. My close friends and I have annual girls only slumber parties even though most of us are married and some have kids. We stay up all night playing games (including Truth or Dare!), laughing, and pigging out.
My career has allowed me to keep a schedule that looks more like that of a college student, including pulling all-nighters to get a project done.
I also follow current pop culture trends, not because I have to, but because I enjoy it.
I'm a fan of Hannah Montana. I couldn't go to one of the concerts and our island doesn't have an IMAX screen so my husband took me over to Oahu so we could see the 3-D movie of the concert. (Scott so rocks, by the way!) I often joke that I am my target audience.
Q. Do you consider writing more of a career or a ministry?
A. Writing is both. I know, that's cheating to say that, but it's true.
I write novels as a career. I write a lot of other things as more of a ministry which I share with friends, family and strangers. Eventually I would like to find ways to marry the two. For example, I've done an Advent devotional for the church I used to work for and family and friends. Someday I'd like to do another one and sell it to a publisher so that it can find its way into bookstores.
Q. What did you want to be when you were growing up? How did you gofrom there to becoming a writer?
A. Growing up I knew I wanted to either be a veterinarian or a writer (or both like James Herriot).
I wrote a lot as a kid - everything from poetry to short stories to novels. Eventually I went to U.C. Davis where I was on the pre-vet track.
The end of my junior year I switched over and became an English major. The rest was a lot of hard work, constant writing, and networking.
Q. Do you have any future plans to retire from writing to do something else? What?
A. I have yet to meet a professional writer who retired from it. I'm sure one or two exist, but I've never heard of it.
A writer writes regardless of what else is going on in their life. It's a compulsion. I see myself doing other things down the road to enhance my life but none of them would have me retire from writing.
Q. Which of your characters would you most like to be?
A. In this book I'd like to be Tamara. I enjoy spoiling family andfriends and wish I had more time and money to do both.
Q. What Biblical truth are you trying to convey to your audience in this book?
A. Ecclesiastes 3:1 states that "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". Life is not static, it does not stand still no matter how much we wish it would. Everything happens in its season and that's one of the things Candace has to learn throughout the series.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 concludes "I knowthat there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God."
I like the last part that the good of a person's labor is the gift of God.
Candace won't fully understand much of the good of her labor until closer to the end of the series.
Q. Do you have any quirky habits or rituals that you observe while youare working on a writing project?
A. Every time a deadline is looming and I have a lot of writing to do I get a 12 pack of Coke and a jumbo box of Cheez-its. People see those on my desk they know not to interrupt because I'm probably in the middle of pulling an all-nighter!
Q. When we've finished this interview, what would you like your audienceto remember about you?
A. That I have more books coming out that they should definitely buy. J
About me specifically that I'm a person of great passion and intense spiritual beliefs who thinks that you should seize the opportunity to have crazy fun whenever you can because joyful is the man whose God is the Lord!
Q. Do you have any parting words?
A. Don't be afraid to be yourself. When you are free to do that then and only then will you find the friends, relationships, andopportunities in life that will be truly meaningful. True friendswill love you for what's real.