Interview with Author Crystal Walton

I discovered Crystal Walton’s well-written romances last year and am eagerly awaiting the next book in her current series! They are realistic, sweet, and filled with hope!

Your contemporary, clean romances are so fun to read! How did you choose the genre, meaning why “clean” and not mainstream romance, why “clean” without being Christian or inspirational?

Begin AgainOften in mainstream romance, a romance novel’s sole focus hinges on graphic sexual tension, which to me, ends up leaving romance feeling stilted and devalued. I prefer portraying romance as the beautiful, hard, sacrificial, painful, messy, redemptive gift that it is. Yes, that’s going to include physical attraction and real-life temptations and struggles. But it’s important to me to balance that out with a very real emotional connection between the characters themselves, and consequently between the characters and the readers.

I actually do consider the Home In You series to be inspirational romance. Maybe just an unconventional version. 🙂 My goal in approaching a story has always been to show the brokenness we carry, the lies we believe, and the journey God leads us on to discover the redemption He’s had for us all along. But I aim to write very subtle Christian messages. Again, my hope has been that anyone can pick up one of these sweet romances and find encouragement without being bombarded with an overtly religious message that might turn them off. So, in a way, I guess you can call it seeker sensitive. In both reading and writing, I prefer realistic, gritty stories with characters who have baggage from their pasts and who are just on the cusp of having their hearts opened to unconditional love. To me, the amazing beauty of redemption loses some of its effect if you overlook or sweep away the brokenness in our depravity. So, my stories aim to include both.

The Home In You series gets better with every book, in my opinion. The settings are varied and memorable: New York City, the Catskill Mountains, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the deep South. How did those distinct settings play into the characterizations and the plots? 

Still FallingThey’re all places I’ve been—places that have struck me in varying ways with memorable traits that made them fun to “word paint.” Since I’ve had the advantage of visiting each one, I’ve had the chance to observe the culture, so to speak, and how the context impacts locals’ behavior and temperaments. We’re talking some generalizations, of course. But they’re often quite realistic. And let’s be honest, they can be the most entertaining. I try to write each of my characters with unique traits that make them feel more like real people with quirks, tendencies, and cultural influences. In each book, you’ll see corresponding phrases, accents, and slang that fit the location. You’ll also notice temperament differences. For example, the characters from NYC tend to have a bolder, more straightforward approach. Some are even a bit gruff in ways. Whereas the characters outside of the city tend to have a laid-back, gentler demeanor mixed with the typical family value upbringing we’re accustomed to seeing in southern or country contexts. Similarly, plot elements follow what’s plausible and maybe even expected in a particular area, such as a storefront robbery in Queens, for example.

Your book covers are all striking. And all faces! Readers and authors have strong feelings about characters on covers – partial glimpse, full faces, similarities to the written description. What makes a cover “work” for you?

Write Me Home Covers can be oh so tricky when you’re working with stock photos. Your choices are limited, and you don’t often find the perfect models to match your characters. We do our best though! First off, I look for an image that conveys the sweet romance genre. Which, for me, means I’m looking for a tender portrayal of romance. Often times I’m drawn to a couple who’s face to face or embracing in a sweet pose. I didn’t necessarily set out to have all close-up images of couples. Write Me Home was originally going to be a standalone, so at the time, I wasn’t thinking about carrying out that consistency for multiple books in a series. But since I had started with that, I needed to keep that same feel for the others, and so far I’ve loved them all. 🙂

Just Maybe is one of my favorite books from 2017, one with heart and humor. It also deals with a sensitive issue: infertility. How did you approach writing a character with that particular cross?

Just MaybeThis was actually an easy one for me to tackle because I’ve lived through infertility personally, among other health issues. I’ve walked through the pain of questioning why God hasn’t healed me or others I love from certain ailments. It’s not an easy question by any means. I didn’t write it so I could tout off a pat answer. Because, truthfully, I don’t have one. But I know infertility is a very real and very common burden women carry, and I wanted to be able to give that pain a voice and reframe what can often lead to scars and bitterness as something that can lead to unexpected blessing.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the fourth and final book in the Home In You series. Livy, one of the side characters in the last two books will get her own story this time. Similar to the others, it’ll mix humor, family, romance, and depth as broken characters walk through a tumultuous journey of finding grace and second chances. This one happens to take place in the same location as Just Maybe, and may or may not include one very charming country boy. 😉


Crystal WaltonCrystal Walton received her bachelor of arts from Messiah College in PA, married her exact opposite in upstate NY, and earned her master of arts from Regent University in VA, where she currently resides with her husband, David.

She writes modern clean romances with humor, broken characters, and emotional plots full of grace and hope. Her popular Home In You series includes Write Me Home, a 2017 RONE Award finalist, and Begin Again, a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award winner. When not working her accounting day job, she’s delving into the wonder of words, supporting her Starbucks habit, or laughing over movie quotes with her husband.

Website: http://crystal-walton.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crystalwaltonwrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallwalton

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/crystallwalton/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/crystallwalton/


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The Ogress’ Son

The Ogress' Son

About the Book:

It’s a new Dark Age.

200 YEARS AGO:
An apocalyptic level scientific overreach catastrophe reversed the poles, killed off 97% of the world’s population, and caused inheritable genetic anomalies in some of the few who survived.

TODAY:
Those with flawed genes, the Unearthly, are pariahs, science and technology is regulated by a despotic king, lawlessness has given way to local fiefdoms, and a new dark age has arisen, explaining what were once scientific facts as legend, lore, and myth.

NOW:
Slade lives a quiet life in the Iron Wood, hunting alongside his mother and visiting the village only to trade goods. But when she’s assassinated, he goes out into the dreaded human world to find her killer. Human he might be, but as the son of the Ogress, he is unafraid of rebels, Syndicate crime lords, or ruthless nobles who would love nothing more than to see him dead.

My Review:

I unknowingly made my first foray into steampunk with The Ogress’ Son, and I’m glad I did. Page Zaplendam creates an intriguing world – a medieval type future with a high-tech past waiting to be recovered. The problem lies in which faction does the recovering – those who are secreting each advancement for their own political gain or those would use it to bring power to the people?

The story follows the ogress’ son, Slade, as he seeks justice – or is it revenge? – for his mother’s death. On the way, he is drawn into a conflict by a princess in exile, so to speak, Matilde, and rival factions.

Slade waffles about whether he can trust Matilde despite his attraction to her. The reader will wonder, along with Slade, where allegiances lie and whether Slade, son of an ogre, can lead men in a city-wide revolution.

While the story resolved to my satisfaction, I’m guessing there may be more to Slade’s story in subsequent novels. The revolution has just begun.

About the Author:

Page Zaplendam is a southern writer with a wide range of fiction interests. As mama to a lot of littles, she doesn’t gets her books out there as often as she’d like, but it’s not for lack of having the need to craft, create, and share new stories with the world. Besides exciting dystopian adventure tales, she also writes about vampires, sweet romance, and sometimes sweet vampire romance.


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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the February 2018 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!

BloodlineWith the addition of Hoopla Digital to our local library membership, travel time, and ongoing frustrations with his progressive lenses, my husband’s favorite way of “reading” has become audiobooks. He’s been listening to Bloodline by Claudia Gray. This Star Wars story takes place before The Force Awakens, at the birth of The Resistance. My husband characterizes it as less an action story and more political intrigue, focusing on Princess Leia in particular.

The Lady and the LionheartI’d read so many glowing reviews of The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, that I feared the book could never live up to the hype. I discovered, however, that it’s worthy of the praise it’s received. If you enjoy a character-driven story, a gentle romance, and a book that tugs on your heartstrings, you’ll enjoy the novel. Like any good fiction, there are themes and layers that resonate with truth, calling the reader to go deeper, examining what truly defiles the body, and how we participate in Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. Set amidst 19th century circus life, it’s a book that leaves an impression.

All the Light We Cannot SeeI’d also read many raves about Pulitzer-prize winner All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It tells the story of two children during World War II: one a blind French girl whose father hides a sought-after gem, and the other a German orphan boy with an affinity for radio communication. The story was beautifully written, the characters expertly drawn, but in the end, while I enjoyed the book, I felt as if the hint of hope was too little, too late for me. (For more discussion, check out this month’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk.)

Bible Basics for CatholicsMy oldest son is still concentrating on the Greek mythology he began reading last month, but he brought home a new book he received at a  school assembly: Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History by John Bergsma. His copy has a different cover and is marked the “Special Augustine Institute Edition,” but I don’t know how that differs from other editions. It takes the reader through the Bible with a broad eight-chapter overview, including some stick figure illustrations.

The PenderwicksAfter seeing this National Book Award winner recommended twice within a few days, I requested a copy from the library. It’s The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. My daughter enjoyed what she thought was a more realistic depiction of family life than she usually reads. The children needed correction, and the siblings sometimes didn’t agree.

Shoo-Fly GirlShoo-Fly Girl by Lois Lenski is about an Amish girl who (along with other Amish children) attends public school. This author is a new favorite of my daughter’s, and she’s slowly working her way through the library collection. It includes a recipe for shoo-fly pie, which is a big deal in Lancaster, PA, but which I always find a bit bland.

Gilgamesh the KingAfter studying the Epic of Gilgamesh, my oldest son was enthusiastic about sharing the story with his little siblings and found this picture book, which I borrowed from the library. Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman is the first book in a trilogy. (Why the library carries the first one and not the remaining two is beyond me.) We enjoyed the retelling for children and ancient-looking but still inviting illustrations.

Mercy WatsonThe Mercy Watson series is our all-time FAVORITE for beginning readers! The series features a pampered pet pig, Mercy (a “porcine wonder”), who loves nothing more than hot buttered toast. In her quest for it – and a bit of adventure – Mercy is involved in some hilarious escapades. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo is my favorite of the series. And, I absolutely love the illustrations by Chris Van Dusen, which make me laugh out loud. Mercy wears such a look of innocent glee.

Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!Our copy of Puppies! Puppies! Puppies! by Susan Meyers is well-loved and tattered. All of our children have loved this simple picture book. They study the illustrations by David Walker on each page, and pick out which puppy represents them. Cute rhyming story, fun read-aloud, and charming illustrations.

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When You Fast: Jesus Has Provided the Solution Blog Tour

With Lent about to begin, I can’t think of a better time to read this short book and to  implement it in your life.

When You Fast

About the Book:

There are many references to fasting in Scripture. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 5, Jesus puts the solution in front of us when he says, “When you fast.” He doesn’t say “If you fast,” but “When you fast.” As Christians, we’re supposed to imitate Jesus. Jesus fasted before every major event in His life. Continue reading

Guest Post: Small Things Brought Together

(Or How to Grow As A 10 Minute Novelist)

10MinCon

Back in 2006, I did a pretty small thing: I decided to take my writing career seriously. Now the problem I had, besides a lack of confidence, was that I didn’t have any time to do this. My time was consistently taken up by the other small things in my life: my five children, who were, at the time between the ages of six months and eight years old.

I decided that whatever effort I could put toward my dreams of writing would be worth it, even the smallest. So I set my timer and did my best to write ten minutes a day. If I was lucky, I could get several ten minute increments of writing in between laundry, meals, homeschooling and other domestic duties. Because I am a mother, I understood then and I understand now that true growth doesn’t come in leaps and bounds. Growth comes in the tiniest of disciplines. My children grow because I feed them daily. They learn how to read, how to be a decent human being, and how to become who they were destined to be by slow, steady growth. Continue reading

Disobedience: Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

As a parent, I most often hear myself repeating the same instructions, “Hurry up,” “Leave your brother/sister alone,” or the ever-favorite, “Get off of the bed while I’m making it.” Other times, I’m saying bizarre things I never thought I’d hear myself say, such as, ” Get that Spider-Man out of the freezer,” “No, you can’t bring that rifle to church, ” or “Get your face out of your brother’s butt.”

But every once in a while, I say something that resonates with me. A few words that make me stop and re-examine them as you would a diamond in the sunlight, twisting it this way and that, examining it from all sides. Continue reading

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn’t Get To

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday . . .

10 Books I Meant To Read In 2017

But Didn’t Get To

(and totally plan to get to in 2018!)

Here’s a smattering of books I’ve been meaning to get to for oh, so long! I stuck to ten, but there are a whole lot more. Hopefully this list will keep me accountable. Some of these books I won as prizes. Others I downloaded on sale days, for free. One’s a classic I’ve never read. And one I’ve returned to the library, unread, at least once.

What books have you been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet? Continue reading