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?
Often 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?
They’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?
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?
This 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 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.
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