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A Starlight Christmas--Interview with author JoAnn Durgin
Today, I’m joined by author JoAnn Durgin. I’d like to first introduce you to her newest e-novella Starlight, Star Bright, now available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors and Pelican Book Group websites.
Dante Moretti, Texas-born goalie of an Italian World Cup champion team, expects Starlight, Iowa will be only a blip on the radar of his life. Grabbing a quick meal at Barney’s Diner during the holidays, Dante meets two women who capture his heart in very different ways. Then his rental car won’t start and leaves him stranded. Does the Lord have a plan for bringing him—and keeping him—in Starlight?
Amanda Marston is excited to be home for her brother’s wedding. When she drops in for a cup of coffee at Barney’s, she’s charmed by the mysterious, Italian-spouting cowboy. Before she can blink, the handsome stranger is helping with projects all over town and working his way into her heart. Does God have a plan for Dante in her beloved little Starlight or will he take her heart with him when he returns to Italy?
Thanks for coming today, JoAnn! Starlight, Star Bright is the second book in your Starlight series. What inspired you to create the town of Starlight, Iowa?
My Lewis Legacy Series is based on urban professionals and their adventures take them all over the globe. So, for my Christmas novellas, I felt the strong need to focus on small-town Americana and the special (if sometimes quirky) characters. We have a town here in Indiana (just up the road from my hometown) named Starlight. I thought it sounded like the ideal setting for a small fictional town in snowy Iowa during the holiday season. I had so much fun writing the Christmas novella last year and knew I wanted to write another one this year. However, the idea of writing the sequel was actually prompted by readers requesting a return to Starlight. I love that!
The hero in Starlight, Star Bright is a soccer champ. Are you a fan of soccer?
I’ve loved soccer ever since my friends and I cheered on our high school boys and they won the state championship back in (garbled year). I love a number of sports and even make a fun mention one of my favorite professional football stars, Adam Vinatieri, in Starlight, Star Bright. Adam was the place kicker for the New England Patriots when we lived in the Boston area, and Adam’s kick in the last play of the game won the 2001 Super Bowl for the Pats (their first ever). Interestingly enough, Adam now plays for the Indianapolis Colts, and—wouldn’t you know—the father of one the attorneys in my law firm works for the Colts. He’s going to make sure a signed paperback copy of the book gets to Adam. Pretty cool, huh? I think it’ll make him smile (or at least it’ll probably make Adam’s wife smile). You have to read the book to find out why!
Barney’s Diner has become as important to this series as the characters themselves—a staple in the community for a cup of coffee and good conversation. Is there a place in your life, past or present that inspired Barney’s?
Not really, although there was a fun place in Dallas, Texas called the Vickery Feed Store. It was like “the” place to go in Dallas for the young professionals on Saturday mornings years (my kids would say eons) ago when I was single. That tiny little place actually played a “role” of sorts in my love story with my husband (but that’s another story for another day; my debut novel, Awakening, is loosely based on our story). I think every town has a place like Barney’s. A character named Caroline Picasso plays a major role in both my Starlight books, and Barney’s figures prominently into the life of her character.
What else would you like to tell us about Starlight, Star Bright?
Italy is my favorite European country and I also love Texas cowboys. So, I combined both of those interests in the character of my hero, Dante Moretti, in Starlight, Star Bright, and he’s affectionately nicknamed Italian Cowboy. I adored the opportunity to insert a few Italian words and phrases here and there. I also love Jake’s role as the big brother and protector for his younger sister, Amanda, in this book. All the usual quirky Starlight characters make an appearance plus a few new ones, too. This second book also has a surprise ending I doubt many, if anyone, will see coming. But again, you have to read the book to find out. Rest assured, though, I’m always a queen of happy endings!
The first book in your Starlight series is Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, is a story about an injured firefighter who made a special promise to God. Please, tell us more about that story and how it ties to you personally.
Jake makes a promise to the Lord that he won’t kiss a girl until he knows she’s “the one” he’s going to marry. Sure, he’s dated, and he’s a handsome man. Some ridicule him for it, but he honors that promise. Jake is such a loyal man and he’s honorable and strong. I think it makes it all the more special when that kiss finally comes…under the mistletoe, of course. It’s based on my own husband Jim’s same vow to the Lord when he was a teenager. You can imagine my feelings when Jim kissed me for the first time. Although unique, it’s very, very special and I treasure him. In a fun and pivotal moment in Starlight, Star Bright, Dante asks Amanda if she made the same promise.
Do you and your family have any Christmas traditions you observe every year?
Do you and your family have any Christmas traditions you observe every year?
The last five years or so, we’ve celebrated Christmas early with other family members and then usually exchange gifts with our immediate family on Christmas Eve. Because our three kids are older now, we sleep in on Christmas morning and then take our time fixing a meal. The best thing of all? We stay in our jammies all day long!
Do you have a special snack or drink that you keep handy when writing?
Confession time. I love Polar Pops (half-Coke, half-Diet Coke). If I feel like living dangerously, I’ll even add a squirt of vanilla syrup in it! Hey, it’s my only vice, and I figure I’m entitled. I love popcorn, too. I’ve been known to go to the movie theater for the express purpose of buying a large, layered buttered popcorn without even seeing a movie. So, maybe I have two vices. But they’re worth it!
What are some challenges you face as a writer?
In no particular order: lack of energy, lack of sleep (yes, the two are interconnected), not enough time to write creatively since I’m constantly marketing and editing, and my greatest “sins” in writing are omission (forgetting the “little” words) and repetition (using the same word in the same paragraph and—to my chagrin—sometimes in the same sentence…shudder). Sometimes I can only shake my head. Sometimes I have to laugh. But never once (knocking on the proverbial wood here) have I ever suffered writer’s block. That would be tragic. In my case, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to indulge in my passion for writing.
What is your writing process? Do you plot your stories, or do they come alive as you type?
I’m a complete and total SOTP (seat of the pants) writer. I feel stifled if I have an outline or everything plotted out on paper. Of course, I have an idea in my mind of the basic story, but nothing thrills me more, creatively speaking, than seeing where the Lord and my imagination will take me. Unlike many authors, I don’t set goals of word counts because it has the opposite effect and slows me down. Writing is my passion and I adore seeing the story take shape, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter.
JoAnn would like to give away a copy of Starlight, Star Bright today! Simply leave a comment at the end of this post, and you're entered to win! A winner will be announced on this blog and my Facebook page on December 5th.
Thanks for joining us today, JoAnn!
Thank you for hosting me today, Candice! It’s my honor to join you today and so happy we share novellas in the same Christmas collection from Pelican Book Group.