Christa Bedwin | Author Interview
One of the best things about editing is that I get to read some really inspiring works. I want to share some of the amazing people I have had a chance to collaborate with.
I have always enjoyed various genres, so you never know who I will be featuring here!
This month, I have Christa Bedwin, who combines two of my favorite things: dragons and strong female leads! Oh, and she digs science, like me… I’m pretty sure we are soul sisters.
Her latest book, Caterina’s Renaissance, is coming out on June 22, 2018. I fell in love with her characters—to the point where the day after I finished the book, I woke up and thought, “I wonder what Caterina and Massimo are up to…” and then got really sad when I remembered that I was done with the story. And despite Caterina’s neighbors being secondary characters, I still want to spend time at their beautiful home and maybe have a few drinks with them. You know this means Christa has some writing skills!
So let’s get to know Christa better.
Who are you?
What a great question. I’ve done exercises in yoga philosophy where you sort of meditate on this question to find out who you are… and if you go down through the layers, through all the labels and ideas that we put on top of ourselves, the answer is “love. I am love.”
Love = Mother and Teacher (read more)
Maybe that’s why my first instinctive answer to this question that sprang to mind is that I’m a mother. I love being a mother, even though I wanted five kids at least, and only ended up with one son and no husband to make more kids with. But between the two of us, my son and I, we do share a lot of love and support. We have travelled and adventured together a lot, and he offers me a wise and interesting perspective on a lot of issues that wouldn’t occur to me straightaway. As we have learned in our travels, oftentimes people in those larger, seemingly ideal families can be lonelier than we are with just two. He’s a really nice person to live with. Doing a good job of raising him is probably the most important thing in my life at the moment.
I am also a teacher. I can’t bear to watch someone fail if I can see a way to show them how to succeed… I used to love to teach chemistry and math to high school students. I still love teaching people to write, but I also love to teach through my characters and my writing. I learned a lot through the hundreds of books I have read, and I like to think that readers walk away from my books having picked up something cool too, whether that is a few ways to manage a difficult personality or situation, or a new food from afar that they would like to try.
But of course…
And, of course, I’m a writer. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I wasted so many years trying to play the “normal” life game because people told me I somehow wasn’t allowed to be a writer. I am a writer and the times in my life that I haven’t allowed myself to spend the time putting my words on paper, the stories have piled up in my head anyways. I wish I had always had the confidence to write them down, but I’m trying to make up for lost time now!
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I love the power authors have to step into our lives and cheer us up, offer us ideas to improve our lives, and expand our horizons. I had an unusual upbringing, and I always wanted to be able to share that with others.
What is most important for your writing routine?
First of all, ha ha! Routine? 😀 No.
I write when I get a chance, when the decks are cleared of paying work. As a single mom I sort of usually feel I have to put rent and feeding us first… When I have an empty space of time and air and relaxation, then, ah, then, the creativity comes rushing in. It’s a bit hard to let your mind roam when it’s constrained by deadlines and pressures… but then sometimes that’s when the best creativity comes. I remember that I started my first novel that’s now published, The Celtic Coast Connection, when I had this horrible roommate when I was at my first teaching job, and I couldn’t sleep because I was trying to figure out how to deal with the challenges she was throwing into my life. I went to the all-night truck stop, and that’s when I started writing my first novel.
And more recently?
Finishing Caterina’s Renaissance happened all of a sudden, the last 27,000 words in a matter of days, after two and a half years of not writing much on that novel at all. (I’d lost my day job, and that sort of derailed the book for two years while I re-established life and income. But then we were finally in Europe where we wanted to be, and my son had gone for a visit to his grandparents, so I had some time alone and I had enough money for a while, so I wasn’t stressed about finding freelance work. I lived very inexpensively in a campsite by the sea in Sicily for a few weeks, sleeping in the tent with the cats with 24/7 sound of waves in my ears… and poof, creativity. The reduction in stress opened up my mind and my heart and it all came onto the page. As Virginia Woolf said, a woman needs a room of her own and plenty of money to write. I wish it was less true, but… All my kudos to moms who juggle earning the bread, raising kids, a lover-husband, and write, too! I think the key is to be at peace and feel that you’re where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do.)
Ideally it would be great if I could be earning enough money to live and send my son to university just with my novels, but until then I’ll be grateful for whatever writing time I can carve out between paying work, and very grateful for the paying work too! I do love teaching and writing and editing about science. I am lucky to love what I do.
What do you think is important in shaping characters?
Maybe twenty years ago I was reading those little quotes in Reader’s Digest, and they had one from Maeve Binchy. She said that her characters all started as losers at the beginning of the book but they get better. I think that’s the key to a great book. Not just people moving around doing stuff, even if it’s fun adventurous stuff, but also growing, learning, falling in love, getting new perspectives, becoming better.
How did you make such a kickass female lead?
Haha. Thank you. I guess all of my leads are strong women, because I was raised on a cattle ranch by a mom who makes Clint Eastwood look pretty wimpy. I really believe in books being uplifting, and even though my characters aren’t perfect people, I want them to do things in their adventures that show us all how to live better. To remind us of the things we ought to do and be, maybe even to give us a yardstick to measure ourselves against.
What do you look for in a good book?
The first thing is positivity and nonviolence.
I do not believe in reading extra, created horror, about violence, about people treating each other badly and swearing. I have had enough bad stuff in my real life. If I’m reading for pleasure, I want it to make me feel good.
I am really confused by people wanting to read and write about horrible things… We have so much evidence that thinking positive things, feeling positive things, makes your life better. So I believe in reading positive, thinking positive, writing positive, speaking positive, whenever possible. I believe we should each say nice things to and about ourselves and those around us: cashiers you meet and people in the street and especially, especially the people in your life. Words are our greatest power. We need to be careful with how we use them and which ones we choose.
Also, after twenty years as an editor, I admit I don’t spend a lot of time on a book if the author makes it hard on me by writing poor sentences, long, unbroken paragraphs, unpracticed dialogue, and that sort of thing. Readers aren’t supposed to have to work to get your message. Writers do the work. Editors can help. Readers are just there to enjoy and be inspired. 😀
What are your favorite examples of strong women in literature?
Probably female detectives, from Miss Marple to Jessica Fletcher, Rosemary & Thyme to Phryne Fisher, and all the others. All of them. I love how they’re brilliant and adventurous and determined, and they get the job done with, or without, the cooperation of the various heroes in the stories.
I also love how, sometimes unlike their male counterparts, they both consider the complex personalities and motivations of real people and care about those people, too. Sometimes they help situations work out so that everyone’s lives can continue as well as possible after the end of the book.
I think this is exactly how women should act and treat each other in real life, too: be smart, be strong, stand up for people who need a hand, always help other women do good things if you can. Be a force for good.
I really love this. I am all about empowering women through writing!
Do you have any advice for would-be authors?
Think about your message and why you are writing. I hope it’s not just to sell books. Writing is one of the most powerful human activities that exists to inspire – or to ruin the lives of – other humans. Think about your readers and what they walk away with. Hopefully, their time with your book made their life not just more pleasurable, but better in ways that will continue as the years pass.
Where can we learn more about you and keep track of any new releases?
Luckily, as far as I know, I’m the only Christa Bedwin in the known universe. So typing my name into the search bar should find me easily enough! I always respond to polite correspondence and absolutely love to hear from readers! It makes my day.
That’s fun! There are a surprising number of Melinda Campbells out in the world.
What do you love most about writing what you write?
I adore the historical research! I love that I can choose the coolest places that I have been to (I’ve travelled to nearly fifty countries so far, so I have plenty of things left to write!) and then craft a plot around real things that happened, or the real ways people lived their daily lives. It is so much fun.
I also really love when people tell me that they’re thinking of my characters long after they put the book down and that my characters are nice people to be with.
Did I forget anything that you really want to say?
Thank you, Melinda. You inspire me, too.
Oh man… All the feels! 💜 Thank you so much!