Today I’m pleased to have two fellow Astraea Press authors, Patricia Kiyono and Stephanie Michels, being interviewed. They’re talking a little about themselves and their new release The Calico Heart.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Patty: I’m a retired elementary schoolteacher, mom to five kids aged 25 through 43, grandmother to eight and counting. I was born in Japan, but came to America before my first birthday. Other than four years at Illinois State University, I’ve lived in southwest Michigan since then. Since retiring from full-time teaching, I’ve been able to pursue y dream of writing and am so pleased to have found a writing home at Astraea Press.
Stephanie: Hi, Lindsay! Thanks for inviting us here today so we could meet your readers. I’m from Midwest Michigan, but I’ve also lived in South Carolina, Missouri, and for a brief time in Germany. My family includes, three grown children, their spouses, eleven wonderful grandchildren, as well as my somewhat spoiled – okay totally spoiled – Yorkie. I recently retired from the corporate world, where I’ve written non-fiction articles, training manuals, and advertising copy. The Calico Heart is my first published work of fiction, and I’m grateful to Patty for the opportunity to co-write with her.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Patty: I keep busy teaching a music education course at a local university, judging at music festivals, working at a bakery, babysitting my grandkids and writing. I also belong to two sewing groups (one is a quilting group, which inspired the Stitching Post series), and a scrapbooking group.
Stephanie: I’m a somewhat compulsive reader. If something is printed, I have to read it. That includes everything from newspapers and books down to the print on my cereal box. I have books everywhere, and I’m trying to convert them to eBooks before they take over my house (If I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll be on one of those TV shows about hoarders). Seriously, when I’m not reading, writing, or spending time with family and friends, I crochet, embroider, and play computer games – especially word games (Patty trounces me regularly at Word With Friends).
What inspired you to write your first book?
Patty: In 2011 Astraea Press put out a call for charity novellas, for which the money would go for Japan relief. My father’s father came from Sendai, near the epicenter of the quake. Since I was already working on a novel about a samurai soldier, I decided to write a novella about the samurai’s modern day descendant, and The Legacy was born.
Stephanie: The summer I was 4, I was bedridden with rheumatic fever. I would plague my folks (and any adult who visited) to read to me. So, my parents taught me to read (probably a desperate attempt to save their sanity). I quickly learned I could put words together to make up little stories, too. However, the first actual book I remember writing was back in grade school. My friends and I were avid Nancy Drew fans, so I decided to write a mystery. I wrote it longhand in a notebook and passed it around to my friends to read at recess. Looking back on it, the story was really far-fetched! But with 10-year old enthusiasm, my friends loved it. Their enthusiasm inspired me to keep writing.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
Patty: I write romances because I understand them the best. I’ve been reading them for a long time. When my kids were young and I worked full time, I often had a hard time going to sleep, even though I was exhausted. Reading a romance helped me to de-stress because a good romance would get me involved in the characters’ conflicts, and by the end of the book all was right with the world – and then I could sleep. I’m hoping my books do that for others.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Stephanie: There are a lot of authors who have inspired me and made me itch to write a book. I have many writing heroes, who have changed over the years, but the book that most inspired me was a Golden Book I had as a child, The Little Engine that Could. My Dad used to read it to me and tell me I could do or be anything I wanted if I just believed in myself. That probably isn’t a very profound answer, but it is the truth. I have the catch phrases from the book, “I think I can…I knew I could” on a tack board above my desk.
What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why?
Stephanie: Nicholas Sparks might be famous for his tragic romances, but I prefer Happily Ever After endings. So, for me, writing the Valentine morning scene in The Calico Heart put a smile on my face. I had a lot of fun writing about Sylvia and Dave throughout the book, but this scene was a particular favorite.
What has been the best compliment?
Patty: I’m always very happy when people tell me they like the main characters in my stories. It tells me I’ve managed to create someone who’s believable and likeable.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Patty: Keep reading, keep writing, and keep learning. There are so many resources available to aspiring writers now. There are lots of groups you can join, especially if you live near a metropolitan area. And now there are online groups to join, and several offer workshops that offer helpful information. Don’t give up!
Do you see writing as a career?
Stephanie: Wow, I sure hope so! I retired from the corporate world in order to make this lifelong dream a reality. When Astraea Press accepted The Calico Heart, I felt it was a confirmation that I’d made the right choice. It’s also proof that we’re never too old to attempt something new. We just need to believe in ourselves and be like that little train: “I think I can!”
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Stephanie: As I mentioned earlier, my interest in writing came at a very early age. I learned to read at four, but I don’t know exactly how old I was when I started to write. I do remember looking at a story book one day and thinking, “those are just words all put together; I could do that, too!” God bless the unbridled confidence of children! Wouldn’t the world be a marvelous world if all of us kept that faith in our abilities?
Thanks again, Lindsay, for letting us visit. It has been a pleasure!
Blurb for The Calico Heart by Patricia Kiyono and Stephanie Michels:
On the surface, Sylvia Miller has a perfect life. She’s married to her college sweetheart, has three great kids and a rewarding career, and wonderful friends. But beneath the appearances, Sylvia is restless. She loves her husband, but wants to see more of the world than their peaceful Michigan town. For years, she’s dreamed of the interesting places she wants to visit. Now, their youngest child is grown, and Sylvia is ready for adventure.
Left a penniless orphan, David Miller promised himself his family would never know the same humiliation. For twenty-six years, he and Sylvia have lived frugally, saving for the future. Now, Dave is on the brink of a promotion that will ensure their financial security, but Sylvia wants him to retire and travel with her.
When Dave refuses, Sylvia decides to go alone. But it’s a decision that could cost them more than money.