Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so pleased to have Craig Hastings as my guest. I am so inspired by the way he points to our loving God even when talking about suffering and loss. I love how he talked about his characters in his head and the advice he’s given to aspiring writers. Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of his book!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised in Muncie, IN, and I’m about as typical middle-America as they come. My parents divorced when I was young and my grandmother came to live with my mother, two sisters, and me. Seeing my grandmother’s faith in God on a regular basis led me to accept and know everything is okay, God’s in charge.
I served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and followed this as a DoD contractor where I had multiple tours overseas and around the U.S. While there were events in my life that tested my faith in God, nothing compared to when my first son was born with major medical issues.
As a twenty-one-year-old father with a young devastated wife, my faith had never been tested more. After enduring several surgeries, some considered experimental, my son passed away at six months and two weeks. But even in his brief life, he had a tremendous impact on me and others. Since then, God has blessed me with two more sons, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter and has been a constant guidance in my life.
My time in the military and as a contractor afterward included over 20 years overseas, where I was part of local mission churches. On our last return to the states, God led my wife and I to Oklahoma, where I teach Bible studies and serve as a Deacon in a local church.
The memory of what God did to help me through my parent’s divorce, my son’s illness and death, and many other events in my life, has always led me to want to share what impact God had and has with me. This led to my first published book.
Nowhere are we promised a life without tragedies, setbacks, problems, or devastating events we have no control over, but God’s word does promise, ‘It’s okay, God’s in charge.’
Tell us about your current release: MOOSE RIDGE: ENDING TO BEGINNING
All beginnings lead to endings, but some endings bring beginnings.
Attending Harvard was the first positive thing in Jazmine’s life in a long time. While a member of an affluent New York family, her mother died when she was five and her father went to jail when she was twelve. Jazmine lost everything leaving her a ward of the state and became a foster child.
Meeting Michael, a medical student was her second positive experience. Now she’s looking forward to the perfect life she dreamed about. Leaving Boston and New York behind, the only cities she’s ever known, she’s on her way to join Michael and start their new life together in Wyoming where he will complete his neurosurgical residency. She’s had a lot of hard blows, but now all her hard work and dedication are going to pay off. The day has arrived for her and Michael to start the beginning of their future life together. Jazmine just knows, for once, everything is going to be exactly how she always dreamed it could be.
Then she’s handed the letter.
This is a story of Jazmine, who is ready to give up. She is sure her life has ended, and she only has an existence. But then, finding others who have suffered tragedies, yet are encouraged and strengthened by their faith and blessings from God, shocks her. Witnessing the living and sharing of their faith leads Jazmine to envision a beginning rather than an ending.
With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I tell them to be quiet, but it seldom works. All I can do is listen and get it down as fast as I can. Sometime I do have to give them a time out, though. One example of a character’s persistence is in a spy thriller series I’m working on. She was originally intended only as a side character to give depth to the story, but she kept forcing herself (in a nice way) into the story until she was not only a major character in this book, but became one of the two main characters in the books that follow. I will add, all the characters can be exceptionally intrusive when I’m trying to sleep. This is the burden most writers suffer.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I’m a ‘seat of the pants’ writer, so no. I have a basic concept and start with it. Then I let the story lead me. I may not even know how it will end until I’m almost at that point. This also means the characters and plot lines come to light as I write. This can also lead to the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ normally caused by trying to force the story to go a different direction. Once I relent and let the story lead the way, I find the block goes away. Also, with Christian stories, I feel it is important to let the Holy Spirit lead in getting out the message God wants presented. This process also means that the final draft may not even be close to the original concept, but as in everything, that’s okay, God’s in charge.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? That’s easy. Write. Read. Write more.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel? What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? I’ve always been a story teller and being an avid reader, I have often found things in books that seemed off to me. I would think, that’s not how I’d write this, or that makes no sense. So, after years of having these thoughts and a basic idea for a book, I finally had time and started writing.
One huge roadblock for me was eliminated by having a computer. I’m a computer programmer and many of us have a terrible grasp of grammar and spelling. One reason spellcheck was one of the first freeware programs available for the PC. Not only does the computer help with these, it also makes editing, changes, corrections, and reviewing, much easier. I have huge respect for all authors who completed works prior to the availability of computers. Think about it, back then if you needed to change a sentence or even a word on a page you would have to retype the entire page. And this might also require redoing the next page or pages. I’d hate to admit how many drafts my books go through even before they reach an editor. But being a computer file instead of physical pages of paper, this is all made simple.
I’m always intrigued by how writers get started…did you always have these books inside you and knew that you wanted to write them or did the idea just pop into your head one day and you decided to put pen to paper? First off, after years of programming and a little arthritis, my handwriting is atrocious. Not that it was that good before the arthritis. So, I prefer to put fingers to keyboard. As for book ideas, I had a basic idea for a book for years, but never had the time to devote to writing it. I also derided myself that I wasn’t a writer or author and who would want to read what I wrote anyway. But at one point I found myself with time on my hands and, ignoring all negative thoughts, I started typing a book I would like to read. The story flowed well and it wasn’t long and I had a complete book. Notice I said complete and not finished. This is when I found out I was done with the easy part. Now came the review, edit, change, repeat stage. Along with this was learning what was needed to get an agent and/or publish my book. A completely new process to me.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? I normally have several books in the works, so if I hit a block on one, I’ll put it aside and work on another book. This allows me to go back later with a clear mind and things normally progress from there.
I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book, and go in a different direction? Constantly. None of my books have followed a preconceived plot. The original basic idea is there, but for me, I like to let the story lead me.
I often wondered …. when you sit down to write that first line/paragraph in a new book/novella, is it difficult to get that started or do the words flow easily? I never worry about the perfect opening line. I know the odds of it staying what I originally start with is slim. For me it’s more important to get the basics of the story down and then do the fine tuning later.
What is the farthest location you traveled to in order to research a book? In truth, about an arm’s length. I do my research online although some information comes from where I have lived over the years and my own first-hand experiences.
How hard is it to come up with names for your characters? What are some of the sources you use? It can be difficult as the name needs to fit the character, yet it can’t be someone famous or even someone you know. I use lists of names available on the internet to get started. First names are the hardest for me as the last names seem to flow once you have the first. I do trial and error to make sure the name fits the character and the story. Again, the internet is one of the writer’s best sources.
How old were you when you wrote your first book? I finished the draft of my first book when I was 59.
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Craig is giving away reader’s choice of ebook or paperback (international is just ebook) of his book! Here’s how you can enter to win: