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 excited to have fellow autism mama and cozy mystery writer Alyssa Helton as my guest! Alyssa is giving away a copy of her latest release, so read on to see how you can enter to win!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hmmm, let’s see. Well, I’m a forty-one year old mother of three plus three step-children. My husband and I have four of our six kids living with us. Both of my sons are on the autism spectrum; the oldest having Asperger’s and being very high functioning. My middle son, Sam, is I guess considered moderately autistic. My stepson is bi-polar, and thankfully, making great progress. Even still, we have a rather interesting household! I spent a few years teaching in special education, and I was also a minister of music for over a decade. Most of my education and training are in those two areas. However, in recent years, I have taken a more active role in my husband’s painting business along with becoming an author.
Tell us about your current release. My current release, Coffee, Kids, and a Kidnapping, is a new genre for me. I’ve always loved reading cozy mysteries, and thought I’d give this a try. It’s gotten some great reviews from both friends and readers. This story has more of myself and my life in it than any other. Charlotte is a single mother of three with one of her sons having autism. She goes to church, prays, and seeks the wisdom of her “gaggle of grannies.” But, she’s also a bit impulsive and curious…okay, nosy, and easily annoyed. One could say she’s a bit hard-headed as well, but that’s how she gets the mystery solved!
What inspired you to start writing? My first book was a children’s book, SamBoy Vs the Closet Monster, which is based on my middle son, Sam and his imaginary adventures as SamBoy (a name he created for himself). He was my first inspiration. In fact, there are almost a dozen of these stories written; just working on getting them all illustrated. After that, I had always wanted to write about my family. I grew up spending weekends with my great-grandparents and I knew the story about my great-great grandparents having twenty five children, being share croppers, etc. It always sounded like a fascinating tale to me; one that ought to be shared. A few years ago, I started a forty day media fast. No television. No Netflix. During that time, I began to write. Most of Dogwood Alley, my first novel, was written during that time. That series loosely documents my family’s East Tennessee roots beginning in the 1930’s. Other inspirations have come from historical stories I’ve read. My newest book is inspired by my own life and secret wish for adventure!
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? I step away. Sometimes I’ll write on a different story. Other times I’ll distract myself with household chores or something productive other than writing. I’ve also been known to keep Facebook open and glance through my news feed for a few minutes while in the midst of writing. I have no idea why this works for me, but it does. It distracts me long enough that when I return to the computer screen (I write at the computer), my mind refreshes the story and can continue writing. Weird, I know.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you being writing, or do they develop as you write? Both! I have a general outline, a list of characters and their attributes, and a tentative timeline of the story. I also use Padlet to create a board of inspirational photos; images of the characters I use for inspiration and description, places where the story takes place, etc. My stories definitely take off with a mind of their own, though. I have never completely stuck to an outline…never!
Who were your favorite authors as a child? Believe it or not, I rarely read as a child. I hated reading. The only books I read were ones for school; although I did come to love a few those books. I was grown before I really discovered a love for reading. The first series I ever read and completely fell for were “The Cat Who…” series by Lilian Jackson Braun. I also discovered Jan Karon (my author hero!) and her Mitford and Father Time series. In fact, I just read her newest book a few weeks ago. Loved it!
Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? Definitely for my own enjoyment. If I don’t enjoy the journey myself, that will translate to the page. Besides, I figure that have to be a few weirdos like myself who like to read the same type of stories, written in a particular voice. My Dogwood Alley books are very different from my other works in that they are vignettes, stories of the past told with history, faith and a little humor. My other works are more fun, and laced with sarcasm (like myself), but still get a moral point across. I like books that share a message discreetly. You get what they’re saying without it being “preachy.” And, sometimes, like with my new Charlotte Ritter mystery series, you just need a fun story with some moments of faith mixed in; nothing preachy.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Yes, because I am that one person! Everything I’ve ever written has benefited my personal spiritual journey. When a character struggles with their faith or forgiveness; chances are, I’ve been living that struggle myself. So, when that same character finds solace in Scripture or is convicted by a message; that has happened with me also. I have had a few readers tell me they were challenged or uplifted by something in one of my stories. That has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God. If I didn’t write what He wanted to share with someone; He’d find someone else to do it. So, I try to be obedient and follow His still, small voice as best I can. And, I write.
Find Alyssa’s latest release!
Alyssa is giving away a copy of her latest release! Enter here:
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