In addition to possessing a funny, whip-smart pen, Christa Ann
Banister has the gift of gab.
After years of working as a respected music critic and freelance writer for various Christian publications: CCM Magazine, Crosswalk.com, Christian Single, ChristianityToday.com, not to mention kickstarting the inaugural Christian music blog for
MTV’s Urge.com, Christa has inked her first novel about her erstwhile adventures in dating, and she hopes that her story will inspire countless twenty and thirty-somethings in their quest for snagging Mr. Right, even as they hold fast to their Christian values
Christa lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, Will. They love to play Scrabble and throw darts on a map and dream about going wherever the darts land someday. And until her book hits the New York Times bestseller list, Christa is happily employed as a freelance writer for her many, many clients.
Click here to read a review (11-30-07).
What is your current project? Tell us about it.
Travel writer Sydney Alexander is ready for one particular journey to end: her frustrating search for a Mr. Right. As a Christian twentysomething navigating the weird world of dating, she’s encountered more than her share of frogs. From men who can’t keep a jo to self-centered professionals, her lackluster dates leave Sydney wondering where the good guys are hiding.
But things are looking way up. Just after landing her dream job, she meets an eligible round of bachelors, including a dashing European, a promising blind date, and a charming coffee-shop wordsmith. Now Sydney will discover just how far she’s willing to compromise to land her dream guy.
Around the World in 80 Dates shares a woman’s humorous take on being single. Filled with wit, real issues, and quirky characters, Sydney’s story will encourage female readers to never settle for less than God’s best.
Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.
I started writing a few ideas down for Around the World in 80 Dates about five years ago. Ideas soon evolved into sample chapters, and I sent out two proposals (with four sample chapters and a quick introduction) to people I knew in publishing as a result of my time at CCM magazine in Nashville, where I worked as a writer and editor for five-and-a-half years. Like the music business, the book world is all about connections, connections, connections. Many publishers don’t accept unsolicited proposals, manuscripts, etc., so I had to be referred by friends who already had book deals to even get my foot in the door. And even with a foot in the door, I had to be patient (not exactly my strong suit).
Basically, I waited for months and months and did all sorts of follow up before I’d get the sorry-but-we-just-can’t-do-anything-with-you-at-this-time-but-keep-working-at-it rejection e-mail. That happened twice, but I persevered and kept tweaking my sample chapters until I was really happy with them, and they eventually made their way to NavPress via my friend (and fellow author) Matthew Paul Turner.
After Matthew’s NavPress contact moved on to another publisher, the new editorial assistant at Nav stumbled across my manuscript in her pile of papers, read it and really loved it. She even sent me an e-mail to that effect the next day and really began lobbying for it to get published. So of course, I got really, really excited. But that was only the beginning of the process. After a couple of months filled with phone calls and proposal forms to fill out, not to mention a couple different committee meetings at NavPress, they offered me a two book deal (with an option for a third) in October 2006. Needless to say, the third time was the charm.
After the papers were signed, I couldn’t even begin to express how excited I was. So after ample celebrating, I went to work and finished Around the World in 80 Dates, a long, intense and amazing process that fulfilled one of my greatest writing dreams.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.
I think writing involves three things—a measure of God-given talent, a love of words and a strong work ethic. There are lots of people who want to write a book but don’t want to devote the long hours to developing and honing his/her craft. Sometimes I fall into that category and need a little more motivation like an upcoming deadline or the gentle nudge of my husband who’ll say something like “I need 2,000 words today!” Fortunately, I’ve never really dealt with writer’s block but that’s probably because I write every single day whether it’s a movie review, a blog entry or the latest chapter of a book I’m working on.
What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
One of the key things I’ve learned about publishing is that persistence pays off. Just because one publisher doesn’t catch your vision doesn’t mean that another won’t. Always keep knocking, and if you keep hearing know, consider revising your pitch.
What’s the best or worst advice (or both) you’ve heard on writing/publication?
The best advice I’ve ever heard is that it’s good to write a little bit every day. Also that great readers are great writers, so I try to stay current within the genre I write in and with pop culture at large. I guess I’ve never really received any bad advice, which I’m thankful for.
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
I’m a people watcher, so stories naturally seem to evolve from what I see and hear around me. My first novel is about dating, so those stories came from my own experiences and experiences of family, friends, classmates, etc.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, anything by Jane Austen, Judy Blume or Sophie Kinsella. U2 At End of the World by Bill Flanagan
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?
Around the World in 80 Dates was definitely a proud moment. There are several music features that I wrote for CCM, one about the London music scene, in particular, that I was really happy with because I actually traveled there by myself to get the story.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
Maybe Oprah should consider more titles for her book club? No, honestly, aside from wishing the biz paid more from time to time, I can’t think of any.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?
I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and continue to improve in the process.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
My favorite part is the sheer joy is doing something you love for a living. It still doesn’t seem possible sometimes. My least favorite part is that sometimes you’re just not in a creative mood—not writer’s block per say—but maybe you’re just not in that mode, and you have to be. So that’s occasionally a struggle.
What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?
Wordiness. I’ve had to really work at the art of editing. Saying something in a few words instead of too many. That’s something I continue to work on every day.
What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?
Grab a Diet Coke? I don’t know. I just leap right into it.
Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session?
Nope, I’m pretty boring in this regard. Sometimes I aim for a specific word count, but mostly I just write, take breaks, grab a Diet Coke (or coffee) and repeat until I’m done for the day.
Plot, seat of pants or combination?
Definitely a combination. I have a rough outline and go from there.
What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?
Finding the ending that really sings. I put so much energy into leading the book off that sometimes I struggle with an ending. So that’s what I have to put the most effort into.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?
A few actually…and it’s been so rewarding to find people connecting with the book/stories as much as I have over the years.
How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?
A ton! Not only do I have two publicists, but I’m constantly blogging and doing interviews to get the word out however I can. I’ve also been known to strike up conversations with complete strangers who also end up wanting to read the book, so that’s a great thing.
Nope. Just I want to thank you for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. Blessings to you!