I’d like to welcome a special guest to my blog today: author Crystal Walton, whose novel Arms of Promise releases on 24 August 2016. Crystal is an enthusiastic consumer of venti green tea who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I’m going to contribute a selection of yummy fruits to snack on while we have our little chat today – perhaps some strawberries, cherries, apples, and grapes (because they’ll keep my kids happy too!)
So while I prepare the fine china and chop up a bit of fruit, how about you read a little about Crystal and her latest release, Arms of Promise:
Crystal received her bachelor of arts from Messiah College in PA, married her exact opposite in upstate NY, and earned her master of arts from Regent University in VA, where she currently resides with her husband, David. Crystal writes contemporary clean romance fueled by Starbucks’ venti green teas. She’d love to connect with you at http://crystal-walton.com
A dancer who won’t back down.
A soldier indebted to a promise.
The only thing more dangerous than the threat pitting them together is the secret keeping them apart.
Contemporary dancer Anna Madison is determined to honor her mom’s memory. With the life she’s built in downtown Chicago hinging on an upcoming audition, now’s the worst time for her childhood best friend—and the only man she’s ever loved—to reenter her world. Her dad’s current DA case instigates enough danger without adding on the risk of losing her heart. Again.
Army Ranger Evan O’Riley has always known his place in Anna’s life. Letting his feelings compromise her safety simply isn’t an option. Especially when his promise to protect her drives him off the sidelines and into the one place even his special ops training can’t save him: Anna’s arms.
Keeping her from uncovering the real reason Evan returns is one thing. Trying to hide the reason he left to begin with could destroy them both. But when the past they’ve both tried to outrun launches them down a heart-pounding road of threats, secrets, and attraction, resisting love may turn into the greatest risk they face.
Available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HVLH1MU
And if you order in the first month of release (by 24 September 2016) you could get some great bonuses. Find out how here.
Has that whet your appetite? I hope so! My review will be coming shortly, but today we’re going to have a chat with Crystal. Feel free to help yourself to some of my tasty fruit platter while we sip our green tea – and I’ll try to stop my kids from disappearing the strawberries all at once 🙂
ME: So Crystal, before we get down to all things bookish, I thought maybe we could get to know you a little better. Tell us, where do you currently live (state and general area is okay – we don’t want to encourage any stalkers!) and who shares the home with you?
CRYSTAL: Thanks for hosting me! Currently, I live in Chesapeake, Virginia (about 20 minutes from the Virginia Beach oceanfront). Right now, it’s just my husband, my mom, and me. Oh, and our neighbor’s kitty who thinks he lives with us, too. 🙂
ME: Isn’t that just like a cat? 🙂 What’s your favourite space in (or outside) your home?
CRYSTAL: I have to admit, I’m a total homebody. My home is definitely a sanctuary for me. Quiet, peaceful. When not at work, I spend a majority of time at home in my office. Between the window facing the woods behind our house and the soft globe lights strung around the ceiling, the atmosphere gives the room a comforting feel.
ME: I feel cozy just thinking about it, and I can totally identify with being a homebody, even though it’s not exactly quiet and peaceful at my place. (Think five children aged 10 and under!) Which perhaps leads perfectly into my next question – What’s your favourite way to relax/unwind?
CRYSTAL: I actually kind of stink at relaxing. I’m almost always in go-mode. But I’d say one of my favorite treats would be to have a Starbucks date with a friend, sitting on the patio with our fave drinks as we step outside our daily pressures for an hour to share some laughs and encouragement.
ME: Sounds good! What’s one of your most memorable reads?
CRYSTAL: My favorite read is The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. Ironically, I don’t typically read historical fiction, but this series really touched my life. The romance drew me in, of course. 🙂 But it was more than that. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor, crying over the way lies of the enemy and the depravity of the world rob us of the freedom we can have in the Lord. Rivers paints such a raw depiction of the painful journey of faith and how amazingly beautiful grace is. Gets me every time.
ME: Wow and amen! I love historical fiction, but I haven’t read that one yet. Sounds like I should bump it up my TBR list! Now let’s take a ‘flight of fancy’ for a few moments. Tell me, if you could have the house fairies take over one household task forever, which one would it be?
CRYSTAL: Cooking. Hands down. I’m one of the biggest penny pinchers you’ll meet, but I would absolutely pay for someone to grocery shop and cook for me in a heartbeat if I could. Must be why all the heroes in my stories know how to cook. 🙂
ME: I don’t mind cooking so much, but doing the grocery shopping? I’m with you there! Next flight of fancy: If you could play any musical instrument you liked, what would it be and why?
CRYSTAL: I’m a bit torn between the guitar and the piano. I’d love to be able to sit down with either in a quiet space in my home and worship the Lord. Both instruments create such a peaceful tone that I can easily escape into and become one with the music.
ME: Since this is a flight of fancy, I’ll let you have both. Problem solved! 🙂 Okay, let’s get down to business. How did you get started as a writer?
CRYSTAL: You’d think this would be a simple, straightforward answer. But I actually love that it isn’t, because it’s such a testament of how faithful God is to call forth purpose in our lives. Writing has always been my love language. It’s how I best communicate encouragement to others. Yet even with consistent confirmation through the years, it took me quite a long time to recognize writing as a gift to pursue. In fact, I didn’t connect it to my calling until graduate school. And at the time, I assumed that meant writing non-fiction. Becoming a fiction author was nowhere on my radar. NOWHERE! Isn’t that just like God?
In November 2011, in the middle of a discussion with my husband about the way compelling fiction moved me, he asked, “If you love fiction so much, why don’t you write it?” Blink. Blink. Cricket. Cricket. “Um, seriously? You don’t just sit down and write fiction. It’s a gift. One I don’t have.” Or so I assumed. But as soon as I gave myself permission to try, scenes flowed to mind so quickly, I could hardly keep up. I wrote a full-length novel in a month and was as surprised as anyone to discover I LOVED it. Passion kicked in like never before. Vision took over. And now I’m releasing my fifth novel.
ME: And a big thanks to your husband for giving you the prod that you needed! I understand you also have a day job as an accountant. How do you make time for writing?
CRYSTAL: Fitting writing into the nooks and crannies of your life is part of an author’s DNA. 🙂 My creative tank is fullest in the morning. Since I work a normal 8-5 and don’t have time to write in the morning during the week, I’ve dedicated just about every Saturday for the last five years to writing.
ME: So far, your novels have all been written for the new adult market. What is is about this genre that appeals to you?
CRYSTAL: I actually only think of my Unveiled Series as being NA. When I first contemplated writing fiction, three musts came to mind. (1) It had to include romance because that’s my favorite part of any story! 🙂 (ME: hear, hear!) (2) I wanted whatever I wrote to be relatable. (3) I didn’t want to write simply for the sake of entertainment.
I didn’t intentionally set out to write New Adult. But the truth is, college was the best season of my life. There’s something special about that season. Sharing an extended sleepover with your best friends, stepping out on your own for the first time, discovering who you are & what friendship really looks like. It’s when we fell in love like never before, and when we fell apart like never before. It shaped our lives. Getting to dive into that emotionally rich season allows me to explore relatable and meaningful experiences. Doubt. Faith. Friendship. Love. Purpose. Heartache. All of it. And, to me, that’s a main part of what makes fiction so enjoyable.
ME: Although you are a Christian, you’ve chosen not to write specifically for the Christian market. What’s behind that decision?
CRYSTAL: I believe there’s an audience and purpose for traditional Christian Romance novels, but my heart has always been to reach those who might not feel comfortable picking up a Christian novel. During my graduate program in missiology, we frequently talked about contextualizing the message so that our audience would be more open to receiving it. And I can’t think of a better medium to use than art. Amidst all the media out there feeding into what girls believe about themselves and about love, I want to be a voice of hope and truth. My main hope as an author in general is for readers to enjoy an entertaining story while receiving a word of encouragement that speaks into real, raw, genuine life issues.
ME: You talk about combining art, redemption, and romance in your writing. What is it about art that appeals to you?
CRYSTAL: Ooh…How long do we have? 🙂 I believe art, at its essence, is the outward expression of the emotions inside us. It comes through a plethora of outlets. The stirring notes on a page, the elegant moves across the dance floor, the lines sketched over a canvas—each is an expression of the voice and passion inside an artist refusing to be silenced, ravaged, or buried.
Even though I don’t consider myself as having an artistic talent, art has always spoken to me. In fact, that’s what I love about it most. It connects with each of us differently, irrespective of person or talent. Something about it transcends words and touches unseen places inside us in ways only it can. To me, art is part of what makes life a more beautiful and meaning experience.
ME: Beautifully said! It is a gift from God – to both the artist and the audience! Now to redemption. How do you weave the theme of redemption through your novels when you’re writing for a secular market?
CRYSTAL: I aim to weave a subtle underlying Christian worldview through the heart of every story without being preachy. Since one of my main goals is to write relatable stories, my novels always focus on a character’s journey of learning to tear down lies/doubts and uncover a kindling of faith to see themselves as they really are and accept love, forgiveness, and grace. Because, Christian or not, I believe all of us long for acceptance and identity. We all want to believe our life has purpose, but we continually wrestle lies telling us we don’t measure up.
Throughout the journey, we tend to fail. Miserably. We wrestle with temptations. We make bad decisions. We give in to fears. It’s not always pretty. But I purposefully strive to capture the raw, identifiable brokenness we all go through in hopes a reader will connect with that struggle and be encouraged when the characters find grace amidst failure.
ME: Like you, I love a good romance – but ‘good’ is so subjective! What makes a romance ‘good’ for you?
CRYSTAL: I’m thrilled when I see a story debunking the ideal of romance being a fairy tale. That probably sounds strange coming from a romance author. And truthfully, if you’ve read any of my books, you know I LOVE the gushy part of romance. But I also want to be purposeful in not delivering a skewed depiction of love. I prefer portraying romance as the beautiful, hard, sacrificial, painful, messy, redemptive gift that it is. To me, a great romance shows the brokenness and failures we carry into a relationship, the courage it takes to make sacrifices, and the grace it takes to build a commitment that will last. Through that raw view of love, I hope readers are encouraged in knowing the heartache we face while nurturing a relationship is worth the cost.
ME: I can see why I enjoy your books so much. You’ve just described everything I love in a romance! 🙂 So, you’re about to release Evan and Anna into the big, bad world. What’s up next?
CRYSTAL: Almost every one of my reviews for Write Me Home mentioned hoping Ti would have her own story, so that’s what I’m currently working on. It’ll be another contemporary clean romance with a bit of humor (This is eccentric, no-filter Ti Russo we’re talking about here. You know some laughs and sparks are going to fly!). It’s set in a tiny beach town in the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina. There’s a feisty Jack Russel named Jasper, an even feistier eight-year-old girl named Maddie, and some spunky small town characters who keep life interesting. The hero and heroine have a bit of a Luke and Lorelai (from Gilmore Girls) relationship, which has been a blast to write. Humor, banter, romance, family, grace, and of course, art and redemption. I think it’s going to be a fun one.
ME: I am very much looking forward to reading that one! I’m not sure whether I mentioned it in my review of Write Me Home but I was definitely hoping for Ti’s story.
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, Crystal. It’s been great chatting with you, but the fruit platter has been cleared and I have a few red-stained cherubs to clean up 🙂
Don’t forget that Arms of Promise releases on 24 August 2016 and is available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HVLH1MU (And if you buy the book on or before 24 September you can get some great bonuses!)
In the meantime, you can read my review for Write Me Home or you can connect with Crystal here:
Free Books: http://crystal-walton.com/new-release-mailing-list/