Today, I’m happy to introduce Christie Shary, my final co-author of the Aspen Grove romance anthologies. Christie appeared in the first four Aspen Grove books. Welcome, Christie.
1. When did you first start writing?
I have always loved words. I began writing when I was in elementary and secondary school, but much more so after I graduated from college. However, I started reading at a very young age, as we always had the National Collector's Library classics in our home. I remember reading Gone With the Wind when I was about ten, and continued to read all of the great classics after that. I loved the written word and decided if those authors could write great stories, I wanted to learn how to write them, as well.
2. What do you like about story telling?
I love to take my readers on an adventure. I also want them to like, hate, or at least form a relationship with my characters.
3. How do you create your characters? Are they based on real people?
I create my characters partly from people I have met in real life—mainly from people who made an impression on me. I also create them from my imagination. They are generally strong and independent females who want to make an impact upon the world. They are also characters who have had some type of a problem, which has greatly impacted their lives, and one they know they need to get beyond to find true happiness.
4. Where do you get your story ideas?
I always get my story ideas from my real-life experiences. I have been fortunate to live a rather exotic life in many ways, and also a life with some real heartbreak, yet so many wonderful and exciting times. I try to incorporate these experiences into the lives of my characters. My stories are almost always set in unusual and often foreign landscapes. By doing this, I feel I can take the reader on a vicarious journey to a place they have never been. I also delve into many cultural issues within my books. I must admit most of my writings are quite autobiographical. I truly feel that one writes best about what they know the most about.
5. Besides the Aspen Grove romance anthologies, of which you are a co-author, what other books or series have you written?
The first book I had published is titled The Blue Mosaic Vase. It is a coming-of-age story set in turn-of-the-century Iran, and tells the story of an impoverished Muslin orphan boy—his trials and tribulations, and how he overcomes all odds stacked against him. It is also a love story, based on the six women who greatly impact his life. (By the way, he doesn't have six wives.) The main character is based on a person I knew very well, thus it is a biographical novel. It was the winner of the EPPIE Award for best single-title mainstream novel.
My second published book is titled Amelia. It was co-authored with my writing group friend, Harvey Mendez. It is a novel based upon the disappearance of the famed flyer, Amelia Earhart, and is set mainly in the South Pacific. It not only contains a great deal of factual information, but it is also a murder mystery, which features young Amelia Adams, a young, mysterious Amerasian woman linked to Amelia Earhart by more than name alone.
My third book is Lucky Dog: The True Story of Little Mexico City Street Dog Who Goes International. It is a heart-warming and multi-cultural page-turner, told by a little yellow homeless mutt we adopted, a dog with more stamps in his passport than most Americans. By the way, Lucky was actually the street dog that my husband and I adopted from the streets, while we were living in Mexico City for four years. This book not only follows his life before and after he finds our forever home, but as he journeys back to California and finally onto to London and Holland. Lucky Dog was a finalist for the EPPIE Award.
The above-books were published several years ago. I am currently working on several others, including a sequel to Lucky Dog titled Saying Goodbye… This book tells the story of the final days of Lucky's life, and may provide great comfort to a reader having to say farewell to a beloved pet.
I am also doing a final edit and rewrite on the novel I wrote more than twenty years ago, Jenny's Homecoming. It is set in the grandeur of the Grand Teton mountain range in Wyoming and is the love story of a part-Native American widowed school teacher and the forest ranger who finally helps to heal her wounds after losing her husband in the Vietnam War. I expect this novel to be published during the upcoming year.
Finally, I have pretty much dedicated the last six years of my life to writing a thousand-page non-fiction book titled Eliza's Legacy. Not only does it tell the story of my mother's life—a little farm girl born in 1909 who lived to be almost 102, but it also tells the pioneer history of my family, dating back to the 1600s in France, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. Many of my ancestors came to join the Mormon Church. This book not only tells about my family's journey across America by covered wagon and handcart, but it also describes how they helped to settle Utah, their experiences with polygamy, and so many other interesting true stories. It includes actual pioneer diaries and documents, plus excerpts of accounts of the assassination of Joseph Smith and the pioneer exodus from Nauvoo. It is filled with individual stories of heroism and lives lost. I tell my family's love stories, including that of my parents, as well as their part in the building of the transcontinental railroad, in which my great-great grandfather played a role. While I initially wrote this book to be distributed only to family members, I am receiving requests from other sources. Who knows where it will end up? I am now compiling photos for Eliza's Legacy. It should come out late this year.
6. Aspen Grove is based on two Colorado mountain towns. Have you created any other fictitious locations for your books?
The Aspen Grove anthologies include some of my most recent writings. Regarding their fictitious setting of Aspen Grove, it seemed very real to me, as my husband and I lived near Denver, Colorado for several years. I've always loved the mountains, and grew up surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in Utah, so I felt right at home in this setting, even though it was not real. As far as settings for my other books, they are all actual places, often in Third World countries. These books are set in places I know well or have at least visited and learned to love.
7. Did you enjoy writing as part of a group? Why or why not?
I actually did enjoy writing as a group for the most part, mostly because of the other writers I wrote with. We all got along well and respected each other's opinions and writing abilities. On the other hand, I prefer to write alone as I like to have my own artistic license, and I prefer to make my own decisions regarding my work. In addition, I didn't really know very much about romance novels, as I don't read them, so I felt rather inadequate in writing them. However, the main reason that I dropped out of the group was certainly not because I had problems or differences with the other writers, but because I did not have the time to continue writing them as I had so many other ongoing writing projects.
8. The Aspen Grove romances are collections of novellas. Do you like writing that length? Why or why not?
No, I'm not a real fan of the novella. I don't feel a novella offers the opportunities to really delve into the characters in depth, nor into the setting, both of which I feel to be of utmost importance in my writing. Also, I am a person of words and descriptions, and the novella format does not give me the opportunity to develop these fully.
9. Of everything that you have written, what is your favorite book to date?
I have really enjoyed writing all of my books. Each one is very close to my heart. And I believe each one of them serves a particular purpose. However, if I had to choose one book, I suppose it would have to be Lucky Dog. I loved that little dog so much, and he was such an important part of my life. In addition, it is a book I believe can be read and enjoyed by anyone. For it is true, simple, funny, sad, informative and entertaining, all at the same time. I think that is what makes it such a good read.
A former English teacher, Christie Shary is a graduate of the University of Utah, with minors in English and Middle Eastern studies. She has had short stories and poetry published, as well as several novels, which include The Blue Mosaic Vase, Amelia, and Lucky Dog, She was also co-author of four of the Aspen Grove romance anthologies, of which Snowflake Secrets, the first, was her favorite. She has been married to Tom for almost fifty years and has two grown sons, and a part-time grand-dog named Ripley. Her passions include reading, writing, skiing, camping, gardening, and traveling around the world, having visited more than seventy countries. Although from Utah and Southern California, she has resided in Mexico City, London, England, and Amsterdam, Holland, but is now retired and lives in Dana Point, California, where she continues to write and travel extensively.