My author guest today needs very little by way of introduction, because if you’ve followed me for any period of time, you’ve likely noticed that I’m always suggesting Becky Doughty‘s books to readers, not only because she’s my critique partner, but because she is truly one of the best writers I’ve ever been privileged to know. I’ve read every one of her books and each one is a treasure. GIFTED is the word I’d choose to describe Becky–who is also an incredibly talented narrator (a velvety chocolate voice, I often say) who has also narrated three of my books! And she’s graciously offering her entire 4-book Gustafson Girls series to one winner today (including her latest release, Gia and the Blast from the Past), so be sure to read on and enter below!
Becky came to visit me in West Virginia once (from her far-flung home in California!) and we had the best time. During that visit, she graciously helped me take those first steps into indie publishing, staying up to get my debut novel God’s Daughter formatted (while I was freaking out because it seemed so complicated!). Before she left, we did a video together (with my lame-o computer camera, so our mouths didn’t even move with the words), but you can check that out below and see how blessed I am to have a friend like her!
And here’s a bit more about Becky!
Becky Doughty is the author of the award-winning Elderberry Croft Series, The Fallout Series, The Gustafson Girls Series, Waters Fall, and more. She writes Commercial Fiction in Women’s Fiction, Romance, and Coming of Age categories.
Becky is also the voice behind BraveHeart Audiobooks, a rapidly growing library of (mostly) family-friendly audiobooks.
Becky is married to her champion of almost 30 years. They have three children, two of whom are grown and starting families of their own, and they all live within a few miles of each other in Southern California. They share their lives with too many animals, a large vegetable garden, and a strange underground concrete room they’re certain was built for dark and sinister purposes….
Interview with Author Becky Doughty:
BD: Yay! I love visiting your website, Heather! You have the most awesome readers in the world!
HG: You know I’m honored to have you here! So tell me, how does it feel to wrap up the Gustafson Girls series? I know we’re all going to miss those sisters! What other irons do you have in the writing fire?
BD: So you’re going to start with the hard questions, hm? It’s a bittersweet thing to end a book, and it’s amplified ten-fold—four-fold in this case?—when you wrap up a series, I think. I always intended there to be only four books in The Gustafson Girls, but as I was writing this last sister’s tale, I couldn’t help wondering if there wasn’t a fifth, or even sixth story waiting in the wings. In the end, I’m happy with the way things wrapped up. The girls still have a lot of life ahead of them, so not everything is perfect, but there is resolution, restoration, and hope—LOTS of hope!—by the time you reach the last page. And yes, that does leave an opening for another Gustafson Girl book, should my muse nudge me back into the G-FOURce! That said, I think I’d rather have readers wishing there was more than to have them relieved it’s over, right?
As far as my next big project goes…well, I’m writing a new series, but seriously considering launching it under a pen name. I haven’t officially announced it, which makes it sound all very clandestine and secretive, but honestly, I’m not so mysterious as all that. I’m just unorganized and don’t want to jump the gun until I’m ready! The reason for my nom de plume is that this series falls a bit more under the genre of Magical Realism in General Market Commercial Fiction rather than strictly Christian Fiction, and although I will still write from my a worldview that aligns with my faith, I don’t want surprised readers, right? For curious readers, you can subscribe to my newsletter and be among the first to get the scoop!
In the meantime, I have a serial novel, Pemberton Manor, I’m releasing in episodes every 6-8 weeks this year. Currently, there are only 2 episodes out—The Goodbye Girl and The Moon Mother—but more are coming this summer! I also have an offbeat standalone novel coming out the end of the year, Several Rooms Away, inspired by the Twenty One Pilots song, Run and Go.
On top of that, I’m still narrating and producing TONS of audiobooks… and on my calendar is none other than your gut-wrenching Forest Child. Have I told you how much I love that red-headed woman? Something about Freydis just latched onto my heart and wouldn’t let go. Like one of those wild creatures who follows you home, but no matter how much you love her, you know that one day you’re going to wake up and she’ll have wandered off again….
Oh. And I’m working on my second grandchild, too! Okay, our daughter is doing all the work, but still….
HG: So excited about your grandbaby #2! As I read Gia (Georgia) Gustafson’s story, I realized I could relate to that restlessness she felt post high school. Is it easy for you to get back into that mindset?
BD: Wait. You mean I’m supposed to have outgrown that by now??? Unfortunately, yes, there are days when it’s all too easy for me to visit that shadowy place in my heart where purpose and power are ambushed by things like discontent and disillusionment, or just distraction. It’s a little like trying to get through Vanity Fair with Christian in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress – lots of things to distract and pleasure, tease and tempt us, and not always bad things, mind you, but things that would keep us from moving forward and being productive, you know? I have a feeling that if we’re honest, it’s probably an easy mindset for most people to revisit. It’s healthy to question our direction now and then, to clear our heads and reboot, to consider our options… but the problem is that it’s also easy to get stuck in that unsettled questioning mindset once you’re there. So yeah, I’ve done my share of indulging too long through Vanity Fair over the years, but writing about those feelings is somewhat clarifying for me, a way out, if you will. And it certainly helps to have praying friends and loved ones in my life!
HG: I would say we have a love triangle in Gia and the Blast from the Past. Personally, I enjoy a gripping love triangle because it forces the protagonist to really examine what she’s looking for in a boyfriend/husband. As you’re writing, do you sometimes find yourself getting swept away by the wrong person in the love triangle and rooting for him (been there, written that!)?
BD: Okay. I’m a sucker for bad boys. Not the prison-tattooed, wife-beater-wearing, foul-mouthed, brass-knuckles-and-switchblade-wielding bad boys, but the guys who make you think you can change them into a one-woman-kind-of-man. It’s a subtler, slicker version of bad that draws you in before you even know what’s happening to you. Confidence and charisma coupled with smiling eyes and roaming hands. Sweet-talking, mind-reading magic men you don’t know are bad for you until you’re in too deep to get out without losing a limb… or a heart. And yes, as a writer, I find myself giving those magic men bits and pieces of humanity and heart, some kind of redemptive quality to validate the heroine’s (or my own) attraction.
That said, I truly believe that no one is beyond redemption, and as a writer, I have the freedom to write my bad boys with some salvageable element. Let me stir the pot here a little. This is one place I feel romance novels, especially, do readers a disservice. Too often, the bad boy is inherently bad, and the formulaic prose dictates that the heroine recognizes the bad boy as evil in the end, and runs into the pure-hearted arms of the good guy. But I think the two are a lot closer in nature than they’re portrayed in these books. I think the good guy is much more believable when he makes bad mistakes, and my heart breaks for—and finds hope in—a bad boy who exposes his good side when push comes to shove.
It kinda sounds like I’m defending my magic men, doesn’t it? I kinda am.
HG: That is something I love about your characters–they always show the grace of God shining so brightly. Okay, so Gia works in a coffee shop, and I loved the descriptions of the barista life. Did you have to research that?
BD: Why, yes. Yes, I did. Because I’ve never worked as a barista before, I felt it only fair to my readers to do my research. And because I really, really needed an excuse to write off my coffee addiction….
I LOVE coffee. Truth: Coffee is my water. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when studies revealed that a human body with a consistent consumption of coffee will reset its homeostasis to accommodate the caffeine. That theory of caffeine dehydrating you? OLD WIVES TALE!!! But it DOES enhance your memory! See HERE, where you’ll find links to a bunch of legit studies.)
Anyway, so at the beginning of this series, Gia did not drink coffee. It was my job to convince her that coffee was ambrosia, the nectar of the gods, the elixir of life and love and all good things. So I did my research. I YouTubed latte foam art competitions and Googled barista training programs. I visited several different cafes and coffee shops to check out technique and taste. HOW I tasted! I even went to Italy and chatted with a real live Barista Boy (named Lucio, not Jupiter) who told me we Americans didn’t know how to drink coffee. I wasn’t even offended because he was one of those Magic Men I was talking about. Never fear; I did manage to get out of there caffeinated and educated and romantically unscathed. Oh, and that was many years ago, but that memory gave life to Gia’s Barista Boy, Jupiter Valentine.
In the end, Gia loves coffee, I love it even more, and I have learned to make a fancy flower and vine pattern in my homemade latte foam!
HG: Time for me to schedule a visit to California for one of those fancy lattes… One of the elements I have most enjoyed with this series is the family dynamic. I find myself practically cheering every time the sisters call a GFOURce meeting. Did you draw from your own family dynamics to portray such realistic bonds of sisterhood?
BD: Want to hear something funny? I can’t tell you how many times this series was rejected by agents and publishers because of the G-FOURce element. The common feedback was that grown women wouldn’t relate to the idea of a childhood sisters’ club, and the likelihood of these women continuing the tradition of the G-FOURce into their adult years was cheesy, and too much of a stretch for readers to believe. But along with millions of other readers and viewers, I’d read Rebecca Wells’ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and I knew that women would get it. I knew the idea of a secret society forged out of deep pain could be something powerful and important, so I pushed forward with this idea. That said, as well-received as this series has been, I’ve seen a review or two upholding the view that it’s silly and childish, and that’s okay. This life is full of different folks with different strokes. If you’ve read this series, you’ll quickly learn that I embrace peoples’ differences!
As far as my personal “sisterly” experience? I have two sisters, but only one of them whom I grew up with, Sharon. (My youngest sister is the age of my middle child, so I was married with children of my own before she came along!) Sharon and I are connected in a unique and almost visceral way… I was adopted, and eight months later, my sister was born. We were raised almost like twins—shared a crib, and then a bunk bed that was eventually turned into twin beds, always in the same room until the day I got married. But we were so different (there is no arguing genetics), and in spite of our side-by-side upbringing, it was our differences that made us so close. We had different friends, different boyfriends, different tastes, different styles, different routines, different personalities, and our parents recognized those differences by not forcing us to wear matching clothes (very often), and not treating us like we were a two-for-one package deal. We used to watch with morbid fascination the sibling rivalry and roller coaster dynamics of our friends, and wonder what on earth was wrong with them… then we grew up and realized we were the oddballs. Ha!
So although this series isn’t a representation of us, per se, it is a celebration of sisterhood in all its vast and wonderful variations. G-FOURce UNITE!
Thanks for having me here today, Heather, and for being the best Critique Partner and Supporter and Encourager and Coffee Buddy and… well, Soul Sister a girl could ask for.
HG: Definitely soul sisters forever, girl. Without you, I might have never gotten my books into the world. I owe you!
***Readers, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win all FOUR books in Becky’s Gustafson Girls series today! Each book features a different sister.***