Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Interview with Christy (aka: Cecelia Earl) on the release of When Ash Rains Down

It's fun to have a friend I've known for a couple years have a first book release, and in spite of the unfamiliar name on the cover, this book is by none other than our friend Christy from Erica and Christy, writing under a pen name (my guess is because teaching is one of those professions where it is best to keep fiction from real life persona). I think it's more fun to do these book release posts as interviews, so Christy was gracious enough to share an ARC of her book with me.

Let me just give you a brief teaser first:

Enter a world where angels and demons battle for souls while hidden from human sight...

Being crowned homecoming queen and enduring a week at the center of her classmates' attention is eighteen-year-old Julia White's worst nightmare--even with Cole, her long-time crush, as her date. But when Julia is attacked by a green-blooded demon that vanishes in a plume of smoke, she comes face to face with what real nightmares look like--in the flesh, and all of the homecoming stuff hardly matters anymore.

As a frightening wave of crime infiltrates her small Wisconsin town, Julia tries to avoid Nicholas, a brooding, infuriating relative of Cole's, who insists she's the reason behind the corruption. He claims the culprits are demons who are after powers that only she--a human-angel hybrid--possesses. It's unbelievable, of course, until he takes her to a hidden battlefield where warrior angels train to fight soul-siphoning demons--and her own angelic wings unfold.

When angels and demons draw battle lines, endangering everyone in their way, Julia has to find a way to protect them all, including herself. Because as it turns out, she's the devil's most powerful weapon against the angels, and he'll stop at nothing to claim her.

The final battle between Heaven and Hell has begun.

*cue spooky music*

And now without further ado... to the interview...

So I want to start a little with the theme of angels and demons. When did you first become interested in them as a paranormal phenomenon?

Ohmygosh…I racked my brain trying to come up with a better answer than…I can’t remember! I wrote When Ash Rains Down (it had a different title back then) in 2012. Or 2013. No! I just spent half an hour looking for when I first wrote it…the summer of 2014!! Anyways, I can only think that I must’ve drawn the “write what you want to read” inspiration card and felt compelled to go with an angel/demon muse coming from a reading binge, probably the Unearthly series, Hush Hush trilogy, Mortal Instrument series, and Infernal Devices series.

I DO remember that it all began because I’d wanted to write a novella to experiment with writing a book with plot and more fast-paced action than I was used to writing with my more lyrical, character-driven, plot-less contemporary realistic manuscripts.

And do you envision all angels and demons are “born” or can other people become one or the other? Do you distinguish between fallen angels and demons?

I don’t believe angels/demons are born, nor can anyone become one. I tried to remain true to my Catholic Christian faith in as many aspects surrounding angels as I could (aside from the completely imaginative fantastical main part of the novel—the hybrid human-angel characters who are born, of course). I believe angels were created at the time of creation and that demons came into existence when the devil challenged God, and lost, taking 1/3 of the angels with him when he left Heaven. I believe fallen angels are demons, same thing. In the book, however, there are angels believed to be fallen that are, in fact…maybe demonic, or maybe…not fully.

Have you found it at all tricky to determine how much religion to come into your stories? Is there a “too much” or “not enough” line for you or have you felt it sort of fell into place organically?

This was probably one of the most difficult aspects of writing this book. I struggled, deliberated, researched, prayed about, discussed, revised, rewrote, and ultimately crossed my fingers and hoped for the best about how to remain authentic and true to my faith without being overbearing or preachy.

This final, published version is quite different from earlier drafts that had a LOT more explicit beliefs included in conversations between Julia and Nicholas (the main character and her angel warrior trainer). When trying to come up with the purpose for her to decide to do as he asked-- to fight demons. Initially my reasons were much more faith-based, without including my faith intentionally. Basing the stakes on my faith, where angels, demons, and souls were concerned, was just the natural way my thought process worked.

It wasn’t until after a (paid) beta reader, hired through my editing company, pointed out that I was really polarizing my readers, that I went back and forth, discussing my story with other Christian and non-believing writers, and finally decided on the amount that exists today. My hope is that other believers see my faith included, but that non-believers, or believers in other religions, read it seeing the story and characters without its faith--or lack-thereof--arising in their thoughts to the extent that they don’t enjoy the book.

Though, I must say, when my dad asked if I write with any purpose, meaning, do I write to convey a faith-based message, I told him it wouldn’t hurt for readers to contemplate whether or not their souls live on since their physical lives are only temporary, whether or not they have angels protecting, and demons preying upon, their souls.

Mostly, though, I wanted to convey a theme of friendship, trust, and forgiveness. And I wanted to tell a story that people got a little lost in, an escape from real life, with characters that readers enjoyed getting to know and want to spend even more time with in the future.

Are any of your characters or any character characteristics based in anyone you know? Or any characters who inspire you?

There was a boy in my high school, years and years and years ago, that loosely inspired Mitch, though Mitch’s character ended up becoming someone quite different. Over the summer, when I was revising the novel, my husband’s uncle showed us the 1953 movie Invaders from Mars while camping, and so he inspired Mitch’s obsession with classic sci-fi.

Other than that, there are probably characteristics of myself in Julia, and Cole and Nicholas are polar opposites, one an extreme of Julia’s personality, the other her flip side. Her character arc will determine who she ends up most like in the end. So…I guess Julia inspired their personalities.

I find Mr. Alex to be inspiring and intriguing. And the peaceful man. I look forward to finding out more about them in future books… wink.

And is your setting a real one? Or is it an “anytown” near where you live? Are there features of the town and setting you felt were critical to the story?

It is an “anytown” in Wisconsin, not based off of any real place that I’ve lived or visited, but it’s most definitely real in my mind after “spending so much time there”. The size of the town, small-ish, is vital to my main character’s school setting as it influences the environment in which she coexists with her peers, as is the small-town diner setting and its necessary neighboring shops and customers, important to her mom, though nameless to Julia. The main street and shops are very like “downtowns” I’ve visited, and even like the ones near where I live, in smaller towns in Wisconsin.

Do you have a specific arch and set number of books planned for your series, or are you setting up a world with broader potential for an undefined number of installations? Want to share a little about your planned pacing for publishing and what we will see from you next?

I do! When Ash Rains Down is the first in a planned trilogy. When Smoke Rains Down’s publication is planned for Spring 2017, and When Fire Rains Down will then be published in Summer 2017. I’m planning at least one series novelette, but probably more. The one I’m ready to write now would fall into the order between books one and two and would be told from the perspective of a female angel you’ve not met, Rach’s Guardian. I’m also planning for a prequel trilogy from the point of view of Julia’s mother, Melissa, about the years when she was a teenager and met her own Guardian Angel, Julia’s dad.

Awesome!  It's great to hear about your book and your process. Thank you!

Thank you so much for having me here today, for taking the time to read my novel, and for preparing these questions for me. These were fun to consider and respond to. And I’m excited to share these tidbits of my writing process and details of my novel(s) with you all. Thanks for visiting, blog readers!

Author Bio

Cecelia Earl graduated with a degree in education and has been teaching ever since. She’s a wife, a mom of three boys, and an owner of a magical laundry pile that never stops growing. She lives near enough to Green Bay, WI that her refrigerator is always stocked with cheese, and the first colors her children learned were green and gold. She’s a teacher by day, a mom always, and a writer in her sleep, but that’s okay because being an author is a dream come true. She writes angel books for young and youngish adults. If you feel young, she writes for you—whether or not you feel particularly angelic.

And you can find Christy/Cecelia and her book at:

Website https://ceceliaearl.wordpress.com/
Blog https://ceceliaearl.wordpress.com/blog/
Author Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/authorcecelia
Twitter https://twitter.com/authorcecelia
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32611801-when-ash-rains-down
Newsletter (for giveaways, updates, exclusive content, etc) http://eepurl.com/cdvvIj

Buy Links:
Amazon Paperback $8.99

Amazon e-book 99 cents/free with KindleUnlimited

Createspace (Paperback) $8.99

So let all your Angel and Demon lover friends know, and go like Cecelia on all her social media. Oh... and buy the book!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now you've really intrigued me with how much of your own faith is in the book.

erica and christy said...

Thanks again for having me, Hart!

Alex, I wonder what you'd think? So far reviewers haven't mentioned anything, so I think it's less visible than I probably hold in my heart. I think it's more that I tried very hard not to go against my faith than I included it in a transparent way. When I spoke with an editor about a previous book, she'd told me to really consider whether or not I wanted to categorize my books as Christian fiction, and since I chose not to, I have to be thoughtful and aware of how my faith is, and isn't, entering into my novels.


Hart Johnson said...

I think it was a good balance. I definitely noticed it, but it wasn't overwhelming or preachy.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like that the story has a spiritual foundation. Plus very smart to release all three books close together.

erica and christy said...

Thank you, Hart! I appreciate you sharing your opinion. It's helpful to know, and I'm relieved it wasn't too much or preachy at all!

Thanks, L. Diane! I have a bit of work to do yet, but the plan is to get them all out as soon as I can!


Helena said...

Christy, congratulations on you lovely book being published! May it sell by the thousands and touch many readers. I thought your story sounded heart-felt, especially in this world where there's too much evil.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the launches, Christy, and thanks for hosting this wonderful interview, Hart!

erica and christy said...

Thank you Helena and D! :) Christy

Theresa Milstein said...

This cover is striking! So happy for Celia. I can say I knew her when...

I'm always impressed when someone can balance writing with teaching and parenting.

PL Keenor said...

Great interview! It sounds like a book that will make the reader think - always a good thing!

That's Purrfect

erica and christy said...

Thanks so much Theresa! I'm very excited for your new book Time and Circumstance! Congrats to you! And thank you, too, PL. I hope it does! :) Christy

erica and christy said...

Thanks so much, Theresa! I'm very excited for your new book too! And thank you also PL. I hope it does! Christy