Today, on Wizards with Words, I’m happy to introduce Christy Olesen. Christy and I met on Savvy Authors when we took a course together, then continued to communicate afterward through a small group that formed from the class. Christy has just released her debut novel, HER SCOTTISH CEO. I invited her to my blog to share a bit about herself and her new novel, so let’s get started!
Christy: Hi Mae, thanks for inviting me to participate on your wonderful blog today.
I’m pleased to have you pop in for a visit, Christy. Let’s start with what first attracted you to writing. When did you realize it was something you wanted to do?
Christy: When I was eleven or twelve—it was just something I did. It was a form of exploration, the same as drawing, or singing in choir, or playing snake-in-the-grass with the neighborhood kids. Around that time I wrote a story, about 5 pages. It wasn’t until 2005 that I knew I wanted to write with the aim for publication. That led to searching everything I could find about writing, which led to learning how much I didn’t know.
There’s definitely a lot to learn. I think as writers, it’s an ongoing process for us. How about your novel, HER SCOTTISH CEO. Can you give us a brief glimpse into the plot?
Christy: Marcie Winters is an American illustrator who puts her hopes on a job that takes her to Scotland. She needs the illustration job because she needs to start over, but she’s barely there a week and has an accident in her rental car.
Greg McInnis is struggling to prove himself in his family’s publishing business; he’s looking for just the right artwork for the idea he knows will prove his ability. He finds what he’s looking for in the paintings of Marcie Winters, the beguiling American artist he meets on the streets of Fort William, but she’s already contracted to another publisher and after her accident neither of them know if she’ll be able to paint when she recovers. Greg is determined that she will.
This is your debut release, which you chose to indie publish. As someone who is thinking of going that route (I’m not sure my current WIP fits a publisher’s guidelines on genre) how difficult was it to tackle that learning curve?
Christy: Thankfully, there are a lot of people out there (via the internet) who are willing to share their knowledge. So, again, I dove in to find out how much I didn’t know. I have a list of books that were helpful to me on my web site.
Publishing is not hard. The sites are user friendly. We are lucky to live in a time when we can have so much control with the production of our work. Indie publishing is perfect for the writer who wants to write outside the box, push the envelope, reinvent their genre or invent a new one. Or for someone who wants to illustrate their book. Traditional publishers can’t take those risks.
Because I am a graphic artist by trade I wanted to do it all myself, from writing to formatting to cover design. It may seem like I have an advantage, and I guess I do, but I can tell you I was tearing my hair out and saying a few colorful words at my computer. I work with high-end desktop publishing software at my day job and I don’t have a lot for experience with MSWord. After much frustration and research I tamed it enough to do what I needed it to do. The first book is always the hardest. Then it becomes the template for the next.
What would you say was the most difficult challenge of indie publishing?
Christy: Other than the formatting nightmare above?
I see Indie publishing as having several facets: Writing, Publishing and Promotion being the most obvious. Each one is difficult at first and it depends on your life experiences and talents what parts will be difficult and at which ones you’ll shine. Don’t be afraid to ask those who have gone before you for advice when you hit a bump.
You chose Scotland as a setting for your novel, always a favorite of mine whatever the era. Is there a particular reason for your choice?
Christy: As a child I was intrigued by my family history. My father’s parents emigrated from Denmark. My mother’s mother was English but born in China and my mother’s father said his family came from Scotland in the 1790s. I was fascinated. Years later I had an opportunity to travel to the UK. I bought a BritRail pass and traveled all over visiting places linked to my family history, including Scotland. It was the scenery and villages that captured me.
What an amazing trip that must have been! You’re an artist as well as a writer and offer three versions of your book: a full color illustrated version through Create Space, a black-and-white illustrated version for less, and the regular Kindle version on Amazon. What were the challenges of acting as illustrator as well as author?
Christy: There weren’t too many challenges since the illustrations were already done during my last trip to Scotland — in fact, that trip became the seed for HER SCOTTISH CEO — I only had to scan the art and format into into the mss. The challenge was having editions to suite everyone’s taste and pocketbook. I was a little stunned at the cost of POD (print on demand) color and I sincerely wish I could offer the Full Color edition for less, but I priced it as low as I could. Since I had two trade paperback editions I wanted buyers to know what they were getting, Full Color or Black and White, so I added subtitles to the books. That caused only one book to show up on an author or title search and it was the more expensive one. I was sure anyone browsing would pass my book over because of the price. Working with customer service I was able to fix that problem at the expense of not offering the Full Color Edition on Amazon any longer. It is only available on CreateSpace right now. By the way, Customer Service at CS is prompt and helpful.
How long did it take you to write HER SCOTTISH CEO, from initial thought to finished product?
Christy: I got the idea long before I stated writing it. I was, at the time, working on another mss, which I’d worked on — off and on — for ten years. That mss was before I decided I could write for publication; I was still cutting my teeth. But with HSCEO things began to click and when I sat down to write it, it took about five weeks. Following mss also took me five to six weeks for a first draft. Meanwhile, I took classes and workshops and rewrote and revised HSCEO. I submitted and I took the editors’ crits to heart. And revised some more. So, to answer your question… about six years. Time flies when you’re having fun.
LOL! Do you have a favorite place to write?
Christy: Yes, in my home office. It’s also my studio and crafts room. I have a big old, 1922 oak news editor’s desk and a view of cottonwood trees and the Sierra mountains.
Lovely! I’m jealous! 😀 Do you develop characters first or plot? Which do you find harder?
Christy: Characters first. I usually start with a scenario, how a couple meet, or how some event sends their life in another direction putting them off balance. Plotting is the most difficult for me. I’m a pantster, but I’m working on evening out the differences between pantster and plotter. I’d like to be somewhere in between. We’re always learning, aren’t we?
Definitely. When you’re not writing—or working on a new piece of artwork—what do you enjoy doing?
Christy: This winter I’ve gotten into knitting. I’m not experienced but I made a nice neck warmer and caplet to wear in my home office on these cold evenings. In the spring and fall I like to take my vintage trailer out to rallys and travel club trips. In the summer I enjoy gardening.
And now for some quickies:
Christy: Oh, it’s not fair. I have lots of favorites. I’ll pick what comes to mind first.
Favorite color: Turquoise blue. If you see my trailer (there’s a picture on my web site) you’ll know why.
Favorite food: Thin crust pizza with Italian sausage and black olives. Yum.
Favorite movie: Ever After. I love a spunky Cinderella
Favorite song: The River by Garth Brooks. It’s about making your dreams come true, and navigating the rapids of life.
Silver or gold: Gold!
Dawn or Dusk: Sunset
Dream vacation spot gifted to you by a fairy godmother: A croft on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Thanks, Christy! That was fun. Before we close, do you have any works in progress you’d like to share with us?
Christy: Yes. A DADDY FOR LUKE will introduce my Cottonwood County Chronicles series. It’s slated for a late Spring publication.
Sandy is a legally blind, single mom who snags the heart of popular mystery writer David when he offers to read one of his books to her. Sandy’s been burned and is cautious. David’s back in his hometown for a short visit. Offering to read to Sandy he risks opening an opportunity for his past to catch up with him and ruin his future.
The CCC series takes place in a small western town on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, each story has some connection to the local small town newspaper, the Cottonwood County Chronicle.
Fleeing a lifetime of disappointment, American artist Marcie Winters puts her hopes on a new job that takes her miles away to Scotland. She needs this illustration job. What she doesn’t need is a car accident. On her own in Scotland, starting her new career, she thought disappointment was behind her. Not only has she landed the job she needs to kick off her career, but she’s met a handsome Scotsman who understands her artistic nature. Maybe that’s why she feels a strong connection when they met. Maybe that’s why he is on the scene just when she needs him.
Greg McInnis was a cocky photographer, a man free to roam the world, until one fateful moment thrust him into the top job in his family’s publishing business. After two difficult years trying to live up to his father’s accomplishments and forget his failures, he’s looking for the brilliant spark that will persuade his grandfather to accept his unconventional project. He finds it in the artwork of Marcie Winters, the beguiling American artist, but when she’s in an accident he worries more for her wellbeing than her watercolors.
Set in the beautiful Great Glen in the Highlands of Scotland, from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness. Richly illustrated with 17 original watercolors painted on location in the Great Glen.
“Och, lass, watch yerself!” The Scot’s accent rang in Marcie Winter’s ear, two big hands clamped on her shoulders as momentum carried them both full circle. Her shoulder bag was knocked to the ground before the man disappeared into the morning crowd. At least he hadn’t snatched it.
“Oh, my paintings!” Horrified, Marcie dropped to her knees to retrieve her bag and its contents. Small watercolor paintings, pencils, brushes, lipgloss, postcards and keys littered the sidewalk around her. She could see her hard work about to be trampled by tourists’ feet, and scrambled to retrieve her illustrations before they were damaged.
A man crouched beside her and grabbed the ones beyond her reach. He wore a fine charcoal business jacket paired with a blue and green kilt. Marcie had seen several men in kilts in the week she’d been in the Highlands, but never for the office. He was quite striking and made her wish she’d worn her sundress instead of jeans.
While he studied her artwork, she studied him. Even folded up, she could tell he was tall. His wavy, burnt-ochre hair reminded her of Joel. She wondered if he had dreamy, chocolate-brown eyes like Joel’s. Homesickness and a stab of anger caught her unaware. She must have sighed because the man looked up, concerned.
No, he didn’t resemble Joel. His eyes were as green as the verdurous hills around Fort William. Bright, intelligent, curious. An unsettling connection startled her as his eyes trapped hers. He looked at her as though he knew her. Then a sad, desolate emotion changed his expression from that of a kind stranger to one of an anguished soul. It passed in a heartbeat and he looked away, back to her artwork in his hands. But she’d seen it, and she knew he hadn’t wanted her to see it. And she wondered why. Why had he looked at her as if he’d known her? Then as if he’d lost her?
She continued to observe him as he looked at her artwork. He had a straight nose and an average mouth, which, with his green eyes, came together to make him the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
Up close and personal-wise.
Concentrate, breathe. Don’t look stunned.
She reached to gather her pencils and brushes, and composure.
“Oban, nicely done.” He handed her the painting of the coastal town. “No damage.” Then he smiled. The smile was just a little tug at the corners of his mouth as though he were unaccustomed to smiling or unwilling or just didn’t have the heart. Bittersweet, it made her want to know what was holding his full smile in check. Even so, the smile made her heart skip, her pulse accelerate.
She took the watercolors and smiled back with no reserve. “Thanks for your help.”
He stood but didn’t leave.
With the watercolors safe in her bag, she picked up her lip gloss, sunglasses and bug spray, then examined her camera. Satisfied it was undamaged, she closed her bag and began to rise.
“Are you a’right, lassie?” He took her arm to assist her, his touch firm, gentle and… impersonal.
At five-foot-seven, Marcie’s eyes were even with the knot in his beautiful blue and green tartan tie, a perfect match to his kilt. She looked up. “Yes, I’m fine. I guess I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
“Have you drawn anything here in Fort William?”
“Just some vignettes. I only arrived last evening.” She held out the watercolors she’d done that morning in the neighborhood of her bed and breakfast, illustrations of quaint cottages with tile roofs, climbing roses and lace curtains. He took them carefully, obviously appreciating their value to her.
“I know this neighborhood.” He shuffled through the vignettes, then stopped to examine one. “My good friends recently purchased this house. Is this one for sale? It would make a brilliant housewarming gift.” He looked at her expectantly.
Should she sell it? It was part of the collection she was under contract to produce. Her contract was for sixty full illustrations of Scotland’s Great Glen, from Oban to Inverness, and as many small vignettes as she wanted to add. However, as long as she handed in sixty watercolor illustrations at the end of her six weeks in Scotland, she would have fulfilled her contract.
It would be wonderful to know the owners of the house would hang her work on their wall. “I adore that cottage. It’s just a few houses from the bed and breakfast where I’m staying.”
The man looked at his watch, then said something under his breath that sounded Gaelic. Then, “Sorry, I’m late.” He handed her the vignettes. Had she lost the sale that quickly? She could use the extra cash, maybe even buy a new cell phone. “Can I have your number?” he continued. “We’ll arrange to meet and I can purchase it then.”
Marcie searched her bag for one of the cards she’d picked up in the lobby of the bed and breakfast, but everything was jumbled.
The most handsome man she’d ever met—up close and personal-wise—handed her a card and said words that made her wonder if she was dreaming. “Call me. After one o’clock. Right now, I have an appointment to keep.” He held out his hand. “Name’s Greg.”
“Marcie.” She took his hand. It enveloped hers in a warm, strong grip, and she felt that sensation of connection again. She hadn’t imagined it. Neither of them let go for several seconds, and even as he backed away, his fingers lingered, their fingertips touching for a moment longer.
Then he smiled. Full force. Just the way she’d hoped he could. Add the sparkle in his eyes and she was a goner.
He turned and walked up High Street. A limp made her wonder if her heavy camera had landed on his foot. He must have been right behind the man who had bumped into her, close enough to have been hit by the fallout.
Her artist’s eye appreciated his broad shoulders and long legs, and she thought he might be more comfortable in outdoor gear than the clothing he wore. Chewing her thumbnail, she watched as he stopped before a building across the street from where she’d parked her rental car. He turned, lifted his hand, then disappeared into the doorway.
Her heart still pounding, she sighed, turned and continued on her way. He could make her forget Joel.
Born and raised in L.A., romance writer Christy Olesen found a home in northern Nevada just over the hill from Lake Tahoe, where the winters aren’t as harsh, the tourist traffic isn’t as heavy and the lifestyle isn’t as hard to live up to. The Sierra and the high desert inspire her contemporary tender romances.
Christy has worked as a cashier, a parts packer, an electronic circuit assembler, and as a dental laboratory ceramist. She loves to read, garden, and travel the Sierra Nevada in her vintage 1955 travel trailer. Christy is also an accomplished watercolor artist and is currently working as a graphic artist for a newspaper and magazine publisher in Carson City, Nevada.