Wizards with Words: Annette Drake and Celebration House

Before I introduce you to a fab new wordsmith, I’d like to mention I’m visiting my Lyrical Press sister, Kyra Jacobs, today and doing a short Q&A on her blog. Please pop in if you get a chance, and say hello!

And now, I’d like to introduce Annette Drake who has just released CELEBRAtION HOUSE, a novel right up my alley. The moment I read the blurb I was hooked. Check it out:

3Celebration House by Annette Drake - 1600-300dpiqCarrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.

Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.

Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.

But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.

Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.

Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?

Awesome, right? Oh, yeah, I can’t wait to read this one! The moment I saw the Civil War solider on the cover and read the blurb, I was a goner — hook, line and sinker! It’s already downloaded on my Kindle and high on my TBR list. I was thrilled when Annette contacted me and asked to be a guest on my blog. Please make her feel welcome and say hello:

Annette, please share a bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing:
I’ve been in love with books my whole life. Growing up in a small town in northeast Missouri, there wasn’t a lot to do. The day I discovered the local library was a good day indeed. I spent lots of hours there, crawling on the floor to look at books on the lower shelves or listening to books on vinyl records and cassette tapes. Just soaking up stories. When I went to college, I decided to pursue a degree in journalism because I’ve always loved the written word, but I needed a way to support myself. My dream was to write for the Washington Post before I turned 30. I started writing my first novel when my oldest daughter was about 2. She’s now 22. It’s finishing the book that has always challenged me the most.

Well, I’m delighted you finished Celebration House! What attracts you most to your chosen genre?
That’s a great question. My debut novel is a paranormal romance. I’m marketing a middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and actively writing a contemporary romance, A Year with Geno. I’ve also recently queried a picture-book manuscript, The Carwash Dragon. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing! I don’t have a chosen genre, but boy, many days I wish I did. For me, it’s all about the characters and their stories.

I completely agree with you! I cross genres when I write and, although I concentrate mostly on romance and romantic mysteries, I have several manuscripts in varying genres, including urban fantasy, fantasy and light horror. Getting back to characters, what do you develop first, characters or plot? Characters. They decide the plot. I just try to keep up.

Well said. Which do you find easier to write and why – description or dialogue?
I love writing dialogue. I think like many new writers – and that’s what I am, a newbie – I struggle with knowing how much description to include. I often ask my critique group – do you want to know what this character looks like? Do you want more description of the house or garden? That’s a struggle for me. I’ve just discovered Dana Stabenow. Wow! She writes great description. I’m reading her work because my current WIP, A Year with Geno, takes place in Alaska. Although I lived there several years, I struggle with wondering how much description to include. A Year with Geno is the first book I’ve written in which I want setting to be a vital part of the book.

I love books set in Alaska and will be looking forward to A Year with Geno. Please tell us about your current release, Celebration House.
Celebration House is the story of a woman who leaves the bustle of Seattle and moves back to her childhood hometown of Lexington, Missouri. There, she restores an abandoned antebellum mansion, which she then opens to the public for weddings and celebratory events. I started writing Celebration House in 2007. I literally woke up from a dream with the plot. I was working as a registered nurse in a cath lab at a hospital in Seattle, and I would see the same patients come in for procedures again and again. I thought, wow, that takes courage. From these patients, my main character, Carrie Hansen, was born. Because we share the same profession, readers may think I envision myself as Carrie. I do not. I do not have her courage. I never will.

It sounds like you’ve created a strong heroine. How did you choose your title? Initially, the working title was The Celebration House. When Tirgearr Publishing offered me a contract, I sought out the advice of the local writers guild president. She suggested I drop the word “The.” The title means more to me, though the house is offered to the public for celebrations. I hope readers will take away the idea that “celebration” also refers to celebrating Carrie’s life and their own.

Great! Share the first three sentences of your book.
With pleasure!

“It hasn’t been lived in for quite a while. It does have electricity though,” said the Realtor. She pushed in a button on the switch plate. The weak overhead light fizzed and, with a loud pop and a puff of white smoke, burnt out.

That puts us right in the setting. Without giving too much away, please share a bit about your favorite scene.
In one of the later scenes, Carrie dances with the male lead, Maj. Tom Stewart. It’s the first time she’s touched him, and like me, Carrie has no idea how to waltz. He teaches her. I love that scene. I fantasize about seeing it on a movie screen. Is Hugh Jackman available? Because he is yummy.

*fanning face* Oh, dear! I’m sold on that scene! There is something so exquisitely romantic about a waltz. I’ve always wanted to learn. And I will now be imagining Hugh Jackman as Maj. Tom Stewart as I read the book. Great choice! 🙂

If you couldn’t be a writer, what else would you choose to do?
If I didn’t need to make a living, I would love to be an actress. I’ve always been overly dramatic. I would also love to be a farmer, growing any kind of food that goes in a pie, such as strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries or blackberries. I also love the idea of owning a bakery/coffee house/used bookstore. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I would love to own a coffee house or a bookstore! I’d probably fail miserably with the bakery or farm and I’m too introverted to be an actress, LOL.

Name a book that had a profound effect on you and explain why:
I love the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I love this book because of the character, Skeeter, and how she just doesn’t fit in a small Mississippi town. I also love Minny, who cannot keep her unwanted opinions to herself. I relate to these two women because I didn’t fit in my hometown, and I say things I sure wish I hadn’t.

But another reason I love this story is because it was rejected 60 times. Sixty! I’m struggling to find an agent or publisher for the best book I’ve ever written, Bone Girl, and I tell myself that until I hear no 60 times, I can’t give up. Thank you, Ms. Stockett, for setting the bar so high.

Good for you, being willing to tough it out! I’ve read that about The Help and it’s so hard to imagine. I wish you much success with Bone Girl. The title is riveting.

And now for a couple of quick glimpses on things you enjoy:
Favorite season
: I love the fall. Halloween is my favorite holiday. No presents to buy. No big meal to cook. Just dress up in silly costumes and beg for chocolate? That’s a great holiday. Sign me up.

Favorite color: Yellow, like sunflowers or the sun. I didn’t know how important the sun was to me until I lived in western Washington and Alaska. My longest stretch without seeing the sun: 33 days. Not a fun time in my life.

Favorite type of music: I love bluegrass. I even own a fiddle and have learned a few tunes. I play a mean Liza Jane.

Favorite TV show: I love the Stephen Colbert report. My fantasy is to someday be a guest on his TV show after my first two books are made into movies. Hey! We all have fantasies, right?

Favorite animal: As much as I love the basset hound, I love horses more. I’ve always been an admirer of the horse.

You got me on thirty-tree days without the sun. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to live in Alaska. Beautiful country, but wow, what an adjustment! And I’ll look forward to seeing you on the Stephen Colbert report. Maybe you’ll do a little fiddling there too, while sharing your latest bestsellers. 🙂

Annette Drake (Color)AUTHOR BIO:
Annette Drake’s work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences. Her debut novel, Celebration House, debuted on August 1st in e-book format for readers everywhere from Tirgearr Publishing.

Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing

Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.

She is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.

You can follow her writing at http://annettedrake.com. She welcomes correspondence at: Write2me@annettedrake.com

Purchase Celebration House from:

Visit Annette at the following haunts:
Twitter (@annettedrake13)