Sweet DreamsSweet Dreams
Carla Stewart
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Dusty Fairchild longs for the adventure and independence of college, but her father sends her to a finishing school instead. Her cousin also attends, and they become fast friends---until they fall in love with the same handsome young man. When tragedy strikes, what truths will they learn about their hearts and dreams?

Carla Stewart


     

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Carla Stewart Carla Stewart's writing reflects her passion for times gone by, cherished relationships, and the mysteries of God in our skid-marked world. She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.

Favorite Bible Verse: Micah 6:8 (NKJV) He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?


 

 Christianbook.com Interview with Carla Stewart


 

What is your favorite Bible verse, Translation too, please!  And why?

Micah 6:8 (NKJV)
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

This has always resonated with me as the way that Jesus lived out his life, that God showed us through his son the way we should conduct ourselves. I love that it’s not a grand set of things that I have to do, but merely to be compassionate and walk alongside the Savior and trust that He will give me the answers to life’s tough questions. A simple formula for the Christian life.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

In a nutshell: I believe in Jesus, doing the right thing, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. I’m a country girl living now in a mid-sized city with my engineering husband—my college sweetheart with whom I’ll celebrate forty-one years of marriage this month. We’ve had great adventures and learned “life” together as the parents of four boys. I worked as an RN before kids and then later when they started college. I’d always harbored the desire to write, novels in particular, and the year I turned fifty, I began to pray in earnest about that. My mother passed away that year and I realized my dream could slip away if I didn’t get started. We’re empty-nesters now which is perfect for my writing, Max’s love of golfing, and being able to enjoy our six grandchildren. I can’t imagine doing anything else at this stage in my life and have a heart of pure thankfulness for the amazing people I’ve met on this writing journey. 

How did you choose the 1962 time frame for Sweet Dreams?

I’ve long wanted to write a book that paid homage to my teen years—the glorious and turbulent sixties. It was the dawn of a cultural revolution, a decade of contrasts and change. The music was a huge part of that, so once I’d formed the basic story, I knew that the songs of Patsy Cline would be one of the backdrops. I chose to have the book coincide with the year she died in a plane crash (March, 1963). Since Sweet Dreams covers a school year, it begins in 1962.

How involved are you personally in the story and the storyline? Which girl are you…or is there a little of you in both Paisley and Dusty? 

A little of both. While I am most like Dusty, the cousin who grew up sheltered in a small town, I was always drawn to people like Paisley, her cousin who grew up with a free-wheeling, vagabond mother. Sometimes it was wanting that sort of freedom, but at other times, it was having compassion for people who were “different”. While nothing in Sweet Dreams is my story, I grew up around the petroleum industry so having Dusty’s dad be an oil tycoon was my nod to that part of my life. Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t a millionaire like hers!

I did try to bring into the story the emotions and misadventures of being a teen—the sting of betrayal by a best friend, thwarted dreams, the awkwardness of fitting in (oh boy! Haven’t we all been there?), and then the dawning awareness of a first love. In the end, I know there’s more of me in this book than any I’ve written. It’s the story of all of us—our hopes, our dreams, our journeys.

 

Did you attend finishing school?

No, but I’ve had a couple of friends who did. I’m not sure whether their sense of style and graciousness and knowing how to entertain are a result of that or not, but I suspect it played a part.
 
Would you please explain why you chose the names Paisley and Dusty?
 
Sally Klein O’Connor, a music artist I met at Mount Hermon, sings a poignant song called “Dusty In My Heart” about the dichotomy of wanting your child to grow up and yet “remain small a hundred years or so.” This is the relationship between Dusty and her dad – he’s holding on, and she wants to seek adventure. I love the song and the name Dusty for a girl.

For Paisley, I wanted a picture of the sixties – her mom was a seeker of adventure and would have named her child something unusual. Sometimes a name just says, “Pick me!”, which is what Paisley did.
 
What was your inspiration to write Sweet Dreams?

I’m not sure there’s a single thing. One is that it was expected that I would go to college (and my desire as well). I’ve always felt fortunate to have come from parents who revered that, but it was also expected that I would pursue a career that was useful and would guarantee a paycheck. I’ve always wondered how my parents would’ve reacted if I’d said I wanted to be a rocket scientist or another unconventional vocation. I’m also intrigued by the many ways that families become dysfunctional—either by secrets or miscommunication, so I tried to meld some of those elements into the story. 
 
How much research did Sweet Dreams take?

Even though the topics in this book were somewhat familiar, there were a lot of details to look up, and being a research junkie, I get so caught up that I sometimes think I’ve taken a trip back in time. The Internet is both a bane and a blessing! 

I read books and articles about Patsy Cline and made a playlist of her songs for inspiration while I was writing.

One of the cousins in the story wants to become a geologist. To learn more about oil rigs and to capture the details I watched YouTube videos. This may be one of my favorite research tools because you get sight and sound. Love that!

A geology consultant helped shaped some of the scenes for the geology field trip. There’s nothing like an expert for tricky details.

What are the some of the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Sweet Dreams?

Very early in planning this book, the title Sweet Dreams came to me along with the Patsy Cline connection. A few clicks to check the facts of the era, and I discovered that the release year (2013) would coincide with the 50th anniversary of her death. It was a goosebump moment for me, and I’m glad to pay homage to her memory with this book.

I also learned that the song which would be forever linked with Patsy Cline—Sweet Dreams—was recorded a few weeks before she died in a plane crash but not released until the month following the tragedy.

Geology as a science is fascinating to me. Geodes—one of Dusty’s favorite things—begin as bubbles in volcanic rock or mudballs in sedimentary rock. They harden over time, but water containing minerals is trapped inside and eventually form crystals, some of them quite spectacular. Each geode is unique with its rough exterior and can only be truly discovered when cracked open. I ended up using this as a metaphor—One of the “mean” girls at the finishing school has a tough demeanor, but her true beauty within is evident only when she’s broken.
 
Although I grew up around oil rigs and saw pump jacks every day, I’d never been on a rig or knew what the function/purpose of words I’d heard all my life—things like dog house, slush pit, and crow’s nest. YouTube videos gave me a virtual tour and made my scenes more authentic (I hope!).

I also enjoyed perusing the pages of my 1955 version of Etiquette by Emily Post.

 

What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m writing a two-book series set in the Roaring Twenties, featuring two girls of noble British heritage who find love and adventure in the Jazz Age. Both books have settings in the US and in England. The first, The Hatmaker’s Heart, will release in 2014 from FaithWords.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Sweet Dreams?

At its core, Sweet Dreams is a story about family—loving and accepting the family you’re given. There are so many areas where families break down, so I hope readers will know they aren’t alone, that other generations have struggled . . . and survived. We all have dreams, but we don’t always give ourselves permission to pursue them. I would love for readers to find that freedom and dream big! 

I also hope that readers enjoy either reliving their own youth (Baby Boomers) or learning about another generation. A lot of my young readers think my nostalgic stories are historical – I love that!

What organizations are you involved with?

I’m an active member of ACFW and attend their national conference each year and have been an officer in our local ACFW group. I belong to the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. (OWFI) and am a past president of their affiliate, Tulsa Night Writers. My husband and I are active in our Life Group at First Baptist Tulsa and participate in several of their ongoing projects (Children’s Home, Homeless Food and Clothing Ministry, etc.).

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
Technology and understanding how to interface websites, social media, and the sundry other things it encompasses frustrate me. The learning curve never stops. Marketing also eats up a good chunk of my time. I have a fabulous, supportive publisher, but I also try to do a few marketing things each week.

 

I’m not sure it’s a challenge, but I have an intense desire to stay relevant in what I write, to be a better writer. In order to do that, I need the constant refreshment of reading great books and studying craft. I don’t often have time to do as much of that as I’d like. 
 
Who is the person who most influences your writing?

This is a tough one. As a storyteller, I would have to say my dad, who, even at eighty-six, regales me with new twists on stories I’ve heard a million times before. Many authors, though, have inspired me to write authentically, and I’m drawn to the literary styles of Charles Martin, Lisa Samson, Anne Tyler, Sue Monk Kidd, Barbara Kingsolver, Harper Lee . . . the list is endless.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love the brainstorming stage, when the story is just a glimmer at the edge of my brain. Once the pre-work is done, the first draft is always grueling, but then I love going back and editing – fixing all the parts that don’t work and deepening the conflict and characterization. Each step of the editing process is one I look forward to and am so grateful for the “team” behind each of my books.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Vacation. Whether it’s to the Rocky Mountains (which I adore) or a new locale for a research trip, just seeing different scenery and learning new things relaxes me and gives me new perspective. Max sometimes goes with me to conferences or book events so we like to take a couple of extra “fun” days to unwind and enjoy the scenery. On a daily basis, our back yard hot tub is a great way to escape for half an hour. 
 
Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I love connecting with readers and am so grateful for the many new friends I’ve made as an author. Sometimes my heart can barely hold it all. And I’m very appreciative of you and the chance to share my heart with readers. Thank you.

 


 

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