Indie Author Spotlight: Carolyn Astfalk

Indie Author SpotlightWelcome to my first Indie Author Spotlight which I hope to make a weekly occurrence for at least the next ten weeks (because I have ten lovely authors who have agreed to chat with me!). Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Carolyn Astfalk, author of contemporary Catholic romance novels. If Catholic fiction isn’t your thing, don’t worry – come back next week for a completely different genre (you all should know by now that my reading tastes are eclectic)!

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I have read and loved every one of Carolyn’s books – I even preordered her newest release, Come Back to Me, because I was THAT excited for it come out. While most of her books are written for adults, her very first book, Rightfully Ours, is a Young Adult romance most appropriate for older teens; I just read it this week and I’m truly considering making it mandatory reading for my kids when they’re older (I wrote a little about it here)!

So, I first gave Carolyn’s books a chance when I saw her promotional tweet that said something like, “Theology of the Body fiction with enough spice to keep it real.” The notion intrigued me, and I bought Stay with Me. I was not disappointed. It’s easy to read “Catholic romance” and think, “oh, this is gonna be about two perfect people living the perfect, chaste relationship and making it look easy.” I was so, so thrilled to find this is not the case. In each of her books, Carolyn has created real, relatable characters. Yes, they’re Catholic. No, they’re not perfect. They struggle, in life and in love. They’re tempted, they fall, and they get back up, ask for forgiveness, and try again. They are REAL people, living REAL lives, while trying their best, with the Grace of God, to live and love in the way He designed for us.

And now, meet Carolyn Astfalk!

When did you start writing?

Though I’ve been writing nonfiction of one sort or another my whole life, I started seriously writing fiction during National Novel Writing Month in 2010. It was a lark. Something to try while my husband was working out of town, and I only had two young children. I grew to love creating stories and molding them into novels.

Why do you write?

I write mainly to get the ideas in my head out and onto paper! I always had sort of a cinematic imagination, but I never knew what to do with it until I started writing novels. Once I found that outlet, it’s been hard not to write, though I’m greatly limited by the time I have available for it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser with some plotter tendencies. I organize characters and the basis of the story in my head before I begin writing. I’ll let the plot and characters lead me, but there’s usually a point in the process when I need to take pen to paper in order to keep the timeline straight or organize chapters.

One of the things we have in common is being SAHM to four kids. How do you fit writing into parenting? 

It’s very hard to fit in writing around family and household duties. I wrote more during naps and playtime when my children were younger. As they’ve grown older, they are less physically dependent on me but continue to require at least as much of my time, just for different things. It was also simpler when I was only writing, not having to market my books. That takes a significant amount of time I’d otherwise devote to writing and revising. My husband is supportive of my writing generally, but not in the way of helping me devote time to it. That’s mine to manage.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

I have two novels in progress, both contemporary Catholic romance, although one is a bit more women’s fiction. After that, there’s a Young Adult novel tied to the characters in one of my short stories published with Catholic Teen Books that I’m aching to write.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Favorite books?

I like to read a variety of genres, including classics, Young Adult, and historical fiction, but I always come back to Catholic and Christian contemporary novels, particularly romances that have some depth. Here are a few of my favorite books by author friends:

Besides reading and writing, do you have any other hobbies?

I’d love to return to some old hobbies, like playing the piano and doing calligraphy, but right now I lack the time – and a piano. I’d also like to have my daughter teach me how to crochet. Maybe someday!

What is your author dream?

I’ve really tried to temper some delusions I had about success early on. I’d just like my books to find themselves in the hands of those for whom God intended them. I’d also love to have more Catholics become aware of and take an interest in fiction being written by contemporary Catholic authors.

What do you want readers to know about you?

If they know anything about me, I’d like them to think of me as a proponent of Catholic authors, someone who is doing her little part to share the good work that others are doing and is trying to share hope and faith through her own stories.

Learn more about Carolyn Astfalk at her website, www.carolynastfalk.com, buy her books from her Amazon author page, and find her in the following places:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolynMAstfalk

Twitter: @cmastfalk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/castfalk/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/CarolynAstfalk

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolynastfalk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3428010-carolyn

Instagram: https://instagram.com/cmastfalk/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/carolyn-astfalk

 

Would you like to be featured, too? Please contact me at kristin@theedifyingword.com!

Who am I?

Isn’t that the eternal question? Who am I? What makes me ME? Is it my history? My ancestry? The sum of my actions? My thoughts? Fears? Aspirations? I think this is a fundamental human question, something people the world over ask themselves, regardless of their life circumstances.

For me, it’s less a question of who I am than of where I belong. Thanks be to God, I know where that is: right where I am. If there’s one thing this pandemic has made abundantly clear, it’s that I am one blessed woman. My husband and my children are MY LIFE. Last year, we packed up and moved across the country. I was scared, but I knew that as long as the six of us were doing this together, I’d be fine. I can adjust to a new location, make new friends. But the core of my life is here with me. Even more so, now that we’re staying-at-home-all-together-all-the-time. Is it easy? No. Do we get on each other’s nerves sometimes? Yes. But do I doubt that we will come through it together? Not at all. My husband, my children, and the Grace of God will carry me; we will carry each other.

I haven’t always felt this at home. I had a profound identity crisis after becoming a mother – who was I if I wasn’t the smart woman who walked into work every day and did “important” stuff? If I couldn’t engage in my regular hobbies with my husband anymore (um, no rock climbing or backpacking with a newborn baby)? If I wasn’t the perfect student and had to give up grad school? I wrestled. For years. I suffered from PPD – multiple times. I reached incredible low points that I don’t wish on anyone. But I found me, I found home.

Perhaps it’s because I endured that journey that I am so interested in others’ stories as they search for what makes them them. I’ve had a chance to read a lot of books over the past bunch of days (self-isolating from your family does that, dratted pandemic), and there’s been a common theme across many of them: search for self.

A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir by [Diakité, Jason]Jason “Timbuktu” Diakite, a biracial Swedish rapper born of American parents, recounts his search for his identity in his memoir, A Drop of Midnight. I picked it up for free as part of Amazon Prime’s “First Reads” in February. I’d never heard of him before, I don’t like rap music, and I certainly don’t know what it’s like to experience a racial identity crisis. I’m a white girl from NJ. Very simple. So in many ways this was not a typical read for me, but I found it fascinating – which was certainly helped by the incredibly beautiful writing (hats off to the author and the translator!). It was moving, and while I can’t identify with his particular experiences, I can identify with Jason’s search for himself. I rooted for him as I read, praying he’d find that comfort in his own skin, that home he was clearly searching for. (I also learned a whole lot along the way, which is always nice.)

The War I Finally Won by [Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker]Ada Smith is a fictional 11-year-old girl with a club foot in WWII England. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War I Finally Won, a sequel to the Newberry Honor recipient The War That Saved My Life, takes us along on Ada’s journey as she finds her place in the world, a world that is constantly changing around her and full of heartache. She perseveres. She finds people who love her, she learns to love, and in doing so she finds home. It’s beautiful.

Austenland: A Novel by [Hale, Shannon]

On a more lighthearted note, Shannon Hale’s Jane “Erstwhile” Hayes (Austenland) takes a vacation to nineteenth century England to figure out who she is. It’s easy to call it a romance and move on, but it’s really one woman’s effort to figure out and accept herself so that she is capable of loving and being loved in return.

 

Rightfully Ours by [Astfalk, Carolyn]Finally, I just finished Carolyn Astfalk’s Rightfully Ours, a young adult, Catholic love story. It is beautiful in so many ways. In it we see Paul struggle through the hard work of adolescence, with the added burden of great personal loss. He grows from rotely following along with his childhood faith to true personal conviction. He finds who he wants to be, the courage to try to live his ideals, and the family to support him in that effort. For many, many reasons, this is a book I hope my children will read when they are old enough.

So, there you have four very different books that all speak beautifully to the human question who am I? There’s a fifth, too, but it’s an ARC and I can’t share it yet — wait ’til May/June. Who knows? We might even be able to go out in public by then….

Thank you for reading along with my musings. I am grateful that, for now, I have that question answered. I have no doubt that I will face many more trials and life changes that will challenge this notion – but right now, it is such a pleasure to read these stories, and learn from them, but not to feel that yearning, that seeking.

I am home, and it is beautiful.

Are “the classics” actually good? Wuthering Heights is!

So I’ve been making an effort recently to read some of “the classics” – my husband seems bemused by this, but I feel like I’ve reached a point where I can appreciate literature in a way I just didn’t when I was younger. I’ve always loved to read – but it was all about being wrapped up in the story. As I’ve gotten older, read more, become a mom in need of intellectual stimulation, and become more experienced as an editor and beta reader I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the art of writing. You can get a three-star review from me for an engaging story without amazing writing, but the fives are reserved for those that do both and also convey some sort of life message – communicate some great truths about life.

This year so far I’ve read 1984 and Animal Farm (George Orwell) and I’ve begun reading The Innocence of Father Brown (G.K. Chesteron). In 2019 I read Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Under the Lilacs (Louisa May Alcott), and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). In 2018 I read The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia #4, C.S. Lewis), Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen), and The Valley of Fear (Arthur Conan Doyle). I only actually enjoyed two of those: The Silver Chair and Wuthering Heights. The rest I’m glad to have read, but didn’t love while I was reading them, if that makes sense.

Since I let this post sit for four months without touching it and don’t remember at all where I was going with it, I’ve decided to offer my quick takes on each of the books I mention above:

The Innocence of Father Brown — It is SLOW. Father Brown always solves the crime, and he usually imparts some bit of Catholic wisdom in the process. But it is slow.

1984 — I finally understand so many cultural references to Orwell. I also do not understand how people do not see the parallels to our modern life. Telescreens remind me an awful lot of Alexa…or Facebook. Scary stuff.

Animal Farm — I never took a European History class, which put me at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding this book.

Les Miserables — Would any editor anywhere let this book get published nowadays? I LOVE the musical and know all the songs by heart, and the core of the story is wonderful. But we need to slash like…half the book.

Under the Lilacs — I just feel ambivalent about this one. I reread Little Women and Little Men as a kid (rereading books is not something I typically do) because I loved them so much and this one…was just harder to get into and love.

Wuthering Heights — This book is SO DARK. In the past I’ve found it hard to get into books where I can’t identify with the characters, or where the characters are unlikable. Pretty much everyone in Wuthering Heights in unlikable, but I think the story is wonderfully written and so heartbreakingly realistic. Maybe I’ve just reached a point in life where I realize there are no perfect people and so I’m not looking for perfect characters? I think, though, it might be that I found it a fascinating look at why people do horrible things. What makes these people tick? That understanding brings empathy, even the face of human awfulness.

The Silver Chair — Narnia is eternally captivating and all the books have been spectacular so far. I should get back to that series!

Sense and Sensibility — I really, really, really WANT to like Jane Austen. I’m just not sure I do. Some of the characters are infuriating and I’m glad I didn’t live in that society.

The Valley of Fear — I was largely unimpressed, to be honest. Which was a little disappointing.

Have you read any of these books? What do you think of them? Are there any classics I should be sure to read?