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!

Book Review: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult

I had such high hopes for this book, but unfortunately was ultimately disappointed. My husband picked it up for me at the library, thinking I might find it interesting — and I did! But I also found it a rather slow read that was definitely inappropriately titled. Rather than, “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult,” a more accurate title would’ve been something like, “One man’s random musings on kids’ books,” because that’s sort of what it felt like to me. Some of those musings were interesting and insightful, and some were just…not. While this seems fairly critical thus far, I do want to highlight a few positives from the book that stood out to me as I read and motivated me to keep reading whenever I felt compelled to give up on the book.

First, the last thing you read in the book is, as is often the case, the author’s acknowledgements. It is clear from this writing that this was a labor of love for the author, and he put an incredible amount of work and effort into it. It took him six years to write the book, and after having read the whole thing, that doesn’t surprise me: it is meticulously researched.

Handy does a a great job distilling the biographies of many famous children’s authors. I was intrigued by the personal stories of authors such as Margaret Wise Brown, Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary, and Louisa May Alcott, among others. I learned a lot about their lives, their motivations for writing, and their struggles/triumphs of publishing. It was interesting as an editor of indie books to read about the dynamics between some of these authors and their editors and publishers. The information also lends context to some of the books; in some cases this is very interesting (as in The Cat in the Hat), and in others it is disappointing (as in Little Women).

Early on in the book Handy says, “…what we need from stories changes as we age. When we are very young, what we need are our parents. When we are older…we need…to pull away from their gravitational field….” Unfortunately, I can’t figure out at the moment where that quote is in the book (oops), but I remember it was in one of the first two chapters. He offered it as a way of explaining the differences in picture books for the youngest children and those geared toward slightly older children, but I think it holds a lot of truth – “what we need from stories changes as we age.” I would argue it’s not just as we age, but just as we travel through different phases of life (which may or may not be due to age) and it’s why I have trouble ever answering questions about my favorite books or favorite genres. I’m drawn to different books at different times, based on what I need from stories at that particular moment in my life.

On a simpler level, Handy’s writings on Beverly Cleary and her Henry Huggins/Ramona books inspired me to pick some of them up for my daughter to read. After looking through Ramona the Pest, I decided the books are good reading for her at this age and checked out a few from the library; just today I placed holds on a few more because she’s really been enjoying them. I never read them myself as a kid, and I’m always grateful for good book recommendations for my little bookworm!

Finally, I am awed by Handy’s opinion of C.S. Lewis. It’s rare to find an atheist who so highly praises a Christian writer. To me, the praise Handy gives Lewis is some of the highest:

I’m no expert, but Lewis’s ostensible fantasy strikes me as an unusually sophisticated, not to mention graceful and humane, portrayal of belief, no matter the age of the intended audience. Or perhaps I should just say that the Narnia books allow me to “get it” in a way that most religious expression, whether art or testament, does not (176).

I find that last sentence to be so beautiful, and to encapsulate the very purpose (as I see it) of the Narnia books — for people to “get it.” It speaks to Lewis’s great talent and, I would argue, some intervention of the Holy Spirit, that he can write such enjoyable books in such a way that even those who do not believe God exists can start to understand belief.

So, for lack of a more eloquent way to wrap this up, I’ll leave it there. Overall, I give the book probably a 2.5 (somewhere between “eh” and “it was ok”), but as you can see I gained quite a bit from it so it was worth persevering.