Friday, February 8, 2013

An Interview with C. J. Chase

Yesterday, I got to interview Lisa Karon Richardson about her latest book, The Magistrate's Folly.  Today, it's my privilege to talk to C. J. Chase about her new release, but first a bit about C. J. herself. 
C. J. Chase
She won the 2010 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and says she likes to make her characters solve mysteries, wrestle with the difficult issues of life and faith, and fall in love. All wrapped up with a happy ending, of course.  She lives in the swamps of Southeastern Virginia with her handsome husband, active sons, one kinetic sheltie, and an ever-increasing number of chickens. When she is not writing, she says you will find her gardening, watching old movies, playing classical piano (badly) or teaching a special needs Sunday School class.

Sounds like you stay busy, C. J.  So tell us about The Reluctant Earl.  What is unique about your heroine Leah Vance and her story?

Leah is a governess for a high-ranking politician’s family. She has a sister in an asylum, something which would end her employment if word got out. Supporting her sister has been a drain on her meager inheritance, and she has finally resorted to selling political secrets to procure the necessary funds.

Oooh, that sounds intriguing.  What are the underlying themes of the book?  What will readers long remember after reading it?

That we need to trust God to provide, even during our darkest times.

Did you have any surprises during the writing process or did everything go as planned?

Hmm. I have to plan things out before I write, so I don’t get a lot of surprises when I’m actually writing. There is one thing, but if I told you, it would spoil the ending.

No!  Don't spoil the ending!  Instead tell me what came first in the writing process?  Character, plot or theme?

Character and setting. Unusual for me, but this book was a follow-on to my previous book, so the character and time period were already determined.

It's always nice to have those things established so you'll know which direction to go with your story  What did you learn that you didn't already know when researching this period in history?

An unusual confluence of natural phenomenon caused the summer of 1816 to be abnormally cold and wet. The poor harvests caused the last major famine in the Western world.

Until I started hearing about your book, I had never heard of that famine.  So tragic.  We don't realize how good we have it these days.  So what was the most difficult part of writing this book?  The most fun?

Well, writing emotion is always draining for me. For some reason, I enjoy writing the mystery/suspense portions. Words come much more easily when I’m murdering a character than when characters are falling in love. Scary, huh?

Snicker.  I know just what you mean.  Did any of your characters insist on doing things you hadn't planned on?

I hadn’t anticipated Leah’s cousin setting himself up so conveniently to be the hero for my next book. Thanks, Alec.

Oh, that does sound convenient.  I wish you could convince some of my characters to be that cooperative.  What are you working on now and when can readers expect to find it on the shelves?

A follow-on to this one set in Scotland. But I haven’t sold it yet, so no publication date.

We'll keep our eyes open.  I love books that have ties to other books.  They're so much fun.  What would you most like your readers to know?
I’m afraid of heights (but love to fly). I can’t stand the taste of coffee. I can say the alphabet backwards as quickly as most people can say it forwards. I answer fan mail. I really love my family.

You are a woman a many and varied talents.  I'm impressed! What does a typical day look like for you?

Do other people really have such things?

Evidently not many, but I'll keep asking until I find one. So what do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I might have saved myself some time if I’d listened to my critique partner when she first told me I should be writing for the Christian fiction market.

Sounds like a smart crit partner!  How much of yourself do you write into your characters?

Well, I really like to write “bad girls.” Not sure how much of me I should admit to including in them, you know?

Snicker.  Your secret is safe with us.  Thank you for letting us get to know you and your book a little better.  Congratulations! 

Readers, you can find out more about C. J. at  

Are there any questions you'd like to ask C. J. about her writing or her new book?  Remember to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free copy of The Reluctant Earl!

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries will debut in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.


  1. Hurray CJ! I can't wait to read The Reluctant Earl. I think you do such a fabulous job with the pacing and tension in your stories. If it's any consolation, writing the romance part doesn't come easily to me either. Mayhem is just more, um, fun?

  2. I loved this book. C.J. has heard this since Redeeming the Rogue: I love her plots - intrigue and danger. I like some 'unsavory' characters thrown in with my 'sweets'.

    Another great interview, DeAnna!
    I admit I feel much empathy with C.J.'s writing style. Bringing the emotion out in my characters is the final, biggest challenge for me when I write. She has clearly come through in this story and I hope Love Inspired brings us another one soon!

  3. Thank you, Lisa! Do you suppose there's a relationship between liking mayhem (over emotion) and faster pacing?

  4. Deb, I once read (I think it was an article about reading the "great books" with children) that a book without a bad character is a bad book. Of course, the hard part is to include some flaws in our "good" (redeemed) characters and include some good in our "bad" (unredeemed) characters.

    What's the saying? No man's life is completely worthless. He can always serve as a bad example.

  5. CJ, I absolutely love that Leah's sister is in an asylum. It just makes for such a unique aspect of Leah's life. I like uniqueness in a book.

    I'm really looking forward to reading this one. I loved the last one, so I know I won't be disappointed.

    CJ - the swamps in Virginia? The Great Dismal Swamp was practically in my sister's backyard when she lived in Virginia. And it's beautiful. The butterflies were gorgeous.

  6. Oops - sorry: great job on the interviews, DeAnna.:-)

  7. I'm so glad everyone is enjoying the interviews. I love finding out more about my fellow Inkies and about how they wrote their books.

    I agree, the asylum aspect of this is unusual, and I'm eager to read the story and find out how that ties in. Maybe a sequel about the sister? Could be interesting!


  8. I was thinking sequel, too, DeAnna. Great minds! ;-)

  9. You know, CJ. It could be that there's a relationship. I know I have to slow things down sometimes to make the relationships work.

  10. DeAnna, my husband said to tell you that he loved the interview.

    Thank you for letting me be princess for a day/week.

  11. Aww, tell your DH thank you for me, C.J. :D

  12. I'm just so happy to see cj doing so well!!! Keep it up :)

  13. Suzie, I'm not far from the Great Dismal. It was supposedly 2-3 larger before large parts of it were drained in the 1700's & 1800's. After all the rain we had Friday morning, you'd believe this area was swamp, too!

  14. Great interview DeAnna and CJ.

    Very interesting that you can say the alphabet backwards - fast. I bet you were good at pig latin too, eh?

    I really liked this interview.

  15. Anita, no good at pig latin. There was a children's song from ages ago that used the alphabet.
    The children's choir did it in church one time. (Um, ABCDEFG Jesus died for you and me.... I think is how it started.) Anyway, the second verse was doing it backwards (ZYX and WV God is watching over me...). We had to have the song memorized, and I sort of took it from there to being able to do the alphabet backwards.

    I don't know it's of much use in my daily life. But it impresses little kids.


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