Friday, 8 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Connie Chastain

STEPH: I don't know much about Storm Surge. Can you tell us a little about it?

CONNIE: It's the story of a young woman, Briana Farrior, who works for a consumer watchdog agency. Her employer helps her to land a job at an independent adjusting firm owned by a man suspected of insurance fraud. Her job is to find evidence of his wrongdoing and help bring him to justice, but she quickly comes to believe in his innocence. In fact, she falls in love with him, and he with her. But there are obstacles -- her guilt about the deception necessary for her to get the job, his hurt and distrust when he learns of her deceit. There are other obstacles for them to overcome, including a Category Five hurricane. All fictional hurricanes are Category Fives these days.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

CONNIE: It came from the saying, "Write what you know." I know the upper Gulf Coast, its culture and people, from having lived here for three decades. And I know about the property and casualty insurance industry from having worked in homeowner claims for over ten years.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

CONNIE: I started writing it in July 2008, and finished in June of 2010, but I was writing other fiction during that time frame.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research? If so, what did you do?

CONNIE: I'm pretty familiar with hurricanes and disaster response, so that didn't take a lot of research; but the villain in this story is a criminal and I had to research crimes, prison sentences, while life is like for an ex-con.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

CONNIE: Plotter. I plot scenes and timelines on a calendar; I keep a spreadsheet of scenes as they're written, including word counts. I do genealogy for the main characters and chart their personality, Myers-Briggs-style. I have to know what's going on during the timeframe I'm writing about, whether I reference specific things in the story or not, like the news headlines of the day, fashion, and popular music. I find out everything I can -- for example, in my first novel, I know -- thanks to Sky and Telescope's website -- that when the hero and his wife kiss under the moon on their tenth wedding anniversary, which is June 23, 1983, the moon is full.

STEHP: Cast the movie. Who are the leads?

CONNIE: I honestly don't know. I'm not that familiar with films and televsion, but most actors and actresses seem too sophisticated and worldly for upright Justin and unsophisticated Briana. However, going strictly by appearance, Ryan Carnes, who evidently is a fairly typical Hollywood hedonist, looks very much like Justin.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

CONNIE: I started writing fiction in the 1980s, inspired by Rex Stout, author of the great Nero Wolfe detective novels, a few authors who wrote Star Trek novels, and various romance writers, particularly Dixie Browning. I wrote a behemoth psychological romance back then that was reaching 200,000 words when I quit writing. I started writing fiction again in 2005 or so.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

CONNIE: No, I just have Kindle emulating software for my computer. When I get one, it will probably be a Kindle.


STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

CONNIE: Read "How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively" by Rudolph Flesch; I wasn't able to write a thing worth reading before I found that treasure. Join a good crit group, and analyze the crits you get, but more importantly, critique the work of other writers. You will learn a lot about what needs improving in your own writing that way. Pay attention to the rules of writing, but not so much that they rob you of your voice.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the place you live in.

CONIIE: I live in Pensacola, Florida which is characterized by most of the elements discussed in my first spotlight article about the Gulf Coast. But to be a bit more specific, Pensacola's nickname is the City of Five Flags, which represent the nations that have claimed it during its history -- Spain, Britian, France, the Confederacy and the United States. It is especially -- inordinately -- proud of its Spanish history.

The city also prides itself on being the oldest European settlement in North America, having been colonized by Don Tristan de Luna and a band of settlers in 1559, beating out St. Augustine for that honor by six years. However, the de Luna colonists gave up and sailed back to New Spain after -- you guessed it -- a hurricane devastated the settlement, while St. Augustine has been in continual existance since September of 1565.

Florida's westernmost city is home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, which is home to the famous Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. Like it's coastal sister cities, Mobile and New Orleans, Pensacola celebrates Mardi Gras with parades and festivals. And while there's no French Quarter here, it isn't unusual to hear, "Laissez les bon temps roulez." Let the good times roll.

STEPH: Thanks for being here this week, Connie!

Connie's book is avail as a PDF, html, and epub format on the Desert Breeze website:


  1. CONNIE--our writiing lives somewhat parallel, timewise. I still feel new to the world of writing. Your book sounds quite intriguing...and mysterious, something I'm not good at. But I do have a Coming Soon with a hurricane...which outer bands often reach Central Texas, causing floods, mainly.

    And...see you in Pensacola next week! I suppose I'll just wave hi and hope you see me. My husband has a big group of family there, and we have gone often through the years. I LOVE the naval air base museum, and the last time we were there, I heard people talking in the museum that the Blue Angels were in a secured area behind a hangar. I told my husband, I've just got to see those planes. We broke a couple of rules and got throught a fence, so I could see. I saw some of the pilots, too, walking around, laughing. We got out of there fast, so we wouldn't get caught. Very exciting!
    Good luck with your novel release! Celia

  2. That 200,000 word book intrigues me. Do you think it could be broken uo into a multi-book series?