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Interview With Christa Ann Banister

Respected music critic and freelance writer, Christa Banister makes her authorial debut in Around the World in 80 Dates: Confessions of a Christian Serial Dater. Inspired by actual events, Christa describes her new book as a story full of pluck, wit, and humor.

Christa, tell us how you came up with the idea of Confessions and a serial dater.

It’s been said time and again that people should write about what they know. And before I met my husband, I had my fair share of relational train wrecks. But instead of kissing dating goodbye, I chose to embrace the madness and had enough hilarious experiences to inspire several books. And thanks to my friend Jesse Butterworth, I took those unfortunate incidents and built a story about them that I hope will inspire people and make them laugh during their respective relationship journeys.

Reflecting back, what do you see as being most significant to your publication journey?

Persistence. When a couple of different publishers didn’t exactly catch my vision for the story the way I’d hoped, I knew I had to keep trying. So I continued tweaking my sample chapters and touching base with publishers until I found the perfect fit at NavPress.

How do you balance your writing and marketing time with other responsibilities?

Since I’m a full-time freelance writer whose livelihood thrives on an abundance of deadlines, this can definitely be tricky. Like anything else worth doing, though, I simply have to make the time. Writing novels is my second full-time job, so it requires putting in very long days. My deadlines, not to mention my marketing, don’t happen by osmosis, so I have to budget time each day to make sure I stay on top of everything. But because I love what I do, it’s a joy (well, most of the time anyway!).

And how does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

My faith is the most important component of my life, so it can’t help but color everything I do. So whether I write a novel about relationships or review the latest romantic comedy, my worldview is decidedly rooted in my relationship with Christ. As far as the more practical aspects, I’m probably a little like everyone else who wishes she made a little more time for Bible reading and quiet time. But I will say that spending most of your days in the comfort of your home office does give you plenty of opportunities to talk to God. I know without His constant intervention, I’d never be able to check off everything I have to do in a day.

What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

There have been so many. Getting hired at CCM Magazine back in 2000 and seeing my first stories in print was definitely one of my highest moments because it was such a dream come true. Traveling to London in 2003 for a CCM cover story on Delirious was certainly another unforgettable experience. And of course, having my first novel published last year was truly mind-blowing. I’ll never forget receiving my first copy in the mail and being in a state of mock disbelief. I’d done all the work, yet I still couldn’t believe I was holding a book I’d written. Simply amazing.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

Ever since I was a five-year-old kid reading the Bernstein Bears, I’ve had an unexplainable love and need to write. I guess it’s the way I process what I’m seeing, feeling and experiencing. I’ve always been an avid journaler, and that, combined with a love of words, has always inspired me to put pen to paper. My actual story ideas and characters come from a variety of places—movies I’ve seen, friends of mine, conversations I hear in coffee shops, a little of everything.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

A distinct voice. Ever since I started writing for CCM, people have said it’s easy to pick out my writing in a crowd because I have a style and voice that’s all my own. So I try and amp that up in everything I do. Plus, I have a bit of a snarky side, so that definitely provides a different flavor. With Around the World in 80 Dates, I really tried to bring a sense of humor to what’s often a complicated subject: dating. I was deliberate about communicating the subliminal message that Christians can have fun and not resort to trite, sugar-coated answers when life is messy.

What has been your greatest challenge as far as marketing your book and what strategies have you found successful?

There’s never enough time or money to get the word out, is there? I guess that’s been my greatest challenge. But thanks to the Internet, I have been able to promote my book via MySpace, Facebook and ShoutLife, mediums that authors didn’t have before, which has definitely enhanced my book’s Web presence. I’ve also discovered, yet again, the importance of relationships. Everyone from my Starbucks barista to the girl at the counter at UPS knows about my book because of five-minute conversations we’ve had. And good old-fashioned word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get people reading your work.

Finish this question. Writing is like…

…a great love story. It’s all in the little details. While anyone can write functionally enough with decent training and ample practice, truly great writing excels because of a million little decisions that are made along the way.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

I think writing involves three things—a measure of God-given talent, a love of words and a strong work ethic. There are lots of people who want to write a book but don’t want to devote the long hours to developing and honing his/her craft. But I think if you write a little every day, have a persistent, do-whatever-it-takes attitude and thoroughly enjoy what you do, you can have a really great life as a writer.

Thanks for sharing with us, Christa!
Thank you so much for the opportunity!!

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