Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Author - Mishael Austin Witty

I'm pleased to welcome contemporary romance author, Mishael Austin Witty today. And she's having a giveaway! Please leave a comment with your contact information at the end of the post, and you'll be entered in a drawing for an e-book version of her book, BELIEVE IN ME

Mishael, please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.

Do I have to? Ugh. This is always one of the hardest questions for a writer to answer (or is it just me?). There’s so much to say…Where do I start?

I’m a wife and a mother of two little girls. I also have two female feline fur babies who always like to sit next to (or on top of) the laptop while I’m trying to write.

I’m Kentucky-born and bred, but I’ve never been to an actual Derby (although I have been to a couple of horse races at Churchill Downs). I DO know all the words to “My Old Kentucky Home” (both the PC and the non-PC version), and I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Stephen Foster, the man who wrote the song.

I love this state, even if it didn’t officially choose sides in the War Between the States. I personally have to side with the North, since my great-great-great-grandfather, Nat Austin, was gunned down by Confederate soldiers (and he wasn’t even a soldier himself. He was a blacksmith in Tompkinsville, Monroe County).

I’m an amateur genealogist, I make my own jewelry, and I’m a Christ follower who is fascinated by all things spiritual.    

Why did you decide to write contemporary romance? What is the appeal?

I first got the idea for this novella when I decided to answer an open call for submissions for a collection of Christmas novellas by Entangled Publishing. The task was to come up with a title by using a lyric from the song “Santa Baby”, so I used the line, “let’s see if you believe in me” to come up with the title BELIEVE IN ME. From the title, I had to come up with the story idea. What would make someone feel like they had to say that to someone else? There obviously had to be a break in the relationship somewhere, so the story idea was born.

I’d really never written a romance before, but I thought it might be fun to try. I’m a psychologist by training, so I love looking into people’s minds, behaviors, and relationships. And, since romance is all about relationship, the genre seemed like a natural fit for me. It was so much fun to write this story – to get to know all the characters and see how their relationships and conflicts all played out.

How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?

For most of my books so far (BELIEVE IN ME and my first, SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME), there hasn’t been a lot I’ve needed to research. For my zombie fairy tale, CAMPANULA (also available on Amazon), I needed to research herbs and their effects. Google and Wikipedia basically told me everything I needed to know about that.

For my upcoming historical novel, THE FADING SUN, I had to research a lot – what foods people in the Civil War era ate, how they dressed, etc. I wanted to really get in there and set the scenes authentically. Since the story is a fictional account based on the actual story of Nat Austin’s killing and the life of his widow, Jane, following his death, I used a lot of details gleaned from my genealogy research to fill in the character details, including ages, dates of births, marriages, number of children, etc. 

Also, I wanted to include local reactions to the major historical events that were occurring at the time, since there were so many social and political changes taking place. I used local historical papers (as local as I could get, anyway. I tried to stick with Kentucky) for this, accessed via the Louisville Free Public Library’s website. They have an awesome collection, and you can search for any date you want. So many fascinating story ideas in those pages too. I’ve gained several ideas for more historical fiction stories. I can’t wait to write them!

What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?

The best comment I ever received from a reader was that BELIEVE IN ME reminded her of a Debbie Macomber Christmas romance, with “tension, romance, and characters that are warm and believable”.  I hadn’t yet made the connection between my book and Debbie Macomber’s books (although I have read several), and that “ah ha!” moment was priceless! Especially since it came from a reader.

The worst comment I’ve received from someone so far on this book was that it ruined her afternoon (and yet she kept reading to the end, even after she knew she didn’t like it). Here’s a particularly scathing quote: “The heroine was stupid, stupid, stupid. I couldn't believe her actions. Her mother, her mother's best friend, the stupid jerk from high school (10 yrs. ago) that was her sweetheart then, you name it. All just dumb. Even the dialogue was bad.”

And, for the weird? This one takes the cake: “Moved very quickly. Good character's [sic], Hyatt needed a little more fleshing out. Loved Mon and Mom. Look forward to reading another book with more meat to it.” These aren’t even my characters (with the exception of “Mom”). Was this person even actually reading my book? Very curious!

Still, I love hearing from readers – the good, the bad, and the odd. It’s encouraging to know that you’re not just writing into a vacuum. Someone is actually reading what you’re putting out there. It may not be their cup of tea, but at least they read it…and your writing caused enough emotional reaction in them to make them want to comment on it. That’s the best part (for me) of being a writer – making people feel something.

Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?

I always have to have some sort of plan before I begin writing anything; otherwise, the story doesn’t get written. If I don’t have any of idea of where I’m going, then I won’t even start.

I don’t, however, plot every detail. I tried that once with a historical novel that never got written because I wrote basically everything that happened down in my outline summary. When it came time to actually write the thing, I found that I’d outlined the excitement right out of the story. I was no longer interested in writing it. I may go back to it at some point. It’s been several years since I started it and gave it up. But, for right now, there are other tales to tell.

Can you tell us a little about your current work, BELIEVE IN ME? Is there a story behind the story?

There is definitely a story behind the story. As I mentioned before, I began writing the story in response to a call for submissions. Entangled Publishing didn’t want it. They said the story was good; it just wasn’t for them. So, since I’d already self-published one book, SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME, I thought I’d try to self-publish this one, as well.

The underlying theme of this story is real, self-sacrificial love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. BELIEVE IN ME shows the magic that can occur when two people realize that they both played a part in making a bad situation worse, but they can both change their attitudes and turn things around to make it right again.  I published an article on my website that describes this in more detail. You can find that here:

What sets your heroine, Trina, apart from all the other women in your hero’s, Walt’s, life? Why is she perfect for him?

Trina is the only woman that Walt ever truly loved. She was the first woman he had sex with, and is really the only woman that he ever wants to be with physically. The thought of having sex with another woman has just never entered Walt’s mind ever since he met Trina in college.

She is stubborn, and sometimes childish, but so is Walt, and he acknowledges that. She brings out the best in him, in ways that he never thought possible. He never thought anyone could love him, with all his imperfections and insecurities, but Trina does, and Walt loves her because of that.

There’s not any one thing that separates Trina from all other women in Walt’s life. Everything about her sets her apart. She IS the only woman in Walt’s life, as far as he is concerned, and he’s determined to prove that to her.

Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

Ha! It seems that I, literally, go through this on a weekly, if not almost daily, basis. During these times, I’ll read…and, quite often, reading what other people write gives me the motivation to write my own stuff. Not that I think I can necessarily do it better than whatever author I happen to be reading at the moment (although sometimes that is the case), but mostly…it’s just that I’ll get a spark of an idea from reading someone else’s work, and then I can take that idea and make it my own.

I also once read a fabulous tip from Janet Burroway’s book, WRITING FICTION: GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT, about a writing technique called clustering. Actually, I think it’s more than a writing technique, but it works great for writers too. Basically, you just pick one word at random (you’ll probably need a hard copy of a book for this), try to think of as many other words as you can, build a story idea from that, and just write for 15 minutes. I wrote an article about one experience I had with clustering (and the end result). You can read that here:

Can you give us a little background on your hero, Walt, that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story? What inspired you to create this character?

Yes. I definitely can.

Walt’s a largely misunderstood character (at least by the MC, Trina), and he has a fascinating background that doesn’t really come out at all in BELIEVE IN ME, but I’m thinking of developing an entire prequel based on Walt and his relationship with his mother…and how that nearly prevented his marriage to Trina. Walt and Trina never really have had an easy road. Poor guys!

That storyline does hit a little close to home for me, since my relationship with my own mother is so strained, and she was against me marrying my husband from the very beginning. But I did it, anyway, and it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. He’s just perfect for me – and, as I said before, I think that Walt and Trina are perfect for each other, but they have a hard time figuring it out sometimes. So, basically, real life inspired me to create these characters.

Describe a favorite scene in BELIEVE IN ME?

I really love the last scene. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet by giving too much away, but I think it’s really sweet how it ties everything together in a refreshingly romantic way. Since this was the first time I’d ever tried my hand at writing a romance, I’m especially proud of it.

I did have a little help, though, from some awesome beta readers who are more avid romance fans than I am! I’m sure I couldn’t have done half as well without them.

What else do you have in store for your readers?

First, I want to mention that the Kindle version of BELIEVE IN ME is on sale for 99 cents through the rest of this month (through July 31). After that, it goes back to its regular price of $2.99.

Also, I have a historical fiction/romance book coming out soon, which will probably appeal to at least some of the same readers who like BELIEVE IN ME. It’s about how a Civil War widow copes with the loss of her husband…and falls in love with his boyhood friend. This is loosely based on the aforementioned true story of the shooting of my great-great-great-grandfather and the aftermath for the family he left behind. It doesn’t have an HEA – at least not yet. This book, THE FADING SUN, is the first in the Sunset’s Hope trilogy, and the series does end happily!

Oh, and be sure to look for my upcoming (January 31, 2014) story, “Protecting Zoe”, in Kathi Macias’s  Twelve Days of Christmas series, from Helping Hands Press. The first story in that series (from Kathi herself) comes out in mid-August, and it’s a good one!  

Reconciliations can occur. Broken hearts can be mended. If you believe...

For the past year, twenty-something radio producer Trina Gray has been focusing
on her career and trying to forget that her once idyllic marriage is soon
coming to a heartbreaking end. Almost a year ago to the day, Trina caught her
husband, Walt, kissing her sister in her mother's kitchen under the mistletoe.

But it's Christmas time again, and Trina feels the familial pressure to
return to the nest for the annual holiday celebrations. It's only for a week.
Surely she can tolerate being in the same house with her sister for that long.
What she doesn't bargain for, though, is that her mother has invited Walt to
stay with the family for the holiday season, as well.

Walt's presence sends Trina running to her old friend, Mim's, bed and
breakfast, where she runs into her high school boyfriend, Kurt. Trina quickly
realizes the attraction is still strong between them, and the temptation to be
with him is stronger still, even if he is only looking for a one-night stand.
But, as Trina discovers, Walt's not willing to give up without a fight this

Will Trina and Kurt rekindle their juvenile romance? Or will she repair her
relationship with Walt? Who can she believe in?

Buy on Amazon:

Connect with Mishael Austin Witty online


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Peggy!

    Just one quick correction: Kathi Macias's story will be released September 1, 2013; not mid-August, as I previously stated. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. Great interview, Mishael. Good luck with the book.