I’m excited to continue this year on the CRAFT OF WRITING blog by focusing on authors who write series. This month, I welcome the effervescent Chautona Havig. Chautona has written over a hundred books in several series and hosts a popular podcast as well! I don’t know where she gets the energy, but I’m glad she’s with us today to talk about writing the series.
Here are just a few of Chautona’s books. Click the image to go to her website.How did she write more than 100 books? An interview with Chautona Havig and a chance to win a hand-crafted Beginning of Time pen. Click To Tweet
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Once again, we’re doing something fun for this interview. The name of each person who enters a comment will be put into the drawing for a unique “Beginning of Time” pen, hand-crafted by my friend and colleague Steve Hooley. So join the conversation and earn a chance to win. I’ll leave the contest open for an extra day for folks who comment later, and I’ll post the name of the winner after 9PM Central Time tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov 14) night.
(Former winners are excluded from the drawing, but not from commenting!)
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Welcome to the Craft of Writing blog, Chautona Havig, and thank you for joining us!
Thank you for having me! I always love a good chat with you.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer, and what was your first published work?
I remember “the moment” quite distinctly. I was twelve and living in Ventura, California. Mom gave me a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and told me I might want to read it. I did. And the teacher in that book—the one who Francie lied to about the little pie she took home—answered so many problems I had. She counseled Francie and then said, “Tell the truth. Write what should have happened.”
I can’t recall if it was 2007 or 2009, but my first book published was Noble Pursuits. I was testing out the whole indie publishing thing to help me decide if I wanted to go traditional or not. I took a lot of bad advice with that book, made tons of mistakes. Eventually, however, I unpublished it, rewrote it, and republished it as Oh, Gracious!
What was your first series, and why did you decide to write it?
The first series I wrote was the Aggie’s Inheritance series. The first book, Ready or Not, was actually the first book I wrote. I was still working on it when I published Noble Pursuits. I started writing after another frustrating day with people walking up to me (I had eight kids at the time) and saying, “How do you do it all? I can barely manage with my one or two!” And I kept saying, “But I didn’t get eight all at once. I barely managed with one or two also. Barely managed with three, five, and then eventually nine. But I have a writer’s brain, and one day I thought, “But what would happen if someone got eight kids all at once? What if she was single? What if she doesn’t know a lot about kids? What if her sister’s mother-in-law keeps interfering? And well… four 120k-word books later…
Can you tell us about the other series you’ve written?
Soooo many series. I’ll just throw out a few and a one-line snippet, okay?
The Annals of Wynnewood: historical fantasy (13th Century) in England about a girl, the village that is terrified of her, and the boy who takes a chance on being her friend (middle-grade).
The Hartfield Mysteries: A horror/thriller author lives an eccentric life in an idyllic, Mayberry-like town where murder strikes over… and over…
The Agency Files: If you need protection, The Agency’s got your back—even against all odds. (suspense/romantic suspense)
The Meddlin’ Madeline Mysteries: If Miss Marple were fifty-years younger and had the observation skills of Patrick Jane (from the Mentalist), you’d have Madeline Brown. It’s the slow birth of a detective and how that might look (historical circa 1900).
Bookstrings: With the slow demise of independent bookstores, Milton Coleridge takes his expertise in saving businesses and helps bookstores survive and thrive… with a tiny bit of matchmaking on the side. (General)
And half a dozen or so more series. Maybe a dozen. *whistles*
How do you approach writing a book? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
My writing style totally depends on the book, how fast I have to write it, and the genre. Naturally I’m mostly a pantser. I love to just start writing and see where the story takes me. I used to say that I felt like a transcriptionist for a story I didn’t know until I wrote it. That’s really not true. Clearly, my subconscious has a plan. But whatever.
Most often, I think of an idea and while driving, I talk it through. I used to use a voice recording app or recorder, but now I use my Ottr app on my phone. It transcribes everything as I talk it through. My goal is to know the hook (first sentence/paragraph/page), the inciting event (what kicks the story into action), the midpoint death (whatever “dies” in the middle—loss of a job, a friendship, a hope or dream, or even a person), the climax (the big tense scene near the end), and then the denouement (the resolution). Then I tend to make a huge list of scene ideas. I may or may not ever use them. I just begin writing and if I can’t decide the best way to go or if I’m tired and don’t want to think, I scan that list and go.
Mysteries, however, I tend to plan out more but even that, it’s a reference rather than a true plan. No matter how tightly I try to outline and plot stuff out, I always deviate—a lot.
How do you handle the situation where a reader jumps into the middle of a series without reading the first book?
Um… recommend they don’t? My books and series are very layered. While you USUALLY can jump into the middle and be okay, you’ll miss a lot of layered nuances and backstory that I don’t rehash in each one.
I’ve had readers email me asking if the book they got free can be read out of order, and I usually send them a review copy of the first in the series because I want them to have the best reading experience. I get why authors write almost “stand alones” in series to help readers be able to jump in anywhere, but I really love a good layered series, and I can’t do that well without them needing to build upon the last.
What advice would you give an author who’s considering writing a series?
Write down every single thing you can as it happens. If in book one she hates coffee, write that down. Review in book two. And three. And four. Or in book five, she’ll be swigging five cups a day and telling her friends she’s been addicted since she was eight. Write down the name of the bookstore they go to, the car they drive, the childhood story they told. Review it all with each new book. Trust me. You won’t regret it when it comes time to write the next books.
And then you won’t realize in book eight that your series has a Jarod Kennett, a Justine, a Josi, and a Jessie… Yeah. Not that this happened to me or anything.
I loved being interviewed on your “Because Fiction” podcast. Please tell my blog audience about the podcast and how they can find it.
Because Fiction looks at all things Christian fiction—books, authors, genres, you name it. I have a lot of interviews with authors, indie, traditional, debut, and everything in between. I don’t limit my interviews to any specific subgenres. It just must be Christian. You can find us on most if not all apps as Because Fiction Podcast or go to the website at becausefictionpodcast.com
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
The best place to find me is my website, Chautona.com There you’ll find my books, the podcast, blog posts—all kinds of stuff. Feel free to email anytime. I used to promise to get back to you quickly. Now I just promise I’ll get there eventually. To keep up with the many sales I have (with over a hundred books, there are a lot of sales!), the giveaways I do, and all that stuff, I recommend getting my newsletter at Chautona.com/news. Here’s a hint. Feel free to delete any author’s newsletter if you’re just not in a place to read it that day. There will be another one. No stress. Or unsubscribe if you discover you aren’t interested. We get it. Life is full of choices, and one less choice to make is a blessing!
If you like to listen to folks chat about what they’re reading, what they want to be reading, and all things reader life, I also have a YouTube channel at youtube.com/chautonahavig. BookTube is a great community for readers, but I don’t limit my channel to just Christian fiction. It is, however, 95% clean reads (sometimes something sneaks up on me).
Thank you, Chautona, for being with us today.
Again, thanks for having me. This was fun!
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Using story to connect readers with the Master Storyteller.
Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours, and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.