I’d call this trilogy contemporary romantic suspense. The main characters are in their twenties. It’s a high speed, emotional read. Intense, too. (More info below interview)
Charissa is a talented writer, a great blogger, and just a sweet person, too. If you don’t already follow her online, check out her links below. I feel honored to be a part of her blog tour today.
As part of the tour, she answered a few questions so we can get to know her and her writing style.
Interview With Charissa Stastny
Most writers are readers. What are some of your favorite books?
Charissa: I love The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, any of the Harry Potter books, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and anything by C.S. Lewis. Contemporary romance authors I can’t get enough of are Amy Harmon and Taylor Dean. I can reread their stories over and over and not tire of them.
Rebecca: Yes, yes, yes on all of those. And you were the one who introduced me to Amy Harmon and Taylor Dean books, so thanks!
If you could have dinner with an author from any time, who would you choose, where would you dine, and what would you ask him/her?
Charissa: C.S. Lewis would be my pick. We’d go to Cheesecake Factory and ask to be seated in a fancy booth. I don’t think I’d ask him anything (except what his favorite cheesecake was)…I’d just listen to whatever he said and be in heaven.
Rebecca: Can I come? ;)
Tell us a little about your family
Charissa: My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married, one serving a mission in Korea, and one still in high school) and one son (in high school). We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.
Rebecca: Sounds like you have an active, fun family.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Charissa: Quite a lot. There is always one character I identify with—usually the shy, awkward one with a good heart who doesn’t know how to accessorize. My cool characters are my dreams of how I wish I could be. It’s fun as a writer to live vicariously through our characters.
Rebecca: Like playing dress-up without the fancy dresses. Does that sound weird? Probably, but I know what you mean.
Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
Charissa: My muse started with a door-to-door salesperson. An Israeli girl named Suvi with a nose ring and a vivacious personality knocked, charmed me into buying one of her oil paintings, and then talked to my daughters and me for an hour. After she left, a story started to form around her in my mind. As I wrote my imagined story for Suvi, I wanted to help my own daughters be aware of hidden secrets people carry so that they would be more merciful in their judgment of others. We never know what awful circumstances and experiences have led someone to act in certain ways.
My little brother was my inspiration for my James character. He served a mission in Guatemala and I used his letters he wrote home to cast Elder Hinton. I tease my brother that James Hinton is him…only cool!
Rebecca: That is very cool. The Guatemala stories felt very real, and I love Suvi. She’s a great, strong character. I love hearing the background behind her character.
You love to write suspenseful romances. What intrigues you most about these stories?
Charissa: I love reading romance (if it’s clean), and writing it is even better. My Bending Willow Trilogy is intense and drags my characters through some very rough waters to test their faith and resilience. The most intriguing aspect of writing these stories has been to watch my characters grow. I am always wondering what I would do in the same situations, and I feel that helps me grow as well to have to make choices in my mind as my characters make them on the written pages.
Did you put real experiences in this book?
Charissa: In Eyes of Light, the missionary scenes are almost all taken from real-life experiences my brother had while serving in Guatemala. I found his letters captivating and used them to form my character James. In Secret Keepers, there are several scenes—like the Garden tomb and Wailing Wall—I described from being in Israel as a college student. I also stayed on a kibbutz in the Galilee and based Suvi’s experiences there on mine.
I find that little bits and pieces of real life creep into my writing whether I want them to or not. My sisters always tease me by saying things like, “Ha! James rides his bike like your husband.” or “Suvi bites her nails like you.” Sometimes those references happen on purpose, but usually not.
The Bending Willow series includes the story of an LDS missionary. Do you feel your books are primarily geared to an LDS audience? Or would anyone enjoy them?
Charissa: Even though one of the main characters, James, is LDS (or Mormon), I don’t feel my books are geared strictly to this audience. I’m a Mormon, so this character was easy for me to write since I understand his beliefs and lifestyle, and based his experiences on my brother’s down in Guatemala.
The other two characters are very different from James, and he is a little standoffish with them at first. I hoped to show through my story that we should never judge others. None of us truly know the thoughts, experiences, tragedies, etc. of another person…and they don’t know ours. We’re all God’s children and He loves us for who we are, whether we believe in Him or not (and I think He expects us to follow His example and love everyone too—although loving someone doesn’t mean accepting their destructive behavior).
Rebecca: I agree. I think anyone would enjoy these stories, religious readers or not. They’re very engaging and not preachy at all, so check them out.
Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your life of writing and fun, Charissa! As promised, here’s more about the books:
Bending Willow Trilogy
A cast of three very different heroes come together in this trilogy. Austan Sandoval is the master of disguise and deception. James Hinton is a clean-cut missionary out to save the world. Suvi Goldstein seems like she has it all, yet secrets bind her to misery. This series follows these characters through several harrowing years, showing how the transforming power of God holds out hope to all—from the missionary who’s led a charmed life to the vilest of sinners.
Eyes of Light (Vol. 1)
After swindling millions from a Central American drug cartel, Austan stumbles upon the location of the daughter of an Israeli Mossad assassin and determines to recruit her to his team. James serves the Lord as a missionary in Guatemala and sacrifices all to bring truth to those he meets. When Suvi tries to escape her past, she’s torn between violent men in one world and a kind, forgiving man in another as she battles darkness to discover the light within herself.
Secret Keepers (Vol. 2)
Suvi feels unworthy of her happily-ever-after, especially when her knight in shining armor becomes the target of evil men due to her dark past. James believes he has won the heart of the woman he loves, but when she leaves him and exposes sinister secrets, his love may not survive. Austan stands guard against the Dragon’s wrath, but nurses hope that he can reveal his true identity. When a chance arises to team up with a pair of Israeli Mossad operatives, he may finally be in a position to do what he has wanted for four long years—reunite with Suvi and rekindle their love.
Hands of Mercy (Vol. 3)
Released 1.26.15 – In the finale to the Bending Willow Trilogy, love, loss, and forgiveness weave a tapestry that will touch hearts as James, Suvi, and Austan are tried by separation, death, grief and revenge. As they struggle to survive, they will discover that when all seems lost, the only hope comes from unseen Hands of Mercy.
As part of this release, Charissa is doing a giveaway which ends March 1st. To participate:
- Comment on post & sign up for newsletter at CharissaStastny.com to enter drawing
- 13 lucky winners (1 each-$20, $15, $10 Amazon Gift cards; 10 eBook winners)
Check out the rest of the HANDS OF MERCY TOUR here.
Charissa Stastny hails from Las Vegas, Nevada, but has never pulled the handle of a slot machine and can’t shuffle cards to save her life. Since 4th grade, she has envisioned herself an author after writing the creative work, The Creature from McGool, and continuing in shame to pen some cheesy romance scenes as a teenager. Thankfully, she has matured somewhat and is a member of the Idaho Writer’s Guild and tries hard not to spread too much cheese around in her writing now. She graduated from Brigham Young University and enjoys writing, reading, hiking and biking. She resides in Idaho’s Treasure Valley with her husband and children (where card shuffling isn’t required).
Charissa has also written a few posts for my blog here as part of my March Book Madness. You can find them here: