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Stories of Our Lives: Origins of The Last Summer

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Confession, loveys: I watched Days of Our Lives back in high school, and college, and I loved it. (The school I went to had half days on Fridays, so I’d watch every Friday and get caught up on the week.) Stefano DiMera, Sami and Carrie and Austin, Marlena and John–all of it. And at the beginning, I remember the intro saying, Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Later in college, I swapped Days for General Hospital and watched that through the rest of college–coming home at lunch and turning it on–and I dragged Jeff into the story during our first few years of marriage. No regrets. Those were good times. Jeff may not admit it, but he was just as hooked on finding out if Carly and Sonny would make it as I was.

The days of our lives really do go fast. And they tell a story. Our stories.

The Last Summer Front Cover

We’re five days out from the release of The Last Summer. (Eek! I’m SO excited!) I told you that I wrote the first draft of this twenty years ago, my first year of college. In fact, I still have the original spiral notebook.

Here’s a cool story, lovey. It’s just incredible to me.

After I’d written this last draft and sent it off to editors and publishers and finally heard back that it was going to be published–I realized something. In that first spiral notebook, I’d written the story of seven friends who love each other like family. The story has reshaped since then, but the plot has remained the same. The friends have remained true to their characters, but names changed over the years as I rewrote the story. In that spiral notebook are the original names that I came up with when I was eighteen years old.

Three of those names are Ashton, Lillian, and Everett.

My three children are named Ashtyn, Lillian, and Lincoln Everett.

The crazy thing is that this story never even came into my mind during my pregnancies. I was twenty-eight when I was pregnant for the first time. Ten years and a long way from the eighteen year old girl who’d gone away to college.

When I was pregnant with Ashtyn, my first child, I sometimes scribbled names on a notepad (usually during staff meetings!). Someone suggested Ashton to me, but at that time, it looked a bit masculine to me. I scribbled the name over and over on a notepad, and suddenly wrote Ashtyn, and it clicked. I loved it. Lillian never changed, I’ve always loved it. And I’ve loved the name Everett since I saw the movie With Honors way back in the 90s.

When I first realized that the names I came up with as a teenager are the names of my children–I’m not kidding when I say it sent chills over me. The truth that those names have been in my heart–in me–since I was just a girl . . . And have stayed with me for all these years, and have been passed on to the most important people in my life . . . without me even realizing it–well, I guess it’s just the connecting of all the days of my life.

Ashtyn and Lily and Lincoln Everett were always meant to be. They were always part of me. From years ago when I was a girl myself, spilling out a story that would hold pieces of me forever. (Before I even met Jeff!)

It makes me cry.

Their names were there–at the shaping of a story, at the shaping of my life. Little hints of who I would be and the children who would make my life wonderful. And I didn’t realize it, but it all came together.

I’ve been asked before about how I write my stories, lovey. For me, it’s just like that. They come together. A bit mysterious. The story unfolds and you see the connections later–and then you get it.

And I cry.

Our stories are being pieced together like puzzles–at the end you see the picture and you smile and you realize, Oh, that went there. Oh, right, of course that fit there. I see it now.

Loveys . . . stories–fictional and real–are amazing. They’ve been shaping me since I was a young thing. They’ve captivated me.

And this story I’m about to share with you–it’s a piece of the story of my life.

I’ll treasure it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Christa Ann Banister

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Hi everyone! Christa Ann Banister is the fabulous author of Blessed Are the Meddlers and Around the World in 80 Dates. She was sweet enough to agree to stop by for a chat. Here’s a little background info on her: After years of working as a respected music critic and freelance writer for various Christian publications: CCM Magazine, Crosswalk.com, Christian Single, ChristianityToday.com, not to mention kickstarting the inaugural Christian music blog for MTV’s Urge.com, Christa inked two novels about a journalist’s erstwhile adventures in dating, and she hopes that her stories will inspire countless twenty and thirty-somethings in their quest for snagging Mr. Right, even as they hold fast to their Christian values.

BB: So, Christa, tell me, when did you discover you were a writer?

CB: Thanks to my grandpa who always read to me, I grew up loving stories from a very, very young age—Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary, Shel Silverstein—you name it, I loved it. And hearing those stories always made me dream up characters of my own. The first I remember inventing was Buddy the Turtle who really liked going to birthday parties, an interest I happened to share, too. But the author who really sparked my imagination when Buddy the Turtle no longer could was Judy Blume. Between Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, and Freckle Juice, I found plenty of inspiration for my own scribbling. And I remember thinking, even back in elementary school, that if Judy Blume got paid to make up stories for a living that I wanted to do exactly the same thing.

BB: You’re novels are romance, right?

CB: I always say that I write romantic comedies in novel form, and I think part of it is because everyone wants a happy ending with a great pop song playing in the background. But more than anything, I absolutely love the genre, and after seeing one unfortunate rom-com after another (I’m also a film critic), I decided to write something I’d like to read with an ending that you don’t see coming from a mile away. Plus, I don’t know about most rom-com fans, but I just always felt like the genre could be so much more—funny, charming and even (gasp!) deep.

BB: What’s your writing process?

CB: I’m a go-with-the-flow sort of writer . . . I outline enough to have a basic structure, but then I like to see where the story and the characters take me. Plotting out the destination from beginning to end steals a little bit of the fun, but I know for some authors, it’s absolutely essential.

BB: So we know Judy Blume inspired you (and so many other girls, too!), but who else inspired you? What was it about their writing that moved you? Do you have any “favorite” books you read over and over?

CB: Well, aside from Dr. Seuss and Judy Blume (yes, that’s quite a combo, huh?), I absolutely love almost anything by Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Nick Hornby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brennan Manning, and A.J. Jacobs. Each of them brings something different to the table, whether it’s fantastic turns of phrases, complex characters, humor, or sheer readability. As for books I read again and again, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast immediately springs to mind, and for something totally mindless (but hilarious), I enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s novels.

BB: I’m a Sophie Kinsella fan, too! Okay, so talk a little about your publishing experience. Did you get an agent first? Was that difficult?

CB: My publishing experience was definitely a bit unorthodox. I didn’t have an agent, but because I worked at CCM Magazine in Nashville for five and a half years as a columnist and editor, I was already connected to people in the publishing business who said they’d take a look at my sample chapters once I was ready for them to. Of course, given how busy everyone in the publishing biz is and how rapidly the personnel often changes, it took about six months for my submission to reach the top of the pile. But once it did, I was thrilled to get the good news–after a slew of meetings took place to evaluate whether my work was marketable and had enough of an audience to justify publication.

BB: What role does faith play in your novels?

CB: Since my faith is such an important facet of my life and ultimately defines who I am, it can’t help but naturally make its way into my writing. It’s never forced or heavy-handed, but it’s always there in my characters and the values that are portrayed. Whenever I write, whether it’s a movie review, a magazine feature, or my latest novel, it’s my aim to use my gifts in the most creative way I can, rather than simply pushing my own agenda. Readers can see an agenda coming from a mile away, so I’d prefer to let them draw their own conclusions while reading an entertaining story that I hope and pray will move them in a significant way.

BB: What’s a “must know” about you?

CB: Well, I’m a recovering glitter addict who used to be nicknamed the “glitter princess.” Aside from that, I absolutely love Scrabble, travel, NFL football, and cooking. In fact, I’m a bonafide Food Network addict and can’t wait to get all my work done so I can start diving into my ever-growing pile of foodie magazines. Thanksgiving is coming up, after all, and I’m still figuring out which stuffing recipe I’ll use. 🙂
BB: Recovering glitter addict? I love that! Can you tell us what are you working on now?

CB: Aside from my regularly scheduled movie, music, and book reviews and features (!!!), I’m currently chipping away at my third novel. It’s been so much fun, and I seriously can’t wait for everyone to check it out. To see what I’ve been working on in the meantime, feel free to check out my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/christabanister), Twitter (www.twitter.com/christabanister), and my official website at www.christabanister.com.

Christa, it was so great to have you share all this with us! Thank you so much!