Monday, June 1, 2009

Win a $25 Gift Card for YOU and a $25 Gift Card for Your Reader!

Fun contest and awesome interview this week - I'm so excited!

First, contest details: Our special guest author this week, Terri Kraus, is giving away two $25 amazon gift cards - one for YOU and one for one of YOUR READERS if you are chosen as winner. Here's how you enter (be sure to leave contact information with your entry):

Blog about this contest (or post a note on Facebook, Shoutlife, MySpace, Twitter or wherever), and about Terri's books - get your readers talking about RESTORATION - in whatever form it takes. (Terri's series is Project Restoration - you'll read more about it in the interview.) Be sure to link back to this interview. Then, come back here and leave a link to your blog post. At the end of the week, we'll draw a winner from everyone leaving a post. If you are chosen the winner, you draw a name from anyone leaving comments on YOUR post - and we'll award both of you a $25 amazon gift card AND an autographed copy of Terri's book!!

We're also giving away one more copy of Terri's book - just answer this question in the comments and you're entered to win.

Choose one word - Renovate, Restore, Renew - and write a paragraph of what this word means to you in your own spiritual walk.

Everyone writing a paragraph will be entered to win an autographed copy of The Renewal.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Now read Kay Shostak's awesome interview with Terri Kraus. Thanks, ladies, for joining us here on Pix-N-Pens!

KS: Which would YOU rather do with your husband – renovate a house or write a book? Terri Kraus has done several of both!

Terri, tell us how you started writing with your husband:

TK: I've co-written 10 books with my husband, both historical and contemporary fiction. Jim works for Tyndale House, and they gave us our start when in 1996 we co-authored the Treasures of the Caribbean Series (Pirates of the Heart, Passages of Gold, Journey to the Crimson Sea.) That was followed by the Circle of Destiny Series by Tyndale (The Price, The Promise, The Treasure, The Quest.) Both are historicals. Then Barbour published the Stories from MacKenzie Street Series (The Unfolding, The Choosing, and Scattered Stones (coming in 2009) which are contemporary.

KS: What’s the most important thing to know when you start trying to collaborate on writing a book?

TK: The blessing in it has been that we have very complementary skills. That's important to consider at the outset. I would say that's it's the most critical factor in a working partnership: to really KNOW THYSELF and be honest about where you excel/don't excel. It also minimizes conflict because you learn to value and rely on the partner for what he/she brings to the collaboration. For example, if both of you were great with dialog, and neither were good at plotting, then you may have a weak story but overkill (and conflict) on the verbal exchanges. In our partnership, I'm research/detail-oriented, and Jim is speedier and more "big-picture." So it's worked well. You break up the tasks by who is better at them.

KS: However, in 2008 and earlier this year, you’ve released books, written on your own, in a new series, right?

TK: As I’ve traveled internationally and visited many of the places I’ve studied independently and in the course of my education in design, I’ve become even more passionate about restoration. (I’m the woman you might see sitting on a bench along the wall of the Sistine Chapel, silently weeping as I take in Michelangelo’s magnificent masterpiece in the simplicity of that sacred space.) I can talk forever about the importance of preserving buildings that are testaments to the creative impulse, the hours of painstaking effort, the motivation and dedication of artists, designers, craftsmen and artisans from previous eras. All were, no doubt, imperfect people—but people used as instruments in God’s hands to create perfectly rendered works of art that endure and can stir our hearts so many, many years later.

I love the metaphor of restoration, which is why I came up with the idea for the Project Restoration series—stories that would follow both the physical restoration of a building and emotional/spiritual restoration of a character. Book One in the series, The Renovation, was released last year - 2008, Book Two, The Renewal was released earlier this year and Book Three, The Transformation is to be released in a few months.

KS: With the economy and the housing market, this series is a perfect fit for our times. Have changes in those situations changed your marketing strategy or the direction of your series in any way?

TK: Not really. The books were planned before the recent dramatic downturn in the housing industry. I think people will be all the more interested in renovation right now, since many are finding the need to stay put and redo the homes they’re in rather than moving.

KS: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

TK: I love to study the Bible, lead neighborhood Bible studies and help women grow in their faith.I love to listen to music—all types, from classical to contemporary.

I love to cook and bake. I like to joke about having “worked” with the best chefs in America…while I’m making a meal, I watch the Food Network on my kitchen TV, and cook alongside them! I love to experiment with tweaking existing recipes and creating new ones. Being 100% Italian, I’m mainly interested in the cuisine of Italy, varying greatly from province to province. I learned from two amazing northern Italian cooks—my mother and grandmother. I particularly enjoy finding new combinations of flavors for pasta dishes that work together and enhance each other—a little of this and a lot of that (which is usually garlic). I delight in seeing how my resident guinea pigs—my husband and son—rate my creations.

It’s a lot like writing a book. You start with a basic idea, composed of a few novel structural elements (the simple sauce made with the freshest ingredients) then flesh it out with some spunky characters, like you add just the right amounts of seasonings and spices), around which you design plot surprises (the new twists in the recipe) and bathe it all in romance (find the perfect blending of flavors) to tantalize your readers. It’s a lot like adding layers of flavors to a dish to wow the taste buds. I love to write historical fiction—books set in the framework of a past era. Likewise, it’s fun to use family recipes from Mom and Nonna when I cook as the springboard for a new culinary delight.

The joy comes when the reader, like the diner, dig into my work and—hopefully —come away not just satisfied, but having had a sumptuously memorable experience.

KS: From writing books, to cooking, to travel - family seems to play a big role in your life. It even seems to play a part in the topic of your Project Restoration books. What else about the topic drew you?

TK: Writing a novel set in the world of the restoration of old buildings has always been a dream of mine. The idea of renovation is in my family’s blood. I’m an interior design professional. My brothers are rehabbers. My husband, Jim, and I have survived the renovation of three houses.

I know well the upheaval, the despair of having no control, the agonizing over style decisions, the budget constraints, the disagreements between contractor and owner, and the emotional rollercoaster of unexpected problems and unanticipated gifts along the way. Together my clients and I have accepted big disappointments, celebrated tiny successes, and experienced the inexpressible elation at seeing what was once in ruins—old, broken, useless—become, with all its quirks, a beautiful, completely renewed, and usable place for people to share life again. Looking back on all those projects, I can echo the sentiment in the opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

All my books have a message of the hope that is found only in Christ, and are anchored in the Truth of the Gospel. They are written around themes such as forgiveness, new beginnings, grace, etc. Perhaps in one of these three books my readers will find a character who mirrors their own life, defining an area where they struggle, and which will point them toward the an kind of restoration you they long for. After all, we all are in need of healing. God is in the business of restoring lives— reclaiming, repairing, renewing what was broken and bringing beauty from ashes. The light of his love shines on all those dark places deep within us, exposing what needs his healing touch. This is the type of restoration I’ve become passionate about too, and what I’m writing about.

I want my readers to ask themselves, “What event in my past do I need to let go of?” It is my hope and prayer that they, too, will experience the renovation that awaits them through saying “Yes” to God’s invitation of heart restoration…and the life-transforming joy that will follow.

KS: So, back to working with your husband. What’s the best and worst of writing ten books and renovating three houses with your spouse?

TK: Best part of writing books---the synergy of working together, someone with whom you can discuss ideas, who really "gets" you, who can be your best critic, who provides support and inspiration. The worst? Nothing I can think of.

As for renovating houses, the best is it takes a team to get through all the upheaval. I can't imagine having to go through it alone! The worst is when my perfectionist tendencies sometimes will not be in sync with Jim's desire to avoid conflict.

KS: I’m so impressed with everything you do. How do you keep your sanity with so many interests and so many different directions to potentially run in?

TK: I’m getting better at creating boundaries and exercising my “NO” muscle. I’m learning the spiritual disciplines of contemplation and silence. Also hobbies—travel, reading, music, photography, knitting and quilting—are relaxing and renewing.

KS: Before we let you go back to those fun and creative hobbies, tell us what you are currently writing.

TK: My work in progress is historical, about an Italian-American young woman in the 1930’s and 40’s, in which I draw on many elements from my Italian heritage. It’s set mainly in Italy, so I will use what I have seen and learned in my travels there. I’m really excited about it, and hope a publisher will be, too.

KS: I hope so, too! Thanks, Terri, for letting us in on your energetic life and experiences in writing, cooking, renovating, and traveling.

Kay Dew Shostak lives in Marietta, Georgia in a soon-to-be empty nest. After years of newspaper reporting and editing, she’s left the real world and trying to break into the real, real world of fiction writing.

Kay has three stories in the compilation books Heart of a Mother, Heart of a Teacher, and Embrace of a Father.

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Lynda Schab said...

Great contest! This series sounds awesome. I've blogged about it here: Will also post a link on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for the opportunity!

Cindy said...

That was a wonderful interview and the books sound amazing!

I particularly like the idea of renovation. It's not just about returning something to the way it once was, but also about restoring it to something better. I definitely feel like this in my spiritual journey. I became a Christian less than four years ago when I was 25. I thought I had myself pretty well figured out. I thought I knew where my life was going. And then suddenly I have this new and wonderful relationship with Jesus and my life is different in many ways, but better! There was an echo of my old self, my personality and my dreams for the future, but my heart had been renovated and the new me felt wonderful about it :)

Thanks again for the interview and the fun giveaway.

Bunny B said...

Sounds fun! I've blogged!
bunnybx at gmail . com

Naddez said...

I blogged about the giveaway on my blog @