Sunday, November 30, 2014

Author interview *special holiday feature* with Marian P. Merritt

Today I am delighted to share an author interview which is a special holiday feature because the author Marian P. Merritt has written not one but two Christmas books! Marian is a talented author who pays attention to detail as she creates these wonderful story worlds filled with captivating characters and story lines that keep you reading. 

Best of all,
Marian would like to giveaway one e-book copy of A Cajun Christmas Miracle and one e-book copy of Deep Freeze Christmas!

You can enter the book giveaway contest by answering Marian's question for my readers which is found at the end of this interview. You must include your e-mail address in your comment in order to be officially entered into the contest because we will need it to contact you if you win in order to make arrangements for you to receive your prize. The contest starts today, Nov. 30 and will end Sunday, Dec. 14. Alexis will choose the two winners via an old-fashioned random drawing and make the announcement on Monday, Dec. 15. 

Now that all the exciting news has been shared, let's continue to the interview with Marian (questions from Alexis in bold, answers from Marian not in bold)...

~*~
Alexis: You have two holiday books: A Cajun Christmas Miracle: A Belle Camellia Novel and Deep Freeze Christmas (a novella). Today we’re going to focus on the latter but first I’d like for you to tell my readers about A Cajun Christmas Miracle.  What is it about?

Marian: It's about Mandy, a single mom of a three-year-old boy who has autism and her struggles when her husband abandons her and their son. She returns to Belle Camellia, the Louisiana Plantation where she was raised with her son. To complicate matters, the high school boyfriend she hasn't really gotten over is next door working with rescue horses. When her son bonds with him and his horses, Mandy has to deal with a lot of emotional baggage.

Why did you write it?

It was simply a story written out of obedience. God directed it and I followed through. Most of my stories have a Colorado/Louisiana connection so the natural progression for this story was to follow that pattern.

What’s the meaning behind the title (who’s Belle Camellia)?

Belle Camellia is the name of the plantation home where Mandy grew up. The home has been in her family for generations. It's common in the South to name great plantation homes.

Finally, what do you hope your readers will remember the most?

I pray that whatever difficulties they have in their life, they'll know the power of forgiveness and that God is a God of second chances and of miracles!

Now let’s talk about Deep Freeze Christmas...

Alexis: The cover to your book looks beautiful and cozy! Who designed it?

Marian: Pelican Book Group's Editor–Nicola Martinez. She designs all of Pelican's covers and does an awesome job. Part of the fun of the Christmas Extravaganza each year is the unveiling of the covers!

Why do you call your book Deep Freeze Christmas?

While not a series, my last Christmas novella was called Southern Fried Christmas and dealt with a woman from Colorado venturing to Louisiana at Christmas. Deep Freeze Christmas is the opposite, a Louisiana chef goes to Colorado for Christmas. I love putting characters in settings that is totally different than what they're accustomed to and letting my readers experience the setting with them. In the south, a freezer was often called a Deep Freeze. So in keeping with the Cajun food element, the novella was called Deep Freeze Christmas. Also because, the temperatures drop below zero while our Cajun girl is cooking in the Colorado mountains!

How long did it take you to write this holiday story? Where did you write it? Describe your writing space.

Because this is a short story, it was written in three weeks. I started just before Christmas. Writing during that time helped to bring the Christmas feeling into the story. 


I have a laptop, so I write in my living room while sitting either in my mission style rocker or my husband's recliner, at my desk in my office, or in the summer, on the patio table on my deck. Here's a picture of my very neat desk...

For the record, it's not usually this organized! And no, I still haven't learned how to play my guitar. BUT maybe one day… 

What was your source of inspiration for creating the characters?

I really didn't have a specific source. Most of my stories start with a character first then the plot revolves around the character. In keeping with my tagline: Where the Bayous Meet the Mountains, I usually have several Louisiana and Colorado characters floating through my head.

Who are your main characters and what makes them memorable to the reader?

Leona Buquet (pronounced Bu-kay) is a sous chef from Louisiana in Colorado to cook for a group of movie executives. Her mentor and boss Julian Mayeux (My-you) is the famous head chef and owner of Mayeux's, an iconic New Orleans restaurant. Leona's main focus is to raise enough money and learn as much as she can about cooking and running a restaurant so she can re-open Leo's, her family's restaurant that was destroyed during hurricane Katrina. Her focus changes when she meets Cameron Fleming.

Cameron Fleming Jr. is the handsome son to the movie mogul, CG Fleming. His attitude and character are not the typical handsome, wealthy Hollywood type. He is unhappy working for his father's business and has unfulfilled dreams of his own.

Where does your story take place? I see there’s a cabin in the woods on the cover so I’m guessing the Midwest, right? Why did you choose that setting?

The story takes place at a mountain lodge in the Rocky Mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I've visited Steamboat Springs many times and love the area. It's a winter wonderland during Christmas. So it was the perfect place to set my story.

Your holiday story world is very descriptive and pulls the reader in, making them feel right home and the food sounds delicious! Do you have a passion for cooking? Where did you get your inspiration for such a delightful imaginary place?

I like to cook, but the planning part is not my favorite. I consider myself a cook and not a chef! I love looking through websites and magazines of floor plans. It's just something I've always done. So I've been able to create MY perfect mountain lodge.

I love how you have a “Cajun Pronunciation/Definition Key” on the final few pages of your book. What inspired you to do so?

After my first novella, Southern Fried Christmas, came out, a few readers said they couldn't figure out how to pronounce some of the names or words. So the idea for the key came about as a way to help my reader have a more interactive experience with the story. The Cajun French language is slowly dying and this is my small way of keeping it alive.

Just for anyone who may not know, what does Cajun mean? Describe the term historically and talk about how it’s used today.

The term Cajun is a derivative of Acadian. The Acadian's were exiled from French Canada to south Louisiana in the mid 1700's. Here's a snipped from a poem by This poem by Bob Hamm titled “What is a Cajun?”

"A link with a proud past, a Cajun is a man of tolerance who will let the world go its way if the world will let him go his. He is a man of great friendliness who will give you the crawfish off his table, the Sac-au-Lait off his hook or the shirt off his back."

You do a good job of “showing” and not “telling” your characters’ actions, emotions and feelings in Deep Freeze Christmas. What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors who want to weave a beautiful, skillful story like this one?

Study the craft…write…study…write and repeat for the rest of your career. The best advice I got about showing vs telling is to image that your story is a movie and you want to paint pictures with your words. Anyone can tell a story, but a true storyteller is the one who can show a story.

If you could spend Christmas Day with one of your characters in Deep Freeze Christmas, who would it be and why?


I'd love to spend Christmas day at Mayeux's restaurant with all my family with Chef Julian and Chef Leona and Cameron and their family. It would be great to help with the cooking in a professional kitchen and to exchange childhood stories.

Complete this sentence: I write holiday stories because ________________ .

I write holiday stories because it's a great time to remember God's ultimate gift to mankind and showcase how He works in our lives.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Marian! Please ask a question for my readers to answer so that they have a chance to win a copy of your books.

Marian: Readers, why do you like to READ holiday stories? And what setting is your favorite?

~*~
Author bio:
Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. She is an author and freelance writer with over ten years experience. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online websites and garnered a first place award in ACFW's Genesis contest.

Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle. Connect with Marian through Website, Blog, Facebook and Twitter

17 comments:

  1. Alexis, thanks so much for having me on your blog!

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  2. You're welcome, Marian! :) Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed! :)

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  3. A Cajun Christmas Miracle is already on my wish list, and now Deep Freeze is too! I'm getting acquainted with Marian over on our FB page and I can't wait to read all of her books!

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    1. Dear Robin,
      Thank you for leaving a comment. Please reply again, this time with your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win the contest.

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    2. Robin, it's great to "see" you here! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Love the interview! Left a comment but I don't think it went through. :( So... here goes again. I loved books that take place in the south but also love Boston as a setting. As for reading holiday books... they seem to offer something a little different, don't you think? Hope to see you in Houma, Marian.

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    1. Dear Jessie,

      Thank you for answering Marian's question! :) Would you please reply again, this time with your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win the contest?

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    2. Jess, I'll be in Houma during Christmas! So hope to see you there. Holiday books are so fun to write. I'm glad you enjoy them! Leave your email address so we can contact you if you're a winner!

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  5. I like all sorts of settings. Some of my favorites are in the mountains. I like Colorado.
    I enjoy holiday stories because the characters are usually as busy as I am and it is good to stop and take a breath. It helps me remember what season I am in and to be thankful.

    Alexis: Thanks for chatting with Marian. She's awesome! Jessica
    historywiz@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! Busy is right, but that's when we have the most fun and it's a great time to reflect for all we have! Good luck in the drawing!

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    2. Congratulations Jessica! You won an e-book copy of A Cajun Christmas Miracle! :) Marian will be in touch with you soon so that you can receive your prize.

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  6. Dear Jessica,
    I am happy you enjoyed my interview with Marian! :) I love holiday stories too, they're something special.

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  7. Thanks, everyone for your comments. Share the link to let your friends know about DEEP FREEZE CHRISTMAS!

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  8. Nice interview, Marian. Of course I need a chance to win Deep Freeze Christmas - don't have that one yet. I like to read holiday romances because I get so little of my own writing done during the Christmas season. It's easy to kick back with my Kindle during the holidays. carla@carlarossi.com

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    1. Carla, I know what you mean. Last year I wrote Deep Freeze Christmas during the Christmas season. I'm hoping to do the same this year. So far, it's been like pulling teeth to get anything written! Best wishes in the drawing!

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    2. Congratulations, Carla! You won an e-book copy of Deep Freeze Christmas! :) Marian will be in touch with you soon so you can receive your prize.

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  9. Always a pleasure to read about an author. Just recently found Marian and have read A Cajun Christmas Miracle and loved it. Great interview. Would love to win a copy of Deep Freeze Christmas. rebunting@yahoo.com

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