Christa’s Note: I first met Trish Perry last year when she was a guest on my blog in March. Still new to blogging and wondering if I’d ever achieve success as a writer, I truly appreciated Trish reaching out to speak to my blog readers and to me. She’s truly a kind and gentle spirit whose physical beauty reflects her inner beauty.
Following up on Sally John’s bestselling Beach House series (The Beach House and Castles in the Sand-nearly 45,000 in combined sales) is a brand-new Beach House book from veteran Harvest House novelist Trish Perry.
Tiffany LeBoeuf recently lost her mother to cancer. Still grieving, Tiffany seeks rest for her body and soul at a cozy beach house in San Diego. A scheduling mix-up causes a double booking, and Tiffany ends up sharing the house with a woman named Eve. When Eve’s boyfriend, Jeremy, arrives to surprise Eve, Tiffany is surprised as well. He settles in at the beach house next door, and what happens after that surprises them all.
A fun, contemporary romance about how God uses even our mistakes to bring about His divine purposes. Beach Dreams is the perfect get-away read.
March 11, Northern Virginia
Tiffany lugged her suitcase up the three steps of the airport shuttle bus. If she hadn’t packed the case herself, she’d be suspicious of its contents. It felt as if it were full of cinder blocks.
The March air hung colder here in Northern Virginia than it had in South Carolina. Yet Tiffany perspired with the effort to carve out a spot for herself and her luggage in the shuttle. Every spot was filled, jammed with people eager to get to their cars. Evening rush hour at Dulles Air-
port—never one of Tiffany’s favorite situations.
She lurched backward and might have fallen when the bus took off, but there was nowhere to fall. Everyone on board groaned when the bus crawled to a stop for even more passengers in front of the American Airlines exit.
Oh, man. They were all getting on through the back door, where she stood sandwiched between a woman with an over zealous fondness for perfume and a man wearing too little deodorant.
The new passengers entered with a cold whoosh. There were only three of them, but three too many as far as Tiffany was concerned.
She looked down to make sure no one stepped on her Moschino slingbacks. Why did she do stupid things like this? Why didn’t she wear sneakers when she flew, like normal people? She closed her eyes briefly. She was doing it again. Complaining about her circumstances, which really weren’t all that bad. For the past six months—ever since she came to Christ—she kept catching herself like this.With an exhale she determined to upgrade her attitude starting now. Appreciate, girl, appreciate.
When she lifted her eyes, they fell on the most attractive man she’d ever seen, especially this close. The cramped quarters forced him to stand within kissing distance of her. Thank You, Lord!
He and Tiffany looked directly into each other’s eyes—there was really nowhere else to look at the moment. He topped her in height by a few inches, despite her heels. The bus took off, and the quick forward movement shoved them against each other.
They each grabbed at the hand rail and offered one-word apologies to the other.
Oh, mercy, did she hear an English accent? Maybe. And she was a sucker for an accent. There was something familiar about him. What was it? Had they met? Or was it just because he looked like Jude Law? Or Jude Law’s even cuter brother. Dear Lord, is it okay for me to talk with You about stuff like this? My goodness, he’s so close I can tell he has really excellent skin. And the perfect amount of five-o’clock shadow. Is that bad of me to notice? Am I a horrible
Christian for absolutely loving this moment?
She tried to sneak a casual peek at his ring hand, but the handrail obscured her view. Oh, wait, now, that was the wrong hand. But his ring hand was blocked by other people. She glanced back up and saw him studying her with his crystal blue eyes. He looked quickly away, but then he playfully looked back at her, sideways.
She laughed, maybe a little too loudly. Embarrassed and reluctant to look at him again, she trained her eyes on his warm brown sports jacket. And his white shirt appeared freshly starched, even this late in the day. Six months ago, she would have made an unabashed comment to get
things rolling with this guy. Where was the old Tiffany?
Me again, Lord. I cannot believe I’m getting shy. Me. The biggest flirt ever. This is Your doing, isn’t it?
EVERYTHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TRISH…
Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I’m the middle child; middle girl. I was raised as one of five kids by my British mum and my WWII Air Force vet dad. I lived in Newfoundland (Canada), California, Colorado, and finally Virginia, which I’ve called home for the greater part of my life. I love it here. Most of my family still resides in Virginia, which is a bonus.
My late sister lived a rough lifetime of medical problems, which had a distinct bearing on our family lifestyle and our sensibilities toward the hardships of others. Her eventual death may have been a blessed relief for her, but it was a huge loss for us. The loss is what brought me to the Lord.
Both of my children are believers, which brings me such peace. I have a 29-year-old daughter, who is one of the coolest, smartest, most intuitive women I know. She’s blessed me with a remarkable grandson, now five. And my 16-year-old son is brilliant and funny, and he tells me daily that I’m weird (but I can hear the “I love you” in there when he says it).
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
Novels and films are constants in my life; if I’m home and not working, I’m usually absorbed by one of those. I love good stories. I enjoy varied styles of music. I love to sing and served on my church’s worship team until my writing schedule got so busy. I still serenade the neighbors on occasion, whether they want me to or not. I’m a self-admitted former disco queen, and I still love to dance. And I make sure to get together with girlfriends at least once a week. Socializing, dining, and laughing-it’s like having your batteries charged!
What has God been teaching you lately?
I’ve been blown away by how clearly He forgives my weaknesses. Things have occurred in my life over the past 18 months for which (right or wrong) I carried a burden of guilt. You know, that feeling of “how did I contribute to this mess?” Yet He has blessed me so abundantly in the midst of my feelings of conviction, that He amazes me daily with His obvious love. The blessings keep me humbly aware of how much I need Him. And they instill in me such a strong desire to serve Him and to follow His guidance and will.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I probably wanted to be an actor when I was a child. I memorized dialogue, imagined scenes, and studied actresses I admired. But I never went out for Drama in school. I was horribly shy and couldn’t imagine auditioning for anything. Still, I was well served by my obsession with dialogue and the visual exercises of creating scenes in my mind. Sometimes I still come up with my scenes and dialogue by simply visualizing them on screen or acting them out with imaginary characters. I try to keep these antics private, of course. I’d be in big trouble on one of those Big Brother type of reality shows.
Where are you headed next?
I’ve just begun work on the follow-up to Beach Dreams, which is tentatively called Sunset Beach. We’re expecting a June 2009 release, but that’s not definite yet. The book’s setting will be the same, but all of the characters will be new. I’m having fun with it!
How did you get involved in writing?
I dabbled with writing on and off when I was a kid, but I didn’t feel the great calling I hear other novelists describe. I didn’t get the itch until I went back to school as an adult. I planned to become a psychological counselor, but my English professors kept giving me wonderful feedback on the writing exercises I did for them, and I realized I liked opening up that right hemisphere and pouring out the ideas. By the time I got my B.A., I decided to skip the doctorate program and focus on writing and getting published.
What’s the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Being disciplined enough, especially at the beginning of a project, to just sit here at the computer and do it. I’m always amazed, once I’ve put something up there, how easy it is to make it better. If you have something to work with, you’re halfway there. So I’m trying to be better about the beginning of a project-not to over think it before I start.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?
I love writing dialogue. What a control freak’s dream, to have control over what everyone says, including the antagonist. If only life were that easy, LOL! But truly, sometimes a scene simply shapes itself right before my eyes when the characters are engaged in dialogue. I don’t know quite what will be expressed sometimes, and I love it when it flows even faster than I seem to be able to think it.
How do you find time to write?
At the moment I’m blessed to not have to work an outside job, but I expect that to change in the next year or so. Still, I have to deliberately keep my schedule focused first on writing. Sometimes it feels as if I have the time to get back into the worship team at church or to beef up my social commitments. But I’ve learned to avoid putting too much on my plate, and it has resulted in my finding enough time to get my writing done. My son is now 16 and just got his driver’s license, so that has freed up some time for me as well. I’d actually like to write more than I do, so I guard against throwing my time away.
When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?
There is always surprise, no matter how well I plan out a book’s progress. I was just talking with my editor about that the other day, the fact that the initial summary I write might change a bit as events unfold around my protagonist. I think that’s happened with every book I’ve written. I typically write a summary, which tells me generally where the story will go, and then I write a sentence or two per chapter idea, and then I start hammering away on Chapter One. As I write actual chapters, the events between “Once upon a time” and “The End” evolve in more significant ways than I expected in the first place. It’s an exciting process!
Tell me about your road to publication.
I didn’t know what kind of writing I wanted to pursue when I first started to write seriously. So I read Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines and joined the Writer’s Digest Book Club. I bought a ridiculous number of books about writing and poured over them. I took Creative Writing courses while I worked on my Psych degree-the workshopping alone was excellent training for skin thickening. I joined a local writing organization and hung out with other writers. I started submitting poetry and personal essays to small publications. I experienced plenty of rejection and kept trying. I wrote several short stories and eventually realized I wanted to write a novel. So I read several books about novel writing. And I read a lot of novels! While I worked on my first novel, I continued to submit smaller pieces, and I started publishing. I joined a small critique group.
The above actions took me years, and I still hadn’t submitted a novel for publication (or rejection). This is a long road, but it’s best to just put one foot in front of the other and not worry about the length of the journey.
I entered writing contests, and one of them led to my finding representation by my fantastic agent, Tamela Hancock Murray. Mind you, this was representation for my second novel. Once Tamela started representing me, it was a matter of months before she got me a two-book contract. The contract did not include my first manuscript-that baby still sits at home and may never see publication. But it was all part of the journey.
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Give the endeavor to God first. And daily. When doubts arise (and they will), you must be able to fall back on the knowledge that your efforts are for Him. And know that He will never show you the way by crushing your efforts with rejection and desolation. If He wants you to do something other than writing, He’ll lovingly draw you to that other endeavor.
That said, take all the practical steps to learn the craft and the business. Read (both how-to’s and novels), write, network, and submit. Over and over again.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I wanted very much to write a book about Jeremy and Tiffany, who were secondary characters in my first two books (The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True). I started to write the third book with the same setting as my first two, but then Harvest House asked if I would move the setting to fit The Beach House Series, the first two books of which were written by Sally John. So I started over and made my east coast protagonists travel across country to sunny San Diego. It was fun to create that facet of their story-it added quite a few layers to the plot. In fact, the circumstances of their getting together was completely different than what I originally planned.
What are the major themes of the book?
The importance of seeking God’s guidance constantly surfaces in my stories-the different circumstances that drive my themes usually fit under that umbrella.
Situations aren’t always as they appear, for example, and we can be fooled or we can misjudge others if we don’t constantly seek God’s wisdom and guidance. And sometimes we can miss out on His blessings if we fail to see situations as He means us to.
Another theme that emerged was how difficult it can be when a believer is drawn romantically to a nonbeliever. I’ve touched on the subject before, but in Beach Dreams, the nonbeliever is someone who feels almost real to me (and many readers) at this point. I feel a renewed empathy for Christians in these circumstances. Again, God’s guidance and strength are so important.
With which character do you identify the most and why?
Certainly Tiff. I’ve never deliberately been mean, as Tiff was in my first two books, but I identified with her in Beach Dreams. She struggles continually to shrug off her less-than-Christian thoughts and desires, and that’s a constant in my life. Christ gave us a beautiful, one-line prayer in Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will but as You will.” Wow, that’s my daily battle-trying to surrender to His will. And I saw that in Tiffany.
Was it difficult to write a book in a series, following someone else?
It was a new challenge, but Harvest House was clear with me that I had significant leeway in my approach. We didn’t want the book to disappoint Sally John’s readers by being wildly different from her style, but we also wanted to maintain a style my readers had come to expect. I think we accomplished a happy medium.
Why did you decide to bring back characters from your previous books?
There was such an unfinished feel for me with regard to Jeremy by the time I finished my first draft of Too Good to Be True. He had become so lovable, but he was still alone and spiritually lost. Both my editor and I hoped there would be an opportunity to do a third novel, with Jeremy and someone falling in love and Jeremy getting a clue about Christ. Because Tiffany had been such a pain in The Guy I’m Not Dating and for much of Too Good to Be True, it was fun showing how God could reach even her. So her development became intriguing to me, too. Surprisingly, I received requests from many readers to throw these two characters together. I’m not such a unique thinker after all!
What is a mistake – big or small – that you’ve made that you could later see God used for a specific purpose and how did he use it?
I was deeply into adulthood when I went back to school to earn a degree. Rather than fretting over having waited so long, I focused on the fact that now I knew what I really wanted to be. A psychological therapist. You couldn’t have found a more attentive, diligent student, and I did well. So, when I neared graduation and realized I had developed an overwhelming desire to write fiction, I freaked out just a little. How could I switch gears yet again? Had I just wasted years earning a degree I wasn’t going to actually use? That felt like a huge mistake.
But God knew what He was doing. If you want to do an in-depth study of character goals, motivation, and conflict, you go on out there and earn a degree in Psychology. I may not be too quick in the plotting and scene-setting departments, but my psychological training comes in handy when creating characters and walking with them through life. I think that’s why God led me to get that degree, and now I know I didn’t waste a moment learning what I did.