I discovered Chrissy Hartmann through another author. She is unique when it comes to authors and writing. If you look at her social media descriptions, it says she is a patriot, a buckeye, award-winning author, romantic, Eagle Scout mom, coffee lover, champagne enthusiast, whiskey sipper, wine taster, dog lover, cat snuggler, goose dresser, protector/defender, vinyl spinner, and T1D warrior- which are all true. What she rarely tells people is that she always wanted to be a cowboy, that she is blind, and that she is afraid of the dark.
As an author, I depend upon my eyes. Until this interview, I didn’t understand or appreciate just how much I depend on “seeing” my characters and my settings. Somehow, Chrissy mastered it.
I don’t want to say much further, because I want Chrissy to tell you in her own words who she is, how she writes, and how extremely successful she is. She also has wonderful tips for those who are just starting out on their writing journey, as well as those of us who are well on that road.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
Well, to be honest, in a roundabout way, I needed a new career. I had always wanted to be a librarian at the Library of Congress. I love history and books. So I had always dreamed of working at the Library of Congress working in research. I had finished my degree at Kent State University with a B.A. in history when I lost my eyesight. At the time that this happened, the opportunity to do online learning to get my masters in library of science had not been available. The opportunities I had to work there became slimmer and slimmer as the light faded from my eyes. Ironically though, the Library of Congress in a round-about way propelled me into becoming an author. They have a program for the blind and dyslexic (BARD) where they send you special tapes of audio books. I signed up for it. Each month, I would receive a book on tape. I never really paid much attention to the details in fiction writing until I would get my tapes. Listening to the words come alive sparked my idea to write my own stories. I had just gotten a computer that had software that could read the screen for me. And one thing I knew I could do easily would be to write out the stories that ran loose in my head. Also, I had the push from family to write my stories, probably because I would discuss the books I had listened to with them and explain how the author could have done it better this way or that way. I think they tired of me talking about it and therefore challenged me to write one.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
Blindness sets me apart from others. I have a totally different outlook (no pun intended) on the whole writing process. My style differs from most where I concentrate more on show than tell. Sometimes, editors have to tell me to add more “tell” to my stories. I’ve had a few editors tell me, “They feel as if they are watching my story unfold while they read it.”
What genre do you write, and why?
I love romance. I can read any heat level of romance, but I prefer the sweet romances to write. Romance has many subgenres that you can pair it up with, so if I wanted to write a historical romance or Sci-Fi romance I could. But at the moment, I’m writing contemporary sweet western romances because I love cowboys, horses, rodeos, and all things western. I probably get that from my Dad who always loved watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies. I write them in contemporary times because even though I’m a history major, I would hate to screw something up from that time period. I have more personal knowledge with current day western ideas and situations. Plus, making the western romances contemporary means I have to spend less time fact checking. And the last thing I want to do is screw up history facts. I’m positive the disclaimer at the front of my books wouldn’t get me out of trouble. Plus as a newbie, the budget for a fact checker is way too costly so I’ll stick to modern times.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
The first book that I ever really loved would have to be Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. Throughout my life, I’ve always had some struggle. I have very intelligent and talented siblings. I never thought I could ever measure up to them when it came to being creative. Each time I tried, it would be agonizing because even if I won a contest with my ceramics or ink printing, I just never thought I equaled their talent. But looking back and even with the accomplishments I’ve made with writing and being blind, it is pure ecstasy to know I’m published or I’ve won a contest with my short stories. I absolutely love it when a story that has run loose in my head for days, months, if not years, finally comes together. In a roundabout way, I understand Michelangelo’s agony and ecstasy when creating art. To me, I learned you don’t give up. The hard work is worth the beauty created, even if it kills you in the long run.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
The authors that I read are Susan Mallery, Jill Shalvis, Sabrina Jeffries, Eloisa James, and just recently Jill Lynn. All the authors mentioned here write about romance in a fun way. The structure of their sentences makes you believe you are right there with the characters. Their plots never seem cliché or boring. They always come across fresh. I’ve learned a lot from them with their writing styles. The sentences are fun, punchy, edgy, and make you want to laugh or cry, sometimes both. In a very simplistic way, they use their words to draw you into the story. Their characters just seem so real to me.
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
First and second, I’d want to dine with George and Martha Washington. I’d want to know if today’s America was anything they ever expected to see. Plus, I’d want to know from Martha how she kept George in check and what she drew on to keep her sanity while he forged a new nation. I wish she hadn’t destroyed the correspondence between them after George died. Third, I’d love to dine with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Love the man’s music. Not sure if I would have much to say to him because I’d want him to play his music instead. Fourth would be Michaelangelo. I would want to have him explain to me the passion he had for creating his art and how it came to him. Finally, I’d want to sit down with John Wayne. I love cowboys and why not have the best one over for dinner? I’d want him to tell me all about his career in the movies.
What is your writing routine? When you write, do you plan or outline ahead or are you a “pantser”?
I have no real writing routine. I’ve found if I make myself write, then I write nothing but crap. Unfortunately, I have to be in the mood to write. Then if I am, don’t bother me. I’m horrible to be around if I’m interrupted once I start. There are some days I can go all day and into the wee hours of the night working on writing projects, and then there are some days I do nothing but think about writing. I’m pathetic. I wish I could make myself write more. I’d probably have a hundred books published by now if I would dedicate certain hours of the day to just writing. I do like to outline, but do I stick to the outlines completely? Not usually. They are a good starting point for me and they have saved me from not having anything to write when I do. But the pesky Muses that run wild in my head will and have hijacked my plots several times and have steered us way off course from the original outline. It drives me nuts! But, in reality, mostly, they know what they are doing and it turns out pretty darn good in the long run.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
When I’m writing, I usually don’t read much. If I do, I try to pick up a new author out of a totally different genre. I only do this usually when the Muses have nothing to say. But mostly, when writing, I read more craft books than anything.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)
The first book I began writing still sits at the back of my thoughts. I actually lost interest in it. I wanted to write a romance with a mystery to it, but just can’t get the entire plot line to fall into place, which is funny because the second book to the series I had no problem writing. That second book is waiting for me to rewrite the first book so I can get it published. There are two books I need to get out, I hope within the next year, and then I’ll look at my original novel and see if I can pull it together. I hate that my second book of this series is just sitting there.
My family thinks I should write about my blindness. Someday, I might. But for now, even though it’s been 25 years, I just don’t want to relive it. Living through it once is bad enough. Plus, I’ll admit, I’ve probably blocked some of it from resurfacing because there are gaps of time that remain foggy. Sometimes, I’ll write about an incident from that time period, but I can’t say exactly why I do it. It doesn’t seem to help me. I’m not one to dwell on tragedy. I know there is a lesson to be learned from what I went through. But until certain people in my life aren’t around anymore to read what I have to say about it, I’d rather not discuss it. I just don’t want them to feel bad. Besides, I’m not one to profit off of tragedy. Writing about it won’t restore my eyesight and it brings me no pleasure to hurt someone, so it’s not worth putting on paper.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
Get rid of the word “was” in your work. Just by doing this enhances your sentence. It might be hard at first, but your books sound better.
How do you handle a negative critique?
First, I count to ten. Then I tell myself, writing is subjective. You will have lovers and haters of your work. Try to learn something positive from what they say and keep writing.
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
Fantasy. Just don’t have the imagination for it. Plus, I’d be one of those writers who would spend more time on the world building details than the actual story. I, however, do love to brainstorm with fantasy writers and do it often with my one writer friend who writes urban fantasy.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
I think they are very important. If you don’t have them, the story becomes flat. If I don’t like the character, atmosphere, or setting right off the bat, I won’t read any further. In those first few pages, there has to be something that draws me into the story to hold my interest and most of the time, it might be one little thing about the character that keeps me reading. As for setting, if you don’t get that right, then how is one to fall into the story? I love getting caught up in it. When the character or setting can take me away from my world, then the author has done their job and I’ll be more apt to purchase another book they write.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
I might put one thing in the character that resembles me, but more often than not, I piece together characters using a whole variety of people I know. My intention is to entertain the audience with my characters, not tear anyone down. I would hate to offend someone, that’s why there are little subtleties that I insert into a character. When they spark some kind of emotion with the audience, then I know I did good creating them.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
No one I’ve created, but I’ll never forget … Agent 355. She served as a female spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. She belonged to the Culper Ring. No one knew her real identity. Not even George Washington. She played a vital role in the war. Some say she helped Washington win it. Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to her. An outstanding book to read is called George Washington’s Secret Six–The spy ring that saved the American Revolution. Someday, I hope to write a historical romance about her and the head of the Culper Ring, who from my research, sounds like they were an item. Even though no one really knows what happened to her, I’d make the ending more satisfying, one that befits a hero, even if it’s fiction.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book is a novella, Cherishing Whiskey’s Salvation. It’s basically a second chance love story featuring a middle-aged couple. The characters, Charlie and Susan Stockton, carry over from my debut novel, Rescuing Whiskey’s Salvation. There’s two things in Charlie’s life he cherishes more than anything. Most might think he cherishes coffee and being in the military, but when he retires, he realizes it’s not coffee or the military he loves the most. No, it’s his wife and daughter he’s somewhat neglected for the past 30 years. Now, with retirement, he’s put to the test. He’s got to prevent war from breaking out between the two and saving his family.
How did you come up with the concept?
Actually, most of it had been written for my debut novel, but the book would have been too long. I removed the Charlie chapters, then pieced them together to run alongside the debut novel. I loved writing Charlie’s character and didn’t want to lose him, so discussing it with a friend, I finished the story so you could get a peek at what a parent might do in this sort of situation of protecting their child while trying to hold on to their marriage.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted the title to go along with the debut novel and the third book to this series. So discussing it with my writing buddy, we tossed out a bunch of words that we’d replace “rescuing” with that would represent how a middle-aged man might feel about his wife at this point in his life. After all, it’s more than just love he has for the woman who’s put up with so much with him being in the Army for 30 years. On top of that, she not only ran her own company, but kept his family’s cattle ranch going.
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
My favorite character is Charlie Stockton. He reminds me of my Dad, although my dad served as a Marine Presidential guard and did not fly Army choppers. But like my dad, Charlie loves his kid, is a hard worker, likes to have fun, is loyal to all around him, and quite ornery. My least favorite is Susan Mae Stockton, probably because she’s too professional, too much of a control freak, and stubborn to the core. But she does turn around… sort of.
What do you have in store for the future?
I will be publishing an anthology of my short stories — Tales From the Prickle Forrest soon and I hope to have the third and final book of the Whiskey Salvation Series out by the end of the year. I’m also going to attend a number of author book signings at book fairs and book festivals starting in March. Anyone can contact me through my website if they’d like an autographed copy. I can even autograph a digital book cover for those who prefer digital books. I love to hear from readers so reach out to me at my website https://chrissyhartmann.com/contact
I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did, and I hope you give one or more of her books a read, especially if you like romance.
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