Today’s special guest is my friend, JoAnn Durgin. Starlight, Star Bright is JoAnn’s sequel to the popular Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, part of Pelican Book Group’s 2012 Holiday Extravaganza. The author of seven books, JoAnn is an estate administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky law firm and lives in southern Indiana. Visit her at www.joanndurgin.com or via her Author JoAnn Durgin page on Facebook.
Welcome, JoAnn. Readers are always interested in knowing how an author develops his or her characters or the conflict an author designs for those characters. Christmas novels are a little unique because authors seem to seek out and read Christmas stories. Would you tell us what is unique about your novel set at Christmastime?
For one, I have an Italian cowboy. You don’t see many of those. It’s also a sequel to my novella, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe (2012). Both novellas are set in little Starlight, Iowa, during the Christmas season. The events in Starlight, Star Bright take place a year later, and have some of the usual hometown characters, plus some new ones. Because of the shorter length of novellas, you’ll notice that many of them feature a hero and heroine who have shared a past relationship or have known one another for years. I’m a firm believer that a man and woman can fall in love quickly. Each couple, and their relationship, is different, but it can happen…and I’ve seen such relationships last for many, happy years.
In your novel with Christmas as the backdrop, does Christmas play into the issues that your characters face? If so, how? It’s my hope that—because the events take place during the Christmas season—it only adds to the inherent charm of the story. Events in the town pair my hero and heroine, Dante Moretti and Amanda Marston, together in unique and fun outings and events. The wedding of Amanda’s brother on New Year’s Eve also figures prominently into the story, as well…and the fact that both Dante and Amanda plan on leaving Starlight after the wedding, he back to Italy and she to Florida.
The future does hold an element of tension in Starlight, Star Bright, and it is masterfully woven into the story. In the novel is there a key scripture or biblical concept that you explore? If so, what scripture or concept do you hope to bring to the light for your readers?
Trusting in the Lord’s plan for our lives is one of the main themes of Starlight, Star Bright. In my case, it’s about keeping fame and fortune in perspective. It’s also about being true to yourself while keeping in mind that the things of this earth being temporal as opposed to the things of the Lord being eternal. It’s based on scripture from James 4:13-15: 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”(NIV)
Great advice, JoAnn. Christmas can be a lonely time for many. What further advice would you give a reader who is dealing with this during the Holidays?
I’d like to share a few verses of scripture that can lend comfort, and they’re shown below. I’d also suggest one of the best ways to combat loneliness is through giving to others, especially during the Christmas season. Staying home and dwelling on our troubles is defeating and contrary to finding the joy the Lord craves for us. But extending beyond our comfort zone, reaching out and giving to others, can give us a sense of satisfaction like none other. Here are those verses (NIV version):
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
JoAnn, I know you’re always working on a project. What future projects do you have in the works, and what issues do your characters deal with?
I’m currently working on Moonbeams, Book #5 in The Lewis Legacy Series. I’m revamping this manuscript quite a bit from its initial draft. Mitch was introduced in Book #4 as the protective older brother of my heroine (just as Jake is a big brother/protector for Amanda in Starlight, Star Bright). I love to explore the whole sibling dynamic, especially between a brother and sister. Mitch suffered through the loss of his best friend, and he’s still hurting. After a disastrous incident decimated his promising Boston medical career, he hides behind sarcasm and overworks himself as a Wall Street broker. He tends to fall in love easily, but he chooses women who are “safe” and whom he knows in his heart are completely wrong for him. Sweet Cassie is an Alabama homegrown girl, and she’s also struggling with a very personal loss and the associated guilt. The TeamWork crew, and especially Amy, have pushed these two toward one another for two years, but Mitch and Cassie know it’ll never work between them. They come from two completely different backgrounds. He lives in New York and hates to fly. She lives in Houston and doesn’t want anything to do with money and Wall Street. When they all end up together in Houston one weekend, Cassie and Mitch effectively turn the tables on everyone. And find themselves in a situation they never expected. It’s quite the adventure!
Thank you, JoAnn. It’s always a great pleasure speaking with you.
Dante Moretti, Texas-born goalie of an Italian World Cup champion team, expects Starlight, Iowa will be only a blip on the radar of his life. Grabbing a quick meal at Barney’s Diner during the holidays, Dante meets two women who capture his heart in very different ways. Then his rental car won’t start and leaves him stranded. Does the Lord have a plan for bringing him—and keeping him—in Starlight?
Amanda Marston is excited to be home for her brother’s wedding. When she drops in for a cup of coffee at Barney’s, she’s charmed by the mysterious, Italian-spouting cowboy. Before she can blink, the handsome stranger is helping with projects all over town and working his way into her heart. Does God have a plan for Dante in her beloved little Starlight or will he take her heart with him when he returns to Italy?
Jacob Marston, Starlight, Iowa’s hometown hero made a long-ago promise to the Lord: he won’t kiss a woman until he knows she’s “the one.” Now at age twenty-eight, the rugged firefighter questions if it’ll ever happen. Then, he meets his best friend’s sister, and Jake believes he’s found the woman of his dreams. But what will she think when she discovers his vow?
When Julia makes an unexpected confession on Christmas Day, Jake shares his secret with her, and it looks as though happily-ever-after will make a holiday appearance.
But somehow, everyone in the tiny town of Starlight learns Jake’s secret, and he’s instantly transformed from town hero to laughingstock. Did Julia reveal his secret? Can Jake forget the humiliation and find his way under the mistletoe to share a forever kiss with Julia?