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Interview with JoAnn Durgin, Author of Starlight, Star Bright

JD2_origToday’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):

John 14:1
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

John 14:27
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.

Romans 15:13
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.

StarlightStarbright_w11612_680More about Starlight, Star Bright:

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?

Starlight, Star Bright is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

And Meet Me Under the Mistletoe: MeetMeUnderTheMistletoe_w11222_300

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?

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

 

Character Interview: Dante Moretti from Starlight, Star Bright by JoAnn Durgin

StarlightStarbright_w11612_680Today, I am honored to have with us Dante Moretti, the hero from JoAnn Durgin’s wonderful Christmas novella, Starlight, Star Bright, a sequel to last year’s novella, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. I fell in love with Dante because his author and I have a love for unique cowboys heroes. So, let’s meet Dante.

Dante, welcome to Inner Source.  Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I’m originally from Justis, Texas, a tiny town in West Texas much like Starlight, Iowa. My paternal grandparents moved from Italy to Texas shortly after they married and opened a jewelry store to serve the wealthy immigrants who settled in that region. I grew up speaking Italian and visited Italy a few times growing up. As a child, I loved playing soccer and seemed to have a natural affinity for it. After playing soccer in high school, I earned a scholarship to West Texas A&M and then was drafted into the Italian Soccer League (called football in Europe) straight after college. For the past five seasons, I’ve played the goalie position on a team outside of Rome. The team has done very well, but in my heart, I still consider myself an Italian-spouting cowboy from little Justis, Texas.

See what I mean. A cowboy soccer player. JoAnn had me hooked from the start of your story, Dante. This novel is a Christmas romance. Please tell us a little about your story?

I was on hiatus from the soccer league until we start training again in March. Armed with letters from fans, I decided to travel around the States. I stopped at Barney’s Diner in Starlight, Iowa one night in mid-December with a letter from boys named Andrew and Tyler tucked in my pocket. The letter said if I was ever in Starlight, I should stop by the diner and ask for the woman there. That woman turned out to be Caroline Picasso. Then beautiful Amanda Marston blew into the diner and captured my attention, and admittedly my heart, from the moment I first met her. Amanda was born and raised in Starlight, but she’d moved to Florida with her parents. She’d come back to town for her brother Jake’s New Year’s Eve wedding. Regrettably, I had no reason to stay in Starlight even though everything in me urged me to stay. Then my rental car wouldn’t start and Caroline offered me a place to lay my head for the night. The next morning, something else happened that kept me in Starlight even longer. Before I knew it, I was offered lots of projects and I figured, why not? Since my Gran had died in Justis in the past year, I had no other close family members left and no pressing plans to go anywhere else, so…I stayed longer than anticipated. Put it this way: during that stop in Barney’s, I met two women who changed and enriched my life beyond measure. God knew, and I have no doubt He orchestrated my stop in Starlight. I’ll thank Him all the rest of my days.

Since you are an Italian-American, I’m wondering what Christmas traditions are shown in the novel? Do they play a role in your story?

Shortly after I arrived in Starlight, I helped Amanda’s brother Jake, the Starlight Fire Captain, deliver coats and food baskets to some of the citizens. I also helped to refurbish toys for the kids.

Amanda invited me to help cut and haul trees at Ed’s Christmas Tree Farm, one of the biggest businesses in Starlight during the holiday season. My muscles felt the effects for a few days, but I didn’t care since I got to spend more time with Amanda. Before that, we also worked in the soup kitchen together and then a group of us pounded each other with snowballs on the grounds of the church afterwards before going to Barney’s Diner. Amanda asked me to help chaperone the Mistletoe Dance at the high school. I was more than happy to help eat my share of Martha’s Bakery frosted sugar cookies! That was also the night Amanda discovered something about me that’s rather ironic (my fancy footwork on the soccer field does not translate well in my attempts to dance). When I walked Amanda home after the dance, our relationship moved forward and—as far as I was concerned—there was no turning back. For the first time, the annual live nativity pageant was held on Christmas night, and something happened there that served as a pivotal point in my growing relationship with Amanda as well with some of the other townspeople. It brought some issues to light that needed to be addressed.

Yes, you did wrap yourself into Starlight’s traditions, and with endearing consequences, I might add. What issues did you, as a character, bring to the author?

Basically, I was a man without a home or family. My life had been dramatically altered by a tragic event from my past. When I first came to Starlight, I didn’t want to reveal my career or my past to anyone; I simply wanted to enjoy living in small-town Iowa for a short time. When I first met her, Amanda told me God’s sneaky sometimes in how He brings the truth to light. Knowing how to reveal the truth about me was somewhat of a challenge to the author. I’m just thankful she didn’t wait until the last chapter, and she honored my wishes in getting it out there about halfway through our story so we could move forward.

JoAnn tells me Italy is her favorite European country to visit (she’s been twice), and she spent a week in Rome on the second visit. The author loves it when I spout Italian—which comes naturally to me—but she needed to constantly go to her Italian-born friend, Maria, to get the interpretation of my words. Even so, she said the Italian language is incredibly romantic and she knows that’s one thing that really appealed to Amanda. Given that information, I whisper sweet nothings in Amanda’s ear, in Italian of course, at every available opportunity.

I happen to know that JoAnn worked hard on getting your language perfect, and your little Italian sweet-nothings are a wonderful part of your romance with Amanda. 

Is there scripture or a biblical concept that you leaned upon to help you through your crisis?

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)

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Dante.

More about Starlight, Star Bright:

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?

Starlight, Star Bright is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

And Meet Me Under the Mistletoe: MeetMeUnderTheMistletoe_w11222_300

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?

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

JD2_origAbout the Author:

Starlight, Star Bright is the 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.

Janet K. Brown, Author of Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness

Janet BrownToday’s special guest is Janet K. Brown, author of Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. Janet  lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. Though she has written most of her adult life, since her retirement as a bookkeeper and medical coder, she writes as a second career and as a ministry.

Divine Dining is the author’s second book. It encompasses her passion for diet, fitness, and God’s Word.  Janet released her debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, in July, 2012. She continues to write short stories for teens and adults. The sequel to her young adult is contracted to release in June, 2014.

Janet and her husband love to travel with their RV, visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three grandchildren, and work in their church.

I lived the words from Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness every day of my adult life. Nineteen years ago, God healed my emotions. With Him carrying me, I lost ninety-five pounds and have maintained it since then.

I teach classes on weight loss at my local church using my own curriculum and Bible study.  I read everything I can get my hands on about allowing God to control my compulsive nature. Lacking in books was a combination of following Christ through our eating with the twelve step program of Overeaters Anonymous.

One night four years ago, God woke me in the middle of the night. I went to my computer and wrote fourteen devotions. That has never happened before or since. God spurred me to finish what I started that night and add 351 more to minister each day of the year. This is truly one woman’s journey, and the story of my heart.

Thank you, Duke Pennell, at Pen-L Publishing for taking a chance on this book.

I believe God would’ve urged me to write this book if only to minister to myself. Isn’t that just like God? We know Jesus died on the cross for all mankind, but we believe He would’ve made that trip to Golgotha for just us. Nevertheless, it’s my prayer that it helps others.

I tell people to beware. This book tells all the good, bad, and ugly of my life. I try to be an open book. Compulsive overeating, as with all compulsions and addictions, is a lonely life. God cannot heal us until we are willing to show the ugly secrets to others. My message is you are not alone. What God can do for me, He can and will do for others if we relinquish our Won’t Power.

Here’s an example of the first devotion of the book:

January 1

Repairer of Broken Walls

“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land…you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Isaiah 58:11,12

Do you have moments when you feel like you’re losing your mind? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sound familiar?

A psychiatrist once told me trying to willingly destroy one’s self is not sane. Compulsive overeaters kill themselves slowly with legal means, but it’s no less crazy.

Resentment, envy, anger tear down the mind’s protective walls. The enemy of the soul can oppress an unguarded mind.

In my case, these emotions created havoc and caused emotional imbalance, insanity, if you will.

Of my own free will, I chose to ignore the enemy’s influence and give my mind and my body to the Lord’s control. God used my day-to-day actions to repair those walls and restore in me normality.

Healing is contingent on spiritual condition.

Prayer: Lord, today take my thoughts, my will and my choices and let them be yours.

DivineDiningCover 8-7-13 copyDivine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness is available FREE today through November 16 on Kindle. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Find Janet K. Brown at http:/ /www.janetkbrown.com and on Facebook  and Twitter