Meet Debut Novelist Christi Barth

Christi Barth spent over a decade performing in musicals and operas, singing about love and giving people a happy ending in every performance. Then as a wedding planner, she spent every day immersed in romance. Now she writes it. Her debut novel, Carolina Heat, was released by Eternal Press on December 7th.

Christi and her handsome, supportive husband live in Baltimore, Maryland. When she’s not putting her characters in peril, she enjoys gourmet cooking and volunteering with the Junior League. If Christi were given $100 to spend at her local brick and mortar bookstore in ten minutes flat, she would make a dash for the romance section and scarf up the latest Colleen Gleason, Nora Roberts and Christie Ridgway titles.

Join me as we learn about more about Christi and her journey to publication.

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Christi’s Journey Begins

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•After years in theatre and opera, you shifted your creative energy to writing. When did you begin your first story, and what led you in this new direction?

I’ve been writing for years. Was spurred on in high school by winning two literary contests, but let it fall by the way side once I got caught up in performing. But I couldn’t stop writing – I’d get ideas all the time and jot them down in a folder. I knew if I didn’t at least try to pursue this, it would be a lifelong regret. Told myself I had to finish by my next birthday, and I typed The End 24 hours before that self-imposed deadline.

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•How long did it take you to write this story? Did you embark on the experience with knowledge of the craft, learn as you went, or go back and revise after you’d reached The End?

As I mentioned above, I dabbled at this story for years, then finally got serious for about four months. I joined a crit group and learned about head hopping, of which I was extremely guilty. Took two days to put everything into appropriate POVs, and then started sending it out. I don’t tend to revise much. Aside from obvious mistakes pointed out by my wonderful crit partners (too many ‘that’s’), the first draft is very similar to the final draft.

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Christi’s Inspiration

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•I understand the idea for Carolina Heat came from a trip to Charleston, where the story takes place. Do your stories usually start with the setting?

Setting is of paramount import in Carolina Heat. Due to a long-buried Civil War secret that drives the murder, Charleston and Richmond figure heavily in the plot. I truly don’t think the story could take place anywhere else. My goal is to transport the reader, so that when they finish my book, they feel like they’ve actually visited the setting, and can easily picture it. I get lots of ideas on my vacations, so setting is usually inextricably entwined with the plot. Kind of a chicken and the egg thing.

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•I read that your first aspect of getting to know your characters is to learn their names. Where do you come up with yours? Once you’ve nailed the names, what comes next?

The Internet is a writer’s best friend! I’m working on a book now that has lots of Greek names, and I literally couldn’t do it without the web. When I come across a name in an article or a directory that I like I always write it down, which means I’ve got a list of about 20 first names for each gender and 40 last names that strike me as fun. Hard work, though – I don’t know how people handle the stress of naming their children! As soon as they are named, I can dive into structuring the plot. That involves lots of powerpoint diagrams to be sure everything ties together. Then I move on to outlining each chapter.

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•You’ve said you’re a “dialogue driven” writer. Did your years in theatre bring this about? What is it you enjoy most about writing dialogue?

I honestly think it is because I enjoy reading dialogue the most. Maybe it is the influence of the theatre, or too much tv/movies, but the characters leap off the page more for me if you can literally hear the voices constantly speaking. Most of all I enjoy writing funny, witty dialogue – the kind of thing you wish you could say on the spur of the moment, but never quite manage to until two hours later.

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•You’ve played many roles through the years. Have aspects of the characters you portrayed worked their way into your stories?

Well, I’d like to say yes – it is a very good question. But in the musical theatre circuit, lots of the heroines I played are a bit old fashioned, and don’t quite have the gumption of my heroines. The men, on the other hand, absolutely make their way into my work. Everyone loves a stereotypical, swashbuckling hero!

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Christi’s Milestones

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•You did well on the contest circuit, taking first in the 2008 Heart to Heart sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America®. How did you react to that news?

With complete shock, due to a few losses prior to that win. If I don’t win a contest, I tend to get 2 perfect scores and 1 abysmal score that drags down the whole thing. So I was quite excited by finally receiving some across the board positive feedback.

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•The following year you took the top spot in the Single Title category of the highly regarded Emily. In addition, you were among the four listed in the contest’s Best of the Best. What were your thoughts when you received this exciting news? Did this win prompt you to begin submitting your story?

Oh, I’d already submitted to dozens of agents and received just as many rejections by the time I won the Emily. Again, I had a few dismal scores in contests before the Emily, so it really rebounded my spirits. I received the call on Valentine’s Day, and was lucky enough to be able to share the news at a party that night. Quite a few extra glasses of champagne for me!

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•I saw on your blog that in September of last year, you were still receiving rejections. However, Carolina Heat released in December. Things must have happened quickly for you. What led up to The Email, and how loudly did you squeal when you opened it?

I’d been corresponding with my publisher – submitted the full, and they said they liked it, but wanted to see one major revision. I made it (because at that point I was willing to do anything to get published!), and then sat on tenterhooks for a week.

We went to DC for Easter, and our hotel had computers in the lobby available to guests w/free WiFi. We came back from breakfast – I checked my email. Came back from the Air & Space museum – checked my email. My parents thought I was obsessed, because I hadn’t told them what was going on (I didn’t want to jinx it). But finally at 5:00 the email came through (and yes, I squealed loudly enough to startle several other hotel guests passing through the lobby), and at dinner that night I got to share the good news! Followed promptly the next day when I opened the contract and discovered they wanted me to come up with a concept for the cover. Yikes!

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Christi’s Big Discovery

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•In a recent interview at Musetracks, you said, “I discovered my writing style with [Carolina Heat] . . .” What was the process you went through as you found your Voice, and how did you feel when things came together?

The trick was to stop thinking about what other novels were like, and just write what I hear in my head. I’m pretty blunt and sarcastic. Once I gave in to that instead of writing what I thought people wanted to read, the words tumbled out. So while absolutely none of the characters are based on real people, they probably sound very much like my friends and I would, were we put in those situations (although I really hope we don’t have to track down a murderer anytime soon).

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Christi’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Carolina Heat.

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Well-known journalist Annabelle Carlyle is stunned by the personal twist of her latest assignment: her best friend Vanessa is missing. Annabelle goes undercover in the Old South to search for answers. Full of thick accents and a way of life rooted in the past, Charleston is as foreign and strange a place as any she’s visited. Before finding a single clue, Annabelle encounters a sexy man she can’t shake.

Tall, dark and charming, Mark Dering is happy to show the gorgeous Yankee his hometown. He’s captivated by the quick witted, quick tempered redhead. But when they’re shot at, he realizes she’s far more than just another tourist. Soon they’re deep into a mystery that goes way back to the Civil War. For once Annabelle is in over her head. Desperate to find Vanessa, she reluctantly accepts Mark’s help and it isn’t long before romance blooms.

The stakes grow higher when a body is discovered. Someone is willing to kill to keep a century old Confederate secret hidden. With her best friend missing and a killer on the loose, it’s the worst possible moment for Mark to try and unlock Annabelle’s heart. Or is love exactly what her life’s been missing?

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Christi’s Journey Continues

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•Your romantic suspense, Carolina Heat, is available in both digital and print versions. I understand your second book is different. What is it like, and what led to the change of sub-genre?

Sheer laziness. When you write suspense, not only do you have to come up with a plausible mystery, you also have to come up with red herrings. And try to not make the whole thing too obvious. I wrote Carolina Heat as romantic suspense because when I started it, I was on a romantic suspense kick (as with most things, the idea was far simpler than the actualization).

What I love about romance is the spark between characters, and their journey towards happily ever after. So I focused on that for book number two, which is set in a Minneapolis dinner theatre.

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•What are you working on now?

Two people with a messy history are stuck sharing a honeymoon suite on a cruise. Oddly enough, I find myself falling back toward a little suspense (probably because there’s only so much you can do on a boat, no matter how big). I like to have really strong supporting characters who also fall in love (told you I was all about the happy ending!), so I have lots of fun working them into it.

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Five Fun Facts About Christi, The Writer

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~ I can type 95 wpm (very useful for a writer!)

~ Can’t write a book longhand – my hand can’t keep up with my brain.

~ My publisher asked me to change the title from the original Missing, and I spent two days coming up with nothing but cheesy, horrible alternatives (Tarnished Secrets, Magnolias & Murder) – started to doubt myself as a writer.

~ After years as an actress, my creative juices kick into high gear after 6 pm. I do my plotting during the day – well, whenever the ideas strike, which is often either when I’m at the gym or the symphony, oddly enough. But the bulk of my writing takes place between sunset and midnight.

~ I can make up my heroine, but my hero has to actually look like a real person. Don’t know why I have such gender inequity. My hero in Carolina Heat looks like a co-star I once had – but the resemblance absolutely stops at the physical!

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Five Fun Facts About Christi, the Person

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~ Originally from Los Angeles, and yet can’t tan at all – I go straight to sunburned

~ I played the Virgin Mary six times – including three with my husband as Joseph

~ I’m a speedreader – great for research, but not so great when I zoom through a fabulous new book in an afternoon

~ For 5 years I decorated my hometown’s Rose Parade float – my favorite part was climbing the scaffolding and hanging upside down to apply flowers

~ Although I loathe anything math related, I am currently the Treasurer of my local Junior League.

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Christi’s Question for You

•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Christi. You gave some great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so ask away.

If you were a character in a romance novel (any era), what would your name be, and what would your hero’s name be?

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Learn More About Christi

Visit her Web site ~ www.christibarth.com

Visit her group blog ~ http://wordwranglers.blogspot.com

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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16 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Christi Barth

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Christi! It’s great to have this opportunity to learn more about your writing and your debut novel.

    You asked a great question. I’ve never thought about what I’d call myself if I were a character in a romance novel. I’ve always liked my name, especially the unique spelling my mom chose, but since I write inspirational historical romance, it doesn’t strike me as having a period feel. I might go with my middle name, which is Kristine, but I’d use the more common spelling of Christine so it would have be in line what that used in the period I write, which is the 1800s.

    As far as heroes, I have a real life one whom I love dearly, so my Gwynly would be the hero in my story. Don’t know what name I’d use. I think I’d ask him to choose.

    What name would you use if you put yourself in a novel?

  2. sherrinda says:

    I had to reread the sentence when you said that basically your first draft is is very similar to the final draft! Wow! That is very impressive! (says one who is still in the middle of editing her own WIP!)

    Congratulations on your success! May you continue to grow as a writer and sell many, many books!

  3. Christi says:

    For years I loved the name Miranda. But now that I’m writing, I can’t make the name fit any of my characters…so I guess I’d use it for my name if I jumped into a novel. Still hoping to utilize it someday, though, as it is so lyrical.

  4. Pamela says:

    When I was little I hated the name Pamela and I wanted to change it to Susan. Now I like having a somewhat unique name, and if I were a romance novel heroine it would be even more unique, like Brooke or Sorrel.

    Like you I type really fast and I can’t imagine “writing” a book. I heard that Agatha Christie wrote 5 books a year in longhand.

  5. Quilt Lady says:

    Great interview! Congrats on your success! I think my name would be Scarlett and my hero would have to be Rhett!

  6. Maggie Dove says:

    Hi Christi! I really enjoyed getting to know you better. My daughter is studying muscial theatre in college. She got the part of Helena in MidSummer’s Night Dream and will be in a musical in late April. I can’t wait to see her in it. I love to sing but live vicariously through her, but I’m no Mama Rose…writing my novels keep me too busy to obsess on her! lol!

    Now for your question: I really loved Quilt Lady’s answer! Scarlett and Rhett! But hey, I would also settle for Cathy and Heathcliff!!!

  7. Christi says:

    Pamela, I love your idea of Sorrel. Names from trees, flowers, etc. always resonate with me.

    Quilt Lady – you know Scarlett and Rhett didn’t have a happy ending, right? You’re setting yourself up for heartbreak!

    Maggie – so proud of your daughter for following her dream!

  8. Diane Wylie says:

    Great interview, Christi, and congratulations on the release of your debut book! Enjoy the ride.

  9. Sorry, Christi — I didn’t see this until today on the MRW loop, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s wonderful to learn more about you, and to watch your career grow.

    As for what sort of heroine I’d be — Definitely “Bond, Jamie Bond.”

    😉

  10. Christi says:

    Hah! Very appropriate Jamie, since you write suspense. But then who would your hero be – just male eye candy?

  11. Ha! Forgot about the hero…

    He’d be the villain.

  12. Christi says:

    Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to peruse this. I enjoyed being here very much! If you have any other questions or comments, please visit http://www.christibarth.com

  13. Jessica says:

    Hi Christi!
    I’m pretty sure I use to see your name over on the RWC crit group. 🙂 Congrats on you sale! The cover is really, really good. I love it.

  14. Christi says:

    Hi Jessica ~
    Yes, I was in that crit group – and now is your chance to finally see how the story ends! I hope you enjoy it.

  15. Pamela Hopkins says:

    Christi,

    Pamela here. What a great interview; really enjoyed it.

  16. Christi says:

    Pamela, I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview. Now I only hope you enjoy the book just as much!

Comments are closed.