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Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, D.K. Tell us about your latest work, “Mother and the Class Reunion,” a short story in the international anthology, Forever Families, published by Mandinam Press and shortly available in ebook and print at Amazon.com.

Recently, this favorite short story theme about a loving mom engineering a summer romance for her adult daughter was printed in the third of Mandinam Press’s Forever series:  Forever Friends, Forever Travels and the recently released, Forever Families.  All three anthologies are collections of international stories by authors from across the globe writing in every genre.  It’s great company.  “Mother and the Class Reunion” is loosely modeled after a personal experience with a twist.

Sounds like not only an interesting but fun read, D.K. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I have one manuscript waiting for approval with L & L Dreamspell, The Bamboo Ring, a story of exotic lands through the eyes of a woman in love.  I also have a work in progress, Escape to Love, a period romance and adventure in the South from the Civil War era.  It is based on a young soldier’s love triangle discovered after he escapes from the heinous Elvira prisoner of war camp in New York by organizing a tunnel crew of POW’s. He returns to battle at the southern lines after many misadventures along the way and then back to his southern home after the war ends to face love lost and the challenges to rebuild the south and his own dreams.

Wow. Both sound intriguing. As a Southerner, I especially like the concept for Escape to Love. What is a typical writing day like for you?

There are few typical days.  I write about four hours a day; however, it is split between short stories, novels and articles for the local Southwest Florida Spotlight , www. swspotlight.com , a print and online news magazine.  When I have a deadline, I am known to spend up to a week with only naps in order to finish a novel or a story.  Nothing else gets done.   I also write for Examiner.com and Suite101.com in addition to other freelance articles, grant writing and media releases.

I really wish I had more self-discipline and could devote more time to writing. I do enjoy reading your articles, D.K. and don’t know how you do all that you do. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

The characters tend to take control of the novel and their behaviors take on a life of their own.  They may take the story in a different direction than planned.  Neev became the heroine of Ghost Orchid; but she was not in the original story outline.  Her birth and story came from the development of a back story for another main character.  Neev’s physical attributes, intelligence and personality were born from the genes she inherited from the original, planned characters.  She literally came to life between the covers of Ghost Orchid, a haunting story that rises in the mist of the haunting and exquisite Everglades.

Now, that’s interesting, especially since I really liked the character Neev. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I prefer historical literature, the complex and romantic novels of the 19th century.  They appeal to me because they tell so much about the world at that time and how the romantic heart fit in that environment.  It is a romantic though difficult era in which to live; but the wealthy class had leisurely comforts and occupations that make today’s technological existence seem cold and distant in comparison. Human relationships at that time are infinitely interesting and entertaining, shedding so much light on the human condition.

Oh, I agree. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

My most successful promotions are talks at organizations about the Sex, Myth and Magic of the Ghost Orchid.  The interest generated leads to book sales.  The pre-publicity also generates sales and more live engagements.  I love public speaking and gain energy from an enthused audience.  My talks are generally a bit interactive.  I would enjoy expanding public performances.

I’ve found it not only makes speaking easier but is more fun when there is interaction with the audience. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

My muse is a person I loved with all my heart and soul at one time but who became more of a ghost as time went by, still reading my writing and encouraging me to continue but not part of my real life.  My best writing was under his influence and incorporated many of his suggestions.  I often thought we should co-author, but it never quite happened.  Without my muse, my writing is more essays and less romantic.

My dad wrote stories for my son.  He played classical and honky tonk piano and wrote music and poetry.  He encouraged my writing.  He died young; I had just begun writing my first novel, Arirang: The Bamboo Connection.

It’s sad your dad didn’t live to see you published. I’m sure he would have been so proud. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Sharing my writing with someone who enjoys the story and wants more is quite satisfying.  I also like the chance to create – to bring a story to life from words alone.  I like being able to take the thoughts in my mind and put them on paper.  That process seems to set me free.  I am quite introspective with a mind that’s analyzing life all the time.  Moving some thoughts to paper opens space.  As a photographer uses a camera to capture a picture, I use words.

Love that answer. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

Grace Livingston Hill was the most influential in my young life.  Her stories of sweet young Christian girls whose moral perfection led them into the arms of their prince charming for happiness ever after – that was what I wanted for my life.  I thought if I could become an author, that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, I believe Humpty Dumpty seems more my story, often broken and never quite put back together again. 

I think a great many of us fall under the Humpty Dumpty category, D.K. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Emotions are an integral part of existence:  love, hate, joy, depression and more affect how life is felt and lived.  My inspiration comes from events and thoughts that become bigger in my mind; they take on lives and emotions of their own.  An example is the simple blooming of a rare and endangered ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp on my birthday that inspired my mystery novel, Ghost Orchid.  To anyone else, it was a flower that opened and was beautiful.  For me, it is a perpetual gift on my birthday that encompasses many stories from all those who discover this exquisite flower for themselves.  People travel on quests from around the world just to see the ghost orchid that only grows in Cuba and the Everglades.

I never knew of its existence until your book and was quite taken with not only the story you told but the ghost orchid itself. What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

Amazon.com editors beautifully captured the themes:  “Themes of friendship surviving tragedy; love conquering adversity and the triumph of the human spirit over the hardships of life serve to uplift and inspire.”  Add a dash of mystery and a dash of adventure in exotic and foreign locations.  I was thrilled when Darryl Saffer, an award-winning environmental filmmaker read Ghost Orchid and identified with the confusion of an adopted child who longs for knowledge about birth parents.  He provided the beautiful trailer with his original flute music and video to help me share the themes of Ghost Orchid with the world.

Oh, and he did such a beautiful job. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

Sometimes, writing about what you don’t know provides a research challenge that might open a new perspective.  I write about real emotions and places I know and shape characters and stories around them.  The characters in the short stories published in Forever Travels and Forever Families are people a reader might actually know, people who might step out from the pages and say, “hello.”  Neev in Ghost Orchid smiles from the pages of any fashion magazine or points a camera at the flower itself at Corkscrew Swamp.  My characters are real enough to touch.  The places capture the reader’s imagination and desire to experience for themselves. The only fantasies so far in the pages of a D. K. Christi story are in the imaginations of the characters or in the mystery of that illusive, ethereal ghost orchid plant.

Lovely answer. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I read on my smart phone and my netbook; I don’t need an e-reader.  I believe electronic publishing will become even more real time and exotic.  At some point, I think as a person writes, a person across the globe will be reading their words.  The importance of producing a perfect first copy will grow.  At some point, there will be direct electronic communication from author to reader, bypassing any “publication” except to storage and retrieval systems.  The relationship between authors and readers will be important.  Reviewers may gain in importance as publishers disappear.  Print book machines may be available perhaps in kiosks for those who want a printed copy.  Software applications will be more sophisticated for authors, providing online editors in real time and automatically recording a script copy at the same time as a print copy.

I can see that world hovering just over the horizon, D.K., and find the changes in the publishing industry exciting and innovative. I look forward to what the future holds.

Thanks for joining us today, D.K., for an informative, interesting interview. For more information about D.K. Christi:

http://dkchristi.com
Ghost Orchid book trailer by Darryl Saffer
WGVU National Public Radio interviews D.K. Christi

Southwest Spotlight

Inspiration to Publication – A Ghostly Experience by D. K. Christi

Ghost Orchid, published by L & L Dreamspell in September 2009, is a case study in taking an inspiration to publication.

Authors often respond to the question:  Where do you get your inspiration?  There are a plethora of answers; but in the case of Ghost Orchid, one flower was all it took; one rare and endangered ghost orchid in an exquisite location.

Blair Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located at the edge of the Everglades in Naples, Florida is an official Audubon bird sanctuary on the migratory route of wood storks, ibis, herons, cranes, roseate spoonbills and a long list of winter visitors, observed from a nearly three mile wooden boardwalk that winds through ancient cypress, alligator flags, blood-red swamp hibiscus, pure white swamp lilies, purple hyacinths  and seasonal changes of wild sunflowers, blue iris, purple morning glories and silvery cymbidiums.

Over twenty years of residence in Southwestern Florida, I have enjoyed this boardwalk often, sometimes thrilled by the sighting of a brown bear, a panther, deer and of course, alligators.  I often laughed at the antics of the squirrels and anoles.  I always disliked the narrow, two-lane road to get there and the left turn on a dangerous curve.  I noted the markers from accidents, draped in faded, artificial flowers, provoking driving care and somber thoughts.

On a rather melancholy birthday in July of 2007, I treated myself to that walk and became obsessed by the exquisite beauty of an orchid plant, the ghost orchid, high in the cypress canopy all by itself, dancing in the swamp breeze.  It captured my soul on my first view.  It was amazingly high and alone, pure white against the deep green canopy, the dark brown host and the deep blue sky, yet dancing away from the tree, held by a barely visible slender, leafless stem.  It was the first day of its discovery, the only ghost orchid in the sanctuary.

 I knew it was a birthday gift to brighten my spirits on this hot and humid summer day.  It had more blooms in one season than any ghost orchid on record, was higher than any other ghost orchid and was unique in its accessibility to viewing at all.  This rare and endangered flower was the subject of a non-fiction novel made into a movie about poaching in Fakahatchee Strand, a very inhospitable swamp.

The discovery also made the national news.  I had the chance to walk in the swamp every day of its blooming, July, August and September, for as many as 20 blooms a season in the summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009.  Each view presented new, mystical experiences that took on a life of their own.  As I walked the three miles, I observed other walkers and overheard snippets of their own wonder.

My ghost orchid was no longer my own.  All around me were the stories, the life stories, of those who came on a quest to enjoy this once in a lifetime flower phenomenon.  By the end of the 2007 season, I had written a story about two people, incorporating my love of the boardwalk and my fear of that left turn into the sanctuary.  The more I viewed the changing blooms on my ghost orchid, the more I felt its power in the lives of my two characters whose story expanded to include several generations with personal quests brought to fruition in the aura of my ghost.

For me, it was impossible to spend countless hours in the swamp without being touched by the life forces pulsing there and the obvious regeneration of life in all the unfettered flora and fauna.  It was also vibrant with the love of families and couples who shared that beautiful place.  I wondered:  Is life eternal?  Is love eternal?  These thoughts accompanied me on my daily pursuit of the ghost orchid’s antics high in the cypress canopy, like a sentry watching all of us below, watching her.  As sure as I saw the ghost orchid’s graceful dance, I knew whatever life force filled her with beauty was feminine.

I wrote around the clock, with occasional naps, during a vacation from my day job, my muse on the other end of the phone urging me on, helping me search for character names and missing pieces to back stories.  It became a story that not only expressed the search for meaning in the lives of its characters, but a testament to the impact the natural environment has on the human spirit.  It incorporated the mystical elements of the ghost orchid, often associated with the manifestation of the soul and unrequited love.  

Writing Ghost Orchid became a labor of love, capturing the beauty of the Everglades, the magic of the ghost orchid and the unfolding of a mystery between its pages.  As long as the ghost orchid blooms in Corkscrew Swamp, she casts her spell on all who observe her, and to fix the concern of a reviewer who didn’t want the story to end, it continues.  This year, another surprise, the ghost orchid bloomed early, the end of March.  For my fourth July birthday with my ghost orchid,  it has fourteen buds opening.

Ghost Orchid is the story of the human heart and the relationships that give life meaning, including those with the natural environment.  Are we so separate from the plants and animals that share our planet?  Ghost Orchid is intended to reach a new audience of potential environmentalists who didn’t know they had a passion for natural habitats and will go on their own quests to heal the human heart and find their ghost orchid.

For more information, check out D. K. Christi’s interview on the Dames of Dialogue!

Answering the Dames’ Dozen today is consultant and author D. K. Christi.  That’s her quote up there in the title, I loved it so much I just had to use it!  

 1.    Tell us about your latest book, Ghost Orchid.

One rare and endangered ghost orchid; four destinies.  The beautiful model Neev and her mentor, Roger, seek the perfect subject in the perfect light, each with their own painful ghosts chasing them.  Ghost Orchid is a mystery of love, lies and redemption wrapped in a ghost orchid found high in the canopy of Blair Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.  NPR reviews praise the beauty of the Everglades that shines through every page where the ghost orchid is the heart and soul of the story.  Do these lives unfold by coincidence?  Or is the mystical ghost orchid working its magic among the ancient cypress? 

D. K. Christi awakened to the ghost orchid’s beauty and mystery when it first bloomed on her own birthday in 2007.  Obsessed by the ghost orchid’s gossamer beauty floating in the swamp breeze, she stalked its three months of blooming for four years, the earlier two producing the novel, Ghost Orchid.  The story reaches deep in the heart and soul to express joy and pathos that brings tears for both to the eyes of the reader.  The characters find more than they bargain for, and so does the reader, haunted by the mysteries that unfold long after the cover closes.

 2.  Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now?

My WIP title is Virgin Odyssey, a complex story with an ensemble cast of independent blue water sailors whose lives unfold and entangle in ports across the globe.  It’s even more of an epic than my first novel, Arirang: The Bamboo Connection, an epic story that encompasses exotic, foreign locations with a bit of love threading its way through.  I also write short stories some of which are found in The World Outside the Window anthology, Romance of My Dreams anthologies I and II and Amour – Stories of Love and Friendship (just published in Kindle).  There may be a sequel to Ghost Orchid………

 3.  Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Life that touches me in such a way that I must write it down.  I am basically an essayist and write constantly about my feelings, observations, trials and tribulations among acquaintances, the impact of news, cultures, travel, etc. etc.  At some point, these musings are organized into a story format.

 4.  What is a typical writing day like for you?

My goal is to write the equivalent (on average) of one 8 1/2 x 11 12 pt font page of text each day.  That’s 365 pages in one year.  So far, each novel has taken three years through edits and changes and publication.

 5.  Tell us a little bit about how you promote your work.  Any tips for other authors?

My best promotions are book signings  at  locations other than book stores.  It is not the signing so much as the pre-press that  helps the promotion.  Of course, I blog and participate in the usual plethora of social networking sites.  Google alerts have helped me make contact with people interested in my writing topics.  I  also participate in  book store signings, festivals, public events and charity events. 

 6.  What is your most cherished reader reaction to your work?

DK,

Want you to know that last night I went to bed with my eyes unable to focus and it’s all your fault.  It was a cold, rainy day off work & I didn’t feel like anything.  In the afternoon I curled up in my oversized chair with an afghan and began reading Ghost Orchid.  Wow!  Where did that come from?

The twists and turns throughout the story kept me surprised.  Just when I thought I had figured things out, I’d get to the next chapter and learn the outcome wasn’t predictable as I had thought.  Yes, you nailed it!  What a great story. 

Now I have to pick up Arirang where I left off.  But not today.  In fact this is all I am doing on CPU today.   By the last 2 chapters I was continually repositioning to keep the words from blurring. 

Anyway, thank you SO much for writing!  Thank you also for keeping me up on your books, keep them coming.  You have left me wanting to make that turn into the sanctuary.  The place I always viewed as a boring, dusty looking site for environmental extremists.  How funny is that?

I know you’re at the “swamp” today with a book signing, I hope it went well.  The society should consider putting your books at the Chamber office to promote the “swamp.”   I am going to grab a copy for a life long girlfriend who just bought a winter place on Marco.  They have homes in Missouri & Colorado so I only get to see this girl, whom I have known since we were babies in the nursery at church, when they are on Marco.  I know she will enjoy the book.

 7.  Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why? 

My muse, the love of my life, without whom no words would be written by D. K. Christi, no stories told. 

 8.  What part of the craft of writing has improved since your first book? 

Dialogue.  I am an essayest.  Dialogue is a challenge.  I have to remove long, detailed descriptions of environments and locations to keep from losing today’s readers. 

 9.  Besides writing, do you have any other interests? 

Reading, kayaking, science fiction, travel, dancing, bicycling, hiking and more.

10.  All of the Dames love animals.  Do you have any pets and if so, can you tell us a little bit about them? 

Sport is my little red-bellied parrot, aging now at 14.  I choose not to have pets; but she and I had a moment in the past when we were in danger and hit the road together.  I have felt responsible to care for her since.  I had a wonderful standard Poodle, Lady Ace, when I lived aboard a 70 ft. yacht Lady Ace as a live aboard – alone.  She and I prayed together in the bowels of the yacht during tropical depressions, shaking like twins.  She was unique, born to the yacht and its protector.

11.  Do you like to travel or is home your favorite place to be?  Is there any place you’d like to visit but haven’t gotten to yet?  

I love to travel, rootless is my history.  Lately, though, I don’t like airline flights  over  two or three hours.  I prefer ships and trains.  Travel has become such a hassle.  I also enjoy road trips by car and would like to try a camper.

12.  Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music… and I believe that’s true, but I also believe every place has its own special language which is music to the people who live there.  Do you have a favorite saying, colloquialism, expression from where you live that you’d like to share with our readers? 

My own favorite expression, my D. K. Christi is, “All I  know is in this moment,” the cousin to living today well  so tomorrow  has treasured memories instead of regrets.

To find out more about D. K. visit her website or blog.  Or click here to get your own copy of her wonderful book, Ghost Orchid.

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