This post has been updated! The original was for a contest that is long gone, but I thought you might enjoy the questions and answers. Original post date was Independence Day of 2010!!!
Frankie C: Can you write a book about someone who goes back in time?
Well, technically I did write one like that. People from the future came to the past to “rescue” them from accidental deaths and to live in the future. Among some of the more famous people they “rescued” were Amelia Earhart and Glenn Miller. I also have ideas for a series that takes people back in time, but when they return home, they don’t quite know if they ever left or not. It feels a bit historical to me, so I don’t know for sure if it’ll work. I do plan to try it though.
Cassie C: What do you do when you can’t think of anything new when you’re writing your books?
That has never been a problem for me. My problem is being able to get all the ideas that I have down on paper in the first place. Sometimes I do have trouble trying to decide the best way to write something though. That can be annoying. I usually just write it, even if I don’t like how it is, and fix it later when I know what I want.
Adric C: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re bored?
Well, I don’t get bored very easily. My mind is always writing new stories, I do a lot of crafting and such, so it’s really rare. However, sometimes when I don’t want to do what I need to do, I’ll go read or play solitaire on the computer.
2016 update: I do puzzles on the computer these days.
Cassie C: I love the Hardy Boys. Are you planning on writing any mystery books?
Funny you should ask that. Two of the characters from Ready or Not, Vannie and Laird, will be in a mystery soon! I’m really looking forward to writing their story!
Note: Here it is almost six years later, and that book STILL isn’t written. However, I did write The Hartfield Mysteries and The Agency Files)
Adric C: How many kids in your family are afraid of the dark? (insert chuckle from mom here lol)
Only my oldest, that I know of, was ever afraid of the dark. If the others were, they never said anything about it. Challice also used to get skittish if she watched a Charlie Chan mystery after dark.
Sharon B: Do you know how many books will be in the Wynnewood series?
There will be at least three. I cannot decide whether to continue telling the story after Dove reveals what she is or not. Maybe I’ll make a poll for the website and everyone can vote. What do you think? Part of the problem is, I have an idea for a new series that is really exciting me, but I love my Wynnewood, and I don’t know if I’m ready to part with it yet.
Sharon B: Is April your favorite month?
Are you hinting that I’m a fool? Hmmm. Actually, April and October are two of my most favorite months. I like them because here in the desert, they are the nicest months weather wise. My favorite month, however, is December. LOVE December.
Susan K: How do you pronounce your name?
Shuh-TONE-uh. I have been called everything from “ChautUna” to “ChaNtona” to “Chautaqua.” People always asked me if it was “Indian” when I was younger. Now if they see me after they heard or saw my name, they usually say, “Oh, I thought you were black.” Then they get embarrassed and start apologizing. I used to get irked at it, because I thought they were implying that there was something wrong with being black. Then I realized they were embarrassed for not saying, “African-American.” I find that kind of funny.
Susan K: How often do people ask you if its a pen name? No one has done that yet, but most people ask if I have a nickname when they hear my name. I think people just can’t imagine anyone CHOOSING a name that is so difficult to remember/spell etc. for a pen name. I considered using one, though. I thought about a lot of things including using the one my dad used to say he wanted to use, but really, I am Chautona. It fits me. I’ve considered just being “Chautona” but nah. I like being a Havig, and it’s not a difficult last name.
Susan K: How do you map out a new book? Do you write the ending first? Actually, I rarely know the ending of a book when I start. (2016 update: This is not true as often anymore). I usually have a “what if” scenario in my mind and a character comes to life from that. Once I have that, I just write until the story is told. For example, with Ready or Not, I wondered how a woman fresh out of college would handle being the instant mother of eight (I had eight children at the time). Then I wondered what would happen if, like me, she had ZERO experience with children when that happened. The story spiraled from there. For the Wynnewood series, I thought of Dove and wondered what would happen in a superstitious time to people like her. She is a very strong personality and really tells me what’s going to happen rather than the other way around.
Susan K: Do you see your characters in people you meet or do you base your character off of people you know, or are you just that awesome?
Well, I’d say that I’m just that awesome. No, just kidding. Seriously, most of my characters come from nowhere. Sometimes I’m inspired by someone or an event, but usually they’re just themselves. For example, I don’t know Aggie. I don’t know Dove, but she does have a little of my Jenna in her, and I don’t know Alexa or Lane. I did see a man once, driving a banana yellow Mini Cooper. He had a handlebar mustache and smoked a pipe. I have a character that IS that man now. Don’t know what the real dude is like, but my character just makes me smile. He creeps my friend Michele out though. Just sayin’. Oh, and there is a lot of my mother and my oldest daughter in Grace from Noble Pursuits.
Susan K: Why did you chose to write this particular series?
I was intrigued by the idea of a little girl who was such a social reject that she didn’t know anything about the Lord. I wondered what kind of adventures she might have, what kind of hardships, and what would happen in her life if someone stepped out from the rest of the cruel crowd and befriended her. I had intended for it to be a girl who made friends with her and Philip would be that girl’s brother, but the minute I started writing, Philip took over as the other main character, and nothing I tried could change that.
Faithful: Do you tell stories to your kids?
I do tell stories of when I was a child or my parents were children, but I’ve only once told a story to my children that I wrote. Challice was uncharacteristically rough with a book one day, and instead of scolding her, I told the story of “The Very Special Book” to illustrate how to care for books and why it’s important for more than being a good steward of our possessions. It worked. I never had another problem with her and being too rough. I really want to see that book illustrated and printed. Sigh.
JoAnn in WV: You have a lot of stories in process…do you get them confused when you pick one to work on?
Not usually. I sometimes I have to make sure that what I thought was in the first book wasn’t cut out before I reference it in a sequel, but USUALLY the stories are like when you tell your kids about what you did when you were little. We don’t usually confuse cousin Julie with cousin Martha or one town for another.
JoAnn in WV: Do you have to go back and re-read the last chapter(s) to continue writing?
If it’s been months since I’ve looked at a story, I’ll sometimes reread the last chapter or two to make sure I really wrote down what I think I did. Sometimes my brain gets ahead of my fingers. When I’m editing, sometimes I’ll find entire sections of sentences missing because my head filled it in but my fingers couldn’t keep up. For instance, I might start to type, “Chautona answered a lot of interesting questions on her blog that day, but fortunately, no one asked how much she weighed.” The problem is, often my fingers will type, “Chautona answered a lot of that day, but fortunately how much she weighed.” When I reread those kinds of things, I shake my head and wonder why I think I can write at all. I always reread the last paragraph or two before starting work on a section because it helps get the flow of the chapter back in place.
JoAnn in WV: Do you “force” your characters into the role you create for them or do you let them lead?
I try, but it rarely succeeds. Sometimes, I’ll shelve a book until I can either accept that it’s not going to go the way I wanted it to or until I convince the characters that my way is best. It took months to convince Cara that she needed to have an argument. She is such a people pleaser that she was willing to ignore something really important to her in order not to rock the boar. She’s just about to upset the book. Good girl, Cara.
Trinity question 1: Where do you get the motivation to write each chapter?
Basically, I have a story inside. It’s dying to get out. Chapters are just a way to eat the elephant one bite at a time. When I don’t feel like working on something for whatever reason, chapters make it palatable (except for Aggie since her chapters are more like 2 chapters of my other books). I just tell myself, “Finish this chapter and then go do something else.” It keeps me going when I don’t want to deal with a hard scene, when I’m working on a story bridge, or when I am just tired and lazy.
Trinity question 2: How do you decide what each characters roles are going to be?
Characters tell me what their roles are. I’ve had characters I wanted to be gentle and patient who refused to do it. I’ve planned for someone to do something that someone else insisted on doing. In Willow, I had every intention of Willow getting together with no one, but if she did, it would be Bill. No doubt. She refused to listen and ended up a mush pot. LOL. In book two of Wynnewood, Brodor Clarke has a secret that I TRIED to prevent, but the man wouldn’t relent.
Trinity question 3: What inspired you to start writing?
Originally, it was the book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. If you read my Bio, you can see how one teacher’s wise admonition really spoke to my heart. I have always, from as early as I can remember, rehashed conversations, making them go the way I thought they should have, saying what I wish I had had the courage to say, or rephrasing something to avoid confusion. Writing is a way to put all of that somewhere that I can see it working out how I wanted it to. Unfortunately, characters often mess that up, but it is a start. More recently, I started writing as a way to clear my head. I had so many stories flooding my mind for so long that I needed to get them out of there!
Trinity question 4: When’s your favorite time to just get into writing your book (Ex: morning, afternoon, nighttime)?
I write at all times of the day and night, but my favorite time is after everyone has gone to bed. I start writing, and often get so lost in what I’m doing that it takes me a while to realize I’m hungry, falling asleep, or in dire need of the “little girls’ room.”
Trinity question 5: Does your family read your books before they are published?
No, actually, only my oldest has read everything I’ve published (No longer true in 2016 *weeps*). The older girls have each read a book or two, and Jenna has read Shadows & Secrets. Kevin, the boys, and the younger girls haven’t read any of it. None of them read before they’re published.
Trinity question 6: What is your favorite book that you have written?
Trinity question 7: Do you only work on one book at a time or more than one?
I have about forty books in process at the moment (WAY outdated in 2016). I usually am only working actively on two or three at a time, but easily up to five. I rarely work on more than five at a time though. Right now I’m working on exactly five.
Wow! That was fun to read and see what has changed, what hasn’t, and so forth. I’m amazed at how many titles changed and what I didn’t write that I was so sure would be “next.” Some of the books referenced are still in that original format!