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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sunset Beach

Summer is the perfect time for a story that whisks you away to a beach setting (minus the sunburn and sand) with characters you'd love to hang out with in real life.

And I have just the story for you all that I've read and loved.

Trish Perry's new novel, Sunset Beach.

I've said before that Trish is one of my all-time favorite authors. I fell in love with her writing as I read her debut novel: The Guy I'm Not Dating. She made me laugh and cry and close the book with a satisfied smile.

Trish is also a dear friend and a very classy lady. In fact, she so impressed my daughters when we caught up with her in DC last year that they still talk about how nice, pretty, and funny she was. All of that translates into her stories.

My thoughts on Sunset Beach:

First off, isn't the cover GORGEOUS?! It makes me smile just looking at it.

Sunset Beach is an upbeat, engaging story with depth that translated into real life for me. One of the main story lines involves Sonny's quest for answers about her family that her mother has kept secret all her life.

Sonny's questions and the consequences of her digging into the past really got me thinking about how I teach my children about their extended family. Even though I've never even thought about acting like Sonny's mother, there are things in everyone's past that are easier left unsaid. But God has kept me open and honest with my children as we talk about life and faith and God's Word.

So while Sunset Beach made me think, it also left me glad for the path I'd chosen to walk with my daughters.

There are some heavy moments and deep themes of forgiveness and brokenness, but they're handled with grace and Trish's uncanny ability to make human nature ring with authenticity and yet still sparkle and make you smile.

Here's more about Sunset Beach and some really cool questions to learn more about Trish.

About Sunset Beach:

Sonny Miller is tired of not knowing who she is. Soon she’ll begin graduate school to earn her masters in Psychology. But how can she counsel future clients about their identities when she isn’t even sure about her own? To that end she has cooked up a little meeting at a certain beach house in San Diego.

Sonny’s mother, classical soprano Teresa Miller, isn’t aware she’s about to be reunited at the beach house with her sister, Melanie Hines, after 25 years of estrangement. And Sonny isn’t aware her mother has invited a surprise guest of her own. Russian adoptee, Irina Petrova, finds herself dragged along on a trip so tumultuous she summons her handsome concert violinist brother for moral support.

The four women converge on the funky little beach house in San Diego, each with her own disappointments and hopes about family, identity, and love. For Sonny, the trip reveals all she expected and more than she ever dreamed.

About Trish:

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. She writes a monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group and Romance Writers of America. Perry lives in Northern Virginia with her teenaged son.

Interview with Trish:

Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.

I’m the middle child; middle girl. I was raised as one of five kids by my British mum and my WWII Air Force vet dad. I lived in Newfoundland (Canada), California, Colorado, and finally Virginia, which I’ve called home for the greater part of my life. I love it here. Most of my family still resides in Virginia, which is a bonus.

My late sister lived a rough lifetime of medical problems, which had a distinct bearing on our family lifestyle and our sensibilities toward the hardships of others. Her eventual death may have been a blessed relief for her, but it was a huge loss for us. The loss is what brought me to the Lord.

Both of my children are believers, which brings me such peace. I have a 29-year-old daughter, who is one of the coolest, smartest, most intuitive women I know. She’s blessed me with a remarkable grandson, now five. And my 16-year-old son is brilliant and funny, and he tells me daily that I’m weird (but I can hear the “I love you” in there when he says it).

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?

Novels and films are constants in my life; if I’m home and not working, I’m usually absorbed by one of those. I love good stories. I enjoy varied styles of music. I love to sing and served on my church’s worship team until my writing schedule got so busy. I still serenade the neighbors on occasion, whether they want me to or not. I’m a self-admitted former disco queen, and I still love to dance. And I make sure to get together with girlfriends at least once a week. Socializing, dining, and laughing—it’s like having your batteries charged!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Well, hands down, I’d have to be able to teleport. Frankly, I’d travel a lot more if it weren’t for airports! I would have chosen the superpower of flying, but who wants to carry all that luggage in the air? If I could teleport, I could have my luggage in my circle of teleportability (you have heard of those, yes?), and it would teleport with me, free of luggage searches and additional-baggage fees.

What has God been teaching you lately?

I’ve been blown away by how clearly He forgives my weaknesses. Things have occurred in my life over the past 18 months for which (right or wrong) I carried a burden of guilt. You know, that feeling of “how did I contribute to this mess?” Yet He has blessed me so abundantly in the midst of my feelings of conviction, that He amazes me daily with His obvious love. The blessings keep me humbly aware of how much I need Him. And they instill in me such a strong desire to serve Him and to follow His guidance and will.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

I love writing dialogue. What a control freak’s dream, to have control over what everyone says, including the antagonist. If only life were that easy, LOL! But truly, sometimes a scene simply shapes itself right before my eyes when the characters are engaged in dialogue. I don’t know quite what will be expressed sometimes, and I love it when it flows even faster than I seem to be able to think it.

When you write do you generally know where you’re headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?

There is always surprise, no matter how well I plan out a book’s progress. I was just talking with my editor about that the other day, the fact that the initial summary I write might change a bit as events unfold around my protagonist. I think that’s happened with every book I’ve written. I typically write a summary, which tells me generally where the story will go, and then I write a sentence or two per chapter idea, and then I start hammering away on Chapter One. As I write actual chapters, the events between “Once upon a time” and “The End” evolve in more significant ways than I expected in the first place. It’s an exciting process!

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?

Give the endeavor to God first. And daily. When doubts arise (and they will), you must be able to fall back on the knowledge that your efforts are for Him. And know that He will never show you the way by crushing your efforts with rejection and desolation. If He wants you to do something other than writing, He’ll lovingly draw you to that other endeavor.

That said, take all the practical steps to learn the craft and the business. Read (both how-to’s and novels), write, network, and submit. Over and over again.

Where did you get the idea for Sunset Beach?

The setting (the funky little house on Mission Beach) and time frame (one or two weeks’ time) were already established for me by my publisher. All of the books in The Beach House series fall within those parameters. But the characters and their stories formulated over time.

First I dreamed up Sonny—a young woman who had lived her entire life devoid of details about her family background, thanks to her secretive mother. Sonny had reached a point where she wanted to take control of her own life. Her mother was the barrier to that, so Sonny needed to both go around her mother and barrel headlong towards her. The hidden details about Sonny’s past arose as I created each new character. Even though my own family is close and forthcoming about our family history, there have always been fuzzy areas about which I’ve wanted to know more. I imagined how difficult it would be if your entire family history were fuzzy. I know I’d be compelled to act as Sonny did.

What are the major themes of the book?

My books always end up having a broad overall theme of the importance of seeking God’s guidance in everything. That’s never been deliberate—that’s just the way my stories work out. But for Sunset Beach, the most important theme entails our personal identities and how we determine them. Upon whom, or what, do we base our beliefs about who we are, what we’re worth, what our purpose in life is? A subtheme in the book has to do with the struggle to approach romance and passion appropriately. I think that’s a tough one for every single person I know, and it brings us right back to that whole seeking-God’s-guidance-in-everything theme.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

For the setting, I had already done quite a bit of research on Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for my previous book, Beach Dreams. And I read both of Sally John’s books in the series, which were the best research material I could ask for. But for Sunset Beach, I wanted to branch out some, so I sought help from friends from the surrounding areas and businesses that operated in San Diego and elsewhere in California. Also I was blessed by coming across a fellow writer who was able to answer my questions about Russian orphanages, which I coupled with online research. Finally, with regard to the psychological aspects of the story, I leaned on my own education, my textbooks, and on research available through various psychological studies and educational sites online. I’m not a fan of research, but those particular searches were fun.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

First, I hope they’ll find the book entertaining. I want them to enjoy Sonny’s journey and the way her discoveries uncover secrets and feelings for the people around her. I hope they’ll be amused, but only when I mean them to be! On a grander scale, I hope readers will be touched by the whole issue of personal identity and how God factors into that. I never want to write a preachy book—but I certainly enjoy hearing when my books are inspiring. My prayer before every book I write is that God will give me the story someone somewhere needs to read in order to feel more of what He wants them to feel. Then I leave it up to Him.

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