In addition to possessing a funny, whip-smart pen, Christa Ann Banister has the gift of gab. She talks. And talks. And she keeps on talking. Maybe this is in part what separates her from the mighty throng (or small army) of chick-lit writers working today, other than the fact that her dynamite debut novel, Around the World in 80 Dates, is already creating a tidal wave of underground buzz.
That's right. After years of working as a respected music critic and freelance writer for various Christian publications: CCM Magazine, Crosswalk.com, Christian Single, ChristianityToday.com, not to mention kickstarting the inaugural Christian music blog for MTV's Urge.com, Christa has inked her first novel about her erstwhile adventures in dating, and she hopes that her story will inspire countless twenty and thirty-somethings in their quest for snagging Mr. Right, even as they hold fast to their Christian values.
Inspired by authors Judy Blume and Jane Austin, and a host of other writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald and C.S. Lewis, Christa tells the tale of Sydney Alexander—a gal who is not shy about life, her faith, or her career as a travel writer. Yet finding her lifelong soul mate proves to be a bit more elusive than she had originally thought.
"In a lot of chick-lit books it seems like the girl's ultimate goal is to get the guy," Christa says. "And she wants to get the guy for sure, but she's very ambitious as well, and she loves life and is willing to try all kinds of different adventures—all without letting go of her Christian values."
And in answer to the question of whether this romantic roller-coaster is fact or fiction, Christa plays coy: "I'll have to be honest and say that the experiences that Sydney, the lead character, goes through in the book are very similar to experiences that I've had in the past. And of course I had to protect the guilty, so I changed a few names and a few situations, but some of situations were inspired by actual events."
In the end, Around the World in 80 Dates is a novel that is full of pluck and wit, and humor, and it is a shoo-in to become a classic for any guy or girl who is in the throes of navigating the pitfalls and quirks of the single life, all without letting go of what they believe.
Christa lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, Will. They love to play Scrabble and throw darts on a map and dream about going wherever the darts land someday. They have no pets. And until her book hits the New York Times bestseller list, Christa is happily employed as a freelance writer for her many, many clients.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DATES
by Christa Banister
Published by NavPress
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1. This is your first fiction novel. Congratulations! You've got a heroine who changes dates as often as some folks change their clothes, coupled with her sarcastic outlook on life. What gave you the inspiration for this story?
Like many writers, I was definitely inspired by my own experiences (or as I say train wrecks) in the world of dating. A friend of mine enjoyed my stories along the way so much that he dared me to write a book. And when I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in my case) the inspiration for Around the World in 80 Dates was born.
2. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Sydney? What aspects became traits that were hers and hers alone?
One of the first pieces of advice I ever received as a writer was to write what I knew. And of course, my experiences are the ones I'm the most familiar with. But in the interest of creating a character, someone who wasn't a carbon copy of myself, it was important for Sydney to have her own voice, her own characteristics that made her distinct. Not only does Sydney look and dress differently than I would (she's far more fashionable, trust me!), but she also reacts to situations differently. She's more impulsive, which leads her to jump to conclusions quickly before eventually seeing the light. Career-wise, she writes for a travel magazine for a living (something I've never had the privilege of doing). And those are just a few things that differentiate Sydney from myself.
3. What themes exist in Around the World in 80 Dates that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
A theme that definitely became obvious as the story took shape is that life (and dating) is an adventure that can be learned from. And that without risk, it's difficult to truly grow as a person. I also wanted readers to realize that settling, whether it's in your career, relationships or faith, is never the best option because God has so much more for us if we're willing to not settle for anything less than His best.
4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
The ending was the most difficult to write. I'd been working on the beginning for so long that I felt really good about it. But like probably all authors, I wanted the ending to not only be satisfying but not predictable. So I worked hard on that. My favorite section of the book was when Sydney met Gavin and the scenes in London, my favorite city in the world.
5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
My next book, the sequel to Around the World in 80 Dates, is titled Blessed Are the Meddlers and is tentatively slated to release in June 2008. This time around, Sydney is playing matchmaker for her sister and all her single friends. And while she likes to think of herself as a modern-day Emma, meddling in people's love lives is far more complicated than she could ever imagine. Chaos ensures. People fall in and out of love. Your basic nightmare, basically.
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Thanks, Christa, for being in the spotlight the day after Christmas. Hectic time of year, so I appreciate your time.
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