Author Interview: Courtney Walsh, author of Just Look Up & Paper Hearts series

Today, I have the simply fabulous Courtney Walsh on the blog for a nice little chat about her latest release, Just Look Up! Honestly, what a pretty cover, and an awesome inspiration behind it! 



1. Hi Courtney! Welcome to Just Commonly! I look forward to meeting you at this year's Christian Fiction Readers Retreat!  Tell us a little about you. 
I can’t wait to meet you too, Annie! =) A little about me… 
I feel like I’m a pretty low key kind of person (even though I can be a bit neurotic.) I’m not fussy—most days you’ll find me in my workout clothes because they have no waistband. My husband and I own a performing arts studio and youth theatre in Rockford, Illinois, which is where we’ve lived most of our married life. We were in ministry for 12 years and moved to Colorado for two years, but eventually moved back because our people are here. =) I’ve got three kids. No pets and while I wish it weren’t so, I’m an absolute disaster in the kitchen. But I bake very good chocolate chip cookies. It’s my one saving grace when it comes to domestic life. 

2. What kind of books or subject matter do you like to write about?
I write Contemporary Romance and Contemporary Women’s Fiction. I really love to write stories that are honest and a little bit raw. I don’t like to tie everything up with a red ribbon at the end. I like to explore actual issues that I’ve dealt with or can imagine dealing with. I think there’s a misconception that romance is fluffy—I try to write with a bit more depth. 

3. Can you tell us a little about what you're working on currently?
Currently I’m preparing for our summer production of this adorable, lesser known musical called Band Geeks, which opens at the end of July…but I’m also working on edits for Just Let Go, the next book in the Harbor Pointe series. 

4. How about your new release, Just Look Up?
It’s a story that’s really close to my heart. It’s the most autobiographical of any of my stories, and when I think about Brooks and Lane I actually feel my heart swell. For this book, I’ve gone back to a small cottage town in Michigan (back to my Midwest roots!) and created a new cast of characters. Lane has a volatile relationship with her family, for a number of reasons, and being thrust back with them forces her to face some of the unforgiveness she’s been carrying around. Then, of course, there’s Brooks…the boy who always loved her. Even when she was a chubby teenager. Could it be that the very things she’s been searching for have been there all along, and she was just too busy and preoccupied to see them?  

5. What was your inspiration? What made you think you had to write this story?
I got the idea when we were in New York on a trip for my husband’s fortieth birthday. (This is us at the top of the Empire State Building) I LOVE New York—it’s the city that stole my heart—so returning after years away made me feel like a giddy little kid. We were walking down the street, and I was completely smitten with everything all around me, and I noticed that everyone walking toward us had their eyes glued on their phones. I kept thinking “Just Look Up! You’re missing it! You’re missing everything…” and it stuck with me. It made me realize that these people see NYC every day. It’s not new to them, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. And then I started thinking about my own life. What was I missing because I’d gotten too used to it? What if the very things a person is longing for are right in front of them…but they don’t realize it because they’re not looking up?

6. I just love the inspiration of Just Look Up!! (This NYer might be a bit biased.) I also love stories that feature interior designers, being one myself. Why did you choose this profession for the main character, Lane? 
You are??!!! Oh gosh, I have rooms in my house I’d love for you to fix! J Well, I’m an artistic person. I LOVE all forms of creativity. When my husband and I started our business, our hope was (and still is…) to build a creative hub—a place for all the arts to come together under one roof. I’m drawn to these kinds of professions, I think, because I can relate to them. I can’t relate to someone who understands, say, numbers, because I so totally don’t. But art in all its forms? That makes sense to me. My next heroine owns a flower shop. I can see the artistry in that too…

7.  I'm a big fan of Change of Heart and have Paper Hearts in my TBR pile to get to, what are some similarities or differences between them and Just Look Up?
I write small-town stories. I relate to them. I grew up in a small town, so they make sense to me, and I suppose that’s something that connects all my books. For this one, I’m not set in Colorado, though, I’m back in the Midwest—in a cottage town in Michigan, similar to the setting in my Sweethaven series. I think Just Look Up may have a larger cast of characters too, which was really fun. I love to create big families and lots of neighbors and have them all interact together. 

8. Can you tell us a little more about your main characters? How about 3 words each to describe them?
Lane: driven, stubborn, wants to find her place
Brooks: confident, nonchalant, unassumingly good-looking (I’d also say amusing because the way he pushes Lane’s buttons amuses him, but that’s a lot of words!) 

9. LOL. I'll let you have those words. Each of your covers pretty much made my heart stopped for a second there. They are absolutely gorgeous! Which one is your favorite?  
Ha! That’s like asking me to choose which of my children is my favorite! (They’ll each tell you they are…) I truly love ALL of my covers, and yes, each one has taken my breath away. I especially love the hand-lettered titles (the designer actually hand-lettered them!) and I think I’m REALLY drawn to the cover for Just Look Up because I have an ongoing love affair with the color blue. My husband makes fun of me and says I’d paint every room in our house blue if I’d let him.
He’s not wrong. J

10. Well, I'd tell your husband that there are a LOT of different blues out there. Even if you paint a different blue in each room, it won't be enough! *wink wink. What do you want readers to come away with after reading Just Look Up besides a few hours of total enjoyment?
This book is hugely personal for me. Lane grew up overweight, she didn’t quite fit in anywhere, she feels this constant need to strive, to prove herself—to overachieve. Those are all things that come straight out of my own life, which, I think is why it was so difficult for me to write. But that striving—that stress—I know in my head it’s unnecessary. God’s grace is so big—we don’t have to earn his love. At the heart of this novel, that is the message. Even more than “put your phone down and see what you’re missing…” To me, the theme is bigger than that.  
One of these days, I’m praying I truly get that in my heart too. 

11. Ditto. So true, and I pray that for my heart as well. Now on to you. What book or books are on your nightstand currently? 
I’ve got a nice, big TBR pile because I generally don’t read while I’m writing. So, I’m anxious to read Cara Putman’s Beyond Justice and Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg.  
   

12. And last, a fan favorite, can you give us 5 random facts about you?

  1. I LOVE Robert Downey Jr. (Like, pre-Ironman, when he wasn’t nearly as cool as he thinks he is.) ;) 
  2. My favorite Starbucks drink is the Coconut Mocha Macchiato (though I discovered a mild allergy to coffee so I really shouldn’t be drinking that.) 
  3. I gave Lane a dairy intolerance because I’m allergic to dairy. Yes, that means no ice cream. Yes, that makes me very sad. 
  4. I can’t stand the smell of butter. If I get it on my hands when I’m baking I have to wash them immediately. It literally makes me gag. 
  5. I studied acting in New York at a Broadway Theatre called Circle in the Square. Once upon a time, acting was the only thing I could imagine doing…now I have no desire to be on the stage. I much prefer directing because I can boss everyone around. LOL 
LOL. Courtney, thanks for stopping by! Had a blast with your answers. Looking forward to meeting you real soon! *wink wink!


Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. 

CONNECT WITH COURTNEY:  website,  facebook,  twitter,  blog

Title:  Just Look Up
Series: Harbor Pointe, Book 1
Author: Courtney Walsh
Publisher:  Tyndale House Publishers
Audio Release Date:  July 4, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Fiction

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home--a quaint tourist town full of memories she'd just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work--something her eclectic family doesn't understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren't ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can't find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he's found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along--if only she'd just look up.

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CONVERSATION

13 comments:

  1. Allergy to coffee??!! That's so sad....I drink it all day! I've read paper hearts and loved it. Just Look Up has a double meaning and I like that. Hope to get to read it.

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    1. I know Gail! I don't think I can do without my espressos....

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  2. I can't wait to read this book. I ordered it yesterday! I loved Paper Hearts and have handed it to several people at LIfeway who were looking for a good book, even made my Mom buy a copy! :) I haven't read Change of Heart yet, but it is in my Next to Read pile. (I have had to divide my TBR pile into subpiles!)

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    1. And I am looking forward to meeting Courtney next month!!

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  3. Fabulous interview! I need to read Courtney's books! :)

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  4. Loved this interview, can't wait to read this book!

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  5. Such an interesting interview, and what an interesting, charming lady Courtney is!! I haven't read any of her books but hope to rectify that very soon - I love honest, raw stories. I'm so looking forward to meeting Courtney at CFRR!!

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    1. Isn't she??! Looking forward to hanging out with everyone at CFRR!!

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