Please welcome my guest author, Carla Stewart!
Several of your books are set in the fifties and sixties. What is it you like about that era?
What I love the most is the music! Pop, doo-wop, some of the early country, the love songs. They’re the soundtrack of my growing up years, times of both emotional highs and lows. And so many questions about life. I’ve always been drawn to those that were different (like Paisley) or who had a rough time. So my writing nostalgic stories is my attempt to explore those things I was curious about and give voice to some of those characters.
Sweet Dreams is set in a finishing school in East Texas in 1962. Why did you choose that place and that time specifically?
I’ve long wanted to write a book that paid homage to my teen years—the glorious and turbulent sixties. It was the dawn of a cultural revolution, a decade of contrasts and change. A finishing school seemed a good place to show that contrast.
Once I’d formed the basic story, I knew that Patsy Cline and her music would be one of the backdrops. I chose to have the book coincide with the year she died in a plane crash (March, 1963). Since Sweet Dreams covers a school year, it begins in 1962. This year (2013) marks the fiftieth anniversary of Patsy’s death, so I’m glad to also pay homage to her memory.
As far as the location, there was never a question about that. I grew up in Texas so the way of life resonates with me. The drawl of a Texan is a language I understand. I didn’t actually know that much about far East Texas, sometimes called the gateway to the Deep South, but the Piney Woods and bayous drew me in when my husband and I vacationed there a few years ago. I fell in love and am convinced there’s something about the South that makes a story richer and deeper.
What sort of research did you do while writing Sweet Dreams?
I read books and articles about Patsy Cline and made a playlist of her songs for inspiration while I was writing.
One of the cousins in the story wants to become a geologist, not a popular career choice for a girl at the time. Her father has made his fortune drilling wildcats and doesn’t want his only daughter in such a rough business. Although I grew up around oil rigs and saw pump jacks every day, I’d never been on a rig or knew what the function/purpose of words I’d heard all my life were—things like dog house, slush pit, and crow’s nest. YouTube videos gave me a virtual tour and made my scenes more authentic (I hope!).
A geology consultant helped shaped some of the scenes, and I’m the proud owner of a 1955 version of Etiquette by Emily Post.
Dusty and Paisley are the two main characters. Which one is more like you? Is any part of the story “your” story?
While I am more like Dusty, the cousin who grew up sheltered in a small town, I was always drawn to people like Paisley, her cousin, who grew up with a free-wheeling, vagabond mother. While nothing in the Sweet Dreams is “my” story, it did become the story where my heart bled onto the pages as I wrote about betrayal, thwarted dreams, and the misadventures of being young. I found myself remembering the awkwardness of fitting in, the dawning awareness of love, and the deep roots of compassion that stem from my faith and experiences. In the end, I know there’s more of me in this book than any I’ve written. It’s the story of all of us—our hopes, our dreams, our journeys.
Your books are primarily women’s fiction. Is there any romance in Sweet Dreams?
Yes, although not in the typical romance book sense. A love triangle that involves a handsome Texan nearly tears the cousins apart. I think I may be a little bit in love with Jack myself so I hope your readers will have a crush on him, too.
What do you hope your readers will get out of this book?
At its core, Sweet Dreams is a story about family—loving and accepting the family you’re given. There are so many areas where families break down, so I hope readers will know they aren’t alone, that other generations have struggled . . . and survived. We all have dreams, but we don’t always give ourselves permission to pursue them. I would love for readers to find that freedom and dream big!
I also hope that readers enjoy either reliving their own youth (Baby Boomers) or learning about another generation. A lot of my young readers think my nostalgic stories are historical – I love that!
Thanks so much, Kate, for letting me share with you and your readers!
Award-winning author Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. Her desire is to take readers to that familiar place in their hearts called “home.” Her three previous novels have won both local and national awards, including the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She’s been an Oklahoma Book Award finalist the past three years, and Stardust was recently short listed for the INSPY Award. She and her husband have four grown sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren. Sweet Dreams is her newest release. She loves to connect with readers at www.carlastewart.com.
Sweet Dreams – Book Blurb
Dusty Fairchild and Paisley Finch are close-knit cousins but opposite in every way. Blonde and top in her class, Dusty has lived a sheltered life, raised on a Texas ranch by her widowed, oilman father. She’s never lacked for material possessions but yearns for a life of adventure and studying geology in college. Instead, her daddy sends her to finishing school in East Texas.
Paisley, has grown up traveling the country with her bohemian mother, and is wise to the ways of the world. Dark haired and clever, she’s grateful to her uncle for letting her join Paisley at Miss Fontaine’s. She’s weary of the “grasshopper” lifestyle of her mother and ready to live a settled life.
At Miss Fontaine’s, their loyalty to each other binds them, but when they fall in love with the same handsome young man, their relationship teeters on shaky ground. Only after a tragic accident do they learn where their true hearts-and dreams-lie.
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