Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Interview with author Stacy Renee Keywell

Today Carly's View welcomes author Stacy Keywell. April is Autism Awareness month and Stacy's new book runs along that theme. Read on to learn more about Stacy and her newest book, POPPIES FOR CHRISTMAS.

·         What made you decide to become a writer?
The passion to tell a good story always lived inside of me. Starting from when I was very young I would tell my little brother stories. As I grew older, I kept stacks of notebooks to record my life, and my stories. Even in college I wrote fun tales to relay my thoughts instead of boring essays. It has been a life goal to be well-read, and to share as many story ideas as humanly possible that live inside the depths of my imagination.

·         Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I am a sucker for Jane Austin. I love that the characters she introduced us to so many years ago still have relevance today. Plus I am ever wishing to meet the charming Mr. Knightly. Perhaps he and I could take a long walk in a garden somewhere.

I adore Marissa Meyers. Her fairy tale characters come to life on the pages of her books. I couldn’t get enough of her cyborg Cinder princess taking on the evil Queen with the rough and tough Riding Hood, and the sweet and smart Rapunzel. I wanted to hang out on the moon with all of the overindulgent royalty.

 When it comes to reading, I have a wide range of interest, from the classics to contemporary authors, reading has been an important part of my life.

·         If you could be any character in any book, who would it be and why?
I want to jump into The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and become the magical, incredible Celia. She possesses such fantastical powers. Just to live a day in that world, and meander around the Cirque des Reves, would be incredible. I was mesmerized by the detail of the atmosphere of the circus. I wanted to eat, drink, and inhale every experience that book offered. I fell in love with the dashing Marco and the world he helped create. That was a story where all dreams could come true, if only for a night. It was almost Seussical in its whimsy.

·         Do you have any hobbies you would like to share?
Besides reading and writing, I have so many things I love to do. I am not sure they are considered hobbies, but I love to travel. Even when I am at home I take road trips around Michigan. We have so much to offer; beaches, botanical gardens, museums. I love to cook and bake, especially with my girls. I frequently try new restaurants. I love learning about new cultures, so I not only eat different foods, I love shopping in unique stores. TV and movies are a big part of my life, I am crazy about IMDB trivia. I am a pro binge-watcher. I ice skate and take long walks, I’m always moving, always going somewhere. I like to sing and dance, awkwardly. I also love learning, taking classes, and applying my new knowledge to my life. I try to soak up what life has to offer as much as I can.

·         Tell me about your first kiss? Was it magical or not so magical?
Oh my goodness! When I was five, there was a boy in Kindergarten that had a crush on me. He would stand next to me in line against the wall before school started, and scoot too close to me during circle time. He would try to kiss me, like, all of the time! He got a few in as well. Any hoo, as a matter of fact, it was not magical! At all! Plus, the teacher did not do a thing about it, even when I complained. Besides, I liked the boy who had the Star Wars T-shirt. I would make plans with him to dress in Star Wars gear, until that one day he disappointed me because he forgot to wear his Luke Skywalker shirt. So, I moved on, and took my magic with me!

·         Do you have another career besides writing? If so, what is it?
Yes, I am a teacher. I have been an educator for over two decades. I love working with all ages, and have done so since I was old enough to be a classroom assistant in Sunday school in upper elementary. I grew up in a teaching household. I would use my father’s lesson plan books and teach my stuffed animals.

·         What’s an item on your bucket list that you haven’t done yet?
I dream of traveling to Italy. I want to stuff myself with gelato, bread, pizza, and pasta while drinking rich cups of espresso. The canals of Venice are calling my name. The marble statues and beautiful figures in the fresco paintings are wiggling their fingers at me inviting me to gaze upon them. I will reach them someday.

·         Tell us the best vacation you have ever been on.
That is tough. All of my vacations have been the best. I climbed the great Pyramid and hung out in front of the Sphinx. I explored the colorful rock city of Petra. I swam with sharks, and landed on the Marlon Brando’s beach in French Polynesia. I visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. I saw Cats in New York. I ate scones at Harrods of London. I celebrated Christmas at Disney. I got engage in Nice, France. I swam with Dolphins in Grand Cayman. I hung out on the deck of several cruise ships with a tropical drink in my hand. I stayed home and made a tea party on a blanket on the family room floor with my two daughters while watching Alice in Wonderland over winter break from school. Well, I guess the last one was the best.

·         Where do you find the inspiration for your books?
Is it too cliché to say life? Well, I love clichés, so life gives me book ideas. I am a daydreamer. I live in my mind most of the time. There I compose many ideas. I record a lot of them in my notebooks, then try to find time to cultivate them into books. Some work out, and some don’t, but I love the process. As I am writing I see the characters in their world, like a movie happening all around me. It is a trance-like state. Writing brings as much happiness as reading or watching a movie. I love the magic that happens inside the mind.

·         Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?
Yes. April is Autism Awareness month. Even though Poppies for Christmas has a holiday theme, it is a year-round book that brings characters of all abilities to life. In the story, the sweet and peppy Poppy strives to love all without labels, but I felt compelled to include more characters that face challenges with ASD in the literary world. Statistically 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder, and 1 in 68 births in the US. But most people want to enter the dating world and experience that happily ever after we all chase. So I baked up a story to deliver those real life circumstances and topped it off with sweet and delicious frosting. I hope when people read this interview or my story they feel compassion for those who live with differences, and think twice about passing judgement. I also hope when they read about my character, they realize nothing is impossible, no job, no friendship, no dream is impossible. Individuals in the ASD and disabled community face that all of the time from the critics in the world; you won’t be able to walk, talk, function in society, have the life you desire. But that is wrong! People are not their disability, their labels, they are lovers and dreamers who deserve respect. Get to know someone and love without labels.

Thank you so very much!

Author Stacy Renée Keywell lives a life of fabulous clichés. She enjoys asking rhetorical questions, and speaking redundantly. Stacy works hard at telling bad jokes, dancing oddly yet awesomely, and making up amazing new words in hopes that they will one day find their way into the dictionary. She strives to love without labels. She vows to bravely stand by the sides of those who need her, especially her two daughters. Stacy, her husband, and her children live in Michigan in a quaint house in the woods.

A celebration of love without labels. It’s easy to be brave with you by my side!
Popular DJ Dexx finds himself positively smitten by the precociously pristine Poppy Paris. Too bad she’s already taken by an older boy, Declan Davies, a beautiful model with a thriving career, and a perfect family. By a dreamful stroke of chance, Dexx finds himself invited to spend Christmas at the Davies home by a gorgeous girl, granting him the opportunity to pursue the precious Poppy. But in his quest to win her over, he unlocks a world of imperfection and insecurity, where people are picked on for their disabilities, speech, appearance, and eccentricities. For Poppy and her friends, love trumps labels, and everyone deserves a brave friend to stand by their side. What gifts will Dexx discover this Christmas? Will he ultimately find true love, or will he discover something even greater?
You are invited to read a powerful story about living with autism, but not letting it define you, about being bullied, but carrying on with determination and grit, and about having dreams, but not giving up in the face of adversity. Come celebrate something beautiful with Poppies for Christmas.
 “Dexx!” Denver ran across the floor to greet me. “You clean up nice.” She playfully punched me in the arm.
            She looked even more stunning than before, as if that was possible for anyone outside the Davies family. She had changed into a black, silky blouse, and some tight, sequined black leggings. A simple diamond necklace replaced the pearls. Her freshly flat-ironed hair glistened, and hung long down her dainty back.
            “Hey, beautiful,” I greeted her, throwing a bit of swagger her way, as my confidence slowly crept back in once the food charged up my system.
            Denver jumped, a delicate finch, excited by my compliment.
            “Follow me. We’re going to hang out in the family room, eat some appetizers before dinner, and the rest of the festivities.” Her eyes sparkled as she spoke. “Tonight it’s totes casual, just the few of us doing a little decorating, eating a bunch of goodies,” her voice sang out every word.
            “Sounds fantastic.”
            Denver gripped my hand. I let her guide me across the smooth floor. Dropping my fingers, she ran ahead to the entryway of the family room. I walked in and stood under the mistletoe. I took another bite of sausage when… I saw…her!
             I inhaled deep. A flake from the pastry got caught in my throat. I let out a harsh cough. My eyes watered. The crust popped out, and dangled from my lip. Through my tears, I cast my eyes on my lovely muse, the magnificent Poppy.
            Using my arm, I wiped the gooey dough off my lip, and brushed off the crumbs. How could I have forgotten about Poppy? With all of the excitement geared around Denver, my mind lapsed. It drifted away from my Poppy. But, as fast as a roller coaster screeches to a halt, my neck whiplashed. My brain bounced back to my main mission at the first sight of her.
            Poppy wore a cream sweater accented with a red bow covered in red flowers. Her pouty lips matched the red ribbon. Her thick hair was tied back in a red band, and cascaded down her shoulder.
            An extremely handsome boy gripped both of her small hands in his. He caressed her knuckles with his thumbs. As his head turned, his features dazzled. He looked like he had sprung off a polished poster. An unreal creature from a print ad which came to life in the middle of the room, an anomaly in an otherwise ordinary world. I recognized Declan right away. Flawless skin, dark hair, and a smolder that would knock most girls dead.
            My heart thumped loudly in my ears. Denver grabbed some snacks. She exchanged words with her brother, but I didn’t understand anything they said. The blood pumped through my body, banging around with too much cacophony. Denver garbled something in my ear and laughed.
            “What?” I asked.
            Noise echoed around the room. I was still too shocked by Poppy’s presence to move or make sense of her words.
            Poppy beamed at Declan. She patted his hand affectingly, and rose off a nearby chair. She moved toward me. My body stiffened. The world moved in slow motion. She crept closer and closer. She got a few steps away from me. Her smile melted into a pinched frown. Her eyes narrowed. She didn’t look as happy to see me as I was to see her. She finally reached me under the mistletoe, and whispered in my ear.
            “What are you doing here?” She sounded pissed off, opposite of her normally chipper disposition.
            “Why, I was invited, just like you,” I responded sweetly, ignoring her obvious annoyance with me.
            “Are you following me or something? I don’t get it. Why did you come here for Christmas?”
            “I thought it might be a nice surprise. So, are you surprised, Poppy? Are you surprised to see me?” I asked eagerly.

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