Tag Archives: christa banister

Guest Post:: The Case for Christian Fiction by Christa Banister

1 Feb

By Christa A. Banister, special to Backseat Writer Growing up in a no-stoplight town in western Wisconsin, sometimes the best adventures happened in whatever book I was reading at the time.

After all, my hometown of Ladysmith didn’t have the whole quaint small town thing going like Stars Hollow, the quirky fictional home of “Gilmore Girls,” one of my all-time favorite T.V. series. Not only were there no mother-daughter combos who spoke fluent pop culture, but there wasn’t even a dreamy, endearingly grumpy diner guy who put up a good fight whenever you wanted yet another shot of espresso.

For the record, the best coffee in Ladysmith was the java you brewed at home with your own beans. Your other option? A vanilla cappuccino from the local Qwik Trip, a sickly sweet substance that in no way resembled an actual cup of joe. And as you probably guessed, the gas station also had a criminal shortage of cute baristas. Sigh.

With no good coffee and little to do, I lived vicariously through the characters in novel after novel—Elizabeth Bennett walking through miles and miles of rolling hills in Pride & Prejudice, the pre-Lost adventures of British boys struggling for survival on a mysterious island in Lord of the Flies and Fudge Hatcher making his older brother Peter’s life rather precarious (and that’s putting it mildly) in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge.

But as I continued to grow in the newfound faith, my 12-year-old self began wondering if there were actually any books that reflected my Christian worldview. You know, something beyond My Utmost for His Highesta fine devotional, but not exactly what I was hoping for in terms of pure storytelling bliss.

Truth be told, I was pretty happy with the stories I was reading already, but I still couldn’t help but wonder from time to time—what if darling Elizabeth Bennett had a relationship with God, too? And how would that influence how she lived?

Then after a visit to a friend’s house came a revelation! Apparently, there was an entire genre of literature written by Christians, and my friend was willing to let me borrow as many books as I wanted. So happy to hear that the very thing I dreamed of actually existed, I grabbed a stack of paperbacks without giving it much thought.

Later that evening, after carefully arranging and re-arranging my covers and adjusting the lighting (a pre-reading ritual to make sure the mood was just right), I excitedly dug in. Curious about what this reading adventure would entail, I could hardly turn the pages fast enough to get to the beginning, and then it happened before I even made it to chapter 3.

Disappointment.

For whatever reason, these prairie women protagonists were about as thrilling as a piece of tilapia with no seasoning for dinner. I couldn’t relate to them on any level, and I wasn’t interested in figuring out how. Ok, so one bad book, let’s see what’s next in the pile…

Yep, you guessed it, more prairie women in hoop skirts. More sand. More deserts. More covered wagons. More boredom.

The rest of the books were more of the same–something my friend warned me about after I complained about the lack of variety. Given my lackluster introduction to the genre, I was determined I’d right that wrong in the future and create a story of faith that readers like me would enjoy.

In the meantime, I returned to my old novel standbys and forgot all about Christian fiction.  Until my senior year of high school, that is. My mom was meeting a friend of hers who owned a small Christian bookstore, so I decided to go along for kicks. And lo and behold, there was a novel there I thought I’d really like—the first book in the “Christy Miller” series, Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn.

Now here was a protagonist I could relate to—and she was even from Wisconsin! Needless to say, my opinion of Christian fiction changed in with the first ten words of this book. And thanks to many, many girls feeling the same way about Christy, Todd, Doug and even ol’ Aunt Marti, Gunn kept the series going for a while, much to my delight.

These days, the world of Christian fiction is night and day different from the prairie girl novels of old, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of the fun with my own novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. However, from time to time at book signings, online and the like, I still encounter people who don’t think much of the genre. That not only makes it a challenge to get people reading, but doesn’t say much about Christians as artists, now does it?

Trust me, I get it. Some of these characters are still so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good. Yes, there are still a few too many pat answers to actual real-life struggles. Worse yet is when Christian fiction has simply been reduced to the “safe-for-the-whole-family” alternative (and really, when is taking up your cross and following God supposed to be safe?) to something’s that already popular (cue the Christian version of Twilight or “Sex and the City”…usually five years too late).

But if we continue (as readers and writers) to champion quality faith-filled art, I’m convinced that even more will be crafted. And that way, no small-town girl with an insatiable love of reading will ever have to escape to the prairie again—that is, unless she wants to.

Thank goodness.

About Christa Banister:: When it comes to writers, Christa Banister is top-notch.  Author of the popular Sydney Alexander chick lit series (Around the World in 80 Dates, Blessed are the Meddlers, and the yet-to-be released third novel), Christa is also a freelance journalist and an avid blogger.

**Don’t forget to enter BSW’s OWOH giveaway here and enter to win the book TEA WITH HEZBOLLAH by Ted Dekker & Carl Medearis here!**

Christmas Un-Wrapped with Christa Banister

21 Dec

When it comes to writers, Christa Banister is top-notch.  Author of the popular Sydney Alexander chick lit series (Around the World in 80 Dates, Blessed are the Meddlers, and the yet-to-be released third novel), Christa is also a freelance journalist and an avid blogger.  Always amusing and encouraging, I was excited that Christa took time out of her busy schedule to unwrap Christmas with Backseat Writer.

Did you score any good deals on Black Friday? Is it a day of great deals or terrifying chaos?

I absolutely, positively love to shop, but not on Black Friday. I think it was doing so in Manhattan a few years back that officially turned me off. I remember being in H&M and not being able to breathe because of the sheer volume of people, not a pleasant feeling to say the least.

What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?

Will and I started dating a month and a half before Christmas in 2004, so it was too early to officially met each other’s families. But I remember him dropping me off at the airport and thinking how that was probably the last Christmas I’d be spending alone with my family, and I was right. I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when he called and wished me a Merry Christmas…it was definitely love, baby!

Let’s talk Santa. Did you believe in him as a child? How did you find out he’s not real?

I definitely believed in Santa as a kid and remembered being really worried that He wouldn’t be able to find me when I went to my grandparent’s home in Illinois, rather than staying at my place in Wisconsin. But when he didn’t bring me a computer after asking for one several years in a row (and I was even nice not naughty to boot), I suspected that my parents probably were involved somehow. And of course, I was right…

What’s your fave Christmas song/Christmas movie or cartoon/Christmas cookie?

Hands down, my favorite Christmas song is when anyone with a really good voice sings “O Holy Night.” My favorite Christmas movie is probably everyone’s old standby, “It’s a Wonderful Night,” which incidentally, I didn’t see until Will and I started dating (and he hadn’t either…we quite possibly were the two last people left on earth who hadn’t). I remember the night we went to the Belcourt in Nashville and saw it…it was such a fantastic and heart-warming story, despite the underlying sadness. As for my favorite Christmas cookie, I can’t pass up a really good M&M cookie or the peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kisses in the middle.

Christmastime is here!!!

7 Dec

And you know what that means!  That’s right; it’s time to unwrap Christmas with our favorite artists, musicians, and writers.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting  short Q&A’s with abolionist/author Zach Hunter, Reese Roper (of Five Iron Frenzy, Roper, Guerilla Rodeo), musician Josh Wilson, author Christa Banister as well as with indie artist Josh Rosenthal, Alli Rogers, Big Daddy Weave (and more!)

Keep checking back and enjoy BSW’s second year of Christmas Un-Wrapped!

Christmas UnWrapped:: Part 2, What strikes you about Christ’s birth this year?

24 Dec

Our Un-Rappers reflect on the miracle of that we celebrate—when Jesus was born on earth. God Himself in the fragile body of an infant entrusted to the clumsy hands of humanity.

EVERY TIME I READ THE GOSPELS REGARDING JESUS’ BIRTH, DIFFERENT THINGS STRIKE ME ABOUT THE ABSOLUTE BEAUTY OF THE EVENT. WHAT HAS STRUCK YOU ABOUT CHRIST’ BIRTH THIS YEAR?

What strikes me about the birth of Christ is the humility of it all. From our perspective He was born into the most humble of all circumstances. But what occurs to me this year is that no matter how He came it would be humble for Him. The way it happened communicates better to us (which is probably the reason), but in reality, even if God had come as a King, it would most likely be a very humble circumstance (from His perspective). He came from the glory of the heavens to Earth, which I would imagine to be a huge step down.—Adam Smith of This Beautiful Republic

That the wise men were keen to what was going on.  They weren’t even from the area, so they weren’t influenced by local tradition.  They were intense scholars, and they traveled from a LONG way off, came prepared with gifts fit for a king and then dropped to their knees, I imagine, without hesitancy.  Today’s skeptics could learn from them. I could learn from them.Aaron Shust, recording artist

I think the thing that always impressed me is that there had to have been so much drama surrounding that birth socially. I think it’s downplayed and not focused on, but in our society, everyone deals with and is strongly affected by drama. These two were un-wed and she was still a virgin. No one believed them, everyone shunned them. They went on and endured it because they were convinced it was God’s doing. There’s much more to say here. Sermons come from these topics.—Ben Olin of This Beautiful Republic

I guess I always marvel at who God chooses to carry out his most important plans. It’s never the people you’d expect. Mary wasn’t some super spiritual saint (or at least the Gospels don’t reveal that about her). She was a young girl going about her life when God came calling with a scary but very exciting task. That always is so inspiring because really, she’s a lot like us. And yet she took a huge leap of faith, not to mention potentially compromised the good thing she had going with Joseph, to do what God called her to do. And she was the mother to the Saviour of the world—how cool is that?—Christa Banister, author

This year, thinking about Christ coming to earth to die and thinking about the sacrifice that God the Father made has struck me.  I don’t have any children, but I have nieces and nephews that I love very much. If I knew that someone must die, it would be much easier for me to do it myself, rather than sending my son. Giving up a son must be much more difficult to do, than giving up yourself. But I think that shows the immense Love that God the Father has for us, that his only-begotten Son would be sent for our transgressions.—Jon Dunn of Demon Hunter

It is so great how God can use the same Scripture to speak to us in different ways!  This year, I was drawn to how God chose to tell the shepherds first about the birth of His Son.  Of all the influential and important people He could have gone to, He chose to speak to the lowest members of the community.  This is just a beautiful picture of how this miraculous birth happened for everyone; regardless of their background.  I love how the shepherds first responded with fear and then changed to excitement and praise towards God.  They left praising God for all they had heard and seen (Luke 2:20 NASB).  I pray that many will read this amazing story and like the shepherds, praise God for this amazing gift of love!—David Frush, recording artist

The story of His birth never gets old.  The simplicity of it amazes me most.  God used an ordinary girl to bear the King of Kings.   Not in a huge fanfare, but in a simple manger.   What an incredible picture of humility… shown by the all-powerful One!!—Chris Clayton, recording artist

Christmas Un-Wrapped:: What’s your favorite …?

14 Dec

Everyone has Christmas favorites from songs to cookies to movies to the age-old debate of white vs. colored lights (I say both!) We ask our Un-Rappers about some of their favorites, and their answers vary, even in word length. Enjoy!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONG/MOVIE/COOKIE?

I’m a sucker for anyone who can sing “O Holy Night,” a song that’s soooo easy to butcher. I think it’s incredibly beautiful. As for my favorite Christmas movie, “Elf” is definitely one of my new favorites—love any flick that uses the word cotton-headed ninny muggings, after all. And Christmas just isn’t Christmas without seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Grinch” (the cartoon, not the scary Jim Carrey travesty) and although not technically a Christmas movie, I also love holiday rom-coms like “Serendipity” and “The Holiday.” Last but certainly not least, I love the peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s kiss in the middle. Yummy!——Christa Banister, author (Blessed Are the Meddlers)


Song= “God Rest Ye’ Merry Gentleman”// Movie= Elf // Cookie = sugar—Jason Bynum of Shirock (full-lenth release coming in January 2009)

I really like “O Holy Night”.  Movie?  Not sure.  Home Alone is pretty funny. I just like cookies period.  Especially oatmeal raisin.—Joy Whitlock, recording artist (God and a Girl)


I love “The Snowman,” the BBC version of the children’s book by Raymond Briggs. The book and the film have no words, and lead you on an adventure of music and visuals. It is a “must” for the Christmas season for me. I also watch The Nightmare Before Christmas as often as I can between Halloween and Christmas. I can quote you the entire movie from beginning to end, and have seen it no less than 100 times.—Jon Dunn of Demon Hunter (45 Days)


Pretty much any Christmas song sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, or any of the old greats are my favorites. White Christmas takes the cake as far as Christmas movies! Not too into holiday cookies; I’ll take a glass of eggnog any day though!—Seth Hostetter of Children 18:3 (self-titled)


Song: “The Christmas Song” or “White Christmas” /Movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (beautiful movie and such a classic) /Cookie: Sugar Cookies w/ icing and sprinkles –Drew Worsham, illusionist


“Carol of the Bells” // Irving Berlin’s White Christmas // Shortbread.Joel Bruyere of Thousand Foot Krutch (“Jingle Bell Rock” on X Christmas Complilation [Tooth & Nail],The Flame In All Of Us)

My favorite Christmas song has to be “What Child is This?”  I love the haunting melodies and it really paints a great picture of the wonder and awe that surrounded that blessed night. My favorite Christmas movie is hands down Christmas Vacation. I probably see this at least 6 times a season.  Could I quote it from start to finish perfectly? Yes, but it still makes me laugh till I hurt each time.  Christmas cookie… Hmmm… You’re making me hungry.  It’s not really a cookie, but my mom always makes these chocolate peanut butter balls with rice crispies in them… Heavenly.–Blake Bollinger, recording artist (No Holiday)

Amy’s Favorite Things (Take that, Oprah!)

13 Dec

By Amy Sondova Every year, Oprah Winfrey features a few of her favorite things on her daytime talk show (“Oprah’s Favorite Things“) and then adorns the audience with each and every one of her favorite things.  Well, I’m not Oprah, and therefore, cannot give all Backseat Writer’s readers samples of everything that I adore.  But I can tell you where to get ‘em.   Without further adieu, I bring you “Amy’s Favorite Things,” which I hope will help you as you finish shopping foryour favorite people this holiday season (and beyond.   These are timeless suggestions).

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

*Etsy.com—Have you visited this site?  It’s a entire craft show right on your computer screen with everything from Scrabble tile pendants to handcrafted shoes!  There are a plethora of cool things for guys and gals alike.  Don’t believe me, guys?  Check out some of the screen printed messenger bags and t-shirts.  There’s something for everyone, and unique is the bottom line.

*Music—Every year almost everyone on my Christmas list can expect to get a CD or two.  This year there are a few artists who are hot on my list—debut artist Josh Wilson and music veteran Bebo Norman.  Besides being two of the nicest and most open guys I’ve ever interviewed, they’re also great singer/songwriters who released albums this year.  Bebo Norman’s self-titled release, Josh Wilson’s Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup, and Jon Foreman’s Limbs and Branches are must-haves!  But perhaps you’re looking for something a little rockier, then look no further than Seabird’s ‘Til We See the Shore or This Beautiful Republic’s sophomore album, Perceptions.   If you want to support indie artists, then get lost in the vocals of Tara Leigh Cobble’s Playing Favorites or Justin McRoberts’ latest project, Deconstruction.  And here are a few more recommendations: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie; What If We – Brandon Heath; The Nashville EP and the Bee Sides – Relient K;  Opposite Way – Leeland;  With Arrows, With Poise – The Myriad;  anything by Caedmon’s Call, Fernando Ortega, Phil Keaggy.

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

*Sock Monkeys & socks—Is it just me or are you always running out of socks, too?  Whether getting lost in the wash, stolen by a shih tzu who shall remain nameless (Maddy!), or developing ginormous holes, pairs of socks seem to lose their mate after a month or two.  Therefore, I wear a lot of mismatched socks–argyle, plaid, and all patterns funky are worn together and I become a candidate for “What Not to Wear”.  Besides becoming a fashion mishap, there are are only things to do with those single socks.  You could make sock

monkeys, of course! You don’t even have to limit yourself to monkeys, there are patterns for all kinds of creatures online (sock monster, sock owl).  Then you can sell your creations at etsy.com.  Or you could just buy a conventional sock monkey at sockmonkey.com.

*Digital Cameras—The first time I got my hands on a digital camera, I took pictures of everything in sight, and I haven’t stopped.  My first pictures weren’t that great; then again, my camera wasn’t that great.  Yet I treasure the images of my grandmother’s last Christmas with our family.  Buy yourself a camera to capture the moments that truly matter, and then buy one for someone else.  Check around for the best prices and give yourself a gift that goes far beyond an electronic device.  I highly recommend Canon cameras, but if you want to go a little cheaper, Olympus makes great cameras as well.

*Anything handcrafted by you—Maybe you’re not into making sock monkeys, but there are tons of other projects in which to immerse yourself.  Try your hand at crocheting or knitting (you can even use a knitting loom like the Knifty Knitter) and make everyone scarves, hats, and SOCKS!  (See what a valuable gift socks can be?)  You could paint a thoughtful picture or make a collage.  If you’re not crafty, melt chocolate wafers and dip some pretzels; chocolate-covered pretzels make great gifts!  If all else fails, just make your dad an ashtray like you did in kindergarten—he’ll still think it’s cute (hopefully!)

Psych - Season 2

Psych - Season 2

*Amazon.com—Free shipping on orders over $25 and books, music, and DVD’s galore.  Every year Amazon is adding to its inventory.  I check back every day to see what’s on sale so I can nab Psych Seasons 1 & 2, Bones Seasons 1-3, books like The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, the chick-lit novels of my fave fictionista, Christa Banister and those aforementioned CD’s at discounted prices.

*Ebay.com—Whatever you can’t find on Amazon.com, you can find on Ebay.  There are literally millions of treasures on this site from low, low prices on video games to truly bizarre items like vintage hand towels.  But whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it on Ebay.  You can also find a bunch of stuff you weren’t looking for, too.

*Michael’s, A.C. Moore, Joann’s—Craft stores are slashing their prices, and signing up for their e-mail newsletters allows customers to get even more coupons (especially if you don’t get them in your local newspaper).  Remember that camera I told you to buy?  You can get beautiful frames for those pics on sale at any of these stores for 40-50% off during the holiday season.  Plus, custom framing is 60% off (I say buy a frame and do-it-yourself!)  Not only that, but you can find deals on Christmas décor, craft kits for the kids, and nice gifts like candle holders and scented candles for your co-workers.  Even if you aren’t crafty, craft stores are a great place to shop for gifts.

Even though Black Friday has come and gone, you can still save money and give great presents to your loved ones…and those people you don’t really like that you still have to buy for.  We know Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but if you’re like me, you sure do like to get them (hey, I’m being honest here).  Plus, great presents show cleverness and creativity that has little to do with price and everything to do with thoughtfulness.  Our mere trinkets can never compare to the gift of God’s Son wrapped in humanity, so as we give to one another let us remember the greatest gift that mankind was ever given.

Click here to see all my my favorite things!

Christmas Un-Wrapped:: Black Friday–Great Deals or Terrifying Chaos?

26 Nov

As millions of Americans arise early on Friday morning to head out to their favorite stories to find the best deals for their friends and family this Christmas, we decided to see if our Un-Rappers were doing the same.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BLACK FRIDAY? GREAT DEALS OR TERRIFYING CHAOS?

“Haha, my answer is Yes to that. Exactly both. Great deals AND terrifying chaos!”—Jordan Critz, recording artist (Nightlights and Melted Ice)

“Black Friday is a mad house. Yet, every year I can be found standing in line at 4 am shivering waiting for the mad rush to the door. It’s a tradition I share with my dad, who is the king of bargain shopping. There is never anything I need, but the time with my dad is worth the insanity. We were at Walmart two years ago when a riot started over $200 laptops. When they showed security footage of the madness on TV, and I think you could probably see my pops and me on the outskirts of the chaos. Yes, I will be in line somewhere between 2 and 4 am this year as well. Look for me and my old man holding down the front of the line. Don’t bother cutting in front of me because I am not there to buy anything–just to make sure the nut-jobs don’t trample my dad. Now that is what I call quality family time.”—Jon Dunn of Demon Hunter (45 Days)

“Black Friday?!! I don’t even know what that means! Ever heard of Boxing Day? I didn’t think so.”—Joel Bruyere of Thousand Foot Krutch (“Jingle Bell Rock” on X Christmas Complilation [Tooth & Nail],The Flame In All Of Us)


“Back when I doing the retail thing at Bath & Body Works in college, Black Friday was on par with oh, a root canal, a huge zit on the night of a big date or watching the Vikings beat my beloved Packers a couple of weeks ago. In other words, not exactly my idea of fun. In fact, I remember coming home with more splinters and paper cuts than I could count after gift wrapping hundreds of Bath & Body Works gifts for grumpy, impatient customers. But hey, at least it was a lesson in the true meaning of Christmas, right? (NOT!)”—Christa Banister, author (Blessed Are the Meddlers)

“Blissfully peaceful.  I’m not stepping foot in a store the day after Thanksgiving, mainly because I have too much stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie in my gut, but also because my Christmas shopping is done!”—Aaron Shust, recording artist (Whispered and Shouted)

“I like to do a lot of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday, but I normally try to do it online. Standing outside at 4:56AM at Best Buy in 40 degree weather, waiting with six kadillion other people to get in the store and buy a DVD for eight dollars instead of ten, is not my idea of a good time”.—Josh Wilson, recording artist (Sing: A Christmas EP, Trying To Fit The Ocean In A Cup)

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhap, means a little bit more.”– The Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

“I experienced it personally once, and only once.  I got up about 5:30 am to get to a store by 6 am to get some crazy deal on a present for my wife.  At 6:02 when I arrived, it was already gone!!! I had the brilliant idea of asking for a rain check.  So lucky for me I got to come in a week later and get the same price on this item without waiting in the 2.5 mile long line.  So in hindsight, it is a big ploy to get thousands of people out for deals that only exist to the people that probably arrived a week before and camped out… never again!”—Blake Bollinger, recording artist (No Holiday)

Christa Banister :: Blessedly Meddling in Chick Lit

12 Sep

By Amy Sondova There’s one thing they never teach you in those college journalism classes—how to deal with the angst of interviewing and writing about another writer, especially when that individual is music journalist and author, Christa Banister.  Not only has she just released her second novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers, she also has an illustrious career in journalism which includes contributions to CCM Magazine, Crosswalk.com, Christian Single, ChristianityToday.com, and even a Christian music blog for MTV’s Urge.com.

Yet Christa could put anyone at ease with her dynamic people skills and cutting edge wit, which is also prevalent in her writing.  Falling in the genre of chick lit, Christa’s novels follow the adventures of Sydney Alexander, a travel writer who’s looking for love in Around the World in 80 Dates.  In the second book, Blessed Are the Meddlers, Sydney has found wedded bliss and is helping her friends and family do the same.

Finding inspiration for the books was easy—Christa wrote from her own experiences and those of her friends with a few tweaks here and there.  Christa’s main character, Sydney Alexander, is similar to her creator, “I can’t help but have things in common with Sydney.  Because I write for a living, it was a logical profession for her.  But then I wanted her to do something a little different.  She’s not an entertainment writer; she does that a little bit on the side.  She’s a travel writer, which I thought would be a really fun job.”  With a chuckle she adds, “We both enjoy the same beverages and we both travel quite a bit.”  Plus, like Christa, Sydney and many of her friends also share a faith in God.

Samantha Alexander, Sydney’s younger sister, is a caricature of Christa’s own sister.  However, fans find it hard to believe that some of the books more unusual characters are based on real life individuals, “People say there’s no way that Rain [Sydney’s hippie friend] could have been inspired by someone real, but she definitely was,” shares Christa, saying that  Sydney’s good friend, Rain, was crafted after her college roommate.

However, when it comes to Sydney’s wardrobe, Christa has to laugh, “She dresses way better than I do.”  Because a lot of chick lit books take place in fashion-savvy cities like New York or L.A., top-of-the line brands and extravagant spending is a marked feature of the literature.  Seeking to be stylish and fashionable, Sydney spends a lot of money on looking good. “All characters have flaws,” explains Christa.  “Rather than give her a drinking problem, I gave her a shopping problem.”

Being surrounded by products like MAC cosmetics and Prada bags is a life most women only dream about, which is exactly why they flock to chick lit.  The genre began to take off in the late 90’s with the success of books like Bridget Jones’ Diary.  “Generally, they are those books with a pink cover that feature a girl with an umbrella and a purse,” says Christa, who not only enjoys reading chick lit, but is a Jane Austen enthusiast as well.

Christa finds heavy influence from Austen’s strong heroines, particularly Emma, the heroine of the book by the same name.  “From a literary perspective, those books are considered some of the original ‘chick lit’ books; at least that’s what they say about them now.  I know I’ve merged that with my love of romantic comedies,” says Christa.  “I didn’t want the typical boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl scenario.  I wanted to mix it up like Jane Austen does.”

And mix it up, she does.  Heartbreak after heartbreak, weird date after weird date, and surprising hook-up after surprising hook-up, readers are constantly wondering what’s next for Sydney and friends.  As a heroine, Sydney is slightly neurotic, fully endearing, and distinctly charming.  “I feel like a lot times the heroines we’re given are these dippy girls who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that aren’t that plausible.  I wanted a strong heroine who definitely had a point of view and opinion about things.  She has her typical girl struggles, but I wanted her to learn something in the process,” explains Christa.

Sydney’s sister, Samantha, is often compared to another feisty female close to Christa’s heart is “Allie” from Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.  “Nicholas Sparks—it’s a completely guilty pleasure!  I love all of his books!” exclaims Christa enthusiastically.  “They all end very, very tragically, but I love it!  That’s melodrama at its best.  If you’re going to do it, you have to go all the way with it.”

Winks to Austen and Sparks aside, before marrying the love of her life, Christa also wondered if there were any good Christian guys left.  “That’s part of the reason I wrote the books; I had the same questions.  It’s funny because in dating there are enough complexities as it is, but then when you add the whole Christian element to it; it gets more confusing,” commiserates Christa.  “We often talk about girls making a list of qualities they want in their future spouses, but I think guys do the same thing.  They want this supermodel that can cook like Rachel Ray and is this spiritual Mother Theresa and all these unattainable things.”

Just because God gave Christa an amazing love story doesn’t mean that she doesn’t remember how difficult the singles scene can be.  “Everyone would tell me, ‘When you stop looking for it, when you least expect it, it will happen.’ I hated hearing that more than anything.  How can you not expect it when you really want that in your life?”

Finding herself somewhat contented in her singleness, Christa didn’t expect to meet her future husband in Nashville while covering a Derek Webb concert.  Since the show was kind of boring, Christa struck up a conversation with a handsome writer in the crowd and sparks flew, even if Derek Webb’s performance didn’t.  “I tease him to this day, ‘Because you were so boring, I met the love of my life,’” laughs Christa.  “Six months after we were dating, he proposed before the U2 show in Chicago.  He had to upstage Bono and he did a very good job of that.”

Just like her character Sydney, Christa isn’t afraid to dole out some dating advice for single ladies, “First of all, I would encourage all single women who want to meet a quality single guy to pray first.  It seems elementary but I think it’s the best thing you can do.  God wants to know  the desires of our hearts.  Of course, he already does, but he wants us to verbalize them.  Secondly, you need to be proactive.  Girls want to be pursued and want to be asked out, but spend a lot of time at home waiting for him to show up at the door.  That’s not going to happen.  It could, but it’s not very likely.”

She continues, “It’s mostly getting out there and being available.  When you see someone you do want to get to know, strike up a conversation.  You’ll find the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  It may not lead to Mr. Right, but you might make a good friend in the process.  Who can have too many good friends?”

Besides, if you’re like Sydney (or Emma), the more good friends, the more matchmaking combinations available!  So, what’s next for Sydney?  Christa is in the infant stages of writing her third book to round out the series, “She’s going to get quasi-famous and she’s going to deal with all the things that you start to deal with when you start to believe your own hype.”  Unfortunately, fans will just have to wait with baited breath to see how Sydney’s move to the Music City changes her life.

Sharing a mutual love of Diet Coke, Death Cab For Cutie, and self-depreciating humor, I’m proud to be known as a colleague of Christa Banister’s in the wild word of journalism.  I also hope to meet my future husband at a Derek Webb concert, which would be my fairytale ending.  Until then, I’ll curl up with my Christa Banister books and get lost in the hilarious adventures of Sydney Alexander and her friends.

Print copy of article.

When she’s not writing, Christa enjoys a multitude of activities, which include watching the Food Network and trying out fun new recipes.  Because of her love for cooking, we decided it would be fun to include one of Christa’s favorite recipes for you to try.  Let us know how it turned out!

Christa’s Marvelous Chicken Marsala For Four (or two if you’re really hungry!)

This can be served over a variety of tasty sides—your favorite pasta w/butter and parmesan cheese, couscous or brown rice flavored with chicken stock (instead of water) and fresh basil. Crisp green beans or asparagus work as another great accompaniment.

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3/4 cup of Marsala wine (Florio or Holland House are my favorites)

3 T butter

3 T olive oil

a splash of chicken stock

1 cup sliced mushrooms (I prefer mini portobellos but any mushrooms will do)

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes

3/4 cup flour

fresh basil

shredded parmesan cheese

In a heavy non-stick skillet, heat olive oil in a pan over low-to-medium heat.

Then using two sheets of plastic wrap, pound the chicken until it’s about a quarter of an inch thick. (This allows the sauce to really take center stage.) Season the chicken (both sides) with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few red pepper flakes for extra flavor. Then dredge the chicken in the flour, and be sure to shake off the excess.

Now that your pan has been heating up, carefully place the chicken in the pan. Cook it on the first side until lightly browned (about two to three minutes). Then turn the chicken and add the mushrooms into the pan. Cook about two minutes longer, until lightly browned and continue to stir and incorporate the mushrooms.

Add the Marsala wine and the splash of chicken stock to the pan, along with the butter and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. To finish it off, tear up some fresh basil and sprinkle on top of the chicken, along with a liberal amount of parmesan cheese.

Bon Appetit!

Print copy of Christa’s marvelous recipe!

So much to say, so much to say!

19 Aug

This week I’m “unofficially” on vacation, which means I’m backing off from writing a bit to step back and consider the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Or it could be that Sarah has off all week and we’ve got great plans like an overnight beach trip with two of our pals! Well, whatever, I’m not really here, am I?

However, in prepping to be away I’ve been making sure that Backseat Writer can move along swimmingly and have been negligent of my poor little corner of cyberspace here and I’ve got SO MUCH TO SAY!

Heres is one of my concert photos.  The dimly lit room and my lack of a $500 camera made for mediocre photos.  But theyre my mediocre photos so theyre special.

Here's is one of my concert photos. The dimly lit room and my lack of a $500 camera made for mediocre photos. But they're my mediocre photos so they're special.

First order of business–Derek Webb!!! As I’ve announced via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, text message, and in random conversations with strangers, I saw Derek Webb for the first time in concert on Sunday night. I was thinking you always remember your first time–the first time you rode a bike, the first time you went on a date, the first time you saw Derek Webb live in concert and so on. I wrote up a review which will be posted on Backseat Writer later this week, but–WOW!–what an exciting experience for me (and Sarah)! It was such a low-key laid back event. The fact that Derek could command an audience in his white t-shirt/blue jeans ensemble, his voice, and an acoustic guitar was impressive. So, yes, it was everything I thought it would be and I can hardly wait to see him and the rest of his gang on Oct. 4 on the Art*Music*Justice Tour. Christa Banister told me last week that she met her husband at a Derek Webb concert, so I was very hopeful the same would be true for me. It so wasn’t.

Second order of business–baby rabbits everywhere! On Saturday, I stumbled upon a nest of baby rabbits in the

Heres the first escapee on the run!

Here's the first escapee on the run!

large grassy area behind our apartment, which is frequented by small children and hairy dogs. Since I had my camera with me, I snapped a couple pictures of the little dears. As I walked away, one of the babies decided to hightail it out of the nest. I ran into the house to get a towel, caught the escapee, and put it back in its nest, which caused bunny #2 to jump out. I caught bunny #2 and put it back in the nest, when bunny #1 apparently wanted another taste of freedom. At this point I decided they were in a phase of rebellion and used a stick to cover the nest as best as I could. I checked on the baby-on-the-run a couple of times, who had decided to set up camp under the water spout. A little before midnight, the babies were safely nestled back in their little nest because their mother had come to feed them and care for them. How sweet!

Last night when Sarah and I took the dogs for their nightly bathroom break, the nest had once again been torn asunder. And one of the babies was hanging out near the nest which Maddy the shih tzu found especially interesting. She seems to think they’re “her babies”. As we headed back in, the little trickster had moved back into its nest! How they don’t get run over by the lawn mower is beyond me! Yet I know the best thing is for them to be where they are so they can be taken care of by their mother. Although smuggling them into the apartment and raising the little ones has crossed my mind.

Cover of This Beautiful Republic's latest, Perceptions.

Third order of business–crazy album releases! It’s like everyone who wanted to release a new album sat down and said, “August 19! That is the day we shall all release a new album in a show of solidarity!” There are sophomore albums from the likes of Brandon Heath, Family Force 5, This Beautiful Republic (A shout out to my friend Ben Olin!), and Jimmy Needham as well as new albums from Mercy Me’s Bart Millard, Charlie Hall, Ten Shekel Shirt, and my old buddies, The Wrecking (formerly Kingpin Wrecking Crew). Lots of new music to check out–no wonder I need an unofficial vacation!

Fourth order of business–what’s up with the release of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’s release being moved back to June? Didn’t they just release the trailer? Are the powers-that-be toying with us? (Article)

And lastly, did you hear about these yahoos who claimed they found a Bigfoot corpse in the woods and it turned out to be a hoax? Surprise, surprise! The funniest part of the whole thing is that the “body” was, in fact, a sasquatch Halloween costume. I mean, did they really think they’d be fooling anyone with that? Believe me, the full story is worth reading.

So, that’s about it, sorry to lump it all together like this, but I’ve got some R&R to do. Have a nice day!

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