Interview with Carolyn Astfalk, Author of Stay With Me

Stay with Me front coverAs part of the Virtual Book Tour for Stay With Me (by Carolyn Astfalk), I interviewed Carolyn a few weeks ago about her book.

1. Stay With Me is your first published novel. But is this the first novel you have written? If not, tell us about your other works in progress.

I have three other complete novels that are in various states of polish. My first, Rightfully Ours is a coming of age story about the value of friendship, first love, and integrity. All In Good Time is a contemporary romance (with a touch of suspense) about a widow and mother of young children who falls in love with a never-married man. Ornamental Graces is a Christmas contemporary romance about lost innocence, overcoming guilt, healing, and an ex-girlfriend who won’t stay in the past.

2. Rebecca’s sister, Abby, is hilarious, but also a very believable (and blunt) character. Is she based on anyone you know? Or perhaps an amalgamation of people you know?

Writing Abby was sheer delight. Her snarky, brutally-honest remarks are the kinds of things that would never slip past my internal filter. So, while she’s not based on any one person or persons, I suppose she says and does the things I imagine I might if I had a radical personality change.

3. Some authors know at the beginning of the writing process how the story will end. Did you know as you were writing the book that there would be a — for want of a better phrase — fall from grace for some of the characters?

I envisioned a happy ending from the beginning, but the final twists in Chris and Rebecca’s relationship were unplanned, mainly because they defy convention for this genre. They were the result of simply wondering What if? and then realizing how such a fall from grace, as you put it, was exactly what needed to happen not only to test their love but as the final impetus to solidify Rebecca’s internal transformation.

4. You’re the mother of four children. How did you find time to write a full length novel?

It’s tough. I began the first novel when I had only two children and my husband was gone on extended travel for work. I’ve discovered I cannot out-wake my children, so I write when I can in small increments during naps, late at night, and when I can around activities, meals, diaper changes and daily chaos. Some days no writing gets done, and some days too much. It’s difficult to strike the right balance.

5. What are the best three books you’ve read recently?

I loved Tammy L. Gray’s Sell Out, a modern Christian romance with an anti-bullying theme and messages about courage, kindness, hope, and forgiveness. I also enjoyed Susan Peek’s Saint Magnus, The Last Viking, which is about as far as you can get from a dry, stodgy, lives-of-the-saints tale. It’s full of action, strength, and courage. And finally, Corinna Turner’s The Three Most Wanted, the second in her I Am Margaret dystopian series is a great read. It’s fast-paced and action-packed.

6. As I said in a previous question, I found the characters in Stay With Me so believable and endearing. Do you happen to have a sequel planned for Stay With Me? Did you have a sequel planned when you starting writing this novel?

I wrote Stay With Me as a standalone novel. However, between other projects, I began writing about Chris’s brother Alan and sister-in-law Jamie just for the sake of increasing my daily word count. I’m not sure if it’s a novel or a novella, but although those chapters have been lying dormant for months, I think there’s more there. In Stay With Me, you get the sense that while Alan and Jamie love one another, their fledgling marriage has a weak foundation, and I’m interested in exploring why and how they can recommit themselves to a more fruitful marriage.

7. Tell us more about your writing journey. Have you always felt called to write fiction (and more particularly, Theology of the Body fiction?) Or did it gradually develop over time?

I always enjoyed writing, but through high school, college, and in the jobs I held after college, I wrote nonfiction. Until I tried National Novel Writing Month in 2010, I’d never written any fiction longer than a short story. Until that time, I hadn’t grasped that my elaborate day dreams were stories my subconscious wanted to tell, and I didn’t nurture my creativity. When I began writing Rightfully Ours, though I had a vague idea about the plot, the Theology of the Body themes that emerged surprised me. Early in our marriage, my husband and I had a deep interest in the Theology of the Body and participated in many Engaged Encounter weekends. The wisdom and beauty of the Church’s teaching about human sexuality is close to my heart, and I believe it’s critical to our health as individuals, couples, and even as a society. Time and again, it simply resurfaces in my writing.

8. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part is when all the puzzle pieces fit together – the plot is resolved, the themes emerge, and all of the threads are neatly tied up. Sometimes I marvel at how it happens almost as if the story has a life of its own. My least favorite part is extensive editing. I like the problem-solving aspect of editing, but by the tenth go-round, it’s lost its appeal.

To buy Carolyn’s book, Stay With Me, on Kindle, click here.

To buy the print book on Create Space, click here. To receive $2 off, use this code: B3E4E622

To buy the print book on Amazon, click here.

To check out the novel’s website, click here.

October 7, Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – Favorite Rosary Quotes

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and October is the month of the Holy Rosary, so I would like to share some of my favorite quotes about the rosary:

“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.” Saint Louis de Montfort

“You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche

“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” Pope Blessed Pius IX

“When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.” Saint Louis de Montfort

“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” Saint Dominic

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).” Saint Louis de Montfort

“You must know that when you ‘hail’ Mary, she immediately greets you! Don’t think that she is one of those rude women of whom there are so many—on the contrary, she is utterly courteous and pleasant. If you greet her, she will answer you right away and converse with you!” Saint Bernardine of Siena

“Recite your Rosary with faith, with humility, with confidence, and with perseverance.” Saint Louis de Montfort

“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.”
Pope Saint Pius X

“Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if—and mark well what I say—if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.” Saint Louis de Montfort

“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” Sister Lucia of Fatima

“How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening.” Pope John Paul II

“The Rosary is a magnificent and universal prayer for the needs of the Church, the nations and the entire world.”
by Pope John XXIII

“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
by St. Josemaria Escriva

“When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: I love you! What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous, is Love.” Sr. Lucia of Fatima

Stay With Me Now Available!

Stay with Me front coverStay With Me, by Carolyn Astfalk, published by Full Quiver Publishing, is now available on Kindle. The print copy is available through Create Space.

With her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection.

Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse.

With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

“This is a warning: the book you hold in your hand is compelling and well-written and you may find it, as I did, impossible to put down. It’s a romance that’s not trashy in any way, one that illustrates what a novel of this sort should inspire in its reader. You’ll also be sharing this book with every woman you know!” Sarah Reinhard, author and blogger at

“A romance of rare quality. It takes you to the heart of passion, through various trials of a real life relationship, and into the power of sincere love. And it’s hilariously funny!”
A.K. Frailey, author, The Deliverance Trilogy

“… a beautiful Christian love story that will put a song in your heart. It will make you hungry for Rebecca’s bakery but also hungry for true love that can best be understood in light of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.” Theresa Linden, author The Liberty Trilogy

“… a poignant and believable love story about two young adults from very different backgrounds. The characters are richly depicted and memorable, including the secondary characters. The story is sprinkled with humor and contains the perfect balance of reality and sweetness and her writing entertains while radiating substance and depth. Stay With Me is a journey of discovery, forgiveness, and redemption—a beautiful journey of two hearts that long to beat as one.”
Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author, Frozen Footprints

“A tale packed with desire and determination, pain and longing, healing and hope, not to mention peopled with flesh-and-blood characters who sweep the reader away into a world we all know with struggles so much like our own, Stay With Me delivers the very best of the inspirational romance genre. Highly recommended!” Erin McCole Cupp, author, Don’t You Forget About Me

Here is the book trailer on FQP’s YouTube channel:

Buying options:

Stay With Me Kindle Edition

Stay With Me Print Edition on Create Space (it will be in paperback via Amazon soon)
Use Code B3E4E622 to get $2 off the cover price of the print edition on Create Space!

Love is Our Mission – World Meeting of Families and the Papal Visit #WMF2015

world-meeting-of-families-philadelphia-2015-logoThe World Meeting of Families was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it. I was there as an exhibitor, but I also attended some of the keynote presentations as well as the daily Masses. Over 20,000 attended the huge event in Philadelphia, which ended with the Festival of Families on Saturday and the Papal Mass on Sunday. Worshipping, interacting and networking with fellow Catholics was edifying and inspiring. I made many new friends and connected with old ones!

High points:

Papal Mass
We got up early and were fortunate to be in the first section behind the seats. Security was tight on both the train and at the security checkpoints in Philly (they even carefully checked the religious sisters behind us). It was the first time I ever saw the Ben Franklin Bridge with no cars on it! IMG_1288

This wasn’t my first Papal Mass. My family and I attended the World Youth Day Mass with John Paul II in 2002 in Toronto. Attending an outside Mass with nearly a million others is wonderfully exhilarating!

This year, we had a pretty good view of the altar (until they put a tent up! Evidently, the organizers thought it might rain so they put a tent over the instruments…they also didn’t realize it would obstruct the crowd’s view of the altar. Thankfully, after the crowd chanted “Move that tent” loudly several times, they eventually took the tent down!)

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

My husband got this wonderful photo of Pope Francis in his Popemobile.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Meeting (or seeing again):

Christopher West

Christopher West, author and speaker (Theology of the Body Explained, Good News About Sex and Marriage)

Jason Evert, popular chastity speaker (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

Jason Evert, popular author and chastity speaker,  (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

With Dr. Janet Smith! Years ago, I gave her copies of Emily's Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

With Dr. Janet Smith, author and speaker. Years ago, I gave her copies of my first two novels, Emily’s Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

Our diocese’s former bishop, Archbishop Richard Smith (third from left, back row), was sitting behind our group at Mass on Friday!

So many priests and religious on fire for their faith!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of them was Sr. Ellen (from Ottawa!)

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily's Hope for her and all the sisters!

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily’s Hope for her and all the sisters!

Catholics from all over the world!
We met this wonderful priest and another man from Nigeria!IMG_1158

A fellow CCL teaching couple from India!

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Courage International Team
(I’ve talked to the wonderful team of Courage International over the phone several times but have never met any of them!)

With the wonderful team at Courage International

With the wonderful team at Courage International

I loved when attendees came up to my husband to tell him they recognize him from his cartoon!

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

I met four adult women shorter than me and one adult man!
(Sorry, no photos. You’ll have to take my word for it!)

I loved seeing so many people I already know!

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

Each Daily Mass was trilingual:
English, Spanish and Vietnamese. With the Mass booklet, I could actually follow along in other languages.Mass booklet

I enjoyed attending Mass with 17,000 fellow CatholicsIMG_1183

Catholic Writers Guild Booth
I was at the World Meeting of Families representing the Catholic Writers Guild. I spoke to many people who were either interested in writing or knew other Catholic writers who might want to join. I gave away many brochures, booklets and business cards and I think CWG gained nearly 20 members!IMG_1152

Cool architecture and artwork! IMG_1199

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Low Points

Early Shutdown of the Exhibitor Hall
Although the exhibitor hall was scheduled to be opened until one p.m. on Friday, we were informed at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon that we would need to shut our booth down by 6:00 p.m. and that the exhibitor hall would be closed on Friday because of “security concerns.” We wound up spending the last hour trying to give away books and taking down our booth. Since we had taken the Speedline in the morning, we had no car available. My husband and I are especially thankful to friends from our diocese for helping carry all the stands and books ten blocks to the Speedline! (Thank you, Dan, Kelsey, Grace, Chris, Yvette and Irene!) Also thanks to my sister, Laurie, and her friend, George, for helping carry items. We would never have been able to take down the booth and get the materials back to my sister’s place without everyone’s assistance!

Unfortunately, because of this early shut down, many of the attendees didn’t have an opportunity to browse the exhibitor hall. (I myself was waiting until Friday to purchase tee shirts and other items for Christmas gifts.) Many exhibitors lost money because of the early closure.

Narrow hallways
One of the main exits from the large conference room used for Mass and keynote presentations exited into a very narrow hallway. 15,000 people trying to squeeze into this narrow hallway was challenging at best. After Mass and keynotes, it often took half an hour just to exit. Anyone with claustrophobia must’ve had a difficult time.

I was told that a few FEMEN demonstrators tried to draw attention to themselves in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on one of the days (but I didn’t see them). As well, another attendee told me that several same sex couples attended one of the breakout sessions on Marriage and confronted the speakers.

There was too much packed into three and a half days. It began with Mass at 8:30 a.m., one or two keynote presentations and many, many breakout sessions, and ended at 6:00 p.m. We were commuting back and forth from New Jersey via the PATCO Speedline so that made the schedule a bit more challenging. (Although I must commend the PATCO people during the weekend of the Papal visit. Trains were frequent and PATCO employees were very courteous and helpful!

Disneyland Atmosphere
There was a bit of a Disneyland Atmosphere even at Mass, although this is understandable given the once-in-a-lifetime event for most of the people attending.

Communion at Papal Mass
While there seemed to be enough priests giving out the Eucharist at the Papal Mass, there was no organized way to receive. The priest came to the fence and immediately hundreds of people descended to that area without forming any lines. It was haphazard at best. A few times, I thought I was going to be crushed. I realize that perhaps they didn’t have enough volunteers to organize the lines for communicants, but this was the only aspect of the Papal Mass that seemed disorganized.

All in all, however, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend! Both my husband and I had a wonderful — if not exhausting — time! Check out more photos on my Instagram page.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach #WMF2015 #popeinphilly #worldmeeting2015

Four Foot Nine Is the Magic Number

Disney.0Many years ago, James and I were watching the news and the commentator was talking about the new Ministry of Transportation rules here in Canada for children sitting in the front seat. “Children must be four feet nine and over to sit in the front seat.” The commentator went on to inform listeners that anyone who did not comply with the new rules would be slapped with an expensive fine. With new technologies and powerful air bags, it was obvious that the Ministry wanted to protect children. At the time, my height was (and still is) four feet nine inches tall (which I’m told is the average height of a ten year old).

I turned to my husband and said, “How do they expect me to drive from the back seat?” We laughed about it, then I realized, “Uh-oh. Maybe I’m not allowed to drive.” A quick call to the Ministry confirmed that it would not be against the law if I continued to drive, nor would I be given any fine. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Later, there was an ad campaign in the United States (see photo) saying that kids needed to be four feet nine or taller in order to be out of a booster seat. So when I saw this particular photo, I laughed out loud. Of course, I think it’s pretty neat that my height is a magic number.

It isn’t, of course, the magic number when I’m in the grocery store or a department store. Usually, at least once a week, it’s necessary for me to ask a kind tall person to reach something on a high shelf. Other than unreachable groceries, however, I enjoy being short, especially now that I’m older.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

SQT Friday – Busy Week Ahead

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

It’s been a busy month and is about to get busier!

1. World Meeting of Families
I am heading down to Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families, then I’m planning to attend the Papal Mass on Sunday, September 27. I’ll be mostly in the Exhibit Hall at Booth 747, manning the Catholic Writers Guild Booth. Please pray for a safe trip for us and all the attendees and pilgrims! If you’re attending, stop by and say hello!world-meeting-of-families-philadelphia-2015-logo

2. Stay With Me Kindle Edition Available for Pre-Order
Carolyn Astfalk’s novel, Stay With Me (Kindle Edition) is now available for pre-order. The print and Kindle editions will be available on October 1!
Stay with Me front cover

3. Stay With Me Novel Web Page
And take a look at the updated novel web page.

4. Fast4Francis
I’m participating in Fast4Francis, a fasting novena hosted by Live the Fast. Today is Day One! For more information, click here.

5. Instagram Page
I’m pretty new to Instagram, but if you’re on there, please follow me and I will usually follow back! I will be posting photos from the World Meeting of Families and other Papal activities.

6. Reading/Review/Book Shelf
Fast with the Heart – Fr. Slavko Barbaric
Word by Word: Slowing Down With The Hail Mary (Sarah Reinhard, editor) I contributed a story to this book! Now available for pre-order!

7. Man UP Cartoon

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (all rights reserved, please do not use without permission)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (all rights reserved, please do not use without permission)