April 10, 2015
They sent 100s of colorful book-planning emails
Charlotte’s Hope has quite the back-story! Almost 8 years ago, three friends set out to write a book together. They emailed, met, brainstormed, laughed, disagreed, learned, discussed and re-wrote until they had a first draft---an exotic, sea-flavored tale with lots of adventure … and horses. They didn't really let anyone read it. A few years later at a “writers’ reunion,” they realized that this little story had potential. So they dusted it off, and began to revise. This undertaking lasted a couple more years. The last push began in the summer of 2014 to fine-tune, cover and publish Charlotte’s Hope.

 Are you wondering how in the world three teenage girls did this? So are they.

Today we have an interview with Abigail Prigge, Ashlyn Busenitz and Jana Busenitz. {It's written in three colors in honor of their signature colors used in the Charlotte's Hope brainstorming emails.}

Do you remember one distinct idea you personally contributed to Charlotte’s Hope?

Jana: I really don’t remember for sure! I think maybe it was my idea that they should live in British Guiana (now Guyana) and travel to Argentina.

Ashlyn: Honestly I don’t remember since we brainstormed together so much! But I guess I had the idea to add Miles as a character. And he was always Miles. I didn’t think, “Oh, we should add a young man to this to thicken the drama and hmmm . . . what should we name him?” It was just, “How about we add a young guy named Miles?”

Abi: *blush* I know I came up with several of the ridiculous names (like Hoose, Hernando and Hic). You’re welcome. I think I was under the impression that the more original the name, the better? Haha.  

What is one scene or character (that you were attached to) that was cut out for the book’s flow and purpose?

Jana: Originally the story began with Charlotte reading her Bible in the lush jungle garden of her home in British Guiana. There was even a monkey!

Ashlyn: A scene I wrote where Charlotte gave Miles her Bible:) 

Abi: Jana wrote the very first scene. It was Charlotte enjoying the exotic gardens of British Guiana and the sisters learn the news of the unexpected trip at tea time. It got the book off to a slow start, which is why we cut it, but oh how magical it was to read that very first scene and fall in love with the new characters and Charlotte’s homeland. 

What is one of your favorite writer’s meeting memories?

Jana: Laughing hysterically on the floor! I do remember one time in particular that Kristen and Makenzie interrupted a productive session with a hilarious mashup of quotes from the book. I also distinctly remember eating a chocolate-covered mint, but I can’t say it was one of my favorite memories:)

Ashlyn: I remember one meeting in particular when the weather was so nice we got stir crazy and took a walk to a shady bridge past Jana’s house. Jana and I were firing ideas so quickly and randomly that Abi started to panic. “What? So we are cutting Josephina? And why is Juan Rio taking the girls to a cove . . . and Miles is Mrs. Crawford’s son?!” I remember we tried to explain, but it was such a mess of ideas at that point we ended up laughing together. Makenzie and Kristen were looking bewildered and laughing at their silly sisters and friends! Abi kept us in line and the plot in order:) Jana kept us up to date with the research and had tons of crazy awesome ideas. We laughed A LOT and until our stomachs hurt so much we were laying on the floor – half in pain and half because we literally couldn’t stand anymore!

Abi: Our very first writer’s meeting was at Jana’s house. We drank delicious hot chocolate (made with milk!) and talked through the ideas we had only emailed about thus far. It’s when the pieces of the plot finally fell into place and the vision for this novel soared. 
 
Were all three of you in agreement all of the time?

Jana: No, but when we did disagree it seemed like it was usually over some silly thing like how a sentence should be worded! I am amazed to this day that we managed to agree enough to finish this book!

Ashlyn: It was more of a meshing of ideas . . . we did have opposite opinions too though.

Abi: Oh no. :) We each had strong preferences at times, and I think we all learned the importance of yielding our desires and working together to make this book a piece of each of us.

What is your favorite scene in the Charlotte’s Hope?

Jana: Probably the one where the three sisters work together to escape the Sea Serpent.

Ashlyn: I don’t have a favorite scene I guess, but a favorite thing is Grandfather Hoose’s famous saying, “Bless my buttons!”

Abi: I love all of Aunt Ana’s extravagant parties. I also love of all the scenes with the horses, because when I was 14 I was very horse crazy (and maybe I still am a little).

Who is your favorite character in Charlotte’s Hope?

Jana: Otis Piccadilly tickles my funny bone for some reason!

Ashlyn: Constance makes me laugh! She reminds me of my son Jackson who has to always be doing something and hates to be cooped up!

Abi: So I really like Tomas ever since the door flew open and he entered with wind-blown hair . . . :) Actually, I love the entire Delarosa family, especially Pedro and Francesca.  I also love how Clara is so dignified, yet easily flustered.

What is a scene you helped write?

Jana: Honestly, I really have no idea! We collaborated and edited each other’s scenes so much that it really is truly a hybrid! I’m pretty sure I wrote the first version on Constance’s rope trick on board the Annabelle.

Ashlyn: I helped write the opening scene;)

Abi: I wrote the first version of the girls choosing their new horses.

What is a writing lesson you learned on the journey?

Jana: Thanks to my sweet friends who gently encouraged me to cut the poisonous snake scene and the amputated arm scene, I think (I hope) I have learned to be slightly less melodramatic in my writing!

Ashlyn: Not to create stereotype characters. No one is the same all the time! We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Give characters layers like an onion. And I don’t mean be random . . . but people don’t always cry when they’re sad. Sometimes we hide or blame others. High-strung people like Constance aren’t ALWAYS that way. They feel other’s pain and are capable of comforting too. One more example – my writing coach Mr. Friesen said he was in a near crash once and immediately after he thought, “I’d like an egg sandwich for supper.” Crazy, right!?
 
Abi: There are SO many! It dawned on me how the possibilities are truly endless when you’re writing fiction. Jana and Ashlyn were not afraid of a thrilling, crazy plot twist. That's when I wanted to be more daring with my writing. :)    

What is a life lesson you learned on the journey?

Jana: I’ve learned that it really is OK for things to take time. With a little bit of discipline and a whole lot of grace, anything worth doing is possible!


Ashlyn: I mentioned before that I was pretty attached to the scene I wrote where Charlotte gave Miles her Bible. It was the original third chapter . . . and it got cut . . . a decision I agreed to as well, but it was hard to see it go. So I learned to work together with Jana and Abi and not be offended and to take criticism to achieve a higher goal – writing a book together while keeping true to the plot and theme. (I know Jana and Abi did the same:)
 
Abi: Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” As a trio of authors, we had a lot of interactions and the biggest lesson I learned was to filter my words to edify rather than hammer proofs to why MY opinions about Charlotte (or about life) were right. Humility, graciousness and a yielding of rights will take a project (or a friendship) far! Those little things we disagreed about don’t matter now. 
Charlotte’s Hope won’t last forever, but souls are eternal so I must use my words to invest in others. I love both Ashlyn and Jana dearly, and I’m so grateful for how they put up with me :) while I was learning such a hard lesson. 

What were some of the hurdles (big or small) to completing this project?

Jana: I would say the biggest hurdle to finishing this project (or any writing project for that matter!) is life! Life has a way of happening so fast and furious that even the best writing intentions can easily get lost and never completed. Charlotte’s 7-year journey is a great example of that. But with some perseverance (and not to mention a few prayers) Charlotte’s Hope is also proof that writing a book is possible even in the midst of not one, not two, but three crazy lives:)

Ashlyn: The redos!

Abi: In the early days, I can remember being quite mortified that someone’s siblings read our crazy, colorful emails over her shoulder. Haha!   
Sometimes we were so enthused about sharing our own persoanl writing projects, that it was hard to fit Charlotte into a writer's meeting.
Not only this, but a big hurdle was maybe when some of the writers *cough* fell in love? :)
So there was that.  But I am to "blame" as well--my senior year of highschool left little time for writer’s meetings, and then I moved across the country.
It’s not easy to stay passionate about one little plot/theme when God is constantly bringing NEW adventures into your life and teaching you amazing NEW truths about Him. 

What do you hope girls Charlotte’s age come away with after reading the book?

Jana: That honoring God is more important than anything else, and that He is worthy of our trust.

Ashlyn: That they would be encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ, reach out to others and to respect the authorities God has given them. Obedience equals true freedom!

Abi: The only solid foundation for our hope is in the Lord. A personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is the only way to find joy and purpose. Also, like Ashlyn put it, basic obedience to Him (even in hard ways—like honoring authorities/parents) is so worth it! 

What writing projects are you pursuing right now?

Jana: Completing Charlotte’s Hope has inspired me to finish other projects that I have started before beginning a new one. This takes discipline, because I have lots of ideas thumping around in my mind that I want to pursue! I’m working on releasing the second editions of both of my books, Faith in the Fury and Canyon of the Cross. I’m also working on releasing my first writing curriculum, How to Write an Essay in 45 Minutes. My biggest ongoing project is finishing Tara, my first real novel. It’s about an Irish orphan who finds herself on a cross-country journey to find the answers to life’s biggest questions. I’ve got my work cut out for me, don’t I?

Ashlyn: The only writing I’ve done recently was a Christmas newsletter and in my journal:)

Abi: I am in the process of producing the second edition of my novel One Summer’s Desire (it will be available by June 5, 2015, Lord willing!) I am super excited about the new cover, new characters and a few new scenes. I definitely have other projects in mind as well, so stay tuned! :)
~
I would like to thank Jana and Ashlyn for being with us today on the blog. I'm so grateful to have all those fun memories with you both. I'm also thankful for how the Lord used this process as a tool to encourage and challenge us in our own walks with Him. All the glory goes to Him!

And this interview would not be complete without a special thanks to our dedicated families who supported us through this endeavor -- by making us food, sharing the computer seat with us, making us laugh, providing distractions, reading our book, pointing our plot holes and loving us even though we are crazy writers.

Lastly, a huge thank you to the readers of Charlotte's Hope. Your feedback makes it even more worth it. You're the best!

Do you have any other questions for us? Please let us know in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them. 


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