Julie Carobini has a love affair with the sea, and it shows in her writing. She pens colorful and quirky characters in a setting full of sun, sand, and surf. But more importantly, she offers insight that will wash over you with encouragement and grace.

Put on your flip flops, grab a glass of your favorite iced tea, and settle in for an inspirational conversation.

I understand that you grew up in a “creative” family. Did you begin writing as a child?

Sort of. I remember my father praising something I wrote in 2nd grade. Then in middle school, I started writing a book, but never showed it to anyone. (I wonder if Mom knows? Probably. Moms know everything…)  Anyway, in high school I loved English and writing papers (believe it or not), so I think the writing thing has been with me for years.

What would you want to do if you didn’t write books?

Hmm. Well, I also run a small online beach shop, so I’d love to travel the world looking for sea-inspired treasure to fill it  : )

What was your big break as a writer and how did it come about?

I’m a long time article writer, with hundreds of stories in print. In between, I wrote a couple of romances that didn’t sell. I gave up fiction. All that rejection took its toll, and I decided not to write for a while. Instead, I took a part time job with my church.

But just weeks after starting my new job, an editor I knew saw an interview of me in The Christian Communicator and asked if I had anything to submit. I laughed. I nearly said, ‘no,’ because the one book that vaguely fit their guidelines had been written so long before. But I sent it in and waited. A fiction editor at that house kindly reviewed it, rejected it, but also gave me valuable feedback. Although they weren’t interested in that book, she invited me to submit another proposal.

It took another year, but I wrote the proposal for Chocolate Beach, took it to the Mentoring Clinic at Mt. Hermon to get the kinks out of it, then submitted it to that same editor. There was quite a bit of back and forth (i.e., they asked for more chapters, and I quickly wrote and sent them) before I finally heard they wanted it. And then I cried!

How does your faith play into your writing?

Instead of focusing only on their physical, emotional, and intellectual lives, I’m allowed to discuss the spiritual aspects of my characters as well. So much more realistic, don’t you think? I love that as I’m writing that spiritual dimension of my character’s life, God is often working on me too. My characters and I learn so much together  : )

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

Several times really, but one particular time actually put me on the path toward faith-inspired fiction. My first husband left me while I was very young. Like a couple of my characters have done during tough times, I picked up and moved to a new town. In my case, that move more than twenty years ago plopped me right into a job working with a bunch of—praying Christians!

My fledgling faith became renewed, and then I hit a new snag when days later I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, it was benign. But it was during those first dark days and through weeks of recovery from surgery that my faith blossomed. I no longer cared to write the kind of fiction I read as a young adult, but instead, wanted to write something that contained the hope-filled faith that I was beginning to understand. So, although this particular detour, like all detours, was unexpected, it’s had long-reaching effect on my writing life—and beyond.

What advice would you give to unpublished writers?

God took all the lows and highs in my life and created something new with them. Believe me when I tell you that I had no plans of my own to write beach-themed novels one day. I just kept praying and writing and seeking until an idea popped into my head. I followed that idea, and now find myself writing my fifth novel filled with ‘waves of grace’. So pray, learn, don’t get tossed to and fro with too much advice, and try to have fun while writing and playing the waiting game. Hope this encourages you!

Let’s talk about your books! Sweet Waters (B&H Publishing Group) was recently announced as a finalist for the prestigious American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award. Congratulations! Please tell us a little about the book.

Thank you very much! I’m honored that Sweet Waters has been named a finalist!

Sweet Waters tells the story of sensible Tara Sweet, a woman hoping that moving back to the California coast her family left years before will lead to the fairytale she remembered. But Tara discovers fairy tales are fragile—and truth is often one ugly layer after another of secrets, accusation, rumor, and a past an entire church wants to forget. Enter Josh Adams, a rugged firefighter battling his own demons. Soon they find themselves at odds with their families, their faith, the townspeople of Otter Bay—and each other. Only in facing the lies from the past can they find the truth.

A Shore Thing (B&H Publishing, July 2010) was released a few weeks ago. Please tell us about it.

Sure! A Shore Thing is the story of Callie Duflay and her fight to stop a huge development from taking over her beloved beach front town of Otter Bay—even as romantic sparks fly with Gage, the architect on the job. Full of small town politics, quirky characters, craggy tidepools—and romance!

Where do you get ideas for your books? Do your characters or your plots usually come first?

My books are character driven first. Those are the kinds of books I like to read, so I think it’s natural to set out to write them as well. Once I have a character in mind—in the case of Callie an eco-friendly gal who loves to stay busy with local causes—then I play the ‘what-if’ game. I loved the conflict between Gage and Callie. Both want the same thing—to protect the land of Otter Bay—but each goes about it in a different way. As a certified Green architect, Gage envisions a sustainable, eco-friendly project, while Callie thinks the land should stay free from any building at all. How will these two ever find common ground ….?  : )

Your books have a “beach” theme, and you have a cool little “beach shop” on your website (http://www.juliecarobini.com/beach-shop/). How did that come about?

There’s an absolutely cute store in downtown Ventura that I drool over on a regular basis. The proprietor stocks all my favorite beachy items, and I’ve always thought that if my writing career were to go south, I’d like to buy her shop from her. LOL

After a while I thought why not branch out and open an online shop of my own? My store is very small, although I hope to grow it, but it gives me the ability to dabble in a natural outgrowth of my writing brand: faith, flip flops, and waves of grace. I also love that I can use some of its income to support one of my favorite causes: Compassion International. In addition to the address above, visitors can also reach my store by simply typing: www.juliesbeachshop.com.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Anything Mexican. I live in California where it’s plentiful—plus my dad’s Mexican—so it’s a mainstay. Just last week I made two trays of enchiladas, and I kept noshing on the leftovers all week. LOL

This website features writers as well as musicians. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

No way! But my family is full of musicians. My cousin Dan Navarro is a longtime song writer and singer. His most famous hit is We Belong (sung by Pat Benatar). Another accomplished cousin is guitarist Dave Navarro. Both daughters have sung in choirs, and my son plays guitar and leads worship at church. So bummed the musical gene skipped me!

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

I would be clever and catchy. Is that asking too much?

Are you a major or a minor chord?

Major. No question.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

Funny question. I’m a mix between the strong, female lead and the little girl trying to walk in high heels. Please don’t ask me to explain that. LOL

Your book, A Shore Thing, features a pooch named Moondoggy on the cover. Did a favorite pet inspire Moondoggy’s character? (If so/or if not, please tell us about your pets.)

Absolutely. We adopted a beagle mix named Charlie from our local shelter. Poor Charlie has so many fear-aggression issues, but we love him and work with him to help him heal. It just so happens that Moondoggy from A Shore Thing looks much like our Charlie. Hmm…

Thanks, Julie!

You’re welcome. Thank you for having me, Kathy!

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For more information about Julie, visit www.juliecarobini.com.

To purchase Julie’s books at Amazon, logon to http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Carobini/e/B001IU4UU2/ref=sr_tc_img_2_0?qid=1280715162&sr=1-2-ent.

To purchase Julie’s books at Barnes and Noble, logon to http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=julie+carobini.

To purchase Julie’s books at Christianbook.com, logon to http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find/1098808560?Ntt=julie+carobini&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCN&nav_search=1&cms=1&search=.