Author Interview: Taylor Bennett (Porch Swing Girl)

Anyone here a fan of Christian contemporary?

Taylor Bennett is the author of the young adult Tradewinds series, a Christian contemporary series set in one of the most fascinating places in the world: Hawaii. So far her debut novel Porch Swing Girl and its sequel, Sand Castle Dreams, have been published with Mountain Brook Ink, and Mele Kalikimaka, a Christmas novella, is coming out this November.

I got to ask Taylor a few interview questions for this blog, so without further ado…

How did God inspire you to write YA Christian contemporary?

Taylor: As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to contemporary or “realistic” genres. That was fine as long as I was young. Most middle-grade books don’t have a lot of questionable content! (Or at least they didn’t a decade ago…) However, as I got older and dove into mainstream YA fiction, I could rarely find a book to read that didn’t have a lot of “junk” in it. So, taking a cue from one of my favorite quotes by author Beverly Cleary, I decided to write the books that I wanted to see on my shelf! I didn’t set out to write Christian YA contemporary, but through the writing process I found that faith and creativity are inseparable. As I wrote the book that would become my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, I discovered the Lord had a message that He wanted me to share with the whole world! Now I am always on the lookout for ways to infuse my writing with His truth.

Looking around at the books mainstream YA has set out for us, it’s not hard to agree with that. Great answer, and a lot of young writers can learn from that nowadays! Which author or authors inspired you to write Porch Swing Girl?

Taylor: Ooh, there were several (including Jeanne Birdsall and Ann M. Martin, who wrote two of my favorite series of all time!) but one really stands out: Heather Vogel Frederick. She wrote the Mother-Daughter-Book-Club series (ANOTHER favorite-series-of-all-time) and her writing style has influenced me greatly.

The funny thing is, I accidentally “stole” something from her series to use in my Tradewinds series!! In one of her books, Heather introduces a pizza-delivery place called Pirate Pete’s Pizza. And…well, I guess it’s a chain, because good ‘ol Pirate Pete (or at least his pizza!) shows up in my storyworld!! I realized the copycat mistake AFTER the book’s publication and emailed Heather about it. Thankfully she told me that my characters could eat there whenever they wanted! 😉

Jeanne Birdsall’s books are amazing, and I grew up with Ann M. Martin’s stories! I’ve never read Heather Vogel Frederick, but I should so I can see the Pirate Pete thing. xD What do you think is the trademark element most unique to your works (something with which readers can identify you throughout the world of fiction)? 

Taylor: Hmmm…maybe the fact that my characters are always eating, LOL! I’m a huge foodie, so I always like to throw in references to my favorite foods—and recipes in the back of the book!

In all seriousness though, I think readers can identify my work by the way I strive to create a sense of place. Whether a scene takes place in a dusty closet at night or a crowded beach in the middle of the afternoon, I want readers to feel fully immersed in the setting. My goal is to describe things so that people reading my books will feel as though they’re watching a movie in their heads!

I could learn a lesson from that… *cough* And everyone loves food descriptions in books– no kidding, Taylor’s foodie account on Instagram has the most scrumptious photos, and I love checking out cultural cuisine from anywhere… aaaand I’m getting distracted. So my last question is: One piece of advice in regards to writing good, wholesome fiction in a world overpopulated by dark stories? 

Taylor: Find the light.

Find the good.

Open your eyes to the world around you and see everything for what it is—beautifully set in place by the One true Creator. Live out your own story—one filled with joy and wonder, and learn to find peace even in the middle of life’s darkest storms. Embrace the life you live, and see it for what God intended it to be: a masterpiece.

Beautiful answer! I love how it matches our hopes on this blog perfectly. This not only applies to life, but it’s an important truth in the art of storytelling, and art is all about sharing the truth in the most creative of ways. Thank you so much for answering these questions, Taylor!

That’s all for today, book-lovers! See you next time around 🙂

Until then,

The Secret to Writing the Perfect Novel

There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, there will always be flaws. Try as you might, but you will never write the perfect novel. But you can write a book that becomes everyone’s favorite. A book that spams all book blogs, booktube channels, and bookstagram. You can write a book that changes lives and inspires others.

That all sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? But first, let’s back up a few steps and see how to become a bestselling author.

First, you need a have an idea of what you want to write. Will it be a fluffy romance with sunsets, or is a gritty adventure where your characters are fighting the government? Doesn’t matter, as long as you have an idea to work off of.

I always say, write the book you’d want to read. If you want to read a book about a gypsy with a passion for ballet, go write a story about it. That’s best way to stay interested in your current writing project.

Figure out the setting of the story and where everything will happen. You may be creating a completely new world, or just settling for plain ole earth. Make sure your story has a beginning, middle, climax, and ending. Add some conflict and drama, and you have a complete plot.

Next, get yourself some characters. Maybe they’ll find you or you’ll find them. The two most valuable people a story can have is the antagonist and the protagonist.

The protagonist is your good guy and who the story’s main focus will be on. Your entire story will be centered around the protagonist trying to reach their goal and something/s getting in the way. If you want to write a hard-hitting book, pit the character’s own fear against them.

The antagonist is your bad guy. He’s going to be one of things getting between the protagonist and their goal. Just please don’t make this guy a cold-hearted killer without a motive.

I cannot stress this enough. Give him a reason to be evil. There are countless reasons to be evil. He could be getting revenge after the death of a loved one, it could be his legacy, or he could just be power hungry after a childhood of neglect. The possibilities are endless!

If you write relatable characters, that will check a box in the secret to writing a good book.

The next big step to writing your perfect novel: finishing the first draft. That is far by the hardest thing a writer can do. The first draft is where you have fun and write what comes to your mind. There is no second guessing in draft 1, only looking forward.

“But,” you may be saying, “then the book will be terrible if I don’t go back and edit.” And you’re true. The book will be awful if you never go back and edit things.

So go back and check grammar, spelling, and any inconsistencies you may have. Make sure the novel flows well. Fill the plot holes with noveling goodness and enjoy the process of untangling the endless string of subplots.

The last thing you need is a chill playlist to listen to, friends who spend all night texting you, and a place where you can put your work out for the world to see.

Whether you’re thinking of traditionally publishing, self-publishing, or just putting your novel up on a website, it’s up to you. But I can almost guarantee there are people out there waiting for someone to write a book about gypsies and ballet.

So go and write that best-seller and fulfil your dreams.

I want to thank everyone that showed up for the launch and those who signed up for the blog tour. Sign-ups are still open, so if you’re interested make sure to check it out.

Also, happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians! I hope you enjoy the turkey.

Have a lovely day everyone,

Story of the Season: Writing Contest for Fall 2019!

Every season we hold a writing contest with different types of prompts each time. For fall 2019, we put together graphics with story prompts on them. This season’s story judges are those of us on our team, as well as Abigail Harder, who will judge at every contest.

To enter this contest, you must use one or more of the prompts below in a short story.

Prompt 1
Prompt 2
Prompt 3
Prompt 4

Story Guidelines

Short stories submitted to Tales of the Lonely Sun for any contest must follow all guidelines listed below. Please review these guidelines carefully before submitting; we don’t want to turn your story down! That can only be avoided if you make sure your story meets these specifications.

For submission, your story must…

  • Be at a maximum of 5,000 words. All of us have lives and busy schedules, and we’d rather not go through hundreds of pages of work! Writing a great story under a low word count is part of the challenge.
  • Follow the guidelines for the Lonely Sun emblem. Our goal is to spread stories with hope, not doom. While we have nothing against dark stories in general, we do not accept them if they are purely grim and dark and contain no mention or possibility of hope.
  • Be CLEAN. We do not accept stories with explicit or inappropriate content. We expect all stories submitted to be family-friendly, which means no language, graphic violence, or innuendos.

How to Submit:

  • When you finish writing your story, email us at
  • Make sure the subject of your email is “Short Story Submission.”
  • Your email can include a Google Doc link, a PDF or simply the text of your short story, but however you submit it, make sure it is something we can access!

This season’s prizes are the choice to judge at the next contest– a prize that will be offered for every contest– and getting the winning story published on our blog.

Entries must be submitted by November 17th. The winner will be announced in mid-December.

We can’t wait to read all of your entries! Happy writing!

~ The Tales of the Lonely Sun team

Welcome to Tales of the Lonely Sun!

Hello and welcome!

Tales of the Lonely Sun is a blog for writers and readers who want to celebrate the light that literature can spread rather than the darkness that is so prevalent in today’s world. It is run by Carlye Krul, Merie Shen, Jorja Ayres, and Mya Gray. We are all teenagers, followers of Jesus, avid readers, and fiction writers. You can expect posts about writing and reading as well as author interviews/guest posts twice a week.

To help you get to know us better, we put together this ten-question Q&A:

Q&A About Us

What is your name and 5 words that describe you?

Jorja: My name is Jorja Ayres (pronounced Georgia Airs) and 5 words that describe me are: talkative, perfectionist, unique, tall and a total fangirl. 

Carlye: My name is Carlye Krul. I would probably describe myself as thoughtful, a daydreamer, patient, passionate, and organized.

Mya: My name is Mya Gray. I would call myself quiet, creative, a daydreamer, bookish, and a hermit.

Merie: My name is Merie Shen. Five words that describe me? Introvert, artist, dreamer, storyteller, and spy. Or fairytales. Either one of those last ones work.

Are you a morning or night person?

Jorja: Night person all the way. I would wake up at noon and go to bed at 3 am every day if I could.

Carlye: I’m definitely a night owl. Night time is when I thrive and feel productive. It’s always so quiet and calm and I can be alone.

Mya: Definitely a night person. I don’t like to sleep. I’d rather stay up all night reading or writing. #sleepisfortheweak 

Merie: SLEEP IS NOT FOR THE WEAK Sleep is healthy and that’s why I wake up at 7-8 a.m. every morning because I like it.

What’s your MBTI type?

Jorja:  Every time I take the official MBTI test I get a different result, but I think that I am an ISTJ. I like practical applications and clear guidelines. Sometimes I’m more of an INFJ, though, depends on the day. I am also an ambivert, I’m somewhere between the introvert and extrovert sides of the spectrum. I prefer time one on one or in small groups with close friends to being alone or being in large groups of people.

Carlye: I’m an INFJ and an introvert. I love to be alone in quiet places with a book and music playing opposed to being out on the town with a crowd of people. I’m not comfortable around large groups of people- or even smaller groups and prefer to be alone by myself. I always care for other people before myself, which isn’t always good. I also tend to spend more time in my head than in reality. 

Mya: I’m an INFP-T and 100% an introvert. xD I do not at all enjoy social gatherings… they exhaust and frighten me. I’d rather spend time alone or with one or two close friends. 

Merie: INFJ-introvert. But, like, I’m a different person from Carlye, so don’t get us confused. Even though we do occasionally say and think the same things at the same time. It’s creepy but true.

Movie you could rewatch a million times?

Jorja: Tangled, no question. It embodies my love of fairy tales and Disney, and the character development is to die for. 

Carlye: Either Lord of the Rings because Legolas and Aragorn, or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time because Dastan was my first movie character crush and my older sister never lets me forget it.

Mya: I don’t like movies… but a show I could rewatch a million times is Stranger Things. ❤

Merie: … Kung Fu Panda 2?

What/who got you into reading and writing? 

Jorja: Probably my mom. She has always been a reader and she read books with me from a very young age. Reading has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I can’t really imagine my life without it.

Carlye: I don’t really know who got me into reading, I’ve always loved books. I remember in Kindergarten I wasn’t good at reading and was jealous of a girl who could read. In Grade one I started reading the old Nancy Drews. It snowballed from there and now I can’t go a day without reading.

Mya: I’ve always liked reading, but Keeper of the Lost Cities is what turned me into a book-devouring fangirl. It was then I started shipping characters, creating fan art and fan fiction, and eagerly awaiting sequels. That was when books became a huge part of my life. I was inspired to write my first book because of Keeper of the Lost Cities.

Merie: We had these Korean fairytale picture books that I loved when I was a little kid. Ever since I’ve had a soft spot for fairytales, which is how Shannon Hale’s Ever After High trilogy got me into both reading and writing. 

Favourite books/ series and favourite authors?

Jorja: Tough question. I love the Lunar Chronicles, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Heist Society, and Stargirl to name a few. My top three authors are Marissa Meyer, Shannon Messenger, and Ally Carter.

Carlye: Um… why do we pick such tough questions? I really like Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Kiki Strike trilogy by Kristen Miller, Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon, and any book written either by Sara Ella, Andrew Klavan, or Evan Angler..

Mya: My favorite book (and series) is Keeper of the Lost Cities. Some other favorites are Lockwood and Co, Out of Time, Percy Jackson, The Lunar Chronicles, and In 27 Days. 

Merie: That’s actually an impossible question, since I can never choose favorites, but I’ll say that I love Redwall, the Ever After High trilogy, Foxcraft, the Infidel Books, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the Anne of Green Gables books, The Westing Game, and the Mission League series. Author favorites are anything by Nadine Brandes, Kyle Robert Shultz, Melanie Cellier, Lewis Caroll, and of course, C.S. Lewis. (I’m probably forgetting someone, but who cares.)

Favorite quote from a book?

Jorja: This one depends on my mood or what I am currently reading. As of right now I love “She was a girl. A living girl, smart and sweet and awkward and unusual, and she was worth far more than they could ever realize.” from Cress by Marissa Meyer. 

Carlye: I don’t have a specific quote, but maybe “Quiet people keep their secrets to themselves. That’s what makes them interesting…and usually worth the wait.” from Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kristen Miller

Mya: I don’t know what my favorite quote from a book is, but this is a bookish quote I’ve been loving lately: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

Merie: This kind of question always gets me. I never think about bookish quotes… but I do know that the famous C.S. Lewis once said: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a children’s story in the slightest.” He also said: “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”

Planner or Pantser when it comes to writing? 

Jorja: I’m a plantser, so somewhere between the two. I write an outline and then as I write a better story usually emerges so I change the outline and continue on from there. I change my outline a lot. 

Carlye: Planner all the way. I love lists, charts, and just organization in general. I do let my story go where it wants to go, but within limits. It’s just how it works. 

Mya: I’m also a plantser. I brainstorm and write down notes or ideas before I start, but I end up changing a lot as I go. 

Merie: I can’t work without an outline, thank ya very much. I do a lot of story development while I’m writing, but I don’t really change it– so expect planning posts from this writer.

Book/s that made you cry?

Jorja: I don’t often cry when reading books, although I always feel very deeply, but I did cry when I reread Of Enemies and Endings by Shelby Bach for the fifth or sixth time. I’m not exactly sure why I cried but I did so I guess it counts. 

Carlye: I always don’t cry often while reading. I get sad and emotional over lots of books, but tears rarely roll down my cheeks. But I did cry when reading the ending of Champion by Marie Lu, Allegiant by Veronica Roth, and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

Mya: I cry during many of the books I read. I just deeply empathize with the characters and feel what they’re feeling, so I get really emotional while reading. Some of the books that made me cry the most were Lodestar by Shannon Messenger, Nightfall by Shannon Messenger, Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, Prodigy by Marie Lu, Champion by Marie Lu, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud, Unbreakable by Sara Ella, Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Hehe… Do you believe me now that I cry a lot during books?

Merie: I don’t like to waste my tears on fictional characters. #tearsarefortheweak (jk jk just getting back at you, Mya) 

What is your writing strength?

Jorja: My favorite part of the writing process is editing, and I like to think that I am pretty good at it. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” Editing is the part of writing where I can unleash my inner perfectionist and turn words on paper into a cohesive story and I think there is something beautiful about that. 

Carlye: I’m a very tough critic on myself, so I don’t think I have a writing strength. Maybe just how organized and through I am when writing, researching, and planning. (Jorja note: she’s being modest, Carlye is the most organized person I know) 

Mya: This is pretty specific, but I think one of my biggest writing strengths is conveying emotion. I love using description to make readers feel like they are there in the story. My characters are part of me and have real, vivid emotions that I pour out on the page. I hope my readers can relate to and empathize with them. I also love writing dramatic and suspenseful scenes. 😀

Merie: I’m probably best at looking at the ordinary and changing it into the extraordinary. No one likes to call something they wrote cliched, and I like finding ways to turn things around. That’s the reason why I am so passionate about worldbuilding, which is one of the most commonly overlooked factors of the writing world. I love seeing the richness and creativity of different peoples’ cultures, but too many books these days are lacking in that. And we certainly can’t have that, can we?

That wraps up our get to know you Q&A! We hope you guys enjoyed it! If you’re a blogger and are interested in being a part of the TotLS blog tour, click here.