Tell us about your book.
Sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo wonders what it would be like to have a pair of ruby slippers.
“There’s no place like home. . .”
“There’s no place like home. . .”
“There’s no place like home.”
But then reality sets in, and Carmen concludes that ruby slippers are mere fiction. Constant prayers that her parents will patch things up remain unanswered. . .and her hurtful world becomes too much for her to bear. Trapped by resentment and anger, Carmen lashes out the only way she knows how and soon finds herself at a crossroads.
Will Carmen find the path to ultimate peace and contentment that her heart longs for?
Or will her troubled soul remain forever embittered?
Diamond Estates. Three girls are on a journey to find hope and healing. Each coming to Diamond Estates seeking solace… Each with her own unique set of struggles… And each capturing hearts and challenging the faith of teen girls.
What inspired this book?
This series is near and dear to my heart because much of it is pulled from real-life experiences I had as a resident of Teen Challenge when I was a teenager. I either took from my personal experiences or those of other girls who were in the TC program with me. I could probably fill six more books with what I saw and heard while I was there!
Are you a panster or do you outline?
I’m more of a three-steps-forward, two-steps-back kind of writer. I never work from an outline. I tried it once, and it just didn’t work for me at all. I felt claustrophobic and my characters felt stilted. I’ll write three chapters (approximately), then back up and fine-tune, edit, tweak. Then I’ll move ahead again, and back up again, overlapping with some of the work I’d previously edited. Doing it that way, I feel like I’m ale to let the characters drive the story, but I also have ample opportunity to layer in details and subplots without having to planning it all out ahead of time. I wind up with a fairly polished manuscript because I’ve gone over everything a few times in the process.
How long have you been writing?
You’ll see by the next question that it’s been a loooong time. It’s always been “my thing” but I didn’t pursue any kind of real publication until 2007. I wrote my first novel ever after I received a two-book contract. So, it’s been kind of a backward approach to the publishing industry. But that’s how I like to do things. Hee hee
What was the first book you ever wrote?
In third grade I wrote a book called The Girl On The Runaway Pogo Stick for a district-wide contest. I wrote the story and illustrated the pages in one of those black hardcover books you can buy. I won the contest and my book got put in all the libraries in my school district. Word is, it’s still there.
How do you get to know your characters?
I’m a big believer in letting the characters speak to me. I want them to tell me their stories. That’s probably the major reason that I’m not an outliner or plotter. I just prefer to learn from the characters as the story unfolds. When I feel like a character isn’t speaking to me, I do an in-depth interview to try to figure out what’s really going on.
What is your favorite thing to write about, (i.e., forgiveness, rebellion, etc)?
Issues. I’m told my books are edgy—but that’s not my goal. My passion is to expose issues and face peer pressure and other concerns, help readers see what consequences result from good or bad choices, and then reveal the truth found only in the grace of God.
Do you have a favorite recipe? If so would you like to share?
Carmen Castillo is the main character in The Embittered Ruby. She’s loves to cook and plans to go to culinary school. When I put together Novel Morsels, a collaborative cookbook made up of 120 recipes that show up in books or favorites of our characters by 65 authors, Carmen decided to share her chili recipe.
Super-Secret, Award-Winning Chili
The Embittered Ruby, Barbour Publishing April, 2011 Nicole O’Dell
“Okay. There’s only so much a man can take.” Billy barged into his bedroom.
“What?” Carmen sat up. “You said I could nap on your bed. Did I sleep too long?”
“No, silly. I’m talking about that pot on the stove. What is in there, and when can I eat it?”
“That’s what this is about?” Carmen threw a pillow at Billy.
“Well, you’re going to share, aren’t you?”
“Of course I will. It’s almost done.”
“That pot’s been simmering for two days. What’s in it?”
Carmen wiggled her eyebrows. “You’re in for a pot of the greatest award-winning chili known to man.”
“Mmm. I’m such a chili fan. I’ve been waiting to taste some of that awesome cooking I’ve been hearing about.”
Speaking of the pot on the stove, it was time to stir. “Come on.” Carmen led the way to the kitchen. She backed up to the counter and hopped up onto it, her piggy slippers dangling. She took the lid off the stockpot and stirred the simmering brew, breathing in the heady aroma of chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, and red pepper. To die for.
Carmen blew on a spoonful. “Here. Taste.”
Billy leaned forward and slurped the chili from the spoon. He closed his eyes and rolled his tongue around his mouth. “I think that’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s amazing.”
“Thanks.” She ladled a big scoop into a bowl, dumped oyster crackers on top, sprinkled some shredded cheese, and added a dollop of sour cream. “Now that is a bowl of chili.” She handed it to Billy and then made one for herself.
Billy sat at the dinette with his untouched food in front of him.
Carmen slid into her seat and poised her spoon above her bowl. “Go ahead. Eat.”
“This will sound weird, but I can’t eat without praying. Do you mind?” He took her hand and began to pray. “Heavenly Father. . .” Carmen guessed she didn’t mind, but how strange. Billy sure didn’t seem to be living like someone who prayed over every meal.
1 lb ground beef
1 can (1lb 13oz) tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 lg onion, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
2 to 3 cloves
1 lg cinnamon stick
(For my large family, and the guests with doggie bags, I usually do this recipe X 5.)
• brown beef, drain • add onion and green pepper • cook until onions and green peppers are translucent • add tomatoes and seasonings • Add cinnamon and cloves • simmer gently, at least two hours • add beans
Get ready for delicious smells to take over your house. Simmer it for as long as you can stand the wait! I don’t consider it ready until it sits in the fridge overnight and simmers for at least an hour the second day.
Ps, if you’d like your own free copy of the e-book, Novel Morsels, visit here and enter coupon code ‘nicoleodell’ at checkout! http://nicoleodell.com/parent-side/nonfiction/novel-morsels/
Thanks so much for having me!!
Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life's tough choices. She’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents helps pre-empt peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit www.nicoleodell.com for more info.
Nicole has offered one free book to a lucky winner. At least 10 people need to leave comments for there to be a contest OR you can email me at email@example.com and put "contest-ruby" in the subject line. Winner announced April 25th.