Today we’re pleased to spend some time talking with Cali Black, author of Blue Skies, Blue Eyes and the soon-to-be-released sequel, The Game. Get comfortable as Cali shares some of her story with us.
Cali Black’s Book & Writing Process
Table of Contents
Q: What is the title of your book and what is it about?
The Game is book two in the Blue Sky Series. It is the continuing story of the Montana ranching family, the Wests. It is first and foremost a love story between Beau West and Maisie Ellison but as they grow closer and difficulties ensue, it also becomes a story of healing and transformation.
Publication date: April 28, 2023
Q: What genre is The Game?
A: Sweet Western Romance with faith themes
Q: What inspired you to write your book, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
A: Since The Game is book two in a series and focuses on the second brother, I was interested in developing a character that was quite different from book one. While the oldest child is often responsible and achievement-oriented, which certainly described Clay in Blue Skies, Blue Eyes. Younger siblings are sometimes identified as those who don’t conform and play by their own rules.
In Beau’s case, I took that concept a step further and brought in a backstory of rebellion against his family’s values that impacted his relationships into adulthood.
I love transformation stories and I love the idea that sometimes change doesn’t happen until our back is against the wall. The moment we think all is lost is oftentimes God’s greatest moment. I wanted to incorporate that into this book.
In the case of the heroine, I wanted her feisty enough to deal with Beau, but broken enough to have her own arc of development as she gained strength and insight into herself.
Q: What scene was the hardest one to write and why?
A: There were a couple of scenes between Beau and Maisie’s father, Sonny, that really pulled at my own heartstrings. The parent-child relationship is so special.
Without giving spoilers, I’ll just say that In the story there are so many deep dynamics around the subject of her father that those scenes went straight to the heart for me.
Whether the story makes you think of your own life situation or if you can just imagine someone going through something similar, I think that part of The Game has universal appeal. The scenes with Sonny are some of my favorites.
Q: What are some themes and tropes that are included in your book?
A: Bad Boy Transformation, the Prodigal Son, Healing, Restoration, Sacrificial Love
Q: Who is the ideal reader for this book?
A: Someone who loves contemporary westerns and who has a good sense of humor, but who also enjoys the deeper stirrings of a story about faith and forgiveness.
Q: What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from reading your book?
A: God is always at work in people’s lives, even when all evidence may point to the contrary.
Q: Share a favorite quote or two from this book.
A: “We’re both broken, baby. Just for different reasons.”
“Maisie West, this is your land.”
Q: Plotter or pantser? Share a bit of your writing process.
A: I am a total pantser. I don’t know the plot or the characters until I start writing. I often don’t have a good grasp on who they are until chapter 8 or 9 and then need to go back and adjust their dialogue and actions in the early chapters to make things smooth.
I write in chapter order. I don’t skip around. I like to write it “clean” the first time so I don’t have to rewrite or go back to certain passages.
That is not to say I don’t extensively edit, but I don’t like leaving holes or unfinished passages. I write it straight through as close to a final product as I can get it and then I go back for two or three full read-throughs and edit.
I give it to beta readers, fix their corrections, read it through again and edit it, and then send it off to the editor. I fix the editor’s corrections and read it through two more times before giving it to the ARC reviewers. I fix anything they found and read it one more time before publishing.
I also do a full read-through of my proof copy and correct any errors I find while reading in book format.
Q: What does a typical writing session for you look like?
A: Haha. Well, I don’t have formal “sessions.” I write on the notes in my phone and then email everything to myself chapter by chapter. I write anywhere and everywhere, especially while waiting for my kids at basketball practice or any other event.
I write a lot in the middle of the night or sometimes in the early morning before the family wakes up.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing? How did you (do you plan to) overcome it?
A: The most challenging aspect for me has been networking and marketing. I think it is the case for many authors that I am a bit of an introvert. It is not comfortable to promote oneself and yet it is a necessary part of the job.
The learning curve associated with different platforms and tools is steep, especially at the beginning, and it is easy to become overwhelmed. I have had to work on two mindsets:
- Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. Accept that. and
- Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Put yourself out there. Be ok with the fact that it is your starting point, and then learn and grow.
Practice really does bring about progress. I do a lot of reminding myself of how far I have come in the past 6 or 12 or 24 months versus how far I may still have to go.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I’m not sure I know that yet. I like the creative control – making up places and storylines and characters. I also like weaving deeper, surprising threads that may surprise or inspire someone.
I don’t know where my writing is going, but it surely feels good when a reader says they related to something or found encouragement in one of my characters. That’s motivation to keep crafting stories.
Cali Black’s Writing Advice
Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out?
A: Don’t worry about the shoulds. There are too many of them. Get your story out of your heart and onto paper and then find people to help you refine it so that you can share it with others.
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received? How has it impacted your life?
A: Emotionally: If you are writing, then you are an author. Period. It’s hard for some of us to call ourselves that, but the term is not linked to publication or financial reward, it is linked to sitting down and putting words on paper. If you do that, you’re an author.
Technically: Write in scenes, not in timelines. Readers don’t have to know everything that happened between Monday and Wednesday. Pick a few key moments or important events and go deeper into them. Let the readers feel like they are experiencing it.
Q: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Why do you think this was not good advice?
A: I’m not sure I’ve received BAD advice, just advice that doesn’t work for me. Finding my voice and the confidence to write the book the way I want it has been a confidence challenge for me.
People can become very hung up on the “rules” of writing whether it be plot development or starting or stopping at a certain point. As a new author, those comments can be scary because it makes you think no one will read or enjoy your book.
The truer fact is that not everyone is your reader, but there are people who will LOVE your book and be totally fine with your out-of-the-box creative choices. Don’t give the naysayers too much power.
Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your author career, what would it be and why?
A: I would have started writing sooner! Lol. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?
Q: What is one writing resource that you couldn’t do without?
A: My online thesaurus. Wow, do I use that thing!
Just for Fun
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?
A: Hmmm. Superpowers. I’d love to be able to teleport places. Southern California traffic is a real drag.
Q: If you were not a writer, what would you want to be and why?
A: I’d love to be a singer and I think it’s for the same reason I like writing. Storytelling and moving people’s hearts and emotions.
Q: What are you reading?
A: The proof copy of my own book! Haha. The most recent book I finished was Accidentally My Cowboy by Kristine W. Joy
Q: What’s the one question you wish I’d asked and how would you answer it?
A: Does the money matter? Yes and no. I didn’t start out doing this for money at all, but with the amount of time I am spending on it, at some point it would be nice to have a regular income (not even full-time, just regular) in order to justify the time spent.
Let’s Connect with Cali Black!
Q: What are you working on next?
A: Once I publish The Game on April 28, I go into extensive edits of book three, The Perfect Storm.
I am writing Imposter, book three of my Nashville series which will hopefully start releasing in 2024.
And I am also writing Fake Engagement at the Rusted K, which is book two of a series I am releasing in my newsletter to thank my subscribers for their support.
About The Game
14 Days, 3 rules each, 1 kiss…
With the Grand Opening of the Blue Sky Lodge two months away, Beau West agrees to help his brother, Clay prepare for the big day. When he meets the beautiful new Activities Director at the first staff meeting, Beau wastes no time letting her know he’s interested. To his shock and amusement, she’s less than impressed.
Even though Maisie Ellison secretly thinks the contractor is handsome, hardworking, and hilarious, she does her best to keep him at arm’s length. With a new job, a sick father to provide for, and a couple of bad relationships in her rearview, his fast-moving, smooth-talking ways are the last thing she needs distracting her.
Convinced he can change her mind, Beau proposes a game. For fourteen days he’ll help her vet the activities that the lodge will be offering to the families. During that time, if she can resist falling for him and initiating a kiss, he’ll leave her alone.
Ignoring him is harder than she thinks it will be, and it doesn’t take long before the rules of the game and their baggage from past relationships complicate everything. As they get deeper into each other they realize they both have a lot more to lose—and a lot more to win—than just the game.
In The Game, book two of the four in the Blue Sky series, return to the small town of Blue Sky, Montana for more from the West family as Beau and Maisie experience the power of faith and forgiveness and find out how great it feels to win at love.
About Cali Black
Cali Black is a wife, a homeschooling mother of three, a Christian, and a sweet contemporary western romance author.
Cali has long been enamored with country living and with the American West.
Wide open spaces inspire her and there’s something about a grassy field with a bunch of cattle grazing off in the distance that she finds beautiful.
Crop fields anyone? A sight soothing to her soul.
She incorporates locations and activities into her books that she has experienced or would still like to experience. Yes, Montana is on the bucket list!
Her writing goal is simply to tell the stories that are in her heart. As she dares to launch them out in the world, she hopes that a few readers somewhere will enjoy them. Maybe one of those readers will be you.