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Be My Guest: Katja H. Labonté

Today we have another Blog Swap article, this time by my friend and coauthor Katja H. Labonté.

What I Learned Writing a Difficult Book
by Katja H. Labonté

Writing is a journey. No one will tell you the opposite. But what everyone does not tell you is that the path of true writing, like love, never runs smooth. My novella for the Springtime in Surrey anthology, The Tussie-Mussie, was quite possibly the hardest writing experience I’ve had to date. It took me way too long, overwhelmed me, demanded all sorts of new treatment I wasn’t used to doing to my other books, and was a little terror overall. But in the end, as every parent does, I came away with experience on writing. Today I’ll be sharing with you the hardest things about writing this story—and what they taught me. 

  • Writing Historical Fiction 

I usually write historical or contemporary fantasy set in my imaginary country of Kalsyia, or contemporary fiction set in Canada, my actual (and much loved) country. Writing historical fiction was something I avoided… because I didn’t want to have to hold myself to accuracy. Therefore, already, the decision to write a Historical Fiction was a HUGE change in my usual writing style. And to top it off, 1903 England is not my era of speciality. (That would be 1600s Canada, which I have studied.) I’m not sure if I enjoy writing real historical fiction, but I think it is something I will try to do more often. It’s certainly good for me. 

  • Research 

Now, 1800s-early 1900s England is my favourite book setting and I have read all sorts of historic fiction (that is, fiction written about an era during that very era, i.e., contemporary fiction). But just reading fiction isn’t enough to write accurately. Therefore, research was in order. And while I loooove history and learning everything about it—especially 1800s-1900s England—I abhor researching. I like to get my knowledge by reading a book, not by having a specific topic I have to go look up all over the internet. Especially since I am rotten at checking sources. So I was not a fan of that aspect of the writing process this spring. I’m still not, in spite of having more or less succeeded in my search. 

  • No Comedic Side Character

My main characters tend to be serious and introspective and shy. I depend heavily on a side character who’s often slightly clumsy or flighty, silly or amusing—often wise, sometimes childish—to move conversations and therefore plots along—for my stories are character-driven and my characters act based on long conversations. When I try to write without such a character, or even without a sidekick for my MC to talk with frequently, writing is like pulling teeth and I have to rewrite a lot. This was the case in The Tussie-Mussie, because the only comedic side character is Maggie, and she’s only in certain scenes… and she’s not stupid or clumsy, just sometimes childishly humorous. Overall, it forced me to infuse more humour in the narration and to give some to the main characters, which ended up a really good thing. 

  • Subtleness

This isn’t the first time people have asked me why a character does something, and I get confused because to me the character shows very clearly why through their actions. Or I’m asked what something means when to me it’s crystal clear. But I have to admit this book apparently had a lot more of those issues. It seems that I am a very subtle writer who picks up on things not everyone else does. So yeah. I need to work on making things more blatant, apparently… 

  • Writing Romance

While I’ve written characters who were married, or wrote stories where characters are obviously destined for each other and fall in love, it’s always been off-screen. I never wrote a romance. It just never happened. I’m not a huge fan of romance in books, in that I love me a good, sweet romance, but it’s not the thing that’ll make or break a book for me, and it’s definitely dispensable. So I never really wrote any. This book is my first attempt at writing a romance. And it was kinda really difficult, because my characters are super subtle about it. Like me. Hopefully y’all pick up on the feelings. 😉 (By the way, these characters were also supposed to have an enemies-to-lovers thing going on. I ended up forgetting about that because they liked each other from the get-go.) But anyways, my verdict is writing romance is complicated and difficult and I’m gonna stick to off-screen romance as much as possible because I just don’t enjoy writing on-screen romance. 

  • Writing Mystery

I am a HUGE mystery fan. I love trying to figure stuff out, I love the thrill of the chase, the adventure, the search for clues everywhere… But I only wrote a mystery twice, and in both cases the mystery was a fiasco, because I can get my characters into a mystery but I can’t get them out—for the simple reason that I can’t think my way through my own clues to the answers. This mystery was super easy to think of but solving it took a lot of brainstorming and picking the brain of my writing buddy Ryana Lynn Peterson. (She came up with 70% of the solution.) I totally loved the experience, though, and I plan to try mystery again—and actually work it out this time! Maybe if I try things backwards… 

  • No Plot

I’m a planster—aka, neither a planner with a detailed outline nor a pantster with no outline. Generally, I have the inciting incident, the climax, the resolution, and a couple ideas of stuff that will happen around those incidents, and then I start writing and follow my characters wherever they want to go. For this book, I had a synopsis I’d written as my pitch for the anthology submissions. That meant I had a set-in-stone bunch of characters and theme and inciting incident, but no climax or resolution. Every chapter I wrote was blind. Eventually I sat down, came up with an ending, and gave each chapter an incident that had to happen for the story. However, that left me with the problem of an outline I HAD to stick to, but no ideas for what the character would do around or after the incident, or how they’d initiate it. That made things really hard. It’s taught me a lot about how my creative process actually works

  • Changing Themes Halfway 

I always start a story with a message or moral to share. Otherwise, there’s no story. I can’t not have a message. The characters, plot, setting, everything revolves around the message. With this story, Ewart was supposed to battle depression and lack of confidence, and and Catrìona (originally Catie) was supposed to be “finding freedom from peer pressure, self-deprecation, and comparison by discovering the personal worth we have before the Lord.” Excellent themes… but not ones I ended up writing, actually. They swapped halfway through the story as I realized one character had a huge self-worth issue, and the other had a control problem. So the messages of the novella ended up quite different than I wanted, but also were ones I needed to learn right then, so… 

To sum everything up, this novella taught me a lot about my writing process and style. I learned about what I usually did and didn’t do, and how having or not having those components made writing harder or easier. I’m very grateful for the chance to try new things and figure out what works or doesn’t work. It a kind of writing cardio that is difficult, but really worth it. So I encourage you, writer… try something out of your comfort zone! You can never tell what good things will come—and even bad things can turn to good!  

About the Author

Katja H. Labonté is a Christian, an extreme bibliophile who devours over 365 books in a year, and an exuberant writer with a talent for starting short stories that explode into book series. She is a bilingual French-Canadian and has about a dozen topics she’s excessively passionate about (hint: that’s why she writes). She spends her days enjoying little things, growing in faith, learning life, and loving people. You can follow her life journey, find free books, browse her services, and more on her website and blog

Springtime in Surrey and Charm Bracelet Giveaway

There’s a huge giveaway going on here on Writing to Inspire this month. Be sure you enter to win the grand prize that includes a paperback copy of Springtime in Surrey and a handcrafted charm bracelet inspired by the book.

Springtime in Surrey BINGO

During the full month of August, I’m hosting a Springtime in Surrey BINGO Reading Challenge Game. There are prizes! Come join the fun on this article.

Blog Swap Schedule

Please visit any or all of the following articles on the dates given or after. Feel free to share them with your friends, too.

Note: There was an issue with some of the links being broken recently. I have corrected those now, so all the links should take you to the appropriate articles. Please let me know if you come upon an issue. I am still waiting on some of the links, so please hang in there. They are coming.

June 19
Grace A. Johnson on Lilacs & Reveries

June 26
Rachel Leitch on Little Blossoms for Jesus

July 3
Kellyn Roth on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Kellyn Roth on Writing to Inspire

July 5
Rachel Leitch on Lilacs & Reveries
Grace A. Johnson on Prose Worthy
Kellyn Roth on Of Blades and Thorns

July 7
Andrea Renee Cox on Of Blades and Thorns

July 8
Rachel Leitch on Resting Life

July 10
Rachel Leitch on Of Blades and Thorns
Rachel Leitch on Writing to Inspire

July 12
Katja H. Labonté on Lilacs & Reveries
Katja H. Labonté on Of Blades and Thorns
Kellyn Roth on Prose Worthy

July 15
Katja H. Labonté on Resting Life

July 17
Andrea Renee Cox on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Erika Mathews on Of Blades and Thorns

July 19
Andrea Renee Cox on Prose Worthy
Erika Mathews on Lilacs & Reveries

July 22
Kellyn Roth on Resting Life

July 26
Katja H. Labonté on Prose Worthy

July 29
Grace A. Johnson on Resting Life

August 2
Erika Mathews on Prose Worthy

August 5
Andrea Renee Cox on Resting Life

August 7
Grace A. Johnson on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Grace A. Johnson on Writing to Inspire

August 9
Andrea Renee Cox on Lilacs & Reveries

August 14
Erika Mathews on Writing to Inspire

August 21
Erika Mathews on Little Blossoms for Jesus
Katja H. Labonté on Writing to Inspire

About Springtime in Surrey

This collection of novellas, set in County Surrey, England, features both historical and contemporary stories by new and old authors!

Springtime in Surrey contains the follow eight novellas:

Jesus, I Am Resting by Faith Blum
An orphaned young woman must fight to survive after WWI breaks out, praying her beau doesn’t die on a foreign battlefield like her father did years ago.

The Cottage on the Hill by Andrea Renee Cox
A former ballerina seeks hope amongst her lost dreams, as a sheep farmer tries to bring her joy.

If I Knew You Were Coming by Bailey Gaines
An exhausted mother balances her duties to both her biological and evacuee children with preparation for an unexpected visit from her soldier husband.

Her Heart’s Home by Grace A. Johnson
A destitute woman is pursued by an unexpected suitor and finds blessings from God in the way she least expected.

The Tussie-Mussie by Katja H. Labonté
A disgraced debutante flees to the country, only to meet a reclusive writer who may change her life forever.

The Odd Duck Society by Rachel Leitch
An insecure university student returns to a tea shop after a mysterious letter summons her there.

Fear Not Tomorrows by Erika Mathews
A hard-working sister-of-seven struggles with contentment as her marriage is postponed by her fiancé’s absence.

Courage to Stay by Kellyn Roth
A young bride chases her husband into the forest to rescue him from himself, which goes about as well as one would expect.

Book Links

Springtime in Surrey may be found at the following links:


Springtime in Surrey is also currently available in Kindle Unlimited.

About the Authors

Faith Blum is a wife, mom, author, and entrepreneur. She’s published over 30 books, most of them in the Christian Historical Fiction genre. She loves stories because they can teach history, but in a fun way. It is also her way to have a creative outlet while taking care of a household and toddler.

She’s been a proud small town resident her whole life and wouldn’t have it any other way. She lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband, son, and cat, Smokey. She’s blessed to write as a part time career. You can find her books on books on most eBook retailers.

When not writing, you can find her cooking from scratch, reading, figuring out social media content, or spending time with her family. She also loves playing piano for church and being part of the Author Conservatory.

Amazon Author Page:

Born and raised in north Texas, Andrea Renee Cox is a born-again child of God who enjoys writing stories that inspire, copyediting fiction manuscripts, tutoring middle school students, and going on road trips with her family. Whether she’s working on historical or contemporary, women’s fiction or romance, she uses her skills in research and writing techniques—as well as a large dose of prayer and guidance from God—at every turn in the journey to produce the best story of her ability every single time. Her books may be found on her website, and readers are welcome to follow her blog for the latest updates in her journey. 


Bailey Gaines is a Georgia girl who loves history. Through her writing, she hopes to show how God works in all periods of history, bringing healing and helping people know they have value because of their identity as a human created in God’s image. Her stories range from King Richard the Lionheart’s England to 1930s Appalachia to 18th century England to 19th century America.

Bailey is a student of the Author Conservatory, and has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, she’s helping homeschoolers with their writing or working at an escape room. Her hobbies include playing the piano, sewing, and exploring the world of vintage fashion.


Grace A. Johnson is a Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has indie-published the first three novels in a Christian historical romance series, the Daughters of the Seven Seas, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, as well as a devotional. She’s also a marketer and editor who loves helping young authors through her editing business S&J Editors and her small publishing company Sky’s the Limit Press. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @graceajohnsonauthor or blogging on her website at Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free preview of her debut novel when you sign up for her e-newsletter!


Katja H. Labonté is a Christian, an extreme bibliophile who devours over 365 books in a year, and an exuberant writer with a talent for starting short stories that explode into book series. She is a bilingual French-Canadian and has about a dozen topics she’s excessively passionate about (hint: that’s why she writes). Katja writes both contemporary and historical fiction, as well as non-magical historical and contemporary kingdom fiction, and covers themes of worth, love, peace, and Christian growth. She spends her days enjoying little things, growing in faith, learning life, and loving people. You can follow her life journey, find free books, browse her services, and more on her website and blog.


Rachel Leitch discovered the book of writing when she was seven. She’s been turning pages ever since! She lives her own adventure in northern Indiana, with her parents, three sisters, two brothers, and a dog who thinks he’s the hero of her story. She writes young adult historical fiction with a dash of adventure or a spark of magic. When she’s not hidden away writing, she’s trying to fit all her reads on her shelf in a somewhat organized manner, obsessing over character arcs, drinking chai, daydreaming at the piano, or teaching students to be just as bookish as she is. In all her adventures, she learns how to shine brighter for the Father of Lights. For more bookish ramblings (and a free digital short story involving a magical violin) follow her adventure journal at!


Erika Mathews is an author and editor who writes family-friendly Christian living books, both fiction and non-fiction, that demonstrate the power of God through ordinary people, transforming daily life into His resting life. Her works include Truth from Taerna, a kingdom adventure fiction series with deep spiritual themes, Resting Life, a Christian living nonfiction book about finding rest in Jesus in modern life, and a variety of historical fiction and poetry.

Erika lives in the farm country of Minnesota with her husband and children. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. When she’s not working with books, she enjoys reading, outdoor activities, piano and violin, organizing, and using the Oxford comma.


Kellyn Roth is a historical romance & women’s fiction author who writes about the empty places where hope has the most room to grow. Her novels include the inspirational Victorian family saga, The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, and the Kees & Colliers series, which follows a broken family in the tumultuous years of the first half of the 20th century.

Kellyn is a student of the Author Conservatory and a writing coach. When not building her author career or her indie-author-helping business, Wild Blue Wonder Press, she is likely getting lost somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with her friends, watching period dramas and facetious comedies, or spending time with her husband.


Books to Read

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Short Stories

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