Once an outlet, writing now a career for Crystal Craig

Once an outlet, writing now a career for Crystal Craig
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Thanks to her husband Warren's initial urging, Crystal Craig has become a prolific storyteller, with eight published novels under the name C.C. Warrens. The Craigs, both Waynedale High graduates, now live in Orrville.

                        

Admittedly not much of a reader as a kid growing up in Apple Creek, Crystal Craig eventually began shuffling things from that imagination onto pages in notebooks. Writing became an emotional outlet and an adventure.

And now a career.

One day Craig stumbled on a typewriter at a yard sale, and her days of putting pencil to paper ended. She was, as she described it, “downright giddy.”

“My mother, not so much,” she said, “most likely because it was a gunshot typewriter. Every time I punched a key, the boom could be heard clear across the house. I couldn’t help that my creativity was awake when everyone else was asleep.”

Like anyone who has put pen to paper or fingers to gunshot keys, Craig harbored thoughts of becoming a writer. They were just that, though — thoughts, not even dreams. Writing was an escape, a hobby.

“That was for other people,” she said. “I needed to pursue a career that would pay the bills. I attended The College of Wooster for linguistics and psychology, but it was writing I was passionate about. I will never forget the professor who told me my writing was too colorful for a psychology paper. She meant it as a criticism; I took it as a compliment.”

Craig found she was loving writing, no matter how much the college professors tried to take the fun out of it. Eventually, her husband Warren discovered her “secret hobby” and encouraged her to try to publish her stories, which to that point Craig never considered putting out there for anyone else to read.

It took some time, though. Craig graduated from college in 2009. Nearly a decade passed before she launched what has now become a realization of a gift, a hobby and passion.

“In 2017 we published my first novel, ‘Criss Cross,’ and I say ‘we,’ because without my husband’s encouragement and support, my stories would still be hidden away on my laptop,” Craig said.

Five years later the couple lives in Orrville, and Craig is a full-time author, working on her ninth novel.

Writing under the name C.C. Warrens, Craig first published “Criss Cross,” the inaugural entry in her “Holly Novel” series, which follows the life and times of Holly Cross, a 27-year-old woman living in hiding. Craig said the character is based on many people, a representation of abused children, among others, people who have struggled and successfully built lives.

While some writers struggle to get out that first book, if they ever even do it, Craig said her first one wasn’t much of a pain.

“Writing my first novel was the easiest because I had years of ideas in my head,” she said. “It poured out of me in three months, and then the arduous nine-month journey of editing began. But every book is different. ‘Imperfect Justice,’ a courtroom drama that follows on the heels of the first three ‘Holly Novels,’ took almost a year to write. That one required a great deal of research including reading courtroom transcripts.”

“Criss Cross” is one of four books by Craig labeled as “Holly Novels.” A short story, “Winter Memorial,” features the characters from the series. Three other books published to date are seeking-justice novels, with her “Firefly Diaries” a stand-alone story.

Craig currently is working on her ninth novel. The unnamed story follows the characters of the “Firefly Diaries,” loosely based on Apple Creek and about a woman who buys a fixer-upper home at auction and then discovers it has a dark story to it.

Much of her work falls under the umbrella of Christian fiction. The stories are generally constructed like typical novels, only following a lot of themes and concepts of Christianity. It’s an area Craig said she sort of fell into.

“When I wrote ‘Criss Cross,’ I had no idea that Christian fiction even existed,” she said. “All I knew was that I wanted books that tackled the harsh realities of life while still acknowledging that no matter how dark or impossible the circumstances may seem, there is always hope. No matter how alone we might feel, God is always with us. He has been with me through so many difficult circumstances, and I wanted my books to reflect that.”

Long before becoming a married couple or her husband discovering Craig’s writing chops and encouraging her to share her work, the pair grew up within a mile of each other and went to the same schools as kids in the Waynedale district. They just didn’t pay much attention to each other and never connected until five years after high school graduation.

“He convinced his employer to hire me. We became fast friends, and then we fell in love,” she said. “We had a fairy-tale wedding including the horse-drawn carriage and pumpkins.”

In other words, straight out of fiction, until she took that story and put it right back in the stories. Her husband has made his way into the books as a background character in some of the “Holly Novels.” He also is the inspiration for Holly’s best friend Jace.

“Jace, like my husband, is a disabled athlete who participates in wheelchair basketball and sled-hockey,” she said. “My husband will deny until the end of time that Jace is inspired by him, but she most definitely is.”

Thanks to her husband’s initial urging, Craig has become a prolific storyteller. It’s something she believes anyone can be if they’re willing to put in the work. Her advice for other writers is simple: write.

Nobody, after all, has ever written the last word without writing the first one. Commit to the project, no matter what that project is, and have some self-belief. Eventually, you’ll have a book.

“Much of the richness in a story comes from the refining process, not the writing itself,” Craig said. “But you can’t refine what hasn’t been written. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of plotting an entire book, so much so that we don’t write anything.

“It’s OK if you don’t know where the story is going. Write anyway.”


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