Interview With Blogger Chandel Charles, “Alameda & Downing”

By Ruth on September 24, 2016 in interview, movie, television
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With the myriad of choices in the world of TV and film, it’s all too easy to permit priceless gems to pass us by due to time constraints, lack of interest, and even sheer laziness (at times, that is true in my life). Thankfully, we have people who champion the causes of very special shows that may go undetected by the general public, and were it not for the sacrifices and passions of these tireless advocates who attempt to give the kind of press that is needed–positive, purposeful, and perfectly precious–these shows may expire from lack of viewership. Recently, I got to chat extensively with one such unmistakable television supporter–Chandel Charles. For a little over a year, she has aspired to provide engaging content that would illuminate the work of the creative forces of the sensational Hallmark Movies & Mysteries network production of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. As an early devotee of the show, I was interested to discover who Chandel genuinely is as well as her purpose in her painstaking devotion to her blog, which is entitled Alameda & Downing.

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RH: The reason I chose to interview you–and I know it was a bit of a shock–I was going through my messages on twitter, and I saw a message from you from a while back. And then it was just like God impressed me that I needed to interview you.

CC: Oh wow, that’s amazing.

And for me, I don’t care if I’m going to be interviewing an actor with loads of followers, or it could be somebody that hardly anyone knows. For me, it is about sharing what this person is doing and telling their story. And I definitely want to talk about your story. I know you’ve shared some of it on your blog, but I think there are still people who watch Signed, Sealed, Delievered who have probably never seen your blog. So has writing been something you’ve always done?

Yes, but really I think it started with hearing and reading stories. When I was younger, my grandmother was always reading to me. So stories were always a big thing for me. I have a really active imagination, and I think writing was the first way I was able to get that out onto a piece of paper so someone could read or translate the ideas I have. I really enjoyed writing in school and doing all sorts of fun stories for assignments or later on, just on my own. It’s sort of a way for me to dispense to others what is going on in my brain. It’s sort of a therapeutic process for me. So it’s always been a thing throughout my life.

So what did you study in college?

I majored in political science and history, so it was super heavy on writing things. I put my skills to good use in the academic setting.

Out of curiosity, do you make money on your blog?

No, I don’t. I do everything for free. {laughs} I have from the very beginning.  I thought about putting ads on the blog, but it was one thing I was nervous about. I was thinking about trying to monetize, but I don’t want it junked up. Aesthetically, I like how it flows. I don’t want the load time to be super long. So I was just like I’ll keep it for free and make it that way. Sometimes I wish I was making money off of my blog, but when it comes down to it,  I really don’t want to.

I know that was something people wondered about. And I get it–people assume that I make money on my blog. And once in awhile I make a little bit when I post something for a certain company here or there, but I’m not really making money. I do hope to one day make money writing, but for now, I’m like you. I do it all for free. {pause} So what is it that you for a living?

Well, I was a government servant, but I recently quit my job to pursue other passions and figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. And obviously the blog, since it’s been such a big part of it, has shaped some of the things I think I’d like to pursue for a career–content creation and creative design and having input in those spaces, so that’s the kind of position I’m looking for now. And God was like, “Let’s just have some rest time. You can just chill and do your blog and take care of your Nana and just do your thing.” It’s been a really awesome season of rest. So I’m looking for what I think will be the next thing, and if it takes a couple months, that’s cool with me. I’m just kind of enjoying the space.

Okay, I thought you were working for something in the government. Well, that’s pretty cool for you then. Now, I know you have discussed the meaning behind the name of your blog, but would you mind telling us the story behind its name?

1447460316Alameda & Downing–there’s a line at the very end of the pilot where Rita is reading a newspaper post that was written about the work that they did and it says, “The local prosecuter hailed the post office branch at Alameda & Downing for its superlative service and its highly efficient dead letter division.” So I was watching the pilot a couple of months before I decided, “Oh, let’s do a blog,” and the location Alameda & Downing just seemed uniquely Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I could have named it the Postal Bar or Mailbox Grille–just something really generic. But Alamada & Downing was a very Signed, Sealed, Delivered specific thing. And so it just stuck out to me, and I thought A & D for shorthand. I just liked how it sounded. And so it stuck with me, and when I decided to a blog, I thought this was perfect.

And then, of course, it’s the one thing I chose that actually had some meaning. I remember that first week after the blog came out, Martha Williamson wrote about the significance of Alamada & Downing to her. It’s a real place. So she ended up talking about it on her own blog. So we found out there was a “God story” there, and it was her nod to God that she put in the pilot. So that made it even more special once I had already chosen it. So it obviously stuck and people started using it and the hashtag, and it’s been there ever since.

I do remember reading about why you started the blog, but why don’t you share with us the reason?

Signed-Sealed-Delivered-MarthaGroupWhy I started the blog–okay. Well, I was going through a time of transition. I was in a relationship for several years, and that was something that occupied a lot of my free time. I wasn’t in that relationship anymore, and I had had a transformation of faith that had sort of been going on for awhile. When I watched the pilot that year before I started the blog, I had a transformed spirit. When I had first seen the pilot, I had a really cynical attitude towards it. Then over time, God had worked on me and changed my heart. Things started to look different. And so I had sort of an epiphany when I was watching the pilot one time that sort of changed my whole perspective on the characters, their connection to one another, what their journeys were, what they looked like over the course of the series, and the blog became a way to honor that. And then it covered a lot of other aspects of the show, the work of Martha and the cast and the crew. And to be fair, when I hit publish that first time, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that this was something I really wanted to do because I feel like Signed, Sealed, Delievered needed a space in the digital world where all the information about it could be found with the click of a mouse, and I realized I had the power to create that space, and that’s what the blog became. And then I started to ask a lot of questions about a lot of different things and wanted to have information about the show that was available for people at all times, and so that was the impetus behind the blog.

I was part of the original group from the pilot on, and I don’t think I noticed you till–when did your blog begin?

June 5th, 2015. I was not on the scene when the show started. I remember tweeting some during The Treasure Box, but I wasn’t caught up into it. But then when I got into it, I knew I had to go back and see all of it. So that became my thing–to find all the episodes. I found them and watched them all and was like, “This is amazing!” And so I really got into it and wanted to follow it. My passion for all things Signed, Sealed, Delievered didn’t really get started until 2015.  This show was really speaking to my spirit, and I thought that this would be what I focus my attention on. Even if I have to watch these a hundred times, it’s keeping me away from the other stuff I used to watch that was not feeding my spirit. And so I decided to watch this as many times as I had to. And it started feeding this other creative part of me that wanted to come out again. It comes in cycles, and this was something I was able to put my creative energy into and on a consistent basis. And I know it’s only God who started it and continued it because my nature is to start something, be super passionate about it, and then sort of be done with it maybe after a month or a month and a half. Like I remember one time I was really into roller coasters for six months, so I knew every one that was gonna come out in the next year, and then it was like I wasn’t into that any more. But this has stuck, which says a lot.

Right, so I remember that suddenly I was like, “Who is this person?” I was part of the group who used to give up our Sundays trying to get a second season for the show. And it was crazy ’cause I had never done fan art, and I didn’t know what I was doing. But we were just tweeting like crazy. 

I saw that. ‘Cause one of the things I wanted to do when I started the blog was to go back through and honor and check on the history of the fandom itself, and I saw people tweeting about getting a season two. So I saw that movement, and I know exactly where you fit into that. These people were into doing this and could have used a space like my blog when they were trying to get a season two. So I also wanted Alameda & Downing to be a launchpad for some of those activities. Like you can come to this space and say “yes” to this show a hundred percent of the time.

Eric Mabius Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Duane Prentice

It’s also got to be exciting to have the cast and Martha Williamson noticing your blog now.

I am privileged every time–any time they take the time to notice and say, “Hey, I really like this.” Eric {Mabius} even mentioned it in an interview he did before From the Heart, and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I didn’t even know. They tagged me in a tweet and I was like, “ok,” and I went and read the interview ’cause it was Eric and he obviously mentions it and I literally started crying. I was like, “I can’t believe this is happening!” It’s always an honor and a privilege to be mentioned in the same category as those folks.

Your purpose was originally to honor the show and to get the information out there. If you were now to have a mission statement or a purpose statement for your blog, what would it be?

That’s a really great question. I hadn’t thought of it just that way. The purpose of Alameda & Downing is to honor the work of the cast and crew, Martha, Hallmark, and honor the work and all the different aspects they put into it. It’s to give Signed, Sealed, Delivered an in-between space ’cause they have months when they’re in production and months between movies. The goal of Alameda & Downing is to keep Signed, Sealed, Delivered alive in the in-between time instead of just like being, “Oh, it’s on!” or “Oh, they’re on set!” It’s looking at all the different aspects of the show that’s been designed. As people have come to the space and voice their comments and opinions and get in on that conversation. So really it’s to keep the conversation going at all times as much as possible on as many different things as can be expressed including faith things that are not related. Things that will connect and uplift people.

That’s great–something our world needs definitely.

So true.

Without revealing any personal stories, have there been people who have come to you and told you how much your blog has meant to them or how it helped them through a particular situation?

Yeah, probably in unexpected ways. Soembody will come out of the woodwork one day and say, “Thank you for being you. It was the reminder I really needed. I’m in a particular season right now and this illuminated a piece of it.” Yes, I’ve been very blessed to have that opportunity to hear that something has spoken to someone. Even if it’s on a day where I’m like, “Man, I’m not sure that what I was trying to say was translated properly or that somebody understood my message.” And then I’ll have that email or that text or tweet and somebody’s like, “Thank you for that today. That was what I needed.” So that’s probably always the most gratifying part of some of the work I do on the blog. It’s those days when somebody was having an awful day, and then knowing that I had a new post today, the day got better for them. {laughs} That’s so amazing! It helps motivate you, and I’m very grateful to people who share like that. It puts an exclamation point on that day when you realize that what you wrote was really important to somebody. Even if I was dead tired when I did it, or maybe my day didn’t go so hot, but I still wanted to get that post out there, and it meant something to somebody. It was worth every tear or every lost minute of sleep or every failed graphic or whatever it was. But that two-way street is great. It’s been something for me to be out there and be creative and do something that I enjoy and also for people to say they really enjoyed or needed that sort of thing.

I know you have a newsletter that goes out every week.

Yes, thank you for that. That was you who told me to do that. And last year in August, I started it. It’s been almost a year now, and I’ve got a lot of subscribers. That was a really brilliant idea. I have always wanted to thank you for that. It was a really nice addition to the workflow of the blog to have the end-of-week thing. And I get emails all the time, “Oh, I didn’t get this!” or “It didn’t come through my email filter.” People use that to keep on track or catch up. So thank you for that tip.

You’re welcome. So have you noticed that your subscriber count has increased over this year?

Yes, the graph keeps going way up. I’ve had a lot of new followers, new subscribers, new tweeters who come find me, facebook friends. It’s been really great. The blog continues to gain traction. It may not be thousands of people, but every person, every like, every new subscriber, every tweet, every one means something to me, so every time I see one more, I’m like, “Yes!” And the traffic to the site continues to grow.

Mark Valley  Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

Mark Valley Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

Even from google–these organic searches where people have found me, and I’ll see them look at something from  a year ago or I’ll see it spike during a marathon because somebody will want to know what that song was or they want to talk about a certain person on the show. It’s nice to see those returns on the investment  and proof that I’ve created that space that I wanted ’cause here it is a year later, and they’re able to find the music of Truth Be Told or some fact about Steve {Mark Valley}.

Do you have an actual publishing schedule that you follow on the blog?

Monday through Friday–as often as possible. And if I’m smart enough to think of a series, then I’ll go for it. One of the biggest series I did that went well was “behind the scenes of the series.” And so I was tracking all the social posts from back in the day when those things were being filmed, and it took ten weeks to do that. So I decided to do that on Wednesdays. So I have a set schedule of Monday through Friday, but what I post those days, it kind of depends. What I’ve done recently is a “Throwback Thursday” and “Flashback Friday.” I want to make sure that there’s something going on each day ’cause I know people are counting on that. Now, if something exclusive occcurs, there will be an extra post. Or if it’s a birthday or something for one of the cast members and you want to make sure you celebrate. Whatever comes to mind that week, whatever sort of thoughts I’ve had on the series as I’ve taken notes on various things when watching. Whatever formulates and comes to fruition at that time; it might be a month after I’ve seen the episode or maybe it’s the next day. It’s whatever inspiration comes.

Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson  Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

So I know you’ve interviewed Geoff Gustafson, Crystal Lowe, and now Kristin Booth. So are your goals to interview the rest of the cast?

Yes, by the end of the calendar year is the goal. I’m still looking to get Eric and hoping really hard. And there are lines of communication open between Martha and I, and so I’m hoping I’ll be able to open that up for a formal interview pretty soon. We’ve been chatting informally about some things regarding the show. That is a bucket list goal. That’s why I started this year with Geoff because I decided I was going to make this the year. I’m gonna make sure that before each movie, I get to interview at least one cast member and eventually work my way over to Martha.

So are you interested in interviewing any other cast members who have been featured in the series, but are not necessarily regulars?

I definitely would be interested in doing it, but the thing is that sometimes they have to be so tight-lipped. What I like to do is talk to them beforehand and get the scoop. So they’re featured, but they don’t want to talk about their roles all the time. I haven’t really considered that. I’ve seen you do that with some of the people, and I think that’s actually really smart to do that, but I think really my main goals are to see if I could get those big gets–try that first and it might be that as Alameda & Downing moves forward that maybe some of my focus will shift. Like maybe it could be, “You were in this episode and we really loved you. What are you working on now?” But I think the first thing is this forward thinking that let’s make sure we nail down the basics first and then try to figure out how to be creative beyond that. It’s like I review the film, but what else can I do around the show or the series that can take it to the next level? So that may be something I look forward to doing in the future, but I don’t have any particular ambitions to do that right now.

459616192So do you have other goals as far as the show goes?

One of the things that is a sort of a dream grab or reach is… a while ago, James Jandrisch, the lead composer for the show, reached out to me, and he was like, “I really see what you’ve done with the blog. It’s really cool you support the show the way that you do.” And he ended up dropping me the French track from From Paris With Love. Of course, people had been asking about the song and where it had come from. And he told me the story behind it and how he and Martha collaborated on it. And the translation of the song. All these really neat things. I would like to connect with more of the people who are behind the scenes, and I’d love for them to be willing to talk more about the show and come forward. From the make-up trailer that we’ve seen so often from the social posts to the people who are holding the microphones or have the cameras. I would love for more people to come forward and talk about what they do because I would like the opportunity to honor their work and say that we love them and thank them. It’s been neat to have the connection with James where he drops in now and then. He even dropped me a track from Lost Without You. He comes to me with beforehand stuff which is kind of neat too. So I’d like to collaborate more with people involved with the show so that they can use the blog as a place to talk about what they love and what they’re doing.

Another goal is to keep it growing. Keep bringing more people into the Signed, Sealed, Delivered fold. However they find me whether it’s through Facebook or Twitter or just the random internet search. Wherever they are across the globe just getting connected with the show and having a place where they can share their love of this show.

It would be great to have more integration. You know, with When Calls the Heart, they have people from production write a production blog for the episode. They keep those lines and spaces open so I would like A & D also to become one of those spaces for another perspective on this show. If people would be open to that, I would be willing to hear the stories they have to tell and share those with the world. I have found a few of these people behind the scenes, but not everyone is on social media. There are some I know are hanging out behind the scenes, and I know of the assistants to some of those people. I’m trying to find those people on social media so I can possibly connect with them. There are some people who are still connected with the show and some who were just connected for an episode or a movie. Scott Smith would have been someone to connect with while the series was still in production, and he’s kind of moved on to new things. Some of these people are not the easiest to find, but I may spend a day or two going through the credits to try to locate these people.

I know people love to hear the behind-the-scenes interviews. I get to do many of them with Hallmark, and lots of times, these people are overlooked and are very happy to share their story.

 Martha Williamson  Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Duane Prentice

Martha Williamson Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Duane Prentice

I think I realized the importance of the people behind the scenes back in my previous life when I was a TV reviewer and I visited the set of Suits. And I remember that some of the writers had come to lunch, and I went up to them and thanked them for what they do. I said I loved their writing and thanked them. And they seemed really taken aback. It’s like nobody had really stopped to say “thank you” to them. And of course, you want to honor the things that these people do. I think that was when I realized that these people really are just as much a part of it as anyone else, and they should be recognized as such. That’s why I love it when Martha will email me a story that she really wants to tell me, and then I get to share it on the blog, especially with One in a Million. I just love that sort of stuff, all the intricacies and all the little miracles that came together to make it happen. It’s always really neat.

So do you have the experience of having fans and having people think of you as a celebrity?

No. They say really nice things, but one of the things that has always been really important to me..there was one person in the beginning who was really nervous to talk to me, and I’m like, “I’m a regular person. I put my pant legs on one at a time.” So I don’t have a lot of people who are like that, but if I see it, I like to let them know I’m a regular person. Like I’d love to talk to you about anything that’s going on in your life. But people have become really supportive of me–not just of the blog but me as a person. I think the most surprising aspect of all of this and the one thing I did not anticipate is the extra lengths people will go to to say that they support me and my blog and the work I do as a person. I think that’s why I haven’t had this celebrity status. I think if they thought of me as a celebrity, they would be like, “Oh she’s this person and I can’t talk to her!” But instead, they recognize me as a person. I’ve really developed a sort of family out of that which is really neat. As weird as it sounds, I know that there are people out there who if I needed something or I was having a bad day, there are people out there to point me in the right direction. They will give me that Scripture or tell me to go back and read the post I wrote. The edification and affirmation that they bring has been really transformative for me. So I’ve really appreciated that. No celebrity status here. In fact, that is the opposite of how I would like people to view me ’cause I’m just a regular person who accidentally hit publish once and started a blog. That’s what I would like people to know me for.

So have you ever had problems with people posting negative comments on your blog? I have to approve comments posted on mine because every so often, I have those negative people come along and run me down or the actors involved with the project.

You know, I have never really had to approve comments, and I’m super grateful that I don’t have to. Once I had to delete a comment by someone who wasn’t happy with me, If somebody seems like they have an edge that day, it’s like they kept it on the show and it wasn’t a personal attack. And other people will come through and be concerned that this person is having a bad day. I like to keep it open because even if someone says they didn’t like something because…I just leave it ’cause they’re allowed to say that.

How many hours per day do you devote to your blog? I know it’s hard to say, but do you have a good estimate?

Oh goodness, if you count content development time, brain time, I will be honest. Depending on the situation, there’s probably two to four hours a day that I don’t spend in some capacity thinking about the blog even though I may not be actively writing. Oh, and maybe eight to ten hours sleeping. I’d say literally half the time of the week is spent thinking about developing. Like this is a job. Make no mistake, between the job that I was working and this, it was a full-time job. There’s a lot of work that goes into this. It’s not just something you drop into for fun and do just a little bit here and there. There are some days that are easier than others. I’m just blessed that I love every second of it and that it’s a hobby and a passion. Otherwise, if this was something I was being told I had to do a certain way, I don’t know if I would still be doing this. It’s something I’m very passionate about both for myself and those who are coming to read it. I just want to keep it coming and deliver. It’s a lot of hours in the day. I can’t say I’m always up obscene hours of the night. If I max out at eleven or midnight…I try to keep as healthy as possible ’cause again the other thing I want to make sure I avoid at all costs is burnout. That’s the other thing that could totally send this in the wrong direction. So I try to make sure I’m taking care of some of that sleep stuff. But there are nights when I wish I could stay up. Instead of sitting in front of that screen though, I decide to think about it and still get that sleep ’cause I sure don’t want to mess up the next day because I didn’t get enough sleep. It’s always that balance where you’re trying to make sure you’re keeping up with life, but also keeping up with this passion that you have which can be problematic sometimes. But you have to put on the brakes and think you can only do so much this week. And everyone’s gonna have to be cool with that, and most days, I’m blessed because my readers encourage me to take care of myself. So they’re like, “Take that rest. We know you’re working hard.” And it’s nice to have that synergy between me and the folks where everyone is super flexible and it’s cool.

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" tells the inspiring story of a group of postal detectives whose mission is to deliver letters and packages from the past, which arrive miraculously when they are needed most.  Photo: Eric Mabius

Photo: Eric Mabius

Well, that is great. I really am hoping that you reach your goals as I know how much that would mean to you. And maybe since Eric mentioned your blog in an interview…

Oh, I’m hoping that. Wouldn’t it be great? Actually the post where I shared my experience of coming to the blog, he tweeted about it saying that Martha had showed him this. And then a couple weeks later, he’s actually talking about my blog in an interview. And I’m like, “This is gonna be good!” So I’m hoping when I reach out to him, I’m finally at a confidence level where I won’t be like, “Oh my gosh, Eric is on the other side of the telephone,” and freak out.  So I’m just hoping. I’m just gonna bide my time, and by the end of the calendar year, it’s my big goal. So he still has a couple of months to get back to me. But if I make it there in October, he’ll have to see me ’cause I’ll be right there in his face saying, “Hey, Eric, would you interview with me? Now that you have a face and a person to go with this tweet, would you want to do this now?” That’s my Plan B. If I can get there, I’ll just ask him.

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There is no doubt where Chandel’s allegiance lies. She is a die-hard #POstable, and she is unashamedly so. Moreover, she knows exactly what her goals are concerning her blog, and I don’t believe anything can deter her from these goals. More than anything, she just wants to see this franchise continue for years to come, and she wants to be one of the voices that rallies the fans together and gives them a place to voice their sincere admiration and affection for the show, the cast, and all things connected with the show. So don’t forget to turn into Lost Without You on Sunday, September 25th on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries network. It’s certain to be a game-changer! But while you’re waiting, consider checking out Chandel and her meticulously-constructed blog which continues to daily shine the light on the phenomenal work of the cast and crew of what still is one of my all-time favorite series!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

2 Comments

  1. Beth September 24, 2016 Reply

    Great interview! Hey I think I’ve read your fan fictions! I was always hoping you’d do a sequel to The Truth will Set you free and I don’t think you ever finished the prequel to it either! Truth will Set you Free is one of my fave stories in the SSD section of Fanfiction.net! I really like your blog!

    • Author
      Ruth September 24, 2016 Reply

      Beth thanks for stopping by. You are so right. I had to leave my fan fiction because other things took over maybe one day….

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