My guest today is author Cara Lynn James. Let's make her feel at home!
A: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old—quite a while ago! I wrote a 20 page ‘book’ for my parents’ wedding anniversary. It was based on the Bobbsey Twins books, one of my favorite series at the time. Even though I didn’t pursue my dream of writing until I was much, much older, the desire to write a novel stayed in the corner of my mind collecting cobwebs. Getting published seemed way out of my reach! But after I discovered writers’ groups and other aspiring writers and even a few published ones, I decided to dust off my dream.
Q: How does your faith impact your writing?
A: My faith just like everyone else’s is part of my worldview. It would influence my writing whether I wanted it to or not. Since I write inspirationals I include some aspect of my faith in a conscious way. Some books lend themselves to a faith thread more than others, but they all involve Christian principles to some degree. My faith also determines what I’ll write about, the type of plot and the personalities of the characters. Even if I didn’t write inspirational historical romance my faith would play a major role in the books I write.
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: I’ve never really had to deal with writer’s block for more than a short time. When I can’t figure out where a scene should go or I run into a figurative brick wall I usually try to take a break. Reading either a research book or a novel takes my mind off the problem and really seems to help. Retail therapy helps, too! I think my mind is subconsciously working to solve the problem when I’m doing something unrelated. The best thing is probably to work out the plot first and definitely know your characters inside out.
Q: How long does it take you to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A: Love on a Dime and Love on Assignment took me forever to write because they were the first books I completed. Actually I finished a short novel between the two, but it’s not salvageable so I usually forget I wrote it. Love on a Dime and Love on Assignment took years to finish because I was learning how to write a novel and build a story. My latest release and last in the Ladies of Summerhill series, Love by the Book, took me 4 ½ months from start to finish. I’m a slow writer and never would’ve believed I could write a long book in that short amount of time. But I had a deadline and I was determined to meet it on time. Nine months to a year would be much easier for me, but contracts tend to have tight deadlines.
I don’t do a set number of drafts, but I practically have the chapters memorized by the time I send it into my editor so I guess I do many drafts. After a while I quit because I’m too familiar with the work to find additional mistakes or ways to improve. I imagine if I had another few months I could look through the manuscript again with a fresh perspective and find places to tweak.
Q: Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you think it up as you go?
A: Both. I write a fairly detailed synopsis and then follow that with a skeletal outline of the plot with all the major plot points. Since I’m a visual person I like seeing the entire story laid out in front of me. I can spot holes in the plot etc. that way. I fill in any scenes that pop into my head, but I don’t try to conjure up scenes at this point. So I need to know where I’m going and I have some idea how I’m going to get there. I usually take one section of the story at a time and work at it. For example, I write down everything that needs to happen in the beginning, and then devise as many scenes as I can. Then I start writing. Actually working on the manuscript gets ideas flowing.
Q: Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?
A: My husband and I go out to dinner. Maybe we should take a short vacation, too!
Q: Vacation sounds like fun! After becoming a published author, what surprised you the most?
A: The amount of promotion involved surprised me. I envisioned staying in my writer’s cave without ever peeking out. I also didn’t realized how satisfying it would be to hold my book in my hand!
Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a fledgling writer?
A: If you’re really serious about getting published then write, write, write. Also, join writer’s groups both online and in person, join a critique group, enter contests and learn from the feedback. Don’t quit! When you get discouraged—and you will from time to time—lick your wounds and then get back to your writing.
Q: What do you think about writing contests? Have you participated in any? What’s the benefit to an unpublished writer?
A: As an unpublished writer I submitted to many contests and finaled in several. At first I didn’t do so well, but I took the judges’ advice, improved my writing and submitted again. If wasn’t always a pleasant process, but it was beneficial. Eventually I received requests for full manuscripts from both editors and agents. In 2009 I finaled in the Golden Heart. Because of that final I received an offer from Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
A: I’d be enjoying my husband’s retirement and spending more time with my grandson. I wouldn’t be cleaning the house more!
Q: What does your family think about your crazy career?
A: They think it’s great and they’re very supportive. They’re really fantastic cheerleaders. After I sold they understood I now have deadlines to meet, so they’ve pitched in to help more.
Q: There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A: The Ladies of Summerhill series are all available as e-books as well as in print. Personally, I like both. The disadvantage I see in e-books--a writer of e-books usually gets paid through royalties, but not an advance. I think advances are important for any author who wants writing to provide an income, not just pin money. E-books are great because they won’t go out of print. It seems as if the publishing industry is heading in that direction more and more.
Q: What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A: A robotic housekeeper.
Amen on that housekeeper. Thanks a bunch for visiting with us, Cara!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cara Lynn James lives in northwest Florida with her husband, daughter, son, grandson, and Papillion, Sparky. She writes full time despite this crowd. She’s lived in several states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Virginia and Vermont. During this time she’s served as a Naval officer, bookshop owner, and stay-at-home, home-schooling mom.
ABOUT THE BOOK - Love by the Book
Savor this sweeping love story set in a lavish seaside mansion in 1901 Rhode Island.
Melinda Hollister is a society lady, intent on finding a rich husband before her peers discover her quickly diminishing wealth. Nick Bryson is all business, focused on making a name for himself in his father’s steamship line. Despite the marriage of their siblings, they rarely gave each other a second glance—until a tragic accident results in Melinda and Nick being appointed as co-guardians of their three-year-old niece Nell.
In order to get better acquainted with Nell and one another, Melinda and Nick agree to spend the summer in their own private quarters of the Bryson family vacation home, Summerhill. As their love for Nell grows, so does their attraction to each other. And for the first time in their lives, they sense that God has a bigger plan in motion.
Yet old habits die hard – and Melinda and Nick each find it difficult to resist the pull of their former worlds.
When the unthinkable happens, they find themselves faced with seemingly impossible choices and a new understanding of God’s true love.
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Love by the Book, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday, July 25th. NOTE: This time round, North American addresses only. And we need to have at least 10 comments for the giveaway... so let us know you were here! Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!