SPECIAL NOTE: Carla is offering a copy of THE GLADIATOR as the November giveaway for my newsletter subscribers.
Check out my CONTEST page for details.
WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
CC: Hi Winnie. Thanks so much for inviting me. I'm so glad to be here. :).
Let's see, I'm a Florida girl and a preacher's kid. I made a commitment to the Lord when I was a child and thankfully never swayed away from Him. I went to college at the University of South Florida and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in International Studies. I also have a Masters degree in Theology from International Theological Seminary. I love to travel and read and I'm trying to learn to love exercising, but I'd much rather watch the History channel. :). My only son is starting his junior year at Florida State University this spring, so I'm suffering a bit from empty nest syndrome. My two cats, Oli and Onyx, both of whom were feral cats who have learned to be spoiled lap cats are enjoying the fact that their big brother is away and they now have their own room. :)
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
CC: When I was ten years old, I watched a television mini-series about Marco Polo. From learning about Marco, I fell in love with the whole idea of traveling the world and writing books along the way. As I grew up, Historical romances were my favorite reading material. My favorite subject was History. I loved learning about other cultures, the past and imaging the lives of the people in different eras. So, when I decided I really did want to concentrate on writing novels, it just made sense to put all my favorite elements together. I'm just blessed there are so many other people who seem to love Inspirational Historical Romances as well.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
CC: I started writing my first Historical romance on May 1, 2002. I didn't know anything about the business of writing; I just knew I wanted to write a book. I hoped it might get published, but I didn't really think about that, to tell you the truth. I titled the story The Fox. I used my favorite time period - the American Revolution, my favorite city - Charleston, SC, and one of my favorite subjects - espionage - as a main part of the plot. It took me about a year and a half to finish. Along the way, I learned to be very disciplined. I wrote from 10pm to 2am six days a week. I found wonderful critique partners who enjoyed my voice and 'got' my work. I entered loads of contests and developed what I call 'rhino' skin thanks to some of the judges comments. After The Fox did pretty well on the contest circuit, I entered it in the 2004 Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart contest. It won for Best Short Historical at the RWA conference held in Dallas that year. At the same conference, I made an agent appointment with Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary since she was the only agent interested in anything to do with the Colonial time period. Two weeks later she signed me with the warning that the Revolutionary War setting was the bottom of the setting barrel, but she would do what she could since she loved my writing. I think up to that point I had hoped I might someday get published, but Michelle signing me was the first time I actually believed that dream might really come true some day.
2005 turned out to be a horrible writing year. Michelle had been right. Nobody wanted a story set in my time period. Along with the several rejections I got, the year was bad for me personally and I don't think I wrote over three paragraphs the whole time. In 2006, I started a couple of new novels, but was discouraged and almost quit writing altogether. Then a friend sent me a notice that Steeple Hill Love Inspired was starting a new Historical line. I prayed about it and felt like the Lord gave me a great plot about a gladiator and a Christian slave girl. I jumped on the idea and started the whole process of writing, contesting, critiquing, etc. all over again. Michelle loved this story as well, so that was encouraging. In the end, I won another Golden Heart and LIH bought it a few months later in November of 2007. The book was renamed The Gladiator and after two full years it will finally be on the shelves November 10, 2009.
Last year, after much begging on my part, my editor read The Fox (she didn't think she'd be interested in a Revolutionary War setting either). She loved it and after a round with the other Love Inspired editors, The Fox was bought for LIH as well. It was renamed The Duke's Redemption and will be out in January 2010.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
CC: I finished two full manuscripts and pieces of 2 others. I'm currently working on a sequel to The Gladiator called The Protector. The Protector will be out in July 2010.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
CC: I don't remember much of it. My agent called and said, "Would you like to sell a book today?" I said, "Sure." We talked for about an hour and I don't remember a thing past my, "Sure." :) I do remember my son and family were thrilled for me. They bought a cake and we celebrated later that night. I think it was several weeks, maybe until I actually signed the contract, before it hit me that I was going to have a book out on the shelves at some point.
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?
CC: I don't want to discourage anybody, but not one thing, to be honest. Part of that may be because it was about a year and a half before I had to do any of the prep work for actual publication, so it felt like not a lot changed. I kept writing, but seeing a cover and actually holding a book didn't happen for a long time.
WG: What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
CC: I don't know how to answer this. In some ways I still don't feel like a published author. My life hasn't really changed. I still go to work every day and write all night. It's fun seeing my books and holding them in my hands, but it's the actual writing that I love -creating the characters and making them come alive on paper. I suppose working under a deadline is the biggest change for me. That's been a challenge, but it's a good one.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
CC: One of my very wise critique partners says every writer has a process. If you were to ask her, I'm sure she could tell you mine, but I still don't know what it is. I do write the same hours every day, but I think that's about it. Oh, and I usually plot out the entire story in my head just to make sure it can work out eventually, but that's about it. I'm kind of a "panster", but I'm a partial "plotter", too. I guess some people would just consider me a mess, but everything seems to work out in the end.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
CC: Yes. I have to finish the book by my deadline.
WG: Do you have a mood setter, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
CC: No. Having learned to write while my son was younger, I can write through anything - a blaring TV, loud music, talking, hurricanes, whatever, you name it. Lately, since the house is all mine now, I've been enjoying a hazelnut espresso candle I bought a few months ago, but it doesn't have to be burning for me to get into a writing mood.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
CC: A little of both. I usually like conflicts and plots that don't seem like they could possibly work out, so I do enough plotting to make sure they will come to a satisfying resolution. Then I just dive in and create the details and characters as I go.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
CC: Usually the first line of the book comes to me. From there I have to figure out what time period it would be said in, then who would say it and why. Once I have one character, I imagine who his/her opposite would be or who he/she would have the most conflict with. Then I figure out why they'll be perfect for each other and fall in love.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories
CC: Yes, my stories always have the theme of forgiveness in them. Mostly because forgiveness is what makes the world go round, imo. Without it, we'd all be lost and no one could love each other fully. At the same time, forgiving someone is often the hardest thing to do.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
CC: I think I'm good at settings because I love learning about the time periods and history. I hope I'm good at creating characters who seem like real people. That's my main goal anyway.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
CC: Don't give up and don't be too hard on yourself. Learn what advice to take and what to leave. Often times writers, especially new ones, think they know everything or nothing. The ones that think they know everything end up making the same mistakes over and over, while the writers who think everyone else knows better than they do end up chopping their voices into something unrecognizable. In my experience, the truth is usually in the middle. We can all learn something, but we need to be true to ourselves and what makes our writing unique at the same time.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
CC: I think you have to realize and really internalize that you can't please everyone. If possible, try to learn from whatever caused the rejection, bad review or unhappy reader so that you don't make the same mistake again. At the same time, maybe it was nothing you did, so learn to put aside the disappointment and just move on. There is always tomorrow.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
CC: I love everything about being a writer. I'm naturally a hermit, so I don't mind closing myself off in my own creative world. I love my characters and learning who they are. I really enjoy taking an idea and working out the knots so that everything comes out neatly in the end. I suppose if I have to pick something I struggle with it is the worry that I'll do a whole lot work on a book and it will come out boring or something like that.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun? What is your favorite self-indulgence?
CC: This is hypothetical, right? Because I've forgotten what's it like having time for something other than writing. :) Seriously, I travel or read or spend time with my family. I like to cook ethnic food and decorate for the holidays. I'm a HUGE fan of Christmas and every year I go overboard on every aspect of the season.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
CC: I love the History channels. Shows like Fraiser and House are my favorites because of the awesome characterization and I'm loving Castle. I love all sorts of movies. My favorites usually have a thread of romance in them somewhere, but not always. A few of my perennial favorites are the original Star Wars trilogy, Immortal Beloved (I'm not a big crier, but this one makes weep every time), Under the Tuscan Sun, Notting Hill, The Muppet Christmas Carole, Gladiator, Return to Me and all the BBC productions of the classics like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
CC: I love quotes, too! : My walls are covered with all sorts of plaques and pictures with sayings that make me laugh or sigh. I have numerous Biblical quotes with my favorite being Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." It's just so comforting to know the Lord will never give up on us.
Here are a few more of my favorites:
"There are people who have money and there are people who are rich". -Coco Chanel (Personally, I'd like to be both, but whatever.: )
"One shoe can change your life." -Cinderella
And though I despise the Wizard of Oz, this one makes me smile: "I have flying monkeys and I know how to use them."
Last but not least, "Chocolate! It's not just for breakfast anymore."
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
CC: I'm currently working on a sequel to The Gladiator called The Protector. It's scheduled for release in July 2010. It's about a rich young widow named Adiona whose life of privilege hides a secret and pain-filled past. And Quintus, a Christian who's lost everything of value and been sentenced to die for his faith in Christ. When a threat is made on Adiona's life, Quintus is made Adiona's protector in order to earn his freedom. Hoping to have a Christian wife someday, Quintus thinks Adiona is the exact opposite of the kind of woman God would want him to have, but he soon learns she's the greatest gift God will ever give him.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
CC: When I was writing The Gladiator, the lives of both Adiona and Quintus really touched me. I just saw them as perfect for each other. Adiona reminds me of a lot of women whose pasts make them feel they're unlovable. Quintus is my Job character. I've always appreciated the story of Job because of how God restored everything Job lost and then some. I don't like to take away from the fact that Job really was broken by all he lost, but God is always faithful and generous when we allow ourselves to be used for His glory. In The Protector, Adiona, a beautiful and valuable woman, who's been taught and feels she's worthless becomes God's gift to a deserving man who can really love and appreciate her.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
CC: I was able to use a lot of the same research on The Protector that I used in The Gladiator since they're in the same time and setting. But just the other day, I learned some interesting stuff on Roman vehicles and road design. I'm not sure how exciting other people would find that info, but I thought it was pretty interesting. :)
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
CC: After The Protector, I have one more Roman story in mind. I also have plans to write a Christmas story and another American Colonial. I also have a couple of pirate stories in my head. I try not to think about them but I can feel them percolating in the back of mind. One of these days, the first line will pop out and I'll have to write the whole book.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
CC: Feel free to contact me by email at: Carla@carlacapshaw.com or visit my website: www.carlacapshaw.com.
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. I enjoyed getting to know you better.