Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould is Jackie McNutt! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address!
This week we are featuring Carolyne Aarsen! To win a copy of her new book, Before the Dawn (Guidepost, 2013) leave a comment on this post.
Married. Check. Kids. Check. Empty nest. Check. My full time job is my writing and I’m so thankful I can work from home wearing comfy clothes. The only downside is that the pantry and refrigerator are only a procrastination away.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest . . .
My usual genre these days is writing romance for Love Inspired. However, I really enjoyed doing the Guideposts books which are closer to women’s fiction. I did four books for the Grace Chapel Inn series and four books for the Home to Heather Creek series and had fun working with the stories and the editors. As for reading, I’m all over the map – fantasy high and low, YA, legal thrillers, police procedurals, literary novels. If it has characters I want to spend time with, I’m there with my hot chocolate and my feet up.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I started writing when I finished reading a book one day and thought that I could do that as well. But I live at the intersection of No And Where and didn’t know how to go about it until I saw an advertisement for a correspondence course that promised to teach me to write from the comfort of my rural home. Better yet, it offered this cheap Dutch woman her money back if I didn’t earn back the initial cost of the course. Thanks to one of the assignments in the course, I started writing a weekly slice of life column for a number of weekly, rural newspapers. From that I earned enough to pay back the cost of the course and pay for a romance writing course – my first ‘love’. That particular course netted me my first book and a slew of rejections.
After you started writing seriously, how long was it before you were published?
I started writing for fun and profit in 1991 and in 1997 I sold my first book to Love Inspired.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Coffee and me aren’t friends, so no contest there. As for brain cylinders – I depend heavily on my good writing friend, Linda Ford. No matter what project I’m working on she helps keep my feet to the fire and encourages and helps me untangle plot knots. I work best in my office. Stepping into this room reminds me that this is a job. Sometimes, when I’m stuck and need a break or change of scenery, I’ll take my laptop or my iPad onto my deck or patio but my workhorse is my desktop computer in my office. That’s where the majority of my work is done. I have a window for the requisite ‘staring’ that is integral to writing and a chair in one corner for my husband to come and sit with his cup of tea, or sandwich when he’s around. I treat this as a job and show up to the computer anywhere between 8:30 and 9:00. I have a break for lunch when I go for a walk and try to solve some story problem. Then it’s back to work by 1:00 until 4:30 or 5:00 or. Earlier sometimes if I get my word count done for the day.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
The biggest help I got was feedback from a couple of writers initially which sent me in the direction of writing courses and writing conferences where I met other authors and talked business. As I wrote I found out more what I didn’t know which sent me on to courses and workshops more specific to what I felt I needed to know. As far as readers go, I write too quickly to wait for reader’s opinions but I depend heavily on my writing friend, Linda, to help me untangle story knots and brainstorm plot ideas and problems.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
In some ways it’s better. I can work from home and don’t have to drive every day to a job. I also have contributed to the family income in a way I never thought possible. I can take time off and schedule my work around family holidays and trips to see my grandchildren. When I started this journey I truly never thought I would have written for three different publishers and written so many books and still want to keep going. I’m blessed and I know it.
What are your biggest distractions?
The internet. Hands down.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
Best moment – such a cliché – getting that phone call from a woman with a New York accent telling met that Love Inspired wanted to buy my first book. Nothing has compared to that since. Worst moment – there’s been some bad ones that have to do with rejection of ideas, stories that needed to be completely overhauled. But I think the worst one was finding out that a book I had poured my heart and soul into, the book I thought would be my breakout novel, would never earn back it’s advance. I felt as if I had let the publisher down even though I did whatever I could in terms of writing the story.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I don’t like how hard it can be to come up with new and interesting ideas. I don’t like how it can feel like so much work. Sometimes I feel like I’m just throwing words into the wind and they won’t land anywhere. But then I get a letter from a reader which leads to one of the things I most like about being a writer. Knowing my book has created a moment of pleasure or meaning for a reader.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I depend on my agent to deal with the business aspect of writing so that my editor and I can focus on the creative aspect of writing and the grammar – not my strong point. More importantly, my agent gives me feedback and encouragement and keeps me abreast of the market which helps me make writing decisions.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Fear not. Plunge in. Don’t hold back. It’s just words on a page that can always, always be fixed. Read good writing books – Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, read good writers and try to understand why their books grip you. Write some more and read some more. Take screenwriting courses and always be open to learn.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
This book is about second chances. The second chance at parenting Charlotte and Bob get when they lose their daughter to a car accident, and the three grandchildren they barely knew move into their home. However for the kids, moving from the city to the farm meant moving from their friends and what they knew to many unknowns.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’m currently contracted to do the third book in an editor driven series for Love Inspired. I just got the information on the stories. They take place in Montanta and I get to write about a rancher – my favourite type of hero.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?