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.
This week we are featuring Caryl McAdoo! To enter to win a copy of her book, Vow Unbroken (Howard Books), leave a comment on this post.
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I live in the woods of Red River County, Texas with my husband Ron and four grandsons. Eleven years ago, after one year of an empty nest, O’Pa and I welcomed a six, four, and three-year-old, and their newborn baby brother, so it’s always interesting at our house. Our second set of four as I birthed four of our own, three boys and a girl, and now have a total of fourteen grand sugars.
I’d say I work full time, but not at a job-job where I go somewhere 8-to-5 and get a regular paycheck. Every morning, I rise and start my jobs, taking care of the family, cleaning house, laundry, writing books, and marketing. These activities fill most all my days until I go to bed at night. I am blessed to have time for writers’ workshops and events, my Thursday morning prayer group, book club at the library, and have lunch with my Luncheon lady friends once a month.
I write morning, noon, and/or night; sometimes in the wee hours of the night if I can’t sleep. Or I write in the car on two-and-a-half-hour trips to the big city (Dallas/FortWorth) where my Daddy and siblings live—as well as Ron’s brother and my cousins.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
Vow Unbroken is my first historical Christian romance, and I love the genre. Heretofore, I thought I couldn’t add too much ‘religion’ or be too ‘preachy’. Of course, that’s always true, but in Vow, my heroine is a woman of faith who loves the Lord and longs to please Him. That’s awesome to me, and I also loved having a life-changing salvation in the story. Surprised at how much I enjoyed researching for a historical, I learned so much and actually dug deeper than I intended for the sheer fun of it and believe that paid off in a better, more realistic story.
I do also like writing for the mid-grade genre. These excited young readers make me grateful for the opportunity to instill a love of reading for the rest of their lives. The first chapter books I wrote with O’Pa, my husband, were sweet, clean stories, but having tasted the thrill of including faith in my writing has definitely spilled over to this genre as well. I’m working on a mid-grade trilogy called The King’s Highway; book one Starfish Prime.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
It’s so funny that I have this story to tell. In the seventh grade, my teacher assigned an essay on what we’d be doing in the year 2000—this was in 1962, so a long way off. Stretching my imagination, I wrote of being an inter-gallactically famous author jetting from planet to planet to autograph books. So it’s safe to say, yes, I’ve dreamed of being published.
I started writing with my husband in the ’80s. We joined the DFW Writers’ Workshop where we were mentored by a great group of published authors and learned our craft over fifteen years meeting weekly. I’m so blessed that Ron and I share the love for creating stories. In 2008, we moved from Irving in Dallas County and quit writing for awhile, having horses, goats, pigs, chickens, gardens, and the boys, of course, to keep us plenty busy. I met my agent Mary Sue Seymour in 2012, and she encouraged me to write Vow Unbroken.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
Had God not lead us to the DFW Writers Workshop, I seriously doubt I’d be published at all, but after six years there, our first book became a reality – a non-fiction antiquing guide in ‘99, then came Great Firehouse Cooks of Texas in ‘01, both published by the same small regional press. But I wanted to write fiction. Another small Texas press plus east and west coast publishers released four more novels and three mid-grade chapter books in the following years before our move. So while Vow Unbroken is my tenth title to be published, it’s the first by a big house and the process has been so exciting!
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?
I love to sit down in front of the computer and write. Usually the story has already been thought out during cooking, riding the tractor, at the grandsons’ ball games, or driving, and it’s just a matter of getting it onto the page. The computer armoire is in our bedroom next to a window that looks out onto the beautiful woods, and I’d guess I average maybe three hours a day, but usually not in one stint. You know how it is with a family, a Grami has never ending laundry and kitchen duties.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Definitely the mentoring and weekly critique at the DFW Writers’ Workshop, and I highly recommend that any writers who desire publication get involved in a good writers’ group. Not one that slaps them on the back once a month and says, “I like it. It’s lovely.” They need to find one where the members listen with a hard ear and discern any area where the work might be improved then share that.
I know critique and criticism come from the same root, but to me, they have such huge differences in connotation. Critique is a wonderful gift offered from a colleague who wants to help you get published. Some writers can’t take it, but if they could toughen up and consider the advice, their dream just might come true.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Yes, since I’ve been in sales my whole working career, the marketing part did not come as the shock it is to many writers. I suppose I’d have to say I love that part of the business, too: networking, meeting new friends at conferences and over the internet. Getting to create characters and send them on journeys, have them learn and grow, overcome. It’s indeed a good life! (My husband always says I use too many exclamation marks, but I’m always just so excited : )
What are your biggest distractions?
I imagine Facebook is number one for many writers, but I have to say my grandsons. They’re seventeen, fifteen, fourteen, and eleven now, and always needy or getting something going with each other. They’re definitely always hungry. The oldest goes off to college this year, and the youngest is looking forward to being an only child. I’ll be seventy when he graduates.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
One of the best moments so far would be that first time I saw ‘McAdoo’ on the spine of our first book Antiquing in North Texas. You’d think your name on the front cover would be more thrilling, but I just really love the book spines! If you hadn’t specified moment, I’d have to say attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference was my best experience. And the worst? Once an editor told us she was going to publish our novel (the first fiction at the time), then backed out. Of course, rejections are a part of the business, but every one is still difficult.
If you could create a perfect day for yourself, what would you do?
I’d spend the whole day with my husband. We’d start at a believers’ gathering where free praise and worship flowed under the direction of the Holy Spirit, grab a bite at a Mexican restaurant, then head off on an adventure, a ride on the train through the East Texas piney woods, or a tour of the Cypress Bayous near Jefferson, Texas. A romantic dinner at a quaint independent restaurant would lead into a night at a Bed and Breakfast.
If you could cook one meal for us, what would it be?
I’d fix you chicken enchiladas with sour cream, Mexican rice and black beans. My boys love my tacos best, but they’re too easy. I’ve never eaten any restaurant’s sour cream chicken enchiladas as good as mine—in my humble opinion. : )
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
Bringing God glory—by showing His love serving others, being His hands and feet in this world, and advancing His Kingdom.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
What I like the least is the time in the chair at the computer because when I’m there very long, different body parts complain and try to make me quit. The absolute best part of writing is the freedom of it. I can write anywhere, anytime I want.
Writing takes readers to places they might never go in the physical and introduces them to experiences they may never have. I want my readers’ lives to be touched for the better. I hope to make them laugh aloud or have their eyes fill with tears to where they blur the words. I pray they will be drawn into a fuller life, one filled with peace and joy and God’s everlasting, unfailing love. I write to bring God glory, advance His Kingdom.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I know that I know in April 2012, God sent Mary Sue Seymour to the North East Texas Writers’ Organization’s 26th annual Writers’ Round-up Conference in little ol’ Mt. Pleasant for a divine appointment. When she got off the elevator and hugged my neck, saying I was the first McAdoo she’d ever met that wasn’t family, I knew. As though God hit us on the head with a velvet hammer, He definitely got our attention.
She told me what she wanted me to write, a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s, gave me advice to change the story’s course after reading the first fifty pages, then edited the manuscript with me in July, sent it out in August, and emailed me the offer from Howard Books in October. On a scale of one to ten with ten being the highest, I’d rate the importance of a good agent a solid ten.
An agent’s role is to guide, direct, encourage, console, redirect, advise, and generally, in the end, make her clients’ dreams come true. I am very blessed to have Mary Sue McAdoo Seymour as my agent!
What advice would you give to new writers?
As stated above, get into a good writers’ read-and-critique group. Secondly, go to as many conferences as possible attending classes and interviewing with professionals in the industry. Conferences not only can improve your writing, but the networking opportunities are invaluable.
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.
Vow Unbroken will take you on a yesteryear journey with folks you’ll fall in love with and cheer on in their struggles. It’s about overcoming through obedience to God’s uncompromising Word and draws its readers to examine their hearts towards Him.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
In my next Lone Star Novel—second historical Christian romance in the Red River County Chronicles series Heart Stolen—set in 1844, fourteen-year-old Levi from Vow is twenty-six and a Texas Ranger. He rescues a young woman from the Comanche and promises to see her home. I look forward to going through the process of creating a new book with my Howard editors. And I’m working on Hope Reborn, the third book with these loveable characters in 1850 before they move south to the Texas Hill Country for another series with future generations up through the 1950s.
I’m also excited over that mid-grade trilogy and can hardly wait for Starfish Prime’s debut so that I can go into elementary schools and speak to students again.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Alphabetically, you can find me and Vow Unbroken at these links:
Amazon’s Author page, Amazon Vow Unbroken page, Barnes & Noble, Blog, Facebook Author Page, Goodread’s Author page, Google+ Page, LinkedIn profile page, Mardel, Pinterest, Twitter, Simon and Schuster’s Author page, and Website.