Saturday, August 14, 2010

Special Guest Saturday: Interview with Cara Lynn James (w/ giveaway!)

Cara, thank you so much for being with us today! Your new book is beautiful and I love the title. How did you come up with the story concept?

I read something about dime novels (can’t remember exactly where—the internet maybe) and I thought they’d make an interesting story. I think it reminded me a little of what Jo wrote in Little Women. So I did some research and found it fascinating. I love research and I often get carried away. Anyway, I wanted to write a novel about the Gilded Age in Newport, Rhode Island, so I decided to combine the two. Since rich women didn’t work during that time, I thought my dime novelist would have to work in secret. And wouldn’t it be fun if someone found out and tried to blackmail her. And wouldn’t it be even more fun if her former suitor became her publisher and wanted to go public with her real identity.

How long did you hone your craft before getting “the call?”

I wrote for six and a half years before I got ‘the call.’ I had two major surgeries during one of those years, so I didn’t write very much then. I wrote on and off all my life, but I doubt I finished more than thirty pages all together. I’d get stuck finding the perfect words so I never made any progress. ‘Wordsmiths’ have to learn to be ‘storytellers.’

Is there one thing you can look back on in your writing career and point to as the turning point?

I’ve had several turning points or moments of real encouragement that inspired me to keep on writing. Once I started finalling in writing contests I started to believe in myself. I’ve never been overly confident and I couldn’t really imagine ever getting a book published—although I always wanted to. Anyway, winning the 2005 Noble Theme award in the historical category gave me a huge boost of confidence and motivation. I finally believed that if I worked hard enough and studied the craft enough just maybe I might get published someday. And I believe in God’s timing. When the time was right and I was ready, I got ‘the call.’

Since your novel is historical, what research did you do to ensure it was accurate?

I practically grew up in Newport, Rhode Island and have been there many times as an adult, so I have a good picture of what it looks like now and what it looked like fifty years ago. (I’m really dating myself!) Since I was a kid I’ve collected books about the town, the Gilded Age and the rich summer people. I’ve always found that elitist and over privileged society really interesting. I also do a lot of research on the internet. I also remembered stories my mother told me about her mother’s childhood in Newport at the turn of the century.

Who is your inspiration in your writing life?

I think Edith Wharton. My favorite living author is Maeve Binchy.

What, in your personal opinion, takes a book beyond good and catapults it into great?

I think memorable, larger than life characters, a strong story well plotted and excellent writing.

Why do you write? What pushes you to sit down at the computer every day and create to such a degree?

I write because I love to write. I feel compelled to write—and I want to get my characters and story out of my mind and onto a computer screen and then paper. Also, I think the Lord gives everyone a talent (or several) and a plan to use those gifts. I think (at least I hope) mine is writing.

The glib answer to why I sit down at the computer every day—I’m on a deadline and I’m terrified I won’t finish my manuscript in time. No writer wants to let herself, her readers or her publisher down. Of course I wrote for six and a half years before I signed a contract, so I had to self motivate. I wasn’t nearly as disciplined as I could’ve been, but I did complete three books. I rewrote a contemporary as an historical, so I can honestly say I wrote four books.

There are so many newbie writers, waiting for that moment to break into the market. What advice do you have for them?

Don’t give up! Write something every day, attend writers’ conferences, join organizations such as American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America and their local groups, find critique partners, take classes on and off line about writing, enter contests, learn to accept constructive criticism graciously. Read books and articles on craft. Network with other writers. Writers are a very helpful bunch! Also, be sure to read the Seekerville blog faithfully!

What do you think is the biggest struggle of the beginning writer and how do you suggest they overcome it?

Obviously I can only speak for myself. I found it hard to stay disciplined and continue to write every day without a deadline looming. Writing is so solitary you have to provide your own motivation and discipline. Procrastination was a problem sometimes. (I still fight it.) I think discouragement could also be a huge problem unless you develop a thick skin. Having writer friends to boost your morale and give you a good swift kick figuratively speaking, of course, can really help. If you have writer friends you can’t quit easily or take too much time off.

Do you have any writer’s links that have been especially helpful? Aside from Seekerville. *winks*

I like to visit authors’ websites. They often have lots of interesting links.

Thanks so much for being here today! It has been a pleasure to have you visit. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers today?

Thanks for having me!

Well, thank you Cara! It is always a treat to have a Seeker visit. : )

Cara would love to giveaway a copy of her book, Love on a Dime, be sure and leave a comment to be entered. Winner will be announced in the next weekend edition.

Cara Lynn James is the author of Love on a Dime a 2010 release from Thomas Nelson. To find out more about Cara, clink on this link to visit her website.


Merry said...

I enjoyed the interview and would love a chance to win Love on a Dime. Thanks!

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning! Thanks so much for inviting me to Writer's Alley today. It's a really great blog.

Pepper said...

Yeah, Cara.
So glad to have you here. Thanks for walking down the street from Seekerville to visit our Alley :-)

I'm halfway through Love on a Dime and it's such a great story. LOVE the Gilded Age and the whole 'mystery' of a woman writing when it was taboo ;-)

It's so encouraging for those of us who are on this writing journey (and still on unpubbed island) to hear others' advice, struggles, etc.

Can you clue us in on what the second book is about?

Jo said...

What a interesting premise for a story. Has me fascinated and would love to get a copy of this book. Please enter me in the giveaway.


Beth K. Vogt said...

Sounds like a great read. I love historical novels that are well-researched, and it looks like Cara Lynn worked hard on that aspect, as well as the writing craft.

Cara Lynn James said...

Here's the 'official' blurb of Love on Assignment:

While Charlotte is focusing on uncovering sordid information on columnist Daniel Wilmot, her heart leads her into uncharted territory.
During the summer of 1900 Charlotte Hale, a native Newporter and secretary for the Rhode Island Reporter, accepts an undercover assignment as temporary governess to Daniel Wilmont's children in order to secretly gather evidence against him. As he helps her rediscover God, Charlotte learns that Daniel is an honorable man. They unexpectedly fall in love despite their different backgrounds and social positions. Charlotte soon realizes she must defend Daniel against the forces set against him—a willful student with a romantic crush and the newspaper editor determined to destroy his reputation.

Love on Assignment will be released in January 2011. It was great fun to write!

Lori said...

I love the "Gilded Age!" Both books sound intriguing. Please enter me in the contest! :) Thanks!

aaronandlori (at) gmail (dot) com

Wendy said...

I have been wanting to read this book.

Diane said...

I am so glad you persevered and have a gorgeous book to show for it and another on the way. Love both of the book covers. Thank you for the encouragement and the giveaway!

estrella8888 at roadrunner dot com

kathy taylor said...

Cara, I admire your tenacity. I'm looking forward to the ACFW conference and the opportunity to meet you. Love on a Dime sounds absolutely wonderful.

Candee Fick said...

Wow. Both books sound fabulously fun - and the covers are pretty amazing, too. After writing for six years (three in fiction), I appreciate the encouragement to keep learning, growing, and writing.

Any tips on self-motivating to overcome the procrastination factor? I could use a few. Sigh.

Enter me for a chance at the giveaway.


Casey said...

Thanks for being here Cara! Your interview was such fun to put together and read after it came back. We appreciate you!!

Cara Lynn James said...

I hope I'll get to meet some or all of you at the ACFW conference in September! I know I'll meet Kathy (waving!) since we're going to be roommates.

I'm procrastinating right now. I can tell you all about that, but overcoming is way harder. The easiest thing for me is to set a daily goal and not close my computer until I reach it or at least come close. I'm realistic--I'm a slow writer (but getting much faster out of necessity), so I don't expect to write 3 or 4,000 words every day--or any day. I also set a weekly word count to give myself flexibility. Sometimes I forgive myself too easily for not meeting my goal, but when a deadline looms fear propels me forward. Tired or not, I write.

Sidney W. Frost said...

Thanks so much for doing the interview. I worked on my first book for many years and felt compelled to finish it.

Anonymous said...

Cara, love your covers. I enjoyed Love on A Dime and am excited for the rest of the series.

Nora said...

Great interview. This book really does sound good and thanks for letting us get to know the authors better.

Thanks for putting my name in the hat for the drawing.

Nora St.Laurent

norafindinghope (at)

rbooth43 said...

LOVE ON A DIME sounds like a great read by this interview with Cara Lynn James. Winning a copy would be awesome.

A J Hawke said...

LOVE ON A DIME sounds like a fun read.

Please put my name in the draw.

A J Hawke
ajhawkeauthor at aol dot com

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

thanks for the awesome advice!! i think that whatever your craft, doing it everyday is great advice!

inthehammockblog at gmail dot com

Jennifer said...

Oh I love a good book:)

Amy (ArtsyBookishGal) said...

I love the cover and the book sounds ever better!

Amy S.
artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

Linda Kish said...

This sounds like a good story.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Julie Lessman said...

Fun, interview, Cara and Casey!! Always love finding out more about my Seeker buds.

Cara, LOVE all your covers, and especially love the premise for Love on Assignment -- can't wait to read it!


Anonymous said...

Love on Assignment looks and sounds really good!
I also LOVE the cover to Love on a Dime!!
please enter me!

karenk said...

thanks for the opportunity to read this fabulous novel :)

kmkua at yahoo dot com

Cindy W. said...

I have heard wonderful things about Love on a Dime and would love to win a copy. Thanks for the chance.

Cindy W.


apple blossom said...

love to win this book thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot]com

Sheila said...

Thank you for the wonderful review and giveaway! This sounds like my kind of book! :)

showcasesisters at gmail dot com

Michelle said...

Thanks so much for entering me!!

scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

BrendaC said...

Don't enter me in the giveaway, just wanted to say that I read this book and loved it. The author has the amazing ability to draw you into the story she is telling until you feel as if you are right there! I anxiously await the next installment in this marvelous series. Thanks Cara for writing such a great book!!!

Patsy said...

Book sounds really good. Looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for giving away a copy.
Carman sent me.

MaureenT said...

Can you imagine a book for ten cents? That was probably a lot of money back then. As a child we would always vacation in Dad was from there and always wanted to move back. I really would love to read this book. Thanks you!
Carman sent me.


Kathryn said...

This was a great interview. I've been interested in this book since I caught the cover on Goodreads, and hearing the story behind it makes me want to read it even more :)

Please enter me: ksmiley2[at]kent[dot]edu

Carman sent me, too !

Anne Payne said...

So glad I found your blog! Very informative, and great interviews. Would love to read this book.


Never2manybooks said...

I would love to read Love on a dime-loved the interview!
Kim Thorne

PriviesAndPrims said...

I would love to win this! I love reading about the "old days".

priviesandprims at yahoo dot com

Pam said...

Carman sent me. Love on a Dime sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading. Thanks for entering me in the book drawing.


Megan @ Inspired by Fiction said...

Ooh, am I too late to enter...I hope not. Thanks for the chance!


Emma said...

Great interview. Love on a Dime sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.