I've known Carol for several years. We both have written for the same publisher. You can read all about her books at: www.carolcoxbooks.com
Here's a picture of Kim Sawyer, Cathy Marie Hake, and Carol with me at the American Christian Fiction Writers national conference in Dallas last year. They shared my joy with me.
Evidently, even more than I think! Quite often, people who know me will say they recognized me in my characters. The odd thing is, the qualities they claim to see—spunkiness, determination, and self-reliance—aren’t traits I would use in describing myself. I deal with the same doubts and issues many of my characters face and possess some of their more quirky attributes as well. But I’m not sure I’m ready to admit which quirks are based on my traits and which are strictly products of my imagination. :-)
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
How about letting my husband talk me into getting involved with Cowboy Fast Draw? Yes, you read that right. Fast draw, as in Gunsmoke, as in Bonanza, as in “let’s see who can hit the target first.” The transition from mild-mannered author to pistol-packin’ pastor’s wife isn’t quite as bizarre as it sounds when you know that in addition to pastoring two churches, my husband also owns a saddle shop. In recent years, he has become well-known for making historically accurate gun rigs for men and women involved in Cowboy Action Shooting, one of the fastest-growing sports today. From there, it wasn’t too big a step for him to want to compete himself. Then he decided it would make a wonderful family activity. . .and the rest is history. While other families decide what DVD to watch, we work on ways to lower our reaction time. And I have to say I love it all, from the friendly competition of the meets to creating an Old West persona and dressing the part.
Wow, Carol, I had no idea. What fun! When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have wanted to write ever since I was a small child, from the moment I realized someone got to make up those wonderful stories I loved to read. The first inkling that I might actually be able to carry it off came in seventh grade, when I started writing books during English class. Unfortunately, the teacher saw my foray into literature as a lack of attention rather than budding genius, so I was forced to produce smaller works. I mean really small. I wrote in tiny print on paper folded into squares a couple of inches across. But the results were worth it. My friends started reading my deathless prose during recess and clamored for further installments. They liked the stories, they laughed in all the right places--what more could an aspiring author ask for? I was hooked!
I hope you still have a few of those for momentos. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read in most fiction genres—everything from cozy mysteries to westerns to romantic suspense to sci-fi. I love learning about new things, so I devour non-fiction books as well. Now that I’m writing full-time, I have far less time available for reading than I used to. My reward for finishing a deadline is to dive into the stack of books waiting to be read. It’s a wonderful opportunity to catch my breath until it’s time to get back to work again.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’ve written eight titles for Heartsong Presents and eleven novellas in collections published by Barbour. I’m currently working on the last book of the A Fair to Remember series, set in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and have just completed a book for a new series from Guideposts, called Mystery and the Minister’s Wife. The list includes both historical and contemporary titles, and I’ve loved doing both!
I know what you mean. I do, too. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It’s all about priorities and seeing what is really important. Recently, God has been reminding me of Jeremiah 29:11, with its promise that His plans are to give me a future and a hope—not to burden my life and overwhelm me. He has to be my number-one priority, or everything else falls apart!
Amen to that. How do you choose your characters’ names?
More often than not, they wind up introducing themselves to me before I have a chance to have any say in the matter. LOL Take Ethelinda Purvis, the landlady in the A Fair to Remember series, for instance. She waltzed up to me one day, with those iron-gray curls bobbing around her face, and informed me she was far more than a mere bit player in the books. Was I going to argue with a woman named Ethelinda? I don’t think so.
You're so funny. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My family. My husband and I have been married nearly 33 years. We have two wonderful kids, the daughter-in-law of our dreams, and our first grandchild is due any day now. Calling this an accomplishment isn’t a pride issue over anything I have done—it’s utter gratitude that God has blessed me by putting them all in my life.
Readers, that grandbaby arrived before this interview went up on the site. I've seen a picture of Carol with her, and she's a real cutie. Let's digress a little, Carol. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
What a great question! If I could trade places with an animal for a day, I’d take a turn at being Max, our black Lab. Max’s mission in life is to please and offer unconditional love to his family, asking only for regular meals and a bit of affection in return. He’s happy just to be around us, and loves hopping into the minivan whenever we leave home. It doesn’t matter where we’re going; his whole goal is simply to be with us. Watching him reminds me of the way I should relate to God—with total trust, total contentment, and utter joy in His presence.
That's a good analogy. Now a subject dear to all our hearts. What is your favorite food?
You mean besides chocolate? Wait a minute, is there anything besides chocolate? Speaking of which, I just want to say how vindicated I feel by the recent studies showing that dark chocolate may actually be a good addition to a heart-healthy diet. After all these years of standing fast in my chocolate loyalty despite the doom-and-gloom naysayers, I think I deserve a few bonus points. (Or should that be brownie points?)
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Two things—lack of confidence and poor time management. Trying to run in a dozen different directions at once drained my time and energy and sapped my confidence in myself and my writing. It took moving the focus away from myself and onto the Lord to get things back into perspective. Believing that writing is something He wants me to do, I see it as a calling, not a hobby or “just a job.” And because of this, I can put my confidence in Him rather than in my own efforts. As to time management, I knew the right things to do, but I needed to put them into practice. And as these issues have been resolved, I have more time to concentrate on what I’m supposed to do and feel better about what I accomplish.
Everyone could gain wisdom from you on these two things. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Be patient. Prepare to learn and gear yourself mentally for a marathon, not a sprint. The learning process takes time.
Read in a wide variety of genres to discover which holds the most appeal for you. Your writing will show far more depth and passion if you’re working in a genre you love.
Study the craft of writing. There are excellent books available, covering everything from basic grammar to character development to plot and structure and much more. Organizations like American Christian Fiction Writers offer teaching, encouragement, and support (as well as wonderful mentors like Lena!) to their members. And writers conferences are held all around the country. Attending conferences is a wonderful way to build on your knowledge as well as getting to know others who share your passion for writing.
Develop a teachable attitude. The more I write, the more I realize how much more there still is to learn. There is always the joy of growing, of improving my skills, of learning to be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (from 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)
I’ve had a great time writing this series, where I was able to combine my favorite elements of history, mystery, and romance. An intriguing setting is often the catalyst that gets my creative juices going, and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is a setting like no other. It was a pivotal point in U.S. history, a moment in which the nation felt itself on the brink of major change, with all the excitement and anxiety that implies.
As if that weren’t enough, I discovered rich story fodder beyond the gates of the fairgrounds. Inspired by the knowledge that people from all over the world would be flocking to Chicago, D. L. Moody planned a six-month evangelistic campaign to coincide with the fair. I had already decided on Seth Howell, a young preacher, as the hero of Fair Game. After reading about Moody’s campaign and the results it brought, I knew Seth would have to be a part of that.
Then I learned about the many disappearances that took place during the fair. Chicago police were so swamped by missing persons reports, it was impossible for them to look into them all, and that planted the seed for a very important aspect of the story. I have one more book to write about this amazing fair. I am looking forward to revisiting a period and place I have come to love, but I hate the thought of saying goodbye to the setting and the characters once it comes to an end.
Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Lena. I’ve enjoyed the questions and the visit!
The time with you, Carol, has been fun and informative. I'm sure the readers will agree.
Now, Readers, be sure to leave a comment on Carol's interview for a chance to win a copy of Fair Game.
The next interview will be with Rachel Hauck, so come on back soon.