Welcome, Zoe. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Especially with Calculated Risk, I wrote a lot of myself into Cisney, a marketing rep, and into Nick, the analytical actuary. (Actuaries evaluate financial risks for insurance companies.) I’m a retired actuary. Two popular personality tests confirmed I’m creative and expressive on one hand and analytical and introverted on the other. So it was easy to get into the heads of expressive, vibrant Cisney and analytical, numbers-man Nick. My analytical husband, also a retired actuary, was good model for Nick.
The tests have shown that I am equally strong in both sides of my brain as well. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
When I was twenty, I accepted a ride in a taxi with a drunk American stranger in his fifties in
was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. When I was ten, my sister, two friends,
and I walked on ice to the middle of a lake and all fell through. That was plain
dumb. But quirky? Well, at a come-as-your-character dinner, I dressed up like
Cisney with yellow stickies plastered all over my suit and hair. Attendees
didn’t remember my name, but the next day, they said, “You’re the one who had
adhesive notes stuck to her outfit.” So, the quirky part is, I’m going to wear
my Cisney costume to my upcoming book signing and to my launch party. Bangkok,
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Others have said if you write anything, even journals, you’re a writer. I didn’t start calling myself a writer until I wrote contemporary Christian short stories to explain to myself what I read in the Bible and heard in Bible studies. People liked the stories, so I self-published two books of them. Then I performed dramatic readings of the stories in several venues, including a male juvenile correctional center. I felt guilty calling myself a writer at that time. But now, I believe if one spends time writing on a regular basis, he’s a writer. That doesn’t mean he’s a good writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I especially enjoy witty romances with sassy or droll heroines. Much to my husband’s chagrin at bedtime, I laugh through Jenny B. Jones’s adult and young adult books. Reading her books gave me permission to use my dormant writer’s voice. Check out her Just Between You and Me, So Not Happening (YA), and In Between (YA). I also loved the heroine in Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. In addition to romances, I like suspense, legal thrillers, and historical fiction. On the non-fiction side, I read biographies and books classified as Christian living or spiritual growth.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I spend considerable time in the early morning praising, praying, reading devotionals, and studying the Bible. And I’m blessed to have a husband who loves me, supports me while I treat writing like a 9 to 6 job, and does all the laundry, grocery shopping, and vacuuming. I won’t say I’m calm and serene. (I grind my teeth while I sleep.) But my life is full and good.
My husband is like yours. We truly are blessed. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Cisney is my deceased maternal grandmother’s middle name. I liked it. For Nick, I looked for an unusual last name. Finally, I asked my husband what was the least common surname of someone he knew from his past. LeCrone. The name fit Nick.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My college freshman math teacher assigned a “marbles” problem. My three roommates worked on it for an hour and gave up. I worked on it all afternoon and evening. Well after midnight, I climbed into my top bunk. But the problem wouldn’t go away. I had my hands in the air, using my fingers for marbles. Then the solution hit me. The answer wasn’t one case but a set of cases. On the floor outside our room, I scribbled like crazy, writing out cases. Someone approached and asked me a question. I’d been in “marble world” so long I couldn’t compute what she said. The next day the professor asked smugly if any of us got the answer. Two of us out of fifty had. I shot my hand up so forcefully, the professor chose me to put it on the board. After I started writing the second of multiple cases, he smiled and nodded. So exhilarating.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A puma. I startle very easily. Two kinds of people cause me to jump: quiet people who are suddenly there and loud people who come in talking. One Christmas, I gave everyone in the office rattles to wear so they wouldn’t scare me. At another company, the chief actuary started rapping on my outer office wall for ten feet so he wouldn’t scare me when he reached the door. So, if I were a stealthy puma, I could startle others for a change.
What is your favorite food?
Potpourri. I like to bring all kinds of foods from the pantry that are in bits and put a little of each on a plate. For example, one meal might be: Froot Loops, Craisins, peanuts, and dark-chocolate-covered pomegranate nuggets. Another might be: small chunks of ham, cherries, chips, and almonds.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Characterization. For a while, I’d been adding traits to people like I was dressing and accessorizing paper dolls. In my first four “practice” books, I avoided letting my hero and heroine have family near them. To me, creating parents and siblings was too much painstaking work. Then during a couple of short stories I wrote, I found my voice. I felt free to just let the characters be who they are. I loved writing all the members in Nick’s family. Their quirks surfaced so easily. For me, it’s easier to model characters using bits from several people I know. Cisney’s mother was the hardest to write because she’s somewhat like my deceased mother.
Tell us about the featured book.
I decided to use the little known actuarial profession for my hero. I like romances about extreme opposites, so I knew Cisney had to be a social marketing rep. I maintain that opposites distract before they attract. This’s true for Cisney and Nick. In the throes of being dumped by her overbearing father’s choice, Cisney has rashly accepted Nick’s invitation to spend Thanksgiving with his family. After Nick witnessed the dump-Cisney call, he extended the invitation only because he felt sorry for her. Now she’d rather be skiing with her single marketing friends in
than spending four days with a house infested with actuaries. And so the fun
Please give us the first page of the book.
In search of the yellow sticky with her ideas for today’s meeting, Cisney Baldwin sifted through papers on her desk. She had a choice: honor her rash commitment to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Nick LeCrone and his family, or lie and join her friends on the
Colorado ski slopes.
Biting cold air and exhilarating speed might keep her mind off slime-ball Jason. And, she’d need her
friends nearby to nurse her self-esteem after she told Daddy she’d lost his
pick for her future.
She planted fists on her hips and stared at the papers sprinkled with yellow stickies that covered her workspace. Minutes before her meetings with Nick, she could never put her fingers on her notes. Why did this always happen?
How was she going to face him today, after he’d stood in her office doorway last week and watched her disintegrate during Jason’s dump-Cisney phone call? If only she’d stopped there, but no, she hung up and blubbered about the end of her six-month relationship and having nowhere to go for Thanksgiving.
She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on the piles. This was all Jason’s fault. Jason needed space? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with a waist the size of his muscular neck.
Way to leave us hanging, Zoe. How can readers find you on the Internet?http://zoemmccarthy.com
Thank you, Zoe, for sharing your new book with us and giving us a peek into your life.
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Calculated Risk - Christianbook.com
Calculated Risk - Amazon
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