Sunday, May 06, 2007

Meet My Friend, Carol Cox

I've known Carol for several years. We both have written for the same publisher. You can read all about her books at:

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.

Carol, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

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)

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

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.


Mindy Obenhaus said...

Thank you Carol and thank you Lena. You have no idea how much I needed Carol's advice (just check out my blog post for today). I needed this. Excellent interview! Bravo!

Rhonda said...

Wonderful job Carol and Lena!! Carol is a great friend as well as a wonderful author. I was thrilled to read more about her and "how" she does what she does. Too Cool!!!

Thanks ladies

Lindsey Freitas said...

Oooh, this looks like a great book! *panting*

I love the cover, too! :-)

DeAnna Julie Dodson said...

What a great interview. I'm glad I'm not the only one who used to write instead of listening in class. ;)

What a beautiful book cover, too!

Congratulations on the new grandbaby, Carol! :D

tetewa said...

Sounds like a wonderful book count me in! Enjoyed the interview.

Sheryl said...

Thank you Carol & Lena for a terrific interview. I loved Ticket to Tomorrow, the first book in Carol's A Fair To Remember series. I'd love to be entered in the drawing for a copy of her new book.

Kathleen Morphy said...

I recently read a couple other Carol Cox books and really enjoyed them. What great timing! And Carol, my assistant pastor's wife has her firearms certification. Go figure. Congrats on the new baby! You've got me really curious about the book. Did they ever figure out any kind of pattern in the disappearances?

The Write Life said...

The book sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing a great interview!


Sally Bradley said...

Okay, I'm from Chicago--shouldn't that count for two entries for me in the contest???

Lena, very fun interview. Whether I win the book or not, I'm going to have to go read all in this series.

Mary Connealy said...

I've read both books in Carol's A Fair to Remember series and they're excellent. Everytime something comes up about these books I try to explain just what's so special about them and I never feel like I put it just right. The books, the stories, the characters are great, lots of intrigue and action and romance, stuff I LOVE, but the setting of these books, the Chicago World's Fair...I know, that's not what it was called. It's like what? Carol? The Columbia Exposition or something? Anyway, it's the Chicago World's Fair and it's just so fascinating and fun and almost Awe inspiring. Carol just captures this backdrop in a way that gives both books a depth that is rare and extremely entertaining.
She captures this sense of awe when someone turns on these glorious...LIGHT BULBS. The crowd gasps, everyone freezes so they can watch the most amazing thing...a car.
You know, stuff like that, moments like that.
Thomas Edison wanders through the book and other historical characters, all while Carol's story is unfolding. I just loved it.
My advice is to read them in order. They stand on their own and you'll still enjoy book two without book one, but Example: The landlady Carol refered to in the interview is so funny and odd, but I think you'll enjoy her more if you read book #1, Ticket to Tomorrow, first.
Okay, I went on too long and still don't think I've gotten it just right.
Great interview Carol and Lena. Nice work on the 'animal' question, Carol. A black lab. LOOK OUT BELLY PAT!!!!!!

carolcox said...

Wow! My internet goes down for one day, and look what happens while I'm offline! LOL

What a wonderful group of comments! I've had so much fun reading through them.

Mindy, I read your last few blog entries. It looks like you have more than enough on your plate at the moment. I've been there myself. Sometimes it helps to take a step back from writing for a while, just to give yourself the chance to refresh and let your batteries recharge a bit. Quite often, that's all it takes to let the creativity start flowing again.

Rhonda, it's great to see you here. One of these days, we're going to have to get together again in person!

Lindsey, don't hyperventilate with all that panting. LOL I'm glad you like the cover!

And Deanna, I just got back from a quick visit with the new baby. We're going out of town tomorrow, and I had to get my "Grandma fix" before we leave. : )

Sheryl, thanks for the nice comments. You did a lovely review on Ticket to Tomorrow, and I appreciated it so much!

Kathleen, I'm glad you've enjoyed some of my other books. Which ones have you read? And that's fun to hear about your assisant pastor's firearms certification. : ) As to the disappearances, there were any number of reasons. Some girls simply got caught up in the excitement of their newfound independence and big city life and neglected to keep in touch with their families back home. Some wanted to break ties with their families and dropped out of sight deliberately. Others met a much grimmer fate, such as those described in Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Whatever the reasons, the Chicago police were swamped with missing persons reports during that time. Some people were found and reunited with their families. . .and some weren't. That's fodder enough to set a novelist's mind in high gear. : )

Paige and tetewa, I'm glad you liked the interview. Thanks for the comments!

Sally, have you spent time in Jackson Park, where the fair was held? We went there during the research phase for book one, and I had a fabulous time wandering around the grounds with a map that showed where the fair buildings stood in relation to the current roads. It was amazing!

Mary, the formal name for the fair was the World's Columbian Exposition. The intent was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America. . .except the buildings weren't finished in time. LOL So the exposition opened a few months later than planned, and what a fantastic event it was! Wouldn't it have been amazing to be able to see it all in person?

Again, thanks to all of you for the great comments. When you read the book, I'd love to hear what you think about it!

Gilbert said...

I found some great fiction book reviews. You can also see those reviews in Non fiction book

FWA Melbourne Writers Group meets the 4th Wednesday of each month at 7PM said...

What a great interview. I suspect it was a fun chat for both of you.

Norma said...

Sounds like a great book! Count me in!