Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm thrilled fellow Seeker and good friend Cara Lynn James is visiting Cup of Faith today. Cara's sharing some of her writing process and giving those who leave a comment a chance to win a copy of her wonderful debut, Love on a Dime. I love to read and write historicals and I find the setting of Cara's novel, Newport, RI during the Gilded era, especially intriguing. On a visit to Newport a few years ago, I was blown away by the "cottages." Mix in a heroine who is a dime novelist and a fetching cover and I'm hooked!
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Please describe your typical day. Do you need a jolt of caffeine to get going? Or are you up and at ‘em kind of gal?

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I need one or two small lattes in the morning to get going. It’s such a great way to start the day! It puts me in a good mood which is important since I’m a night owl. The morning is a beautiful, quiet time, but I always feel groggy in the a.m. Of course I have to get up early just like everyone else. I’ve noticed the every-day world seems to follow the schedule of the early birds more than the night owls. Sigh. I work for a few hours in the morning, some in the afternoon and usually in the evening as well.

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Do you have a word count you try to fulfill each day? Any tips on productivity you care to share?
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1,000 words a day is my minimum word count. My optimum word count is 1,500 words. I usually get it done or at least come close. Since I’m a rather slow writer I try to write every single day. Occasionally I take a day off, but not often. I’m also trying hard to increase my productivity and I’m making some progress. The terror of missing a deadline is a strong motivator! I can’t whip out a great book in a matter of a few months. I sure wish I could.
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How do you keep from being overwhelmed with writing, promotion, family responsibility, and still have time to smell the proverbial roses?
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Sometimes I am overwhelmed. Then I take a deep breath, pray for serenity, and buckle down to work. If I let myself really think of all the things I have to do in too short a time, then I have the tendency to panic. I have to settle down and take one thing at a time. I’m sure taking a walk would be healthy and relaxing, but I’d rather read a chapter or two in a great novel than torture myself with exercise. (I do try to take a walk several times a week. But I can find excuses—it’s too hot and humid, it’s raining, we might have a thunderstorm etc.) Eating dark chocolate also improves my state of mind.
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Some writers love plotting, some like writing that first draft, and others enjoy researching or digging into the revisions. What's your favorite part about writing a book?
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I enjoy researching. I can get lost in research and won’t surface for hours. I also like to plot, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Plotting takes a lot of thought and planning. If I plot in too much detail I lose interest in the story. But I do need some sort of a road map. Getting lost or veering down rabbit trails scares me. I hate to write and toss all those wonderful words. But I’m frugal and save them for another story. Still, it’s much faster to get the story right the first time—but it’s not always easy.
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If I’m ‘in the zone’ I love to write without editing. But sometimes the words won’t come. That’s when I find writing a first draft to be frustrating and oh so slow. I also enjoy editing. At least the words are already on the screen. Finding exactly the right word is fun and satisfying, but sometimes time consuming.
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When starting a new project, do you tend to begin with a time period or event and create the characters to live it, or do you start with characters and then find their story?
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I start with a time period, location, character types and a situation or hook. Then I flesh out the characters as I find their story. A story never comes to me without a lot of thought. I develop it as I start to take notes. The characters tell me their story as I write about them, but before I begin the actual manuscript. As I write the book the characters become clearer and more real to me, so I’ll have to revise and change my original plans somewhat. I outline although not in great detail.
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How much of yourself you write into your characters?
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I try to keep myself out of the story. I don’t think I’d come across as sympathetic enough for a heroine. Maybe I could be the sardonic sidekick or quirky old aunt.
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How do you choose your characters’ names?
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Since I write historicals I have lots of fun with names. Many turn-of-the-century names are funny sounding to our modern ears and I like to use them, but not for my heroes and heroines. I looked up baby names popular during the 1890s and 1900s and the girls’ names especially seem old fashioned now and not very appealing. But there are a few I like such as Alice, Elizabeth, Lilly, and Charlotte. I wouldn’t name my heroine Bertha, Hazel, or Edna, but they were popular back then too. I usually choose the first name first and then try to match it with a last name. I keep a chart so I don’t have more than one or two names beginning with the same letter.
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What’s your favorite way to spend leisure time?
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Reading is my favorite hobby. I don’t have much time for any other hobbies, although I used to crochet and quilt and sew. If I had a lot of time and money, I’d travel. Reading is so much cheaper. I also love to try out new restaurants, go camping and lounge on the beach.
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How can readers find you on the Internet?
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Thanks for giving us a peek at your writing process, Cara! Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Love on a Dime.
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Janet

53 comments:

Lisa Faye Harman said...

I haven't been to RI but this setting and story line sounds very interesting. Can't wait to read the book!

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning! Thanks for inviting me here today, Janet. It's going to be another hot day in northwest Florida. I wish I was in Rhode Island right now!

Janet said...

I LOVE historical fiction! Love On A Dime sounds like an awesome book!
Blessings,
Janet
janet@janetstreasures.com

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Lisa! Thanks for stopping in. If you're curious, check out the mansions at:

http://www.newportmansions.org/

If you see this, please leave your e-mail address for a chance to win. Thanks!

Blessings, Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cara, we could have a blast touring the "cottages" and staying cool. :-) I love your heroine's secret life as a dime novelist and the conflict that brings to her life. Really enjoying Love on a Dime!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good to have you here, Janet! Always good to hear from those who love historicals!

Blessings, Janet

Kim Kaberle said...

I have never read any historical fiction. I love reading and this sounds like a wonderful book.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Cara!! I really love your cover & "Love on a Dime" kept me turning the pages! At what point in the brainstorming process did you come up with the idea of your heroine secretly writing dime novels as a core conflict? Were dime novels something you came across in your research and it evolved or did you already have that in mind when you started?

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kim, you've never read historical fiction? If you're interested, I'd like to send you a copy of my marriage of convenience story, The Substitute Bride. Please leave your email address.

Thanks for stopping!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Glynna, I would like to know more about the history of Dime novels, too. Share, Cara. :-)

Janet

Carla Gade said...

It was nice getting to know more about Caralynn and her new book. I've been to those "cottages" in New Port and they are fabulous. I can see how that area could inspire the imagination. I love the idea of her heroine being a dime novelist!

Blessings to you all today!

Carla
carlagade [at] gmail [dot] com
http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com

JoyAveryMelville said...

Janet,
This is a great interview.
I'm anxious to read BRIDE ON A DIME.
I enjoy historical romance Christian fiction and much of what Cara said is what I say 'ditto' to, especially the comment on having to live as a night owl in a societal lifestyle of morning songbirds.
Joyfully looking forward to this new book!
Joy Avery Melville

Edwina said...

This book sounds awesome and I would love to read it!

edwina[dot]cowgill[at]yahoo[dot]com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great interview, Janet and Cara!!!
Is 1,000 words really your minimum? I can only get that many when I'm on a roll or getting close to the end of the story.

Your book sounds great! Count me in the drawing!

CurtissAnn said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom, Cara Lynn! You speak of some of my struggles, and encourage me to get back to writing this morning.

Janet-- I believe we may have met quite a number of years ago, when I spoke to your writers' group. If so, or if not, hello!

Curtiss Ann Matlock

Kathryn Page Camp said...

Yes, researching is fun, isn't it. Too many writers ruin a good book by ignoring that important aspect.

kcamp@kathrynpagecamp.com

Stephanie Newton said...

Hi Cara! It's fun to see your writing process. I'm sort of like Melanie--1000 words is a good day for me, so I'm jealous of your daily progress!

Congrats on the book release...it's gorgeous!

Steph

Jo said...

Hi Cara, I enjoyed your interview. Have never been to Rhode Island but have always wanted to and love to read historical fiction. Please enter me in the drawing. By the way, I love the cover of the book.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

lotus82 said...

I was surprised to read that Cara Lynn trys to keep herself out of hers storys as much as possible. I'd absolutely love to win this book. Please enter me.

Wonderful interview, btw.

~Steph
soklad@hotmail.com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Carla, Thanks for stopping in! Dime novelists fascinate me too. Love that Lilly was a risk taker and for a great cause.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Joy, thanks for adding some Joy to my blog this morning. :-)

Blessings, Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Edwina, Fun to see so many familiar faces here today! Thanks for coming by.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

I'm with you, Melanie! Some days its like mining for gold to get five hundred words. I divide up the word count by the time I have and that usually means 1200 words a day. When I don't get it, I have to catch up on the weekends.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Curtiss Ann!!! Of course I remember you and your wonderful books!! And your visit in my home. Will you be at RWA this year? Would love to say hello in person.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Kathryn, research is fun and can take oodles of time, especially when one thing leads to another then another...

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Stephanie, I agree, Cara's cover is gorgeous!!

Janet

Myra Johnson said...

I'm about halfway through Love on a Dime and thoroughly enjoying it! What an exquisite glimpse into society life at the turn of the century!

And oh, my--cottages???? I can't even imagine the opulence!

Lovely interview, ladies, and I'm looking forward to having Cara visit my blog, Writer at Random, tomorrow!

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jo. I hope you get to make the trip to Newport one day. The houses are amazing!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Steph, wonder if Cara was successful keeping herself out of the story? I'm looking for her in Lilly. :-)

Janet

Cara Lynn James said...

Him ladies! Here's a shameless plug for Curtiss Ann Matlock and me--we're having a booksigning along with Beth White at BAM in Mobile on June 19th. If you're in the area please stop by.

Ok, back to dime novels. Somewhere on the internet I came across info on dime novels and I thought it would be a great idea to write a story about them. I researched some more and found lots of useful information. Since they had the reputation for being racy (some were, but others weren't) I realized my heroine should be writing in secret.

The plot fell into place and I enjoyed writing it and working out the twists and turns. The only problem I really encountered was trying to make a passive heroine more pro-active. Writing is always challenging!

Deborah said...

I have never been to RI before either. Michigan is the farthest I have been, and that was enough culture shock for me, since I am from California. This book sounds really good. I LOVE historical fiction. Thanks for the opportunity to win!
dleathers36(at)yahoo(dot)com

JoyAveryMelville said...

I am so glad you added that tidbit. I have read in the historicals how reading dime novels was frowned upon, but I figured it was because they were considered frivilous reading. Didn't know some were actually racey...and we think we are the modern age?
Thanks for the opportunity to win your new book also.
I understand an author is to advertise or market herself and her writing as often and in as many places as possible...nothing shameful about a plug for a booksigning - wait until I have one to plug - y'all ain't seen nothin' yet!
Joyfully responding to your neat addition.

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

Cara, I can't wait to read your book (s). I enjoyed this interview, and loved your comment about "eating dark chocolate to cheer you up". I knew I liked you! :D
Congratulations, I'm so proud of you!
Hugs
Katt

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

I love to read historical fiction, and especially would enjoy the time period and setting of Love on a Dime. I've been to RI but never to Newport, but I'd love to visit someday. Among Louise May Alcott's literary accomplishments, she was a contributor of fiction that appeared in dime novels writing under pseudonyms or writing anonymously. I wonder just how sensational her dime novels would've been for her time. Thanks, Cara Lynn, for sharing you approach to writing each day. Love to win a copy of your debut.
patjeannedavis[at]verizon[dot]net

Wendy said...

I really want to read her book. Thnaks for interviewing her.
wsmarple/at/gmail/dot/com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra, I assume Cara will be giving away a copy of Love on a Dime at your blog tomorrow. That means more chances to win! :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cara, do you remember what years dime novels were popular?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for stopping in, Deborah! Newport is clear across the country from you. I've visited CA several times and loved everything we saw. Michigan's little towns on the coast of Lake Michigan are lovely too. And closer for us.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

So true, Joy. There's nothing shameful about talking up signings or free books or anything we authors do to promote our books. God bless you on your journey toward publication.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Katt, from what I'm hearing dark chocolate is a health food. Off to have a couple dark Hershey Kisses.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pat, I didn't realize Louisa Mae Alcott wrote dime novel stories. Can't imagine she would have written anything racy, can you?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for your interest, Wendy!

Janet

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, dime novels were written from around 1860 to the 1920s. Thanks so much for having me on your blog today!

Janet Dean said...

I didn't realize dime novels spanned so many years, Cara.

Thank you for coming to my blog!

Jessica Nelson said...

Thanks so much for the interview. Cara, it's great to learn more about you. It's hard to imagine you being a sardonic sidekick though, you seem so nice!
Congrats on your book coming out! And thank you for not using some of those names...*shudder*
:-)

Audra Harders said...

What an interesting day of comments! I love learning new tidbits like dime novels being racy...so Lilly is model after Julie Lessman? LOL!

Great interview, Janet and Cara! C, I'll track you down tomorrow, too!

kathy taylor said...

Love on a Dime sounds great. What a wonderful title. Interesting way of finding names for your characters!

Janet Dean said...

Great to have you stop by, Jessica. Thanks!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Audra, you discovered Cara's little secret. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kathy, I love the title too. And the best part, it was Cara's original title for her manuscript.

Janet

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Cara, I'm so glad I'm getting to know you better - and that cover for LOVE ON A DIME is beautiful! From the same time period in my family tree, we have several Erma's and Edna's. I was named after a Leona from that period. Researching is my favorite aspect too, names particularly.

Ann Lee Miller said...

Ann_Lee_Miller@msn.com

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Janet, I've been here before but didn't notice that I've won a copy of Cara's book. Happy to have won "Love on a Dime" and I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you, Cara. I'll send my mailing address when I hear from you. Pat
patjeannedavis[at]verizon[dot]com