Friday, October 17, 2008

Introducing multi-published author: Robin Caroll!

I’m so excited to post a recent interview by multi-published author Robin Caroll. I’ve known Robin for several years. The first year we roomed together at the ACFW conference, we got…oh…about 2 hours sleep every night. Nothing’s changed. We still don’t get any sleep at conference! But we can sleep at home, yes?

Robin talks about her recent sale to B&H, her Bayou series published with Steeple Hill, and her family and writing.

Please welcome Robin Caroll to Seekerville! Let’s jump right in…

Pam Hillman: What genre do you write?

Robin Caroll: Romantic suspense/mystery

PH: Kinda makes me nervous to think we roomed together at the ACFW conferences. Ack! Is this a series?

RC: Each book will stand alone, but yes, in a series as well

PH: Do you already have a series title?

RC: Not yet

PH: What’s the working title of the first book?

RC: Exposure

PH: Ooooh, interesting title. What’s the book about?

RC: A child trafficking ring--bringing in girls from Thiland for prostitution in the states. There is much going on, in that the key witness to break the ring open is shot at the FBI field office and is awaiting a heart transplant. A US Marshal (enter hero) must escort the donated heart via air life to the witness. Unfortunately, there's much corruption and those involved in the ring can't let the witness live. They opt to shoot down the helicopter transporting the heart. The heroine is a former coast guard pilot now a national park ranger in the Smokey Mountains. Guess where hero's helicopter goes down?

PH: Wow, that sounds like a wonderful read. Now, I’m really interested. When does Exposure and the rest of the books in the series come out?

RC: The first book has a release date of February 2010. 2nd releases August 2010. 3rd releases February 2011.

PH: We’d love to hear more about the call from B&H.

RC: Believe it or not, there wasn't a "call." LOL Let me explain. This story formed in my mind over two years ago. Because of the subject matter, and me not having vast publishing experience, I didn't think it really had a shot at going before any pub board. I'd brainstormed the idea and knew I wanted to write it, but figured it'd be one of those I'd do later. Let me go further Nashville when Karen Ball was the ACFW keynote speaker, I just KNEW that one day I'd love to work with her. At that time, she was at Zondervan, but she reminded me a lot of my sister, Cindy, and I just knew our personalities would mesh. And I so wanted to learn from her. But I didn't really give it much consideration, just kept it in the back of my mind. Now, fast forward to last year. At the 2007 conference, I was checking in with Wanda Dyson to make sure she had everything she needed at the appointment desk when David Webb came out. His appointment hadn't shown, so he just talked to us. He asked me how my bayou books were doing and did I have a single title length book in mind. Wanda all but shoved me to go talk to him, so I did. (Thanks, Wanda) He asked to see a proposal on it after I stammered through a pitch. Honestly, I didn't get too excited because I didn't even HAVE a proposal on the ms. When I told my agent, she advised me to get the proposal together and send it to her. Well, the conference was in September and I had deadlines and other things going on, so I didn't even get the proposal to her until March. She made notes and sent it back to me and we went back and forth until she sent it to David in April. With everything that happened in my personal life, I honestly didn't think much about it. My agent is one of those who actually does a monthly report. When I got it in May, I noticed she'd made a reference where David had told her he'd sent my proposal on to their readers. In June, my agent told me David had contacted her and told her that my proposal had made it through their readers and him and he'd given it to Karen Ball. Now I was REALLY nervous, but again, my personal life was crazy and I had deadlines on my SH books, and that whole ACFW President thing. In August, my agent talked with Karen, but there was a lot going on at B&H, which eventually led to David Webb leaving and Karen Ball being made Executive Editor. I still didn't dwell on it too much--I mean, working with Karen and being published by B&H was just a pipe dream, right? And then my agent called and after much discussion between she and I and then her and Karen, and the next thing I knew, it was slated to go to pub board. Okay, THEN I got nervous. But underneath it, peace. I had a LOT of prayer partners praying for me and that proposal, and my own prayer was that if this was where God wanted my book, then to open the doors wide, but if not, then to shut it so soundly I'd have no doubt it just wasn't God's will. That's kind of a really brave prayer to pray. At least for me. But I was peaceful. Then we learned it hadn't made it to pub board on the date it'd been originally scheduled, and it would be in October before it'd go. Okay, I was a mess. Mentally pulled by overseeing the ACFW conference, life, and I'd just lost my editor at SH (oh, losing Krista really got me) . . . I didn't know if I could last until October. Most who know me know I have a HUGE problem with the "p" word. LOL Anyway, my agent called Karen and they talked. But, I was off to Minneapolis for the board meetings prior to conference, and setting up with the hotel for the conference, etc. My agent called me before she got there and told me that she and Karen were meeting on Friday morning. Talk about nervous. But I had so much I had to be responsible for, that I had my prayer partners pray the peace over me. And it worked. Now, Friday morning, I was quite the wreck. I had a million conference details to check, and those had to be done, but I kept getting a nudging to find my agent. So I did. And I was given an official offer from B&H, which I excitedly accepted! I was able to meet with Karen shortly thereafter, and she confirmed and I felt like I was walking on air. And for Karen to announce the contract at the, it's something I'll never, ever forget. And that my daughter was there...well, let's just say it's a memory I'll cherish forever.

PH: Now that’s one non-call story that you and the rest of the 500 folks at the ACFW conference will always remember. Hearing Karen’s announcement was really exciting! Okay, next question. What's the difference between the shorter and longer books. How much freedom do you have with POV characters, sub plot, etc.?

RC: For me, the subplots and POV characters. In my SH books, I normally stay with just h/h povs, and the subplots have to remain minimal for length, yet I try to connect everything. With Exposure, I have 4 POVs (at least, right now I do! LOL) and there are more subplots that are woven into the story.

PH: How long are your Steeple Hill books and how long are your B&H books?

RC: My SH books range between 55K-60K. The B&H books will be between 85K-90K
PH: Are they written?

RC: Um, no. LOL
PH: Uh, now this question sounds a little dumb, but I’m going to leave it just in case someone missed it in the previous question. Did you sell on proposal?

RC: Yes

PH: How do you balance writing for two publishers?

RC: I just completed my last contract with SH, but I do have another proposal in to my new editor. So, right now, I'm just writing for B&H. If I become contracted on the new series with SH, I think the balance will be my deadlines. I write fast, but writing two books at once will naturally make me require more time.

PH: She’s not kidding. She really does write fast. What is the most exciting thing about getting to work with B&H?

RC: There are's an exciting time for B&H as they promote their "Pure Enjoyment" fiction, and that's really cool....working and learning from Karen Ball--it's a dream....just so much I'm estatic about!

PH: Describe a perfect day in your writing life.

RC: Perfect? Wake up to coffee in bed by hubby, breakfast, kiss the kids goodbye and hubby take them to school while I can sit and write. Be able to continue to do so until 5pm, with the house being cleaned, kids taken to and from events, supper being cooked, all without my input.

PH: Now describe what a normal day is really like in your writing life.

RC: Ah, reality crashes in. LOL Okay, here's an average day. Up at 6:30. Do a little quiet time to connect with God, then at 7, breakfast for the kids, getting them ready for school, getting dressed. Leave here at 7:40 to take the kids to school. Get home around 8:15, making sure eldest got to school ok. Breakfast with hubby around 8:30. Answer emails, do ACFW biz, return phone calls. 10am start "working". Around 11:30, hubby starts making noise about lunch. Fix something and eat. Back to writing around 12:15 until 1:30, when we have to go get eldest from school, then little girls. Home around 3:15. Get the kids a snack, try to line up their homework, and write again until 4pm. And my writing day is over then.

PH: Since you are a fast writer, I can only guess that you have your family well-trained to help out around the house. Any tips?

RC: Being able to tune out everything is a must. I tell my kids that if they're bleeding profusely, have broken something, or the house is on fire, they have to touch me to get my attention. I used to be a bit, uh, anal about housekeeping. Not so much anymore. I mean, who really inspects baseboards? LOL

PH: Housekeeping? What’s that? Okay, another housekeeping question. Please describe your office.

RC: I'm blessed to have a room designated as an office. My husband and I share a rather large room. I have my desk with an overhead which holds my reference/resource books. To my left is a 6ft table with printers, etc, but also space to push out paperwork. To my right is a big dry erase board on easel, where I have my current wip notes and such.

PH: When will your first historical come out? I can’t wait to read it.

RC: Oh, Pam, you're quite the comedian. Aren't you writing a comedic suspense?

PH: Sorry, I just had to throw that in there. Somebody ask Robin about her aversion to hystericals. If the romantic suspense market completely dried up, what genre would you write?

RC: Straight suspense, mystery, thriller

PH: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

RC: At one time, I wanted to be a journalist. Gave up on that rather quickly. LOL

PH: What is your favorite book (the Bible does not count)? Favorite movie?

RC: You know, Jim Rupert recently posed a similiar answer remains the same. Book, THE STAND by Stephen King. Movie? Classic, Gone with the Wind. Contemporary? Gladiator. Come on...Russell Crowe. Need I say more? LOL

PH: Describe how you create a book from conception to completion.

RC: I get an idea and it plays around in the back of my mind for several months while I'm finishing up a wip or a contracted story. Then, I brainstorm it with buds. I do a VAGUE synopsis. I do an indepth character sketch, then revise the synopsis based upon what I learned in the character sketches. Then, I sit down and write. That's it. My cps crit each chapter as I complete it, if they have time, and I normally have one or two trusted buds read the whole thing cold. Once I implement changes, I read it through once more to fine tune and tweak, then I send it off and consider it done until I get revision notice. :D

PH: What do you like best: brainstorming, writing the first draft, rewriting, editing galleys?

RC: Brainstorming, of course. The possibilities are endless!

PH: Brainstorming is a lot of fun, especially with good friends! Where do you plan to go from here? Can we expect more books from Steeple Hill and B&H?

RC: I hope so! I love working with SH and I'm already loving being part of the B&H family. I hope to do both for a long time to come!

RC: Thanks for having me, Seekers. Y'all are fun!

PH: Robin, thank you for so graciously answering all our questions. I’m sure Seekerville readers will bombard you with more questions and congratulations throughout the day.

Ruthy, make sure we offer Robin a white mocha cappuccino and stock up on plenty of Dr. Pepper. She’s a little selfish about her Dr. Peppers!


Lisa Jordan said...

Wonderful interview, ladies. Robin, I admire your strength in light of everything you've been through. Congratulations on your contract with B & H.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Robin! Mega congratulations on your three book contract to B&H!!! Your face really lit up when Karen announced the sale at ACFW.

How do you manage to be prolific with so few hours to write? You must get it right the first time.


Cheryl Wyatt said...


It gave me chills to read (and be reminded again) of Karen announcing your contract at ACFW.

Love you girl!

Janet, Robin writes THE cleanest first draft of anyone I know. She's amazing.



Pam Hillman said...

Good morning everyone. I'm at work and haven't even had coffee yet. Looks like it's going to be a busy day, but I'll check in as often as I can.

Welcome Robin!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Robin! It was really exciting at the conference when Karen Ball announced your 3-book contract! So happy for you!

Thanks for sharing your writing process, and also your story about your proposal and B&H! Gives us all something to dream about. :-)

Debby Giusti said...

Robin, love your LIS books! Looking forward to your single titles! That first story sounds fantastic. I admire the speed with which you write!!! Send some of it my way, okay?

Congrats on all your success!

Oh, and will the new series be set in LA?

Pam Hillman said...

Robin, when you stop in, can you tell us about your scene index method of plotting?

I need all the help I can get!

Erica Vetsch said...

That was a fun moment when the contract with B&H was announced. Karen Ball seems like such a fireball of fun, and so 'been there-done that' in this industry, I bet she'd be an amazing editor. Congratulations, Robin!

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Robin and Pam, realllly interesting interview!! Robin, Exposure sounds absolutely WONDERFUL, and I am not typically a suspense reader, but between you and Deb Giusti, they may definitely have to change!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Robin welcome!

Hey, girl, no one has fed you or even offered to take you out for lunch.

Oy vey, where have our manners gone????

Listen dear author, we've got a great lunch planned. Build your own subs... Way better than build-a-bear because these taste great and they're cheap. Like, free.

Choice, tender, flaky deli rolls, croissant-style or hoagie style, to die for.

Sliced meats from the Jewish deli in Brooklyn.

Assorted cheese slices. Swiss, provolone, cheddar, american.

Lettuce. Tomato. Peppers. Onions. Dressing for the rolls, mayo and/or mustard.

Chicken salad. Tuna salad.

Jump in, help yourselves. Got a busy weekend ahead? Let's have a great lunch, a rollicking afternoon and I'm all for a Friday night date night but that doesn't look likely at the moment.

Silly men.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Ruthy! I knew we could count on you for food.

I also brought some home-made hot cider. It's COLD in Illinois today.

Where's that Robin? Maybe she's cooking up some spicy cajun dish to bring us....


Pam Hillman said...

Y'all are making me hungry!

I know where Robin is. She's in the closet working on her historical novel. I'm not supposed to tell, but since she's not here to defend herself, I thought I'd let y'all in on her little secret.

Missy Tippens said...

What a great interview! Robin, it's great to get to know you better. thanks for hanging out with us in Seekerville today!

I loved hearing how you plan/write your books. Thanks for sharing!


Missy Tippens said...

I also meant to say congrats on the B&H sale!!!


Robin Caroll said...

Hey, Lisa. Thanks, but all strength I have comes from HIM...I just learned how to lean on him more than I used to! LOL I said, I write VERY fast (5k a day when I'm actually in the story). I can hear you all groaning, and I speed read, too! LOL

Aww, Cheryl, you're too sweet!

Robin Caroll said...

Melanie...I'm still feeling like I'm living a dream, girl! :D

Debby...actually, the single title is set in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Pam...well, I start out with index cards and write a snippet of a scene that rolls through my head. Then I shuffle them. LOL In the order that comes up, I start transferring that snippet into a scene index. Then I use the emotional stuff to fill in between.

Thanks, Erica!

Robin Caroll said...

Julie, LOL. See, I LOVE having the count of dead bodies rising in what I read! LOL

Yummy...thanks Ruthie! I feel MUCH better now! :D

Pam....oh, you are SO going to get it for that. Ugh. A hysterical? Puhleeze. I'd go insane before I could even write the first line.

Actually, we went to the probation office and got my hubby's attractive anklette removed! WOO HOO We're going to celebrate by taking the kids to the fair! :D

Robin Caroll said...

Thanks, Missy. I'm still walking on air.

Y'all are great and I'm enjoying my time here! :D Kids are outta school so we're heading to the state fair. I'll be back early this evening! be nice. No making me shiver with thoughts of a hysterical element in my wip! UGH LOLOLOL

Pam Hillman said...

Whoo-hoo for Robin's family!! They're off to the fair and I don't blame them. We can keep this ball rolling and Robin will probably be back to visit later.

Or not...

She just might kidnap her poor (poor is relative) hubby. Did I tell you about the time they came to Mississippi on a romantic getaway and I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not visit them? They were only like 2 hours away from me! Sheesh! Some friend you are, Robin!)

Pam Hillman said...

Hey, what's the deal with writing 5K a day? Mary, you write 3K and you and Robin are selling like the funnel cakes at that fair Robin's going to. I just loooove funnel cake. Yum!

Karen Young told me once that she writes 10 pages a day without fail. That's approximately 2500-3000K.

I realize there's a difference in writing full-time and those of us who haven't got the guts (or the nest egg...hmmm, that's the same thing, isn't it?) to quit our day job, lol, so that's not where I'm going with this.

Think of other prolific authors who consistently write 3-5K a day. Seems like Nora Roberts writes a specific word count, doesn't she?

Let's flip this around...are there any unpublished folks lurking here who've been writing 3-5K five days a week (allowing for holidays, vacation, etc.) for more than 2 years? I imagine if there are, you're getting really, really close to that elusive contract!

I'd love to hear from you or a friend if you know someone who fits this scenario.

Mary Connealy said...

Pam, I write more like 1000 words a day. So Robin stands alone in output, but thanks for putting me in with the speed writers.
I wish.
But I am consistant. I write those 1000 words five days a week, ALMOST without fail, year round.

Thanks for being our guest on Seekerville, Robin. Great interview Pam and Robin.

Pam Hillman said...

Forgive me Mary for misrepresenting your daily word count. I felt sure you wrote 3k a day. Maybe that was on some of your extra good days!

Still, 1000 a day, five days a week without fail, is a lot of words and they stack up like pancakes.

Now, I'm getting hungry again and it's not even Ruthy's fault!

Jessica said...

Great interview Robin! Thanks for sharing :-)

Also, just wanted to send a big THANK YOU to the Seekers for giving me a present on your birthday.
Y'all Rock!
Thank you!

Jessica said...

OH yeah, and I meant to say congrats on your contract :-)

Debby Giusti said...

5,0000 words a day! I won't sleep tonight!!! Yikes! I write lots in chunks. Then I market. Then I do other office jobs. Then I do another chunk. Kind of like Cheryl. Everything starts on my Alpha Smart, then it's fine tuned on the computer. Maybe I can't multi-task. Hmmm? Something to worry about, maybe?

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Lovely interview and what a story!

Nice to 'meet you' Robin.


Walt Mussell said...

This was an interesting interview. Wished I found it early enough to ask questions.

Robin Caroll said...

Sheesh, Pam...why on earth would you think I needed company when I was in Ms? LOL

Thanks, Jessica.

Debby, I set aside time slots for marketing, returning calls, speaking engagements, etc. Somehow it all balances. I think. LOL

Thanks, Pamela!

Walt, ask away!

Walt Mussell said...

Robin, you mentioned things like brainstorming, writing your first draft, and rewriting. Each one takes a different approach. Do you have specific rituals/habits that you do to put yourself in the proper frame of mind for each activity?

Robin Caroll said...

Walt: While I'm completing a wip, my mind's already subconsciously working on the characters for my next one. When I get ready to brainstorm, I have an indepth (think like 6 pages) character synopsis sheet I fill out. I get with my brainstorming partners and we begin to fill out the character synopsis with what-ifs, layers, emotions, special skills, etc. That's the fun part for me. Then, once I have that done, I'll kick around plot ideas with my cps, but not really come up with anything definite. I use index cards to jot scenes down. Then I shuffle them and begin to make the scenes work in that order in keeping with the character synopses I created on my 3 main characters. After that, I begin the actual writing. Now, it might stay very close to the scene index I filled out, or the characters might just take off and do something so crazy I hadn't forseen it. Or, a character may reveal something to me that I hadn't learned during the brainstorming stage. So, as I'm writing, it's still new and interesting to me. I send my chapters daily to my cps and they crit as they can. I get their crits back and implement them. I usually stay current on this to avoid rewriting in the event of a major uh-oh, like a timeline, setting problem, or having a dead character answer a phone, things like that. I do a final read-through after I'm finished writing and have implemented all crits. I read it straight through. I'll rewrite as needed then. But I usually don't do any other rewriting until either my agent or editor give me the feedback.

That seems to work really well for me, but that's just it--you have to find a pattern and style that works for your own pace and time.

Did I only confuse you? LOL

Pam Hillman said...

Walt, great questions! Glad I stopped back by!

(Okay, Robin's answers aren't too shabby either!)


Robin Caroll said...

Gee, thanks, Pam! LOL

Walt Mussell said...


Thank you. Confusion? A little, but probbly because I'm one of the unpublished hopefuls.

I printed off your answer so I could dissect it. What I really like is that you are thinking about your next book while doing your existing WIP. In my existing WIP, one of my supporting characters "screamed" so loud that I had to promise her her own book.