Welcome Amanda! It's always wonderful to have debut authors come for a visit. Although this isn't really a debut for you, Seekerville can still help in launching your new historical series. Glad you came to play with us today!
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Whatever time it is, I’m delighted that you’re here. This is turning into an exciting year for me. Not only was my debut CBA book published last month, but now I’m debuting on Seekerville. What fun! Thanks, Audra, for inviting me to join you.
Amanda, you’ve had an interesting career journey through life ranging from writing, to French major, to computer programmer, to information technology. How does someone with the soul of an artist mesh together with information technology?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “for love or money.” The information technology career was the money part. It helped pay the mortgage and the grocery bills. Writing – ah, that’s definitely the love part. I love writing, and when I’m not working on a book, I feel as if a piece of me is missing.
I almost hesitate to admit this, but as strange as it may seem, I think there are similarities between IT and writing. Both involve communicating. Admittedly, when I was a programmer, I was communicating with a machine – definitely not as much fun as with real, live human beings. But when I became a manager, the communications were more direct. That’s also when my skill at writing fiction came into play. My budgets were noted for being works of fiction, and whenever someone hadn’t met objectives for the year, I’d get a call, asking how to word the explanation so that the miss wasn’t so obvious. Never doubt the power of the pen!
How have your professional experiences influenced your writing?
One of the good/bad things about my day job was that I was a very frequent flyer. The good part was that I was able to visit a lot of different places, and some of them provided inspiration for books. For example, I was sitting in a restaurant in Phoenix, eating alone (one of the bad things about all the traveling), when the Muzak started playing “Stranger in Paradise.” “What a great title for a book,” I said to myself. (No, I haven’t gotten to the point where I talk out loud and cause strangers to stare.) That started the whole process of asking questions. “Where’s paradise?” Answer: Hawaii. “Why would someone be there and feel like a stranger?” The answers to that question turned into a book. Even though I changed the title, the story begins in Hawaii and the hero and heroine are definitely strangers there.
Another time I was in southern Italy on business, and my host gave me a tour of the city (Bari, for anyone who’s got a map at hand). One of the places we visited was an old cathedral where, he told me, injured Crusaders returning from the Holy Land were nursed back to health. I was writing a medieval romance at the time and used that snippet of information as what I term a “throw-away line.” The villain says to the hero, “I thought you died in a hospital in Italy” or something like that. Would you believe that one of my readers didn’t think there were hospitals in Italy during that era and had to do some research to learn that I was right? That experience made me obsessive about facts. The last thing I want is a reader telling me that such and such a street wasn’t cobblestoned at the time I’d written about it. That’s part of the reason why I prefer to create my own towns rather than using real ones. But I’ve digressed. Sorry!
You are one of two romance authors featured in 2009 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. How did you get selected?
I’d love to say that the editors begged me to be featured, but reality is that Mary Hagen, the author of the article, had read and enjoyed my books and wanted to write an article about me. She pitched the idea to the editor of NSSWM and – obviously – was successful in convincing them that I was worthy of being interviewed. I was thrilled, because one of the first pieces of advice I give to aspiring writers is to read Writer’s Market. I believe it’s an invaluable resource, and so it was a true honor to be part of it.
Writing Christian romances is a new venue for you. Having received admirable success in other romance markets, what made you consider such a major change?
I never thought of myself as a slow learner, but that was the case with writing for the Christian market. For over ten years, readers have suggested that I write for that market, but I demurred, not believing it was the right one for me. It took the death of a dear friend to convince me that it was time to write about God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman. Watching her during her final months and seeing how her faith strengthened her was the turning point for me.
Writing historical romances takes a certain amount of research. How do you create an historical world for your characters to live in?
I read and read and read some more. I’m a huge fan of libraries and suspect that I’m one of the heaviest users of ILL (Inter-Library Loan) in Cheyenne. It’s a marvelous way to get books that are out of print or aren’t readily available. I once read that the best way to start research was in the children’s section, because those books presented the essentials, and I’ve found that to be true. I’ll pick up histories from the children’s section when I’m still working on the overall timeframe, then “graduate” as it were to the adult section for the details I need.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a Sagittarian, and we’re noted for being travelers, but I always visit the areas I’m writing about, even when I plan to create a fictional town, as I did with Ladreville. For me, the on-site research is important, because it gives me a feel for the terrain, the color of the sky (yes, it varies by part of the country!) and local idiosyncrasies. I believe those details help bring a location to life for readers.
Paper Roses is the first book of your Texas Dreams trilogy from Revell. Tell us about the book and maybe a peek at the other two books to follow.
I refer to Paper Roses as my mail-order-bride-meets-Cyrano-de-Bergerac book, but I suspect no editor would have bought it if I’d described it that way in my proposals. Here’s the blurb that helped sell the book:
Socialite Sarah Dobbs never thought she’d be a mail-order bride. But, then, she never thought she’d be destitute, shunned and her young sister’s only hope for a normal life. Drawn to the Texas Hill Country by the poetic letters she calls her paper roses, Sarah believes her secrets will be safe there. But the town is deeply divided and harbors its own secrets, including the identity of the person who murdered Sarah’s fiancé. There’s no one she can trust, not Clay Canfield, and certainly not God. He’s abandoned her.
Talented physician Clay Canfield has only one desire: to find the man who murdered his brother and exact vengeance. He’ll never marry again, especially not a woman burdened with a child. As for faith, that’s not for him, any more than it is for Sarah.
But God has plans for Sarah and Clay, plans that challenge everything they hold dear.
As for the second book – if Paper Roses was my mail-order-bride book, Scattered Petals (working title) is my marriage-of-convenience book. Only, in this case, it’s a matter of inconvenience. Great inconvenience for the hero and heroine.
As part of the titling process, my publisher asked me to describe the book in two sentences. For someone who’s hard-pressed to stay within word count limits, that was a challenge, but here’s what I wrote for them.
All her life, Priscilla Morton has longed for adventure, and so she heads for Texas, never dreaming that the adventure will leave her alone, badly injured and dependent on a handsome rancher who reminds her of her worst nightmare. Zachary Webster knows he’ll never marry, for that would involve admitting the biggest mistake of his life, but how can he refuse to help Priscilla, even if she’s a reminder of his sin?
(You’ll note that those were two rather long sentences.) All three books are set in the same fictional Texas town and feature characters who are introduced in the previous book. Since one of the things that annoys me as a reader is having to read books in order, I’m careful to have each of mine – even when they’re part of a series – stand alone.
Crossings Book Club is producing a special edition hard cover copy of Paper Roses. Tell us about this wonderful news.
I was absolutely delighted when my publisher told me that Paper Roses had been selected by the prestigious Crossings Book Club and even more thrilled when I learned that they’d be issuing a hard cover edition, since I know that many readers prefer hard backed books. I do, too, but they’re often not affordable. Fortunately, Crossings has given Paper Roses an attractive price, so members who want books that can stand up to many readings can get one and still be able to afford groceries.
Would you share with us a writing technique you’ve learned along the way?
One of the most valuable things I learned when I wrote two books for a now-defunct writer-for-hire company was to create a chapter-by-chapter outline of each book. These are very brief sketches – more like notes to myself – showing which scenes will be in which chapter. I consider the outline a road map, helping me get from the beginning of the book to the ultimate destination: ‘the end.’ It’s also invaluable for pacing the book, making sure that I don’t go too long between events in a subplot and that I have cliff hangers every so often.
To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s the outline I did for the first chapter of Paper Roses. Each of the cells in the table is a scene.
Sarah and Thea arrive in San Antonio. She’s feeling abandoned again. Thea looks for Papa, renewing Sarah’s determination that her sister will have a normal life.
Delayed by a horse’s colic, Clay travels to San Antonio to meet Sarah. When Thea calls him Papa, unpleasant memories return. Clay tells Sarah of Austin’s death.
Sarah’s shocked. It can’t be true! She tells Clay she and Thea will not return to Philadelphia (they can’t). Clay says she can live at the Bar C until she marries. She’s angered and says she’ll pay for their room and board … somehow.
I highly recommend chapter-by-chapter outlines!
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love hearing from readers. Truthfully, that’s one of the greatest pleasures a writer can have, and so I encourage readers to visit my web site: http://www.amandacabot.com/. I’ve put email links on both the first page and the “contact” one. Don’t be shy, readers. I want to hear from you.
Thanks for graciously joining us, Amanda. Amanda is also giving away a copy of her debut book, Paper Roses. If you'd like to be included in the drawing, please include your email!!