Today it’s my pleasure to welcome author Carolyne Aarsen to my blog. Carolyne is a fellow Canadian, so we’ll include a hooray for Canada!
To start, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?
CAROLYNE: I’ve been writing since 1991 after I took a writing course and went on to publish a weekly column in our local paper. That paid for another writing course, which helped me craft my first romance novel. I sold that in April of 1997 – almost twenty years ago!! – and I’ve been going strong since. I’ve always loved reading and, as many writers, I came to a point where I figured I could write easily as good as the author whose book I just read.
JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?
CAROLYNE: I loved reading books by Mary Stewart and I knew I wanted to create the same world she did. I was also encouraged by a children’s author who had come for a library visit — I wish I could remember her name — she was the one who gave me the push when I told her, somewhat apologetically, that I wanted to write Christian romance. She said to me, “Well, why not? Of course you can write this.” So I did. Sigmund Brouwer was also an inspiration as was Linda Hall, who also came from a small town and had been published.
JANICE: That’s a great example of determination and courage. What’s your preferred genre?
CAROLYNE: I love writing romance but love reading murder mysteries and women’s fiction.
JANICE: Why do you write? What’s your motivation?
CAROLYNE: It’s my identity. Who I am. What gets me out of bed in the morning. I sometimes think I would love to quit but then try to imagine what my day would look like. Oh sure, I would probably goof off on the internet the first couple weeks or so, go visiting, do some shopping and then I would start thinking about characters or something I would read would make me wonder and soon I would be coming up with a story. May as well skip the goofing off and keep writing.
JANICE: That’s exactly how I feel too. So how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
CAROLYNE: I write in my office mostly. Sometimes outside on my laptop if it’s a nice day and words won’t flow. Sometimes on my couch for the same reason but mostly in my office. And I am a plotter to the n’th degree. I’m too distractable to write by the seat of my pants. I would run madly off in all directions. I do all the brainstorming and playing around in the outlining stage but then, once that’s done, it’s off to work and following the outline.
JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
CAROLYNE: Ideas are always floating around. Sometimes it’s a picture, a song, a movie, something in a television show that gets me thinking and wondering. Inspiration? Deadlines. Truly.
JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?
CAROLYNE: I do a lot of ranch stories so I have a base of knowledge that I work from, plus my husband is a great resource. I know what I don’t know and try to fill in the gaps by talking to other people. I found out from one fellow that stopped by our house that he used to be a saddle bronc rider and so I quizzed him about all kinds of stuff. We go to horse shows and training events and I’m always asking questions.
JANICE: Sounds like the coming together of life and work. What do you like most / least about writing?
CAROLYNE: The least? The relentlessness of it. Deadlines. Having to work every day in order to produce. The most? That fun buzz I get when my book is done and I can send it off to my editor. That other buzz when my editor gets back to me and tells me that she LOVES my book.
JANICE: We all know that books don’t usually sell themselves. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?
CAROLYNE: Harlequin does so much promo for me that I couldn’t begin to replicate but I do my small part with Twitter blasts (though I don’t spend as much time there lately) Facebook and my blog (which I’ve neglected). Lately I’ve been getting into building my mailing list so that’s been one. I’ve also branched into indie publishing on the side so e-mail lists are crucial. I do contests on my site and that seems to help with the list. With the indie publishing, I’m slowly working my way into that. I’ve done some paid promo, which has done well.
JANICE: What are your favorite / most effective social media?
CAROLYNE: I like Facebook. It’s fun and easy and I get it. I don’t have a ton of followers so I don’t know how effective it is.
JANICE: Here’s a big question I wrestle with: How do you balance professional time with personal time?
CAROLYNE: Hard to find a balance sometimes but I do hold to a work schedule. I start at 9:00 in the morning and work until 4:30 or 5:00 depending on whether leftovers are on the menu for supper or I have to start from scratch.
JANICE: Ah yes, that incessant need for meals.
I believe that reading is extremely important for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?
CAROLYNE: I am reading two books. One on my Kindle called Red by Joy Ohagwu, and one print book called Ordinary Grace. This is the second time I’m reading Ordinary Grace and it’s as lovely as the first time.
JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?
CAROLYNE: I like dolls and making doll clothes. Also love making cards and paper crafts. I like my camera and taking pictures and fooling around with them, though I don’t spend as much time on it as I’d like. Unique? I don’t know. I’ve been me so long this is what ordinary feels like. I talk a lot when I’m out and about but that’s not unique, that’s rather boring at times. For the listener I’m thinking. I procrastinate, but that’s not unique. I guess I’m just me.
JANICE: “Just me” is good! What keeps you going in your writing career?
CAROLYNE: I love being able to produce a book that gives someone else some joy and some moments of happiness. Sometimes though it’s just the basic reality of needing to make a living.
JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?
CAROLYNE: I always like to make my characters deal with things I struggle with. Forgiveness. Joy. Contentment. As I read my Bible, listen to other Christians talk about their faith life, listen to sermons, I’m always thinking that this could be something my characters could deal with. If I struggle with it, I know my characters would.
JANICE: What are some things you’ve learned from your own writing?
CAROLYNE: Persistence. Stick to the work and fight resistance. Do what’s in front of you and don’t look too far ahead.
JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?
CAROLYNE: To write a book that so connects with readers that they tell everyone else “you have to read this book” and then everyone else does.
JANICE: I love that!
Do you have any advice for beginning writer?
CAROLYNE: Read. Study the genre you want to write in. Treat it with respect. Take courses. There are so many online there’s really no excuse not to. Study the good writers and try to figure out what about their stories makes you want to keep reading. Listen to criticism and don’t take it personally. Write. Write. Write.
JANICE: Thank you so much, Carolyne, for spending time with us today and for giving us a glimpse into your life and your writing. Blessings as you continue to create good Christian romance.