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Interview with Cara Putman

Cara Putman is not only an award-winning author of over a dozen novels, but she’s an attorney, university lecturer and homeschooling mama in Indiana. She also has a deep respect for the Greatest Generation – which has fueled many of her stories, including her latest release.

With The Monuments Men film release as well as your novel Shadowed by Grace which involves the same historic events, this part of World War II history seems to finally have gained its time in the spotlight, Cara. How did this latest novel come about? What drew you to write about this unique part of history?
I have deep respect and admiration for the men and women of the Greatest Generation, and I love telling their stories. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that will spark into a book. In the summer of 2010, I stumbled across the nonfiction book Monuments Men and was introduced to this small band of soldiers. Their stories captured me . . . and the art added a unique twist to the story. It became a story that burned in my heart to tell.

Shadowed by Grace focuses on some of the endeavors the Monuments Men undertook in Italy. I knew little of the Italian front and discovered a diary that gave voice to the Italian experience. That, added to what I was learning about the efforts of the Monuments Men to save priceless monuments and paintings, convinced me this was a story I wanted to write. Then I discovered the heroine and her search, and it became part of me. I love this story and am thrilled by the early reactions I’m hearing.

As I just so happen to be a journalist, I am quite intrigued with the novel’s heroine. How did you come about choosing journalism as her career? Most WWII novels I’ve read have the female characters serve as nurses. Were there many female journalists covering the war? Was this character loosely based on one of them?
Rachel was actually the last character to come to me. I expected her to be Italian, but it didn’t fit. As I kept digging, I discovered she was a spunky American photojournalist on a search for her father. What she doesn’t realize is it’s a search that shadows her search for God.

I wanted Rachel to have an artist’s eye and heart, yet these skills had to be something that an impoverished girl could learn. It would be a carry-over from her mother’s talent but also something Rachel could use to make a living. It was fascinating learning about the handful of women who were correspondents and photojournalists during the war.

There weren’t many during WWII, and they often fought uphill battles. Yet that fit Rachel’s character. She had to be tenacious and a bit bullheaded, even when she realized she was in over her head. Being a war photojournalist tethered her to her past and her future, while providing a way to earn a living and send funds to her mother.

In your growing list of published books, there are several novels and novellas set during WWII. Where does your fascination with this era stem from? Was there a specific moment in your life when your attention was captured by the time period?
There is something special and captivating about the generation Tom Brokaw calls the Greatest. (And I agree with him.) It was a time when all came together to fight an expansive war on multiple fronts. Everybody was affected. They all did what was needed, but they don’t feel like what they did was exceptional. Yet it was.

The deeper I dig, the more I learn about that time. When I discover a piece of history that fascinates me, I run it past others. If they’re as intrigued, I know it will be a good historical backdrop for a novel and start developing ideas.

While I’m willing to dive into non-fiction tomes, I know many find it more enjoyable to read novels. So I strive to get the details right when possible.

I discovered on your website that writing is not your main profession. How has your law career influenced your research for novels and just writing in general? Are you extra tough on yourself to get all the facts straight?
Having my law degree is a great help. Law school taught me to be a good, tight, fast writer and that’s a critical skill now. Being a lifelong devourer of fiction also insured that I had internalized what makes a good story. The other skill I gained from law school was a deeper knowledge of how to dig for research. That serves me well whether I’m writing a contemporary suspense or WWII romance.

What draws you to a write a particular novel – a character, theme or part of history, etc.?
Often – but not always – it’s a detail of history. With Canteen Dreams, it was the North Platte Canteen. For Sandhill Dreams, it was war dog training in northwest Nebraska. Stars in the Night evolved from a what if: what if the real Hollywood Victory Caravan train had collided with Murder on the Orient Express. Other times it’s a character who demands a story like Scott Lindstrom, the hero in Shadowed by Grace.

What has surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself? How have you adapted or coped with it?
One of the surprises was how important having a social media presence is. Fortunately, I enjoy interacting with people and getting to know them through Facebook. I also LOVE Pinterest. It’s a great tool as I’m writing and researching. Then those boards can be reorganized and made reader friendly. I’m a visual person, so I love it!

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
I’d encourage my younger self to relax and enjoy the process more. I tend to spend my time focused on what’s next rather than celebrating each milestone. God has introduced me to people I would have never known otherwise. I’ve often said that if the only reason I write is to know and pray for other writers and support them in their calling, then that is enough for me.

It’s also given me a forum to reach more people than I ever could have without writing. To be able to minister to people who have experienced the pain my characters endure is a trust I take seriously. It’s been an amazing, God-given dream come true. Each new book just adds to that dream fulfillment.

On your website, I read about how you select a specific word of the year to focus on. Why is ‘grace’ your 2014 word? And how did this annual word tradition start?
It’s been several years now that I’ve prayed for a word. Basically it’s a theme to meditate on and study over the course of the year. It’s also been a great way to know how to pray for others when they share their words.

Finish this question…If I had lived in the WWII era, I would be probably be in (country) ______ and working with/as __________________.
It depends on the day. While writing Shadowed by Grace, I would have said in Italy working with the media. Other days, I’d say on the homefront flying planes for the WAFS or WASPs.

Any parting words?
Thanks for having me. I love to interact with writers and readers. It’s easy to connect with me at my website:, Facebook:, Twitter:, and Pinterest:

Thanks for sharing with us, Cara!

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