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Interview With Carol Cox

1. Tell us a little about yourself? Married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I’ve been married to Dave since 1974. He pastors two churches and also owns and operates a saddle shop. He’s one of the best leather craftsmen in the country. Our son Kevin is a college senior who blessed us all last summer by bringing our wonderful daughter-in-law, Samantha, into the family. And our daughter, Katie, is in fourth grade and stays busy keeping Mom and Dad on their toes. : )

As for writing, I’m currently celebrating the release of my 20th title, Ticket to Tomorrow. My author’s copies just arrived, and I’m thrilled with the way the finished product turned out. The cover is gorgeous!

2. How many years have you been writing?

I was a "closet writer" most of my life. For years, I jotted down story ideas and let plot lines run through my head. But I never had the gumption to show them to anybody but my husband. One birthday, his gift to me was a trip to a Christian writers conference. Through connections I made at that conference, I started the process of finding a home for the novel I had already completed. And it was a long process. *g* In the fall of 1997, I signed the contract for that book—Journey Toward Home, a Heartsong Presents title.

3. How much time do you spend writing daily? Do you consider yourself full-time or part-time? Do you write in the mornings or evenings?

My ideal schedule would consist of home schooling our daughter in the mornings, then writing in the afternoons until dinner time and putting in another hour or two of writing after she goes to bed. This works out well for me, since I often catch a second wind late in the evening, and my creativity is definitely not at its best early in the day!

But most days don't fall into such a neatly ordered pattern. It's not unusual for things to come up that have us jumping and running at a moment's notice. While I prefer to have a schedule I can rely on, I've learned to adapt and develop flexibility. Some days I feel like Gumby.

4. Do you set daily goals for your writing?

I used to set goals for time and word count, and then stress over not meeting them. Last year I tried something new, and I'm really enjoying it. Instead of focusing on a set number of pages or word count per day, I've started measuring my output by scenes. If I set a goal of writing one or two scenes a day, I have automatic starting and stopping points and it frees me up to concentrate on story rather than the time spent or number of words written.

5. Where do you write? Do you have an office or a corner? Tell us about your space and what makes you most comfortable.

I have an office I inherited from our home's previous owner, who was also an author. It isn't anything fancy—I read descriptions of other authors' beautifully decorated offices with a sense of awe—but it does have three large windows that give me a view of the rolling hills outside. I'll take that over stenciled walls any day!

My files, research materials, and bookshelves reside in the office, but my actual writing is done in a variety of places—my office couch, a favorite recliner in our living room, our front porch when the weather is nice, or hotel rooms when we travel. I've turned out thousands of words while riding in the passenger seat of our minivan, and I even wrote parts of two novellas in my mother-in-law's laundry room. Like I said, I've learned to adapt!

6. Do you plot or not? Expound briefly on your methods or theories in the plotting department.

I lean toward the plotting end of the spectrum. I like knowing the big picture. When our family travels, I'm the navigator. Put me in charge of the map, and I'm a happy woman. That doesn't mean we don't take spur-of-the-moment side trips from time to time, but I am much more comfortable if I know our final destination and the basic plan for getting there.

The same holds true for my writing. I use index cards to make notes about characters, plot points, and snippets of dialogue that come to mind. If I see a scene clearly in my mind I'll jot down all the details I can think of right then, or it will all disappear by the time I'm ready to write. Then I lay the cards out and start putting them in order. By organizing the ideas this way, I can see the basic flow of the story and move scenes around until I find the right fit.

Note: A potential drawback to this method is if you have a jillion or so note cards lined up in neat little rows on your office floor, and some well-meaning family member (who shall remain nameless) decides to help ventilate the house by opening your window.

Without telling you.

On a windy day.

Thereby turning your hours of labor into something that resembles the aftermath of a ticker tape parade. Don't try it for yourself; trust me on this one. The results just aren't pretty. LOL!

Once I have the basic layout planned, I put the scenes and any details I want to remember into a spreadsheet. It's easy to move ideas around that way, and a gust of wind won't undo all my hard work. For the SOTP writers who are doing some serious cringing at this point, let me point out that I still make plenty of changes as the actual writing progresses and new situations and characters pop out of nowhere to surprise me and move things in unexpected directions. It isn't about being locked into an unyielding structure; it's that idea of having the road map and seeing the big picture of where I'm headed.

7. Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through? How much time do you spend on rewrites?

You haven’t seen “rough” until you’ve seen one of my first drafts. That is, without a doubt, the most painful part of the process for me. I love the research and the initial plotting, and brainstorming ways to add layers and texture to the story. But then there’s the awful moment when I have to come up with the words that will set those ideas on my computer screen. Pure agony! LOL But I feel so much better once it’s finished.

I write my first drafts quickly. When there’s a hole and I don’t know how I’m going to fill it, I leave it blank and go on. For me, it’s more important to get the bare bones down at this stage.

Once I have that done, I can go back and rewrite, fix the things that don’t work, flesh out ideas and add the sparkle. I truly enjoy rewriting. The hard work is done, and I can let the creativity flow at that point!

8. How does your Christian walk influence your writing? Any advice for integrating God and writing?

There’s a verse I think really applies to this: “Out of the…heart, the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34 KJV) Intentionally or not, our worldview shows itself in our stories. For the Christian who writes, that’s both an exciting concept and a heavy responsibility.

You can’t pour water from an empty vessel. Neither can you share the joy of a relationship with God without keeping your own relationship with Him vital, fresh, and full to overflowing. Our focus has to be on Him first and foremost. Then, and only then, will we have something truly worthwhile to share.

9. What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I had to deal with was probably myself. LOL I’ve struggled with shyness and insecurity most of my life. It took me ages to summon up the courage to show my work to anyone besides my husband. His encouragement and belief in me—sending me to conferences and putting me in situations where I could make the contacts I needed—finally broke the barrier and gave me the courage I needed to continue despite discouragement and rejection. While rejection is never fun, it’s just a part of the process. It isn’t the end of the world…or even my little corner of it.
If I truly believe this is God’s calling for me, that He is in control and desires the best for me, I can press on and not let setbacks devastate me. Another thing that helps is to remember that I only have a certain number of days on this earth. If I look at my writing as a matter of stewardship and try to find the best way to use the time I’m given, that takes the focus off me and my feelings and puts it squarely where it belongs. My job isn’t to become a mega-bestseller (as much as I like the idea!); my job is to run the race and run it well.

10. Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Like any career, it takes training, commitment, and determination in order to succeed as a writer. Be ready to work hard to learn your craft. Set a goal of excellence; don’t settle for being “good enough.” ACFW provides fabulous opportunities for training, support, and growth that weren’t available when I was starting out as a writer. Take advantage of them!
I’d also like to include some quick promotional info:
Do you have a website? (If yes, give address)

Any recent or upcoming releases you¹d like to mention?

Thanks for asking! Heartsong Presents just released Copper Sunrise, the fourth title in my Arizona historical series. Being able to write about Arizona’s territorial years made this project very dear to my heart.

And Ticket to Tomorrow, book one in the new series A Fair to Remember, is an April release from Barbour. It’s an historical romantic suspense set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I love the characters and the setting in this one, and it was so much fun to research!

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