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Interview With Carol Umberger

Meet Carol Umberger
Interview by Sandra Moore

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I'm 54 years old, married nearly 24 years to Tom, a very lovable Alpha male. We have two college-age sons who attend a small Lutheran school in Minneapolis. I have written four books for Integrity Publishers, three of which have been released and one that is in final editing right now and will be released in September, 2004.

2) How did you become interested in writing?

In 1995 I reconnected with the woman who had been my squadron commander at my first assignment in the Air Force. She is a successful author for Harlequin and she encouraged me to go for my dream. I joined my local Romance Writers of America chapter and was soon being mentored by several of the published authors in the chapter. Through them and the many workshops and conferences I attended, I gradually learned how to take my ideas and turn them into sellable commercial fiction. Although I was writing for the secular market, my characters were people of faith, just as I am. I think one of the attractions in writing historical fiction is the fact that church and faith were part and parcel of everyday life for the average person.

3) What jump started your career?

Winning RWA's Golden Heart for my unpublished manuscript. This opened many doors for me, including placement with my agent.

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

Oh, there was just so much to learn! Probably the one thing my early efforts failed miserably at was goal, motivation, and conflict. Once I figured that out, my stories gained in strength and structure and I started to receive "positive rejections." The second obstacle I didn't even realize was a problem for a long time. Looking back I can see that God was preparing me for His service. When I met with Rick Christian and Greg Johnson at Alive Communications, they told me that my work was straddling the line between secular and Christian fiction. They suggested I go one way or the other.

I can remember vividly sitting at their huge conference table and the moment it became clear to me that God was also asking, "Are you for me or against me?" There could be no other choice--I would not take the faith elements out of my work to please a secular publisher. So I rewrote Circle of Honor, strengthening the characters' faith journeys, and the series sold within 5 months. :)

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

That has to be the day my agent called with a three-book offer from Integrity! Of course, just to help me keep things in perspective, that call came on the afternoon of Sept 11, 2001. This was not a coincidence. This was God telling me that He had need of me and that the time was right for His purpose.

6) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

Most of my ideas are sparked through an event in history. Then I create characters that might have lived at the time so that I and the reader can see that event through the eyes of the characters.

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I usually have a synopsis gleaned through a process very similar to Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake. I know how the story starts, I have the characters' Goal, Motivation and Conflict, and I almost always know how the story ends. I also have a firm vision of the theme. Then I start writing, usually long-hand on tablet paper. Sometimes I keep a notebook and a reference of characters, sometimes I just totally wing it and see where I end up. :)

8) What's the nicest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

I recently received an email from a young soldier serving in Iraq. Someone had sent him a copy of "The Mark of Salvation" which deals with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, although they didn't have a name for it in the 14th century. This young man told me that reading my book, seeing what the hero had gone through and how God didn't fail him, renewed his own faith. Warriors, past and present, are very dear to my heart, and to know that God used something I wrote to touch the heart and strengthen the faith of a military man makes it all worth the effort.

9) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

Ceallach, the hero in the "Mark of Salvation," is my favorite character."Mark" is the first of my manuscripts that was developed with an overt Christian theme and character. I had researched the Templar Knights and then played "what if" with the idea of a man who was physically tortured for his faith. I "interviewed" Ceallach, asking various questions and letting the character tell me the answers. By the end of the interview, I was in tears at the revelations of this devout and honorable man.

10) How do you deal with publisher rejections?

When I was submitting on my own and even after I had an agent, I dealt with them the same way. I allowed myself a brief pity party and then I mailed it off to the next publisher on my list. I had been told that it is a matter of the right story with the right editor at the right time, and this was proven true eventually. I also believed that a sale would come in God's time, not my own.

11) If you could give a beginner one piece of advice what would it be?

Read. There is no better way to absorb language, grammar, and the meter of prose than to read writers who are better than you ever hope to be.


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