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Interview With Carolyne Aarsen

Since 1997, Carolyne Aarsen has published over twenty books with Steeple Hill, Love Inspired. Her books reflect God’s love for His children and how He continually draws them to Himself. And her latest book, Close to Home, is no exception.

Carolyne, what led you to write contemporary romance?

I’ve always loved reading contemporary romance. From the time I bought my first Harlequin romance at a church bazaar, I was hooked. I read all kinds of romances, historical and contemporary. But in junior high, the direction of my writing career was decided when I started writing custom romances for my girlfriends and their crush du jour. As I got older my stories changed and morphed. I tried writing serious stories full of meaningful themes, but sooner or later my characters fell in love so I gave in and started writing romance.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?

I think it was when I met my first published author. She was a children’s book author and I signed up for a one on one chat with her about writing. She asked me what kind of stories I really wanted to write. I hesitated, but then thought, “Here’s my chance to open up and be honest.” So I told her. I wanted to write contemporary Christian romance but added the proviso that I didn’t think that would work. She put her hand over mine and said, in all seriousness, “Then just do it. There’s no reason you can’t write Christian romance.” She was very serious and she took me seriously. After that, I started taking myself seriously as well. And from there I realized this was what I had to write.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

Saying no to the right things at the right time. I set out my own writing schedule and if you’ve read the book, A Novel Idea, I talk more about that in there. But basically I portion out my own time. Sometimes I feel guilty about being involved and say yes to too many things, and then I overreact and say no to too many things. So I find the things that I enjoy doing for my church and my community and I focus on those instead of feeling like I have to do the things I don’t enjoy just because as a Christian my church work should involve some measure of suffering and pain.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?

Every time I sit down to write a story, one of the main questions is what is my character’s spiritual journey going to be through this story? I tend to draw a lot from my own struggles—for instance if I’m struggling with worry and letting go, then so will my heroine. If I’m struggling with forgiveness, then so will my heroine, or hero. As well, and I know I’m not alone here, as I listen to sermons I often catch myself saying, “THAT’s what my heroine can learn to deal with.” So with apologies to Dr. Blacketer, our pastor, sometimes his sermons show up in my books in one form or another.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?

A phone call I got on April 13, 2:00 in the afternoon as I was nursing bruised ribs from a bad fall the day before. It was Ann Canadeo, offering me my first contract with Love Inspired. I’ve had many great moments since then, many wonderful letters from fans and some awards, but that first call was simply the best.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

My ideas come from my life. From listening to other people, from catching myself thinking, as I’m listening to a story, “Hey, that is a cool idea.” I store everything up. I took a strengths test and I found out that one of my characteristics is to gather things. And while my husband might shake his head over my gathering of dolls and craft items I have accumulated in my office, he doesn’t even realize how many ideas and thoughts I’ve gathered as well. Ideas that can haunt me and won’t let me go until I’ve struggled to give them life through my words. As to what spurs me to write? I would love to say that each day I turn on my computer with a sense of anticipation and look forward to the thrill of discovery, but mostly I catch myself inspecting my keyboard, sorting out my pens, reading old catalogues and surfing the net for some critical piece of information. (shoes for a doll, a new embossing folder for my Cuttlebug). The truth is more often I write because I have deadlines and I have obligations. But the amazing part is that when I discipline myself and turn off the internet (there are programs that can do this) and stay in the story, those magical moments of excitement and anticipation do arrive.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I like to think I portray honest and real emotions, in my characters. I like to put down true and real reactions on the part of my characters. My characters are imperfect people trying to function in an imperfect world and they make mistakes and mess up. I like to show how, in spite of that, God still calls them to be His.

Finish this question. The heart of romance is . . .


Any parting words?

I am so thankful to be writing the stories I am and I’m often humbled by the responses I get from my readers. You asked me previously, what keeps me writing—often it’s a letter from a reader who has been touched by my stories. As well, I am so thankful that God has seen fit to use this imperfect person to show a tiny glimpse of His perfect love to a hungry, yearning world. As well, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to “talk” to me and let me ramble on. Blessings.

Thanks for sharing with us, Carolyne. It has been a pleasure to get to know you.

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