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Interview with Carolyne Aarsen

Growing gardens, driving tractors, and handcrafting personalized cards are only a few tasks and hobbies that Carolyne Aarsen has not only accomplished but infused throughout her over thirty published books. This Canadian from the city happily moved to the country with her husband – a move that led her to writing.

Carolyne, I know from your bio that you are a city girl-turned-country, how has this transition from busy streets and concrete to livestock and produce affected you and your writing?
The transition for me was one I embraced because I always wanted to live in the country. In spite of growing up in the city, we lived for many years right on the edge of the city and had lots of open spaces available to us. It always called to me so I was glad when I got married and moved out to a farm.

After publishing dozens of books, what is your method of developing new book ideas? Also what inspired you to write Catching Her Heart?
Writing so many books has me worried sometimes that I’ve run out. So I tend to be like a magpie – always gathering anything that catches my eye and ear. Movies, books, conversations with other people are all gathering points for me.

Once I have an idea I mull it over, start a file on my computer and put it in there. I’ve often compared this to the soup in the pot concept. I add a few things to the idea from time to time – snippets of conversation, pictures for characters - and let it simmer.

For instance, even though I have a contract right now for three books, I have already started on another series of three books and am mulling over another three, trying to untangle the jumble of ideas that I’m adding to them.

I must say your handmade cards are gorgeous, Carolyne. Do you see a parallel between crafting the complex layers of your cards and your stories? Do you carefully select your characters and scenes as you do the different papers and cutouts?
Thanks! I love making cards. I love the process of choosing. I’m a bit of a hoarder so I have lots of supplies at hand and look all over the web for ideas.

As for a parallel – possibly. The creative process tends to be the same; an idea that strikes me, a colour that catches my eye, a concept and then I use the tools at my disposal to work them together.

Since you are a known collector of not only items for your creative hobbies but also of future book tidbits, what is one of your favorites you have collected over the years? Which novel was it woven into?
I remember a conversation I had with a log-truck driver. He was bugging me about always writing about men and that no guy could ever live up to that ideal. The idea stuck with me and out of that came a book that I had a lot of fun with.

It was the only Love Inspired novel I wrote in first person and it became the book, Any Man of Mine. A story about a woman looking for a man and ending up with a ‘guy.’

In a recent interview you mentioned working on three stories at once. What is your advice on juggling multiple plots and characters while staying focused until “The End?”
Juggling all those plot lines is a discipline I have applied to my writing life as well. I can be overwhelmed by deadlines and what’s required of me and think it will never get done. I put everything on a calendar on my computer – writing goals for the day, deadlines for the book or the edits or stuff that comes back to me – and try to focus on only the jobs for that day.

The same with ideas. If something comes to me while I’m working I put it in the file on the computer and then get back to the work at hand knowing I’ll get back to the idea later. I always plug time for working on new books into my calendar and remind myself when those days come I can work on this idea.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Realizing that story has to have structure and to be deliberate about it before I write my story, not as I’m writing the story. My first few books were stories I had worked on a long time before I got published and unconsciously I knew the ebb and flow of a story.

But as I began to write books under deadline, I floundered. I didn’t have time or the luxury to discover the story as I wrote it, and my career slowed for a while as a result. But once I discovered Vogle and the deliberate structure of screenwriting for movies and applying that to my writing before I wrote my story, my output increased.

I became an outliner and not a seat of the pants writer. I got fewer revision letters from my editor after my book was completed. Since then I have honed the structure concept by taking screenwriting workshops and reading books. I’ve learned a lot from Blake Snyder, Dara Marks and Michael Hague.

How did the journey of writing your first book begin? Was there a specific inspiration to do it?
My husband and I had taken our five children to the interior of British Columbia where he worked for four months for a guide outfitter. We were smack in the middle of the mountains with a lake close by and the nearest town, a two-hour drive on rough logging roads. I went to town once a week and on the long drive with the kids listened to a lot of Chris De Burgh.

On those long drives, I would start imaging a character who lived in this area. Who was she and why did she live here? Slowly the idea took shape and my first book was born. That was the inspiration.

The mechanics are more prosaic. I had taken a correspondence course on non-fiction writing and one of the assignments was to write ten sample columns. I sent them to a local paper, they were published, I got paid and that covered a romance-writing course I took also by correspondence. During that course I wrote my first book, which was published by Love Inspired about eight years later.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Knowing when I can afford to say yes to work in the church and community and knowing when I should say no. I like to be involved and to give back to a community that has been such a support to me. However, I’ve also learned, from reader letters and comments, that my writing is also a ministry. That I need to give it the time and prayer required to do a good job and to give it my best and not my leftovers.

That said, the one priority I will always make time for is my family. If my daughters or sons want to come for a visit or need me to come to them, I will rearrange my schedule to make it work. Always.

With that in mind, when it comes time to set out my deadlines, I always work some buffer time into my writing schedule that I can steal from if I have to. Or I’ll work Saturdays and evenings to get it done. Sundays I leave alone. That’s my Sabbath rest.

If you created a special card to represent “Catching Her Heart,” what are some of the colors, cutouts and prints you would use?
Fun question!! I think I would use a spring moss base with an aqua blue gingham first layer. I would lay down a chartreuse green ‘grass’ stamp and die cut a kraft fence and white cloud to go in the sky. Then I would cut out a pink heart and stamp it and have it floating up past the fence with a string attached to it so it looks like a heart-shaped balloon floating away.

Any parting words?
First of all, thanks so much for this opportunity and for such unique questions! Thanks for the chance to talk about my work and my hobby.

I just want to say how thankful I am for my work and how blessed I am to be working with such great Love Inspired editors, Melissa Endlich and, before her, Tina James, Emily Rodmell and Krista Stroever, who guided and shaped my writing and made me look better than I am! My agent, Karen Solem, has been a support and encourager that I couldn’t do without. Love Inspired is a great place to be and I’m thankful I’m here.

Thanks for sharing with us, Carolyne!

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