I welcome Cara Putman, busy mother—her newest arrival is under two-weeks old—to my Authors-Helping-Writers Interview segment. Thanks so much, Cara, for fitting this into your schedule as you prepared for the arrival of your newest little one. Congratulations on baby Rebecca! For some great pics, bop on over to Cara’s blog and you’ll see just how beautiful her family is.
Cara is a busy mom and a business law teacher, and still finds time to write romantic suspense and historical romances set during World War Two. There’s some amazing energy in this author and I’m pleased to reveal a little of it through this interview.
First, what are your hobbies, Cara?
Cara Putman: I love to scrapbook, read, play with my kids, serve in our church, etc. I also teach business law at Purdue, which I enjoy enough to make it a hobby. LOL
Cara, when did you receive the infamous “Acceptance call”?
Cara Putman: I received my first contract at the 2006 ACFW conference. In 2005 I attended my first ACFW conference and watched Mary Connealy receive her first contract. It was such fun to rejoice with her. I had no idea the next year would be my year to celebrate.
Who did you tell the good news to first? Second?
Cara Putman: First, 450 of my closest writing buds, agents, and editors I was so shaken I made it back to the table and sat there trying to think what to do next. People kept handing me phones to call my husband and I thought I’ll play this cool. I’ll call him later. Two minutes later I was out the door in the parking lot shrieking in his ear.
No wonder! Will you give us a rundown of your published works and when they come out?
Cara Putman: Canteen Dreams released in October 2007
Deadly Exposure releases in May 2008
Sandhill Dreams releases in May 2008
Captive Dreams in September 2008
And I’m just starting work on a new 3 book series that will release beginning in 2009.
Did you submit to contests before publication?
Cara Putman: I entered two contests but did not final in either one.
Since publication have you entered contests or received any credits for your books?
Cara Putman: I was thrilled to receive a 4 starred review from Romantic Times for Deadly Exposure. I’ve entered a couple contests this year with Canteen Dreams, but have low expectations. God has already blown me away with what He has allowed to happen in my writing life.
In addition to writing, how else do you participate in the publication world?
Cara Putman: I judged the Book of the Year contest before being eligible to enter it. I’ve also judged the Genesis contest for several years. I taught the ACFW online course in April, blog each weekday at http://carasmusings.blogspot.com/, write tons of reviews, and speak when asked. I love to share what I’ve learned and try to encourage people on their writing journeys.
With all you do, Cara, when do you find the time to write?
Cara Putman: Because I have two young children and one on the way – this child should arrive before you post the interview – I do 90% of my writing between 9 p.m. and midnight or later.
How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?
Cara Putman: I could say one year, since I actively started writing again in the summer of 2005. However, I see that much of my life was preparation. I’ve wanted to write since I was in junior high, and have always journaled. I tried my hand at writing a couple novels in high school. Law school was great preparation as is all the reading I’ve done for years. And I also had periods where the desire to write would become so strong I would check books out at the library on how to do it. So while the journey from picking up the keyboard again to contract was relatively short, there was a lot of background preparation prior to that.
In that short time, did any rejections come your way?
Cara Putman: I have received a few rejections, but usually they’re tinged with…this is close, but needs more work. Or we’d love to work with you, but this isn’t quite right. So they represent screens on the door rather than a closed door. Those actually keep me pretty motivated to keep improving my writing and plotting.
How did you prepare for publication?
Cara Putman: I am a stickler for discipline. I had to write two books without any guarantees of a contract, but if I hadn’t written them they wouldn’t have sold. Instead, they’re my first two books out. So the commitment to butt in chair time with fingers glued to the keyboard are critical. I have excel spreadsheets where I track how much I write each day and how close I am to the end. That gives me some accountability that keeps me focused.
Were there any “practice” novels involved during this short road to publication?
Cara Putman: No. My initial books sold. That’s very unusual. Deadly Exposure went through several changes – some quite big, but Canteen Dreams is pretty much the story I originally wrote.
Wow, you amaze me, Cara! How long does it take you to write your novels?
Cara Putman: Canteen Dreams from idea to finished book was less the three months. The actual writing was less than 4 weeks. Deadly Exposure started out as a stand-alone length, so it took much longer about 7 months, with some of that overlapping with Canteen Dreams.
Will you explain your writing style?
Cara Putman: I create a pretty detailed synopsis and then let the plot develop from there. I can write a Heartsong in 4 weeks, because of that detailed chapter by chapter summary. Most of the research occurs at that stage.
You said that you write at night, can you explain the process of getting your stories completed?
Cara Putman: If I’m under deadline, my word count per day ranges from 1000-2500 words a day. Because I homeschool, am on the ACFW board, teach, etc., my writing has to occur in two to three hours late at night. So I have to redeem that time. I usually revise what I wrote the day before as I start. That helps me get back into the flow of the story. Last year I wrote two new books and heavily revised Deadly Exposure – all between July and December. Contract deadlines can be a fantastic motivator. You have to be willing to invest the time up front and have a passion in your gut for the story you are writing. You may be writing it for an audience of One. Is that enough if He’s called you to write?
Did you have an agent for your initial sale?
Cara Putman: I did not have an agent for my first sale. However, I had built a relationship with the editor by attending a conference. Now I have an agent who is a great match for me and will help me reach my writing goals. If you build the relationships and have the writing skills and story, it is possible to get a contract without an agent. It’s just hard.
What about a platform, do you have one?
Cara Putman: I don’t really have one LOL. For a non-fiction book that I’m writing this summer, I was offered the contract because I teach business law. I know platform is helpful, and it is something I am trying to build one reader at a time, but I didn’t necessarily have one when I started.
From signing to holding your book in hand, what time elapsed?
Cara Putman: I signed the contract for Canteen Dreams in October 2006 and held it in final form in October 2007. That’s been fairly standard so far.
What does your publishing house expect of you with regard to self-promoting your novel(s)?
Cara Putman: They provide some free copies for me to mail to influencers. I then set up booksignings, speaking engagements, blog tours, etc. I don’t know how much of that is expected, but it makes me feel like I’m doing my part.
Many new writers don’t know when to stop editing and revising. Can you explain how do you decide when your manuscript is ready for your editor’s or agent’s eyes?
Cara Putman: I’m unique here. I get the book written, revise it once or twice, send it out to crit partners and incorporate some of the changes then get it out the door. When I started, Deadly Exposure was heavily critiqued by my crit group. That was a good thing, I had a lot to learn. However, it kept me trapped in the first 6 chapters of the book. I finally had to stop and just write the book. Then I had a couple people read it all the way through. They liked it, so I decided the story worked. Then it was taking a deep breath and getting it out there. I also received several very high scores on it from contests, so knew the writing was getting there. It’s scary and risky, but it has to come off the computer and get out there.
Cara, Thank You so much for sharing all this great information with us. Do you have any last thoughts for weary authors-in-training?
Cara Putman: Join a group like ACFW (www.acfw.com) so that you can learn how to write. Attend conferences like ACFW’s so you can learn and make great contacts within the industry. Pray for God’s leading and direction, do what He tells you to, and then sit down and write. Like they say 500 words a day leads to a book in a year.
Great advice, Cara. Thanks once again for taking time out of your very busy life to share your road-to-publication story. Your journey is inspiring!
Already, Cara Putman has several books on the shelves and more to come. Take a look at what great reads are awaiting us from Cara’s fictional world.
Canteen Dreams, historical romance, October 2007 978-1-59789-867-6, Heartsong Presents
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Audrey Stone wants to help in the war effort. But what's a young schoolteacher from Nebraska to do? When her community starts a canteen at the train station, Audrey finds her place. She spends nearly every spare moment there, offering food and kindness to the soldiers passing through. Despite her busyness, Audrey does allow some time to get to know a handsome rancher.
Willard Johnson worries about his brother who joined the navy to get off the ranch and see the world. When Willard's worst fear is confirmed, he feels he must avenge by enlisting himself. But will his budding relationship with Audrey weather the storms of war? Or will one of the many soldiers at the canteen steal her away from him?
Can two such determined people find their place in the war and with each other?
Sandhill Dreams, historical romance, May 2008 978-1-60260-010-2, Heartsong Presents
With her dreams shattered, will Lainie Gardner allow God and a soldier at Fort Robinson to breathe life into new dreams that will bring her more joy than she imagined?
Lainie has no dreams left
Lainie Gardner dreamed of becoming a nurse. Of serving her country. Of doing something important in the war. But rheumatic fever changed all that, and instead of running home, Lainie is determined to find a job at Fort Robinson in Nebraska’s sandhills.
Tom Hamilton had dreams, too. Dreams of preparing the horses at Fort Robinson for duty on the warfront. Instead, he is assigned to train war dogs and their handlers, meaning that each day he must face the fear he’s had of dogs since he was bitten as a child.
Lainie and Tom wonder why God seems to have denied them their dreams. But is it possible new dreams will bring them more joy than they ever imagined?
Deadly Exposure, romantic suspense, May 2008, 978-0-373-44292-8, Love Inspired Suspense
A MURDER AT INTERMISSION
How could a killer have struck in a crowded theater? That was the question plaguing TV news reporter Dani Richards. She'd been in the box next to the victim -- and hadn't heard or seen a thing. Now the very man who broke Dani's heart years ago is investigating the murder. And when her coverage of the story led the killer to stalk her, police officer and former flame Caleb Jamison insisted on protecting her. Dani was afraid to let Caleb close again. Yet she had no choice. The killer's sinister phone calls left no doubt that he'd come for Dani next.
With a stalker closing in, will television journalist Dani Richards trust her former love and police investigator Caleb Jamison to help her and God to rescue her?
Captive Dreams, historical romance, September 2008, Heartsong Presents.
Captive Dreams is the story of Anna Goodman and Graham Hudlow and the challenges they experience on the home front during World War II. Anna works at the Air Base in Kearney, but comes home each weekend to try and hold the family farm together. Since his appearance in Canteen Dreams, Graham has enlisted and is a Corporal in a military police unit of the Army stationed at Camp Atlanta, a Prisoner of War (POW) camp. During World War II, Camp Atlanta served as home to several thousand German POWs.
Anna and Graham meet when Graham is overseeing a group of POWs who are providing farm labor for her father. Anna is incensed that they are there because she knows the family doesn't have the resources to pay the workers. Graham vows to pay extra attention to the Goodman farm and make sure everything is okay. Over the following months their tentative friendship builds into a romance that turns into love.
Cara is graciously allowing me to host a giveaway of her Love Inspired Romantic Suspense Deadly Exposure. Leave a pertinent comment in the comment section of this posting between now and 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 28/08 and you could be the lucky winner of a copy of Deadly Exposure. Be sure to include your augmented e-mail address within your comment for me to notify you if you should happen to win. Good Luck to everyone!
May 29/08: Congratulations to Pamela J. for winning the Giveaway of Cara Putman's Deadly Exposure.