Welcome, Carol Steward!

Welcome, Carol, and thanks for telling us all about your current series for Love Inspired Suspense. Carol lives in Colorado, keeps a full time job, and writes terrific romantic suspense. Her latest book, Shield of Refuge is a November 2008 release and available through book stores. If you are unable to find Shield of Refuge, or any of her other books, please check with your favorite online store!!

IN THE LINE OF FIRE is a series about three siblings working in different areas of the justice system who find love while struggling to keep peace in their communities and in their family. Drugs, assault, and corruption are all part of the Matthews family’s daily battles. Someone is terrorizing Northern Colorado communities throughout the series; assaulting, kidnaping, and killing female victims and threatening even the heroes’ and heroines’ safety. Will the forces against the Matthews siblings break through their armor of faith (Ephesians 6: 10-17), or will they overcome the enemy, allowing God’s light to shine?
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

That’s a tough question! Intentionally, I don’t write anything of myself, but I do write what I know, so that means a lot more of what I believe and respect filter into my writing. Such as my love of God, family and a few of my hobbies and interests. I guess it’s impossible to say I don’t write myself into my characters, isn’t it? As far as the characters personality, that isn’t me. I am not nearly as witty and positive in real life. :0(

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

1. I wish I’d learned to set daily goals earlier in my career.
2. Had more faith in my writing.
3. Found a better way to balance family time and writing time. I always wrote late at night and into the morning when my three children were young. It worked well then, but now that they’re grown and gone, I have a tougher time staying up that late.

What should a new writer know about the publishing business.

Publishing and writing has a lot of highs and lows. Just because one story doesn’t work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on the next book. I think that’s one thing I’ve seen pay off the most with this group. Perseverance is critical. It’s important to not take anything for granted and always keep writing.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I guess that depends on who you ask. My sisters think writing is pretty quirky. My children think I’m pretty quirky all the time, but especially when my husband and I go crazy and have a “trading spaces” weekend and redecorate a room in our house. We love bringing something back to it’s original beauty or transforming and bringing new life to an old space.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

When I was writing my first book, I asked God to take away the desire to write. He clearly said, “No, keep writing.” I never dreamed that I would sell so quickly when I said “Okay, show me the way, Lord.” Suddenly, I found writers groups and critique groups, and conferences. It wasn’t easy to let go of my lucrative cake business for something I had not even gone public with yet. Not only am I thankful that God showed me the way in writing, but how to let Him guide me in life and with my family. It gets pretty chaotic at times, and I could not do it alone.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

Letting go of the need to revise constantly. With the first book, I was just learning, and I had time to revise, and revise, and revise. Once it sold, and I was selling on partials and trying to finish a book in 6 months or less, that was no longer an option. I had to keep moving through the book and learn to edit differently, after the story is told. It was really tough to do this with my last contract because I was working full time and writing four books, with 5 months per book and no time to regroup in between. I had several hurdles to jump with them, but figuring out where the story had to go and quickly letting go of things that didn’t work was all I could do. I know that they could have been better books if I’d had more time, but I also suspect I would have wasted a lot more time second-guessing myself, too. I think the writing process is full of these kind of hurdles – and what’s worse, is just when I learn to handle one challenge, another challenge comes up. I’ve learned how it’s not only important to keep trying different techniques and styles, but that my writing can even get better through the challenges. I’m not afraid to let go when something doesn’t work. Sometimes I think writers need to just write the full story, then go back and layer in the character development, the red herrings, and analyze how to improve the story. A lot of times, if you stop spinning your wheels on one scene, a scene or two later you will probably figure out what went wrong in the problem scene. But again, don’t stop and let the wheels spin again in the new place, take notes and keep moving.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

I loved writing about Amber Scott and Garrett Matthews, and all of the characters in the In the Line of Fire series, actually. Amber had a lot of self-appointed expectations for herself and like Garrett, had a strong determination to succeed, no matter the cost. They’re a lot like each of us, we don’t know how much we can do until we run into a roadblock. It’s then we find out how deep our faith really is.

What themes exist in Shield of Refuge that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren’t overt but developed as the story progressed?

I try to work with themes, but it’s hard for me to start with one in mind. Even when I do, it often changes. I let that develop as the story does, but for “Shield” I think forgiveness. It’s so easy for bitterness and resentment to poison our lives. Both Amber and Garrett wear a shield to keep distractions away. Neither one wants to jeopardize their goals. It was that much more rewarding when they were able to let God take over the job of shielding them and guiding them toward one another.

I’ve found that each book has taught me something as I wrote it. What did you take away from writing this book?

Like He did Amber & Garrett as life hit them in the gut I was reminded that God can sustain me through everything life throws at me. And like them, I don’t learn much about myself, or life, or faith when life is going smoothly. The more I need to rely on God, the more I’m learning, about myself and God’s plan for my life.

How do you balance family life with writing?

I don’t. I’m compulsive with everything. I work long hours. I developed terrible sleep habits as a teen, and have always worked more than one job, no matter what it might be. It’s catching up with me now and I’m trying to learn how to reprioritize to take better care of myself.

I sold this series when my house was empty. My kids were all living out of town. I have a day job that I really love. I was going to fill the quiet evenings with writing again. By the time it sold, one family had moved to from Arizona back to Colorado. Then both of my sons and their families moved back into town. One moved in with us for the remainder of my deadline. My granddaughter was 1 ½ when they moved in with us, and when I finished my last book, she looked at me after dinner and told me to go to the basement (where my office is.) I’ve found how absolutely inspiring it is to have children around and how much I took that for granted. It was a huge blessing to have them close enough that I could share even the few minutes a day that I had with her. They’ve moved back to Phoenix because of the economy, and I miss them terribly, and realize how precious the time we had together was. Now I have a little more time to spend with my two grandsons and treasure quality time with them. That is, until the next book series consumes me…

I don’t recommend my “balance” with others aspiring to write. Learn to say no to what isn’t important in your daily life. Let go of what you can give up, and let God help you focus on what He has planned. I cook huge meals and eat leftovers, multitask too much, and put off the housework until company is coming.

What are a couple of your all-time favorite books?

That’s an impossible question to answer! Absolutely impossible.

Do you have a day job, too?

I work at the University of Northern Colorado Graduate School with masters and doctoral students as they finish up their theses and dissertations. I love helping others reach their goals and see that gleam in their eye when they finish it. And I think having someone who struggles with deadlines helps us make a great team to get to the end of their degree.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite has to be telling stories that encourage the readers, that may help them forget their problems for a while and take a little while to relax and laugh a little.

My least favorite part is that there’s just not enough hours in my day to get it all done. When an idea hits, I’m usually in the middle of something else that I can’t put off.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?
I’m mostly a plotter. I do a lot of planning at the beginning, but then the story takes over and it ends up a little different than I planned.

Key advice for other writers?

Be grateful for each day and enjoy it fully. Life is just too short to spend so much time doing something you don’t love.

Thank you Carol for your time and insight!
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