Hi all - Charlotte Carter here.
(This interview by Brenna Audbrey originally appeared in the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America newsletter, November 2011. She asked such good questions, I thought I share it with you.)
Under various pseudonyms, Charlotte Carter has authored 56 romance novels and cozy mysteries for Harlequin,
Q. You've written SO many books. How do you keep yourself motivated to write?
I’m compulsive! Maybe it’s because I started late in this writing business, but writing, discovering a story, soothes me (when it’s going well, of course). And there’s always another story to tell lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. So little time, so many stories......
Q. You've written in several different subgenres. Do you stick with one genre at a time or do you switch it up and change from book to book to keep it interesting?
The vast majority of my books have been romance novels. Now, however, I’m writing for two publishers: inspirational romance for Love Inspired and cozy mystery continuities for Guideposts Books. I try to alternate between publishers, which is somewhat dependent on my schedule for the Guideposts books in whatever series is current.
Q. What is your writing process like? Linear or dot-to-dot? Planner or pantser? Do you write long hand or on the computer? etc.
I’m definitely linear and a planner, although the characters have been known to give me a surprise now and then. I start off plotting with a pen and college-lined notebook paper. (You can tell how high-tech I am - Not!) I establish who the characters are and their goals, diagram a W plot and work through the hero’s journey. At that point I can usually write a synopsis, which I do on the computer as well as the rest of the manuscript.
Q. What is your most reliable "go to" tool when you realize your story is broken and needs fixing?
For many years, my favorite “go to” tool was Mindy Neff and Susan Phillips, my critique partners. More recently I’ve been whining to Kara Lennox ( Harlequin American author), who is great with the ‘black moment.’ If they aren’t handy, I may take a second look at Save the Cat by Blake Synder, do Debbie Macomber’s list of 20, or let my subconscious solve the problem while I sleep. I will say, by chapter 3 I pretty well can tell if the story is going to work.
Q. How have you managed to brand yourself, given the different genres you have written in?
I’ve never quite understood this ‘branding’ business, but I do have a motto and a promise that I make to readers: Books that leave you smiling....by Charlotte Carter. When I was writing for Harlequin American (as Charlotte Maclay) I wrote warm, family stories. Now, with Love Inspired (w/a Charlotte Carter) I’m writing warm, family stories but with a deeper emotional tone and characters who are dealing with serious problems — a heart transplant recipient, loss of family members, and in my current book, Big Sky Family, a hero who is paraplegic.
Q. You have a wonderful sense of humor that serves you well when speaking publicly. How does your humor serve you in your writing career?
I wish I could say my sense of humor allows me to laugh at copy editors, but that would be a lie. In my writing, humor tends to worm it’s way into the story via children, who are always unpredictable, or by creating a ‘fish out of water’ story for the hero or heroine. Often it’s the reaction of a ‘straight’ character to a humorous situation that can make a reader smile.
Q. What authors and genres do you like to read?
I most often read suspense and romantic suspense, single title romance, legal thrillers, and the like. I’ve recently read James Patterson (Alex Cross story), John Grisham, Iris Johansen, and Rachel Lee books. Sandra Brown and Susan Elizabeth Phillips have always been my favorites And to my delight, my fellow Orange County Chapter members, Debra Mullin and Tessa Dare have brought me back to historical romance, my first love.
Q. What piece of advice do you consider most important sharing with an aspiring author?
Write! Write! And write some more. I was very fortunate when I joined RWA that I could come home from a chapter meeting and immediately use whatever information I’d gleaned in my work-in-progress.. It’s impossible, in my view, to learn to write without having somehow finished a story. My various critique groups have also been invaluable. (My technique is to be the dumbest one in the group so I can learn the most; so far I’ve achieved that goal..) I continue to learn by attending workshops and taking online classes in the hope of improving my craft. As Susan Macias said at the Orange County October Birthday Bash, “The only guarantee that you won’t sell is if you quit writing.”