A 2004 and 2007 Golden Heart® winner, Florida native Carla Capshaw wanted to be a writer and world traveler since she was ten years old. A lover of passionate stories with compelling, nearly impossible conflicts, she’s found Inspirational Historical Romance to be the perfect vehicle to combine lush settings, vivid characters and a Christian worldview. Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals will publish her Roman-set debut novel in September 2009. Currently working on a sequel, Carla still lives in Florida but is always planning her next trip . . . and plotting her next story.
Carla will be giving away a copy of each of the two current Love Inspired Historical novels today, one to each of two people leaving a comment for her. Details below.
Carla, will you please start by telling us about your debut novel?
As yet, my novel doesn’t have an official title, but its working title is The Heart Beckons. Set in Ancient Rome, The Heart Beckons is about the beloved daughter of a wealthy, Roman citizen. Pelonia is orphaned and sold into slavery by her uncle when marauders kill her father on the road to Rome. While struggling to understand God’s plan for her life, she fights to regain her freedom and refuses to accept the ownership of her new master, Rome’s greatest gladiator champion, Caros Viriathos.
Retired from the ring three years before, Caros uses his expertise to train his own gladiators. Though the memories of the countless men he’s slain torment him, he’s trained in the ways of violence and knows little else. He’s grown rich off his efforts, and despite his profession’s lowly status, his reputation has provided him with the best of everything Rome has to offer–everything except inner peace.
When Caros buys Pelonia on a whim, he knows he should return the spirited beauty to her last remaining kin, but her faith in the Christian God intrigues him. As he and Pelonia fall deeply in love with one another, Caros longs to accept the forgiveness she says can be found in Christ, but he’s convinced there’s no hope for him.
Pelonia sees the gentle man behind Caros’ battle-scarred exterior. She’s convinced God has brought her to Caros to win the gladiator to Him, but once her influential relatives learn of her enslavement, Caros is forced to free her and risk losing the one woman whose love and faith have turned his life upside down and won him heart and soul.
When did you begin writing, and why did you choose the Romance genre?
When I look back, it seems to me I wanted to be a writer for most of my life. At age ten, I watched a television movie about Marco Polo. His travels and adventures fascinated me. I decided then that I wanted to write and travel. A few years later, I picked up (sneaked, actually 🙂 ) my first Romance novel off my mother’s dresser and never looked back. I loved Historicals and still do. That first novel was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. It’s one of my favorites, if not my very favorite.
When I started writing my first novel in 2000, it was a natural fit for me to write Romance. Really, I never wanted to write anything else. I love that our genre promotes love, marriage, family and fidelity. I love how uplifted I feel after I’ve enjoyed a well earned happily ever after, and I wanted to give readers that same kind of joy. I consider all those years of reading my education in the genre. At first, I wrote Short Contemporaries, but it wasn’t until I started my first Historical that I knew I’d found my perfect fit.
Your first Golden Heart win was in Short Historical and your second in Inspirational. What led you to write for the Inspirational market?
When I started writing I’d read some Christian Romances, of course (Janet Oke and Francine Rivers among others,) but I wasn’t aware there was an Inspirational market. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but I was just writing the stories that morphed in my head. I didn’t know anything about the business back then. Like most authors, I write my characters with bits of me in them, so even though my stories weren’t aimed at a Christian publisher, my characters were always Christians in their thoughts and deeds.
After I won the Golden Heart in 2004, my limited knowledge concerning the Romance market expanded rapidly. By that point, I knew I wanted to write Historicals, but the mainstream houses were looking for “hot” stories, which I knew I would never write. I was a bit discouraged and took some time off while I talked to the Lord about what to do next. It was then that one of my wonderful friends, Tammy Johnson at Writers At Play, saw Steeple Hill was starting a new Inspirational Historical line and sent the guidelines my way. I was so excited. I prayed about it and just kind of knew it would work out.
The Heart Beckons is set in ancient Rome, not a period we see
very often in Romance. Why did you choose that time period?
Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t pick it. As I said in the previous question, I’d prayed about the Steeple Hill line and knew things would work out because, while I was praying, the Lord gave me the story. Actually, He gave it to me the day after I prayed while I was getting ready for work. lol It played out in my head like a movie. I’d always loved Ancient Rome but hadn’t ever thought of writing a story set there. But, like things usually do when He’s in control, everything just flowed. I wrote the synopsis in about an hour, and the first three chapters were the easiest I’ve ever written.
You’ve crossed the stage twice at the national Romance Writers of America® conference. What was it like the first time? Was it any different the second?
Hmmm . . . that’s an interesting question. In all honesty, both finals were a joy, and it really is the final that’s the honor. When you consider how much work goes into the GH entries, it’s doubtful there’s a ton of difference in the quality of the finalists’ writing. Winning is fun and just an added blessing, imho.
To answer your question, though, the first time was a bit of a blur. I’d only been in Romance Writers of America® for about a year. I knew the GH was a big contest, but I wasn’t truthfully aware of just how big. My manuscript, The Fox, had done well in other contests, so I was hopeful. When they called my name, it was validation of my writing. I thought for sure it was the first major step to being published.
The 2007 final was different because I’d grown as a writer. My manuscript was already under serious consideration at Steeple Hill, and though I was hopeful, I wasn’t so naïve as to think a GH win would be the magical fairy dust that would get me published. When they called my name, it was fun, but a little depressing, too. At the risk of sounding weird or ungrateful (which couldn’t be further from the truth,) no one wants to win a GH twice. You want to sell after the first one. 🙂
What’s the story behind selling The Heart Beckons, and how did you react when you got The Call?
After my first GH win, I signed with the best agent in the world, Michelle Grajkowski at 3 Seas Literary. Once I wrote the partial for The Heart Beckons, I sent it to her for her opinion. Thankfully, she loved it! And being that she is the best agent in the world, she sent it directly to the acquiring editor at Steeple Hill that same day. Editor Melissa Endlich requested the full, which I didn’t have. Needless to say, I wrote as fast as I could. I entered the GH, but didn’t like the ending I submitted, so rewrote it and half the book. I sent Melissa the full I was finally OK with about two weeks before RWA® National in 2007.
A few weeks later, I met Melissa in Dallas. She was so nice and really seemed interested in the story. By that time, though, I didn’t take anything for granted. I just kept praying. My call didn’t actually come until four months later on November 15, 2007. My agent asked if I wanted to sell a book, and I said, “sure.” We talked for about an hour after that, but to be honest, I was too excited to remember much of what we said. 🙂
What is the best advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
To be honest, I’ve sat through nearly everything–The Hero/Heroine’s Journey, How to Write the Break Out Novel, etc., but I don’t learn well by reading books on craft or listening to speakers, I learn by doing. What worked for me, besides praying, was to find critique partners I clicked with and to rely on my writer’s intuition.
I also used contests to hone my skills, but only because I was able to sort out the advice that worked for me and to discard the rest. If you’re in a place in your writing life where people can devastate you with criticism, contests might not be the best fit for you at the moment. 🙂
Also, visit writer’s blogs like The Seekers and Writers At Play. They’re full of great advice and inspiration from people who’ve been in the writing trenches and who enjoy sharing what they’ve learned.
You pursued publication for a number of years. How did you deal with the hills and valleys on your journey?
I wish I had some profound words of wisdom here, but the truth is, I just committed myself to my goal of publication and when rejections came I prayed (whined 😉 to the Lord and kept going. That’s not to say I didn’t reevaluate and try new ideas occasionally. Sometimes things aren’t working, and it’s smart to try a new course. As trite as it sounds, the thing I’d say is to never give up.
What encouragement would you offer those of us who are faithfully traveling the road to publication?
Just keep writing. Write everyday. Practice, practice, practice. Develop what I call rhino skin so rejections and hard knocks can’t slay you. Find critique partners that “get you,” and shun anyone who makes you feel bad about your stories. Even the most wonderful, knowledgeable people can be poison to a writer if their advice doesn’t click with you or how you learn. Pray and let the Lord direct you. He knows what the future holds, so when He gives you a story, believe in it, write it and have faith it will do what He intends for it to do.
Leave a Comment for Carla
Carla will drop by throughout the day to chat, so take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about her, her thoughts on writing for Steeple Hill Love Inspired or her many travel destinations.
On Word Press blogs, the comment link is found at the top of the post by the title.
Everyone leaving a comment for Carla will be entered in a drawing for one of the current Love Inspired Historical titles. If you don’t wish to participate, just make a note of that in your comment, and your request will be honored
Congratulations to Vicki, winner of the first LIH novel, and Renee Ryan, winner of the second.
Carla loves to hear from other writers and readers.
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To find out more about Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Historical collection visit: eharlequin,