Caroline Fyffe is a full-time artist. By day she is a renown equine photographer whose work has graced the cover of many a magazine. By night she writes award-winning romances in a variety of categories. A two-time Golden Heart® finalist, she walked on stage when she won in short historical in 1999, just two years after she’d begun writing.
Caroline’s business takes her across the country, and her travels have taken her around the world. In her stories she takes her readers to various destinations and different time periods.
I got to know Caroline online. She left a comment for another of my guests and won the drawing that day. When she received her packet in the mail, she noticed the return address and asked about it. Turns out she graduated from the high school where my husband teaches. I learned we’re also chapter mates at the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter of Romance Writers of America®. We’d met briefly at RWA® Nationals when we sat together at the awards ceremony—in the first row right in front of the podium where the winners gave their speeches.
Read on to learn what an important part other writers play in Caroline’s life, her favorite way to brainstorm a story, and what she did to her hero’s beloved filly in one of her western historicals.
I invite you to leave a comment for Caroline. In honor of her, the drawing prizes for her visitors are horse-related. Look for more details at the bottom of this post.
•Caroline, will you begin by telling us what led you to write romances?
Thank you, Keli, for your gracious words. You build me up way too much—I’m really just a little ol’ photog, as-yet unpublished writer, and most importantly, a mom … .
But, let’s see—what led me to writing? First and foremost, I was an avid reader from a very early age. My mother was always after me to turn out the light, put down my beloved westerns by Zane Grey and Max Brand, the Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes (Remember those? I think there were eight in the series), and such classics as Wuthering Heights, and go to sleep!! I was in high school when The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss hit the bookshelves and I was instantly hooked on romance.
• I see that you’ve placed in several contests with a number of different manuscripts, including your Golden Heart win in 1999. When did you begin work on your first romance manuscript, and how many have you completed?
I didn’t know a thing about writing fiction when I first put words to paper in 1997. I was a mother of two young boys, and during the quiet times of the day I was drawn to the computer. Having never even considered writing before, it was a surprise to me when I began my first story, Chasing Jessie.
It wasn’t long before I went to a bookstore and looked for information about writing a romance. Thought that might be a good idea! LOL. I found the number to RWA (I’d never even heard of Romance Writers of America) in the back of a book and called. Someone there asked me where I lived and directed me to a critique group in my town. That was the nicest thing she could have ever done. I wish I remembered her name because I’d like to thank her in person.
I called, and it just so happened that the group had an opening, and I was invited to have lunch with the members. Susan Crosby and Robin Burcell, two of the most well-respected, prolific authors in the business, turned out to be the founders. They took me under their wings and very, very patiently taught me that writing was more than telling a story. There were some rules one had to follow, like having one point of view character tell the story at a time. And a very troubling yet significant element called conflict, external AND internal. Without it, the reader had no reason to keep reading. Months flew by, and I looked forward to our weekly sessions, as only a writer can understand.
A critique group is like a living organism, always shifting, changing. One member left, but soon we were joined by Theresa Ragan, the exceptionally talented writer who blogged here recently and has finaled six times in the Golden Heart, and Susan Grant, who was working on her first book, Once A Pirate. It was fabulous!!!
Since then I have completed three manuscripts and am working on my fourth. My first two are western historicals, followed by a woman’s fiction story that takes my heroine to Austria for all kinds of adventure, which was super fun to write. My fourth is an inspirational western historical. LOL!! I’m all over the board!
•You’ve enjoyed being in the spotlight at RWA Nationals as the GH winner in the short historical category back in 1999 and again in 2007 when you returned as a finalist. Did winning the Golden Heart garner you more attention from agents and editors than being a finalist in long historical?
It’s very hard to know if winning was any more advantageous than finaling. I think they both open doors.
•With so many contest finals and wins under your belt, including the prestigious Golden Heart, what advice would you have for those entering contests?
Pick the contests that have the final judges you want to get your work in front of. Contest entries add up fast. Be picky. Besides judges, I always look for contests with no synopsis. <ggg> They’re my Achilles’ heel!!
• I understand you’re part of a group of critique partners who’ve become quite close. What makes your group work so well? What suggestions would you have for those seeking a critique partner?
I don’t have a critique group per se that meets each week like my first one did. I do still work with Theresa Ragan, though. We email pages back and forth. Her positive attitude and intellect keep me on track and writing. We get together for an entire day when we’re preparing to start a new project and loosely brainstorm the whole book—very, very loosely that is. You’d be amazed how well it works. It’s nothing concrete, but if your muse runs dry, voila, instant ideas.
I also exchange pages with Kayla Westra, my roomie from the 2007 national conference and a fantastic writer. Upon meeting the first day at The Golden Network event, we instantly hit it off. We were both finalists in the same category, but neither one of us won. We celebrated anyway! Ha! Theresa and Kayla both offer something different, and the system, for me, is perfect.
•You run an incredibly successful equine photography business, having been voted photographer of the year by the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association. Your photos have been featured on the covers of Horse and Rider, California Horse Review and Appaloosa Journal, to name a few. As a writer of western historicals, does your love of horses lead you to work them into your stories?
Yes, absolutely! I always seem to have a horse somewhere in the plot. In my second story my hero, Luke McCutcheon, has a green broke filly he’s bringing along slowly. She’s real pretty and smart. While pushing a herd of cattle across a swollen river, Luke’s brother is washed away, and Luke has to ride to his rescue. In the process, Chiquita breaks her foreleg, and Luke has to put her down. It didn’t start out that way, but sometimes the story just writes itself . . . however, for me, that scene was heartbreaking.
•I see that, although your business is based in California, your photography takes you around the country as you serve as a photographer for horse shows in Oklahoma, Texas and beyond. I noticed, too, that you’ve been to Rome and Washington, D.C. in your travels. Do you have a favorite travel destination, and do the places you’ve visited work their way into your stories?
I’ve been very blessed to have traveled as much as I have and to such wonderful places. To pick one would be impossible. But I would say, yes, for me it’s so much easier to pull detail from somewhere I’ve been before or something I’ve experienced than to try and dream up all the minutiae that makes a scene come to life.
•You’ve been writing and pursuing publication for a number of years and are a wonderful example of persistence and perseverance. It can’t be easy, though, to be so close for so long. I’m sure that, like most of us, you’ve battled discouragement and doubts. How do you deal with the hills and valleys of a writer’s life?
I would be lying if I said I never got discouraged. It just goes with the business. Actually, I stopped writing for a number of years once, four to be exact. I got involved with a couple of different things, I didn’t have critique partners at the time to hound me, and that’s how it goes.
Cheryl Magoteaux, a journalistic writer I know from the horse shows, talked about critiquing together. The moment I started writing again (this was my romantic elements story), I became happier, and I knew then that I was where I was meant to be.
•What encouragement would you offer others on the road to publication?
Submit. Submit. Submit. You can be an excellent, page-turning writer, but if you never submit, who will ever know? When your beloved manuscript comes back with a rejection—and it will come back, I promise you—brush off the hurt and disappointment and send it out again, all the while writing another story.
And remember, too, that we are very blessed to be a part of this crazy business! We get to pour out our hearts everyday; connect with fun, intelligent women; let our imaginations run wild without consequence; travel to the ends of the earth in search of undying love; work in our pajamas; and if we’re in the exact place at the right moment, when all the stars line up just so after midnight on the third lunar eclipse of the century <ggg> (I’m joking, of course), if we’ve learned our craft well, cultivated our brand, networked with thousands of readers and writers AND been persistent, perhaps we’ll get to experience the overwhelming joy of seeing our cherished story alongside the works of those talented, wonderful, creative authors we’ve read and admired for years! Now I ask you … what could be better than that?!?
Thank you so much, Keli, for having me as a guest on your blog. This is my very first time, and I have to say it was really fun.
Before I sign off I have a question for my guests and would appreciate their feedback. Will readers object to the scene I mentioned before in The McCutcheons where Luke McCutcheon has the sad job of putting his filly down? Is it too true to life? I don’t want to offend anyone, and yet that is exactly what happened to horses that were ill fated enough to get badly injured when out on the trail. I would really appreciate any and all opinions.
Leave a Comment for Caroline
Caroline will drop by throughout the next three days to chat. She’d love to hear from you.
If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.
In honor of the fact that Caroline is an award-winning equine photographer, two of those leaving comments for her will each receive horse-themed items: two small calendars and a bookmark in a tiny tote bag.
I’ll hold the first drawing the evening of 9/22 and the second the evening of 9/24.
If you don’t wish to participate, say so in your comment, and your request will be honored.
Congratulations to Sherry Harm, winner of the first drawing, and to Cathy S., winner of the second.