Meet Writer Cara Slaughter w/a Cara Lynn James

Award-winning writer Cara Slaughter, who writes under the name Cara Lynn James, is a current Golden Heart® finalist in the Inspirational category. Finaling and placing in contests is not new to her, however. She has finaled in twelve contests and won five with three different stories and is a member of the active group of contest-oriented bloggers known as The Seekers.

Cara writes both contemporary and historical romance, having completed three manuscripts in six years. The Gilded Age of the 1890s is one of Cara’s favorite periods and is the time in which her stories are set.

A New Englander, Cara now lives in northwest Florida near the Gulf Coast with her twice-retired husband, formerly a Navy pilot and then science teacher, her grown daughter, two-year-old grandson who calls himself Spiderman and a yappy Papillion named Sparky. Their son lives five minutes away and attends college full-time along with working full-time.

When she’s not busy creating her stories, Cara likes to play with her grandson, eat out, especially at Mexican, Japanese, Italian and seafood restaurants, go camping in her A-liner pop-up camper (it looks like an aluminum tent) and read romances, women’s fiction and mysteries at the beach.

Join me as we learn more about Cara and her journey.

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Cara Slaughter

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Cara’s Journey Begins

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•You’ve been writing for a number of years. When did you set to work on your first story? How did that initial idea come about?

I wrote my first story for my parents’ wedding anniversary (20 pages!) when I was seven years old. It was modeled after the Bobbsey twins, the only books I knew much about.

I’ve always loved to read and write, although I didn’t finish another story for well over forty-five years. I couldn’t imagine an ordinary person could actually become a writer.

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•One of your early works is set in the New England town of Newport, Rhode Island. What is about that setting that captured your attention and led you to use it?

My mother came from Newport, so my family spent a lot of time there while I was growing up in Connecticut. In fact, some of her ancestors who were expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for religious reasons founded the town in 1639.

I loved the ocean and the beach—still do. We’d sometimes tour the mansions (called cottages) where the nineteenth century millionaires summered. I was fascinated with how the rich and the spoiled lived, so writing about them came naturally.

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•When did you make the decision to write Inspirational romance, and why?

As a Christian, I gravitated toward writing inspirational stories. I don’t have any steamy romances gathering dust under my bed.

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Cara’s Process

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•You’ve completed several manuscripts. Have you developed a schedule you follow on a daily or weekly basis, or do you write when the mood strikes?

I write when my muse pesters me, but in those in-between times, I think about my characters and plot and I move things around on my ‘mental’ plotting board. My resolution every January 1st is to discipline myself so I can be more productive. I’m improving. I do try to write a chapter a week. Sometimes I even succeed. If I’m under pressure, I can buckle down and do whatever I have to do.

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•How does one of your stories come into being? Do your characters introduce themselves and start carrying on conversations in your head? Does a setting take hold and lend itself to a story? Or does a plot begin weaving itself into your thoughts and beg to be captured on the page?

Characters and setting come to mind first and then I work on the plot. I like plotting, but it isn’t always easy. My characters usually don’t have a story to tell. I have to coax it out of them. But I like to know where the story will end before I start and at least some of the plotting points. Otherwise I go down a lot of blind alleys.

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Peaks

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•You’ve finaled and placed in many contests, including the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis, the Linda Howard Award of Excellence and the Beacon, to name but a few. Which of your wins stand out and why?

I won the Genesis in the historical category in 2005. It was the first contest I won and the competition was fierce. That win gave me confidence to continue writing and take it seriously and not just as a hobby.

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•On March 25, 2009 you received a very special call from RWA with the news that you are a Golden Heart finalist in the Inspirational category. What were you doing when the call came and how did you react to the news? What have been the most enjoyable aspects of finaling so far?

I was so excited I couldn’t focus on anything else. After the call at 7:30 in the morning, I ran around the house screaming like a lunatic. I’m usually quiet, so this really got my family’s attention. Then I received another call from Terri, the lady who’d just phoned me. I saw her number and I was scared to death she was calling back to say she’d made a terrible mistake and I wasn’t really a finalist. Fortunately, all she wanted to know was which name I wanted to go by—Cara or Carolyn. So all day I basked in the glow of the Golden Heart contest. In fact, over two months later, I’m still grinning. Finaling has given me a great reason to go RWA National this year.

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Valleys

•Even though you’ve done very well on the contest circuit, your first foray was disappointing. What did you learn from that early entry?

I learned I didn’t know as much about writing as I thought. Over the years I’d read many how-to-books on writing, but I’d never written more than a few pages in any of my many works-in-progress. I never got far before I lost interest in the story since I revised the beginning pages so many times I bored myself to death.

So when I entered my first contest I expected to learn exactly how much knowledge I’d absorbed. Turns out I didn’t learn much, or at least not enough. Understanding the mechanics of writing is a lot different than actually developing an interesting story and putting it on paper. I learned I needed to practice writing as much as I needed to study writing.

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•You’ve been pursuing publication for a long time. No doubt, there have been times when you asked yourself why you continue to work toward a goal that can seem daunting on the darkest days. What or whom has served as motivation in those times of introspection and reflection?

I’ve been writing for six years, minus a year when I had health problems and hardly wrote at all. I persevere because I feel God is calling me to write and even if I never get published, I love to tell a story.

I didn’t get serious about writing until I joined RWA and the Gulf Coast Chapter in Mobile, then ACFW. Chapter members who’ve become good friends and the Seekers and my critique partners have all encouraged and motivated me to keep writing.

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Partners on Cara’s Journey

•You have an awesome group of supportive writers and published authors as friends in your Seekerville pals. How did The Seekers blog form, and how did you come to be part of this awesome group of women?

I believe it was Ruth Logan Herne who asked a bunch of us who had finaled in contests in 2005 if we’d like to form an on-line support group. They’re an awesome, talented group and I’m honored to be a part of the Seekers. When we first got together, only one lady had sold—now about half are published or have sold. I’m waiting for my turn!

Later we decided to start a blog which we call Seekerville. We blog about all aspects of writing and publishing including contests.

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•Contest judges provide great feedback, but there’s nothing like the interaction with a valued critique partner. Please tell us about yours and why your relationship works so well.

I’m really blessed to belong to two fantastic critique groups. One is online with two multi-published inspirational authors who are great at giving encouragement along with wonderful suggestions. My other group consists of three friends in my area. Two are published and all three are fabulous writers and super critique partners. They’re all supportive and extremely knowledgeable. I couldn’t ask for more. They’ve taught me so much and their help has been invaluable.

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Cara’s Journey Continues

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•Finaling in the Golden Heart is a great honor and yet it’s no guarantee of publication. What steps are you taking to get your stories “out there”? Have you continued to enter contests? Are you submitting to agents and editors?

I’m submitting to editors and I’m in the process of researching agents. I’m taking it one step at a time. Contests have given me lots of feedback and a few requests for full manuscripts. So I continue to enter.

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•What story are you working on now and what ideas are dancing around just waiting for you to get to them?

I’m finishing another Newport/Gilded Age story called Love on Assignment. It’s my first manuscript and it’s gone through several versions. First I set it in Vermont where I lived for twenty years, then I changed the location to West Virginia. Not completely satisfied with either setting, I moved the timeframe from contemporary to historical and the place to Newport.

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Five Fun Facts About Cara

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~I was a Naval officer for eight years at air stations in Beeville, Texas, San Diego and Virginia Beach. Sometimes I was the only woman officer in the entire squadron. That was interesting!

~I owned and operated a small bookstore in Vermont for three years.

~I’ve lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Texas, California, Virginia and Florida and I’ve traveled all over Europe.

~I’m a thirteenth generation New Englander.

~My husband and I adopted a baby girl from Colombia twenty years ago when Colombia was in the midst of a major drug war. Our State Department warned American citizens to return home because of the danger, but the Colombian judge wouldn’t let us wait until the situation resolved. So we flew down to Colombia and got our now grown daughter.

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Plus Five

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1) Do you write at home, or are you an out-and-about coffee house type of writer?

I only write at home, although to be more productive I should go to B&N or someplace less distracting than my house—not that a bookstore has fewer distractions! I love having my husband and grandson at nearby and I’m never lonely.

2) What are three items you must have close by when you’re writing?

A cup of latte in the morning, iced tea for the rest of the day, my cell phone and a novel in case I want a break which I always do.

3) Do you write in chronological order, or are you a puzzle-piece writer, tackling whatever scene captures your attention?

I always write in chronological order. I glance at my bare-bones outline, but I don’t follow it closely because my muse usually leads me someplace more interesting.

4) What’s your favorite weekend getaway spot?

The beach—any sugar-sand beach on the Florida or Alabama Gulf Coast.

5) If you could choose one romance writer with whom to spend a day, who would it be? What would be your most pressing questions to ask her/him?

I’d love to spend a day with Maeve Binchy, an Irish author who writes awesome women’s fiction. I’d just like to listen to her chat about writing, where she gets her ideas and how she develops characters.

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Cara’s Question for You

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Cara. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?

I’d like to know how other writers keep themselves motivated when the story/words won’t come.

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Learn More About Cara

Visit her group blog: The Seekers

Friend her on Facebook: Cara Slaughter

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Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win

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My next drawing will take place June 20th. The winner will receive a travel-friendly fabric tote bag just the right size for a day trip or errand run.

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Tote Bag

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by June 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On June 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

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If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and June 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On July 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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24 Responses to Meet Writer Cara Slaughter w/a Cara Lynn James

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Cara! It’s great to have you as my guest and to have the opportunity to get to know more about you and your writing.

    I smiled when I read about the Bobbsey twins’ books. I read all the tales of Nan and Bert, Flossie and Freddie.

    I’m motivated by words and sayings. I have several on the walls in my office, among them: inspire, dream big and the journey is everything.

  2. Sherrinda says:

    What a wonderful interview and what a varied life you have led, Cara! A Naval Officer and a bookstore owner…way cool.

    As to the answer to your question, I DON’T KNOW! I am stuck and have been for a couple of weeks. So, I am having lunch with a friend today to help me brainstorm. She helped me at the beginning of my book, so I am sure she can help me at the end! I am soooo close!

    Thanks for another beautiful interview, Keli!

  3. Glynna Kaye says:

    Cara — Congratulations again on the GH finaling!! I absolutely love the Gilded Age — had the opportunity to visit some of those “cottages” in Newport four years ago. WOW! I can’t wait to read your PUBLISHED books!

    As far as motivation for me, it’s just sitting down at my computer at the same time each day. I have to train my brain that it’s SUPPOSED to write at “X” time. Sometimes requires frequent RE-training! 🙂

  4. Keli and Cara, this is a wonderful interview. Thanks for sharing.

    Cara, you’ve been writing about the same length as me, but with much more success!! Congratulations! You’re an inspiration for me for sure.

    How do I get motivated? PRAY and force myself through the sludge. Seriously, some days it seems like I get nothing accomplished, but yet I’ve been at the keyboard for hours in silence. I’ve learned to accept that that is how I create, even if I’m not particularly fond of my method. When I have a good day–get lots of word count in–I PRAISE God! When I have a bad day, I thank God for sticking by me through it.

    I look forward to reading your stories some day soon, I hope!

  5. Sherry says:

    Keli and Cara- Great interview. Glad to learn more about you, Cara, my friend from the Gulf Coast! Sherry C

  6. Janet Dean says:

    Interesting interview, Keli and Cara!

    I love the cottages at Newport and I’m fascinated by all your travels, Cara. I’m so excited about your Golden Heart final and can’t wait to cheer you on in D.C.!

    When I’m stuck, I pray, then read my wip from the beginning. Usually that gets me going again. If that fails, I brainstorm with my critique partner.

    Janet

  7. carolynslaughter says:

    Good morning! I’ve had a hard time getting into this site today–my laptop keeps freezing up so I switched to the desk top.

    Eileen, sometimes I get frustrated because it seems everyone I know writes faster than I do and accomplishes so much more! I’m speeding up a little by not editing myself as I write. That takes so much time! I wait until the next day and that works better. And I try to write without taking as many breaks as I used to. However, there’s a lot of room for improvement!

  8. carolynslaughter says:

    Hi Janet! I’m not a good brainstormer. I need a lot of time to think about my story on my own before I ask for suggestions.

    I’m really excited about the Golden Heart and the RWA conference. Three of us are driving to Atlanta and then taking the train into D.C. I love trains!!! I had a Eur-rail pass many, many years ago and travelled throughout Europe with other Navy wives while we were ‘following the ship.’ Our husbands were on a Med cruise. Train travel is lots of fun. Do I sound like a good PR person?

  9. Cynthia Eden says:

    What a fabulous interview!! Keeping my fingers crossed for that Golden Heart win!

  10. Fran McNabb says:

    Great interview, Cara. Cindy and I will be sitting in the audience ready to congratulate you for your well-deserved GH! Tell Spiderman hello for me.

  11. Hi, Cara! Crit buddy! I thought I knew all about you but I learned some interesting stuff. I do know that, when ever we have dealings, such as when you saved my life at an ACFW conference…by speaking to me when no one else would…I think it was Dallas… I always keep it firmly in mind that, as a former Naval Officer, you have been trained to kill.

    It keeps me calm. 🙂

  12. Missy Tippens says:

    Cara, I’m just laughing so hard, picturing your running around screaming and your family in shock. LOL!

    Congrats again on the final!

    Great interview, Keli and Cara! Hey, that sounds like a writing team–Keli and Cara. 🙂

  13. Savannah Lane says:

    Wow Carolyn, I didn’t know all this about you. Great interview. I can’t wait until we can both post in our chapter loop that we are PUBLISHED!!! I’m guessing you’ll be first though since I’m still digging out my old WIPs and trying to get past chapter 2 on any of them. Good luck with the contest! We love you at GCCRWA!

  14. carolynslaughter says:

    I’m finally able to get back to the blog! My internet keeps going off. Anyway, I envy writers who can brainstorm together and also set aside a certain time of day to write like Glynna. Even if I only had 1 hr. per day to write, I’m not sure I could settle down and accomplish something each and every day. But I think I should try.

    Hi to all the Seekers and the Gulf Coast Chapter!

  15. Myra Johnson says:

    Cara, I am so thrilled for you about the GH final! Wish I could be there to see your name & photo on the big screen and cheer you on!

    Staying motivated to write? I’d have to agree with Glynna. When I’m in the creation phase of a ms., my normal routine is to get all the busy work done in the mornings, then right after lunch, I plant myself in front of my computer, open my WIP file, and just get working.

  16. Sarah Tormey says:

    Great Interview Cara! To answer your question, when I get stuck I find that movement helps. I generally go for a run or to a spin class at the gym. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m moving and when I don’t have paper and pen in front of me.

    Congrats on being a Golden Heart finalist!

  17. Anne Barton says:

    Hi Cara–it was so nice to learn more about you. Congrats on all your contest success, and I hope you get to join the ranks of Seekers who’ve sold. Soon! –Anne

  18. Caroline says:

    Hi Cara~ Nice interview. I’d love to own a bookstore.

    When I get stuck I usually say a little prayer and then go back and re-read the pages before. If that doesn’t help sometimes I rewrite the scene in the opposing POV. That is an eye opener. That usually gets me going!
    ~C

  19. Elizabeth P. says:

    Great interview. It’s so nice to see someone put NW FL on the map in a good way. Keep up the hard work and hopefully you’re going to be enjoying a well deserved win with RWA and we’ll all celebrate with you at Ryan’s.

  20. Cara Slaughter says:

    Thanks to all of you who wished me well with the GH contest. It would be fantastic to actually win, but I’m thrilled to be a finalist. I’m really looking forward to the Sat. night awards ceremony at the conference.

  21. Congrats again on the Golden Heart final, Cara!

  22. Tina says:

    Great interview Cara. I keep motivated by keeping my eyes focused on how far I have come and not how far I have to go. When I hit a wall I work on another project. It so helps to be ADD.

  23. CARA AND KELI!!!! Wow, what a GREAT interview!! There’s SO much I didn’t know about you, girl, that I’m glad I found out.

    One thing I DID know, however, is that … ahem … you did win the Genesis in the historical category in 2005.How could I forget? I came in 3rd to your 1st, my friend, and I’ve pretty much been in awe of you ever since … 🙂

    Hugs,
    Julie

  24. Lynn Rush says:

    Wow, what an awesome interview. What an exciting writing career. Write on, sister.

    As to your question….well, I go for a run or a long, long bike ride. That usually helps with the words-not-coming issue. My favorite place is Sedona, AZ.

    It’s like there’s something in those red rocks as I run along the paths…. 🙂

    Thanks for this interview, it was fun to read.

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