Carla Gade writes: blog posts, articles, website content, curricula. Oh, yes. She writes stories too, including inspirational historical romances. A web designer, she’s owned her own business, CompuStyle, for eleven years.
In addition to writing, Carla is passionate about reading. She does plenty of her own, one of her favorite pastimes being curling up in bed with a good book. In addition, she has a burning desire to help others learn to read. She works part-time as the coordinator for an adult literacy organization and serves as a tutor and tutor trainer. She has taught adult education classes on Internet Genealogy and Website Design.
New Englanders with two grown sons, Carla and her own Hero husband live in Maine with their two spoiled cats. When she’s not designing websites, working at the literacy agency or writing, Carla enjoys photography, home design and genealogy. She also is a rockhound who loves geology and gemology and would love to discover some fossils or gemstones. History and archaeology interest her as well, and she has a dream of exploring ancient ruins and staying overnight in a castle.
Carla has been active in ministry for many years as a small group leader and Bible study teacher. She also serves on the women’s conference team with her church, further putting her creativity to use.
Join me as we learn about more about Carla and her writing journey.
First Steps on Carla’s Writing Journey
You’ve been writing in many forms for years. What were some of your earliest ventures into publication, and what did you learn from those experiences?
When I was in grade school I’d make up newsletters for friends and hand them out. My mother was a teacher and she reproduced them for me on a mimeograph machine. The newsletters were free, so readers couldn’t complain. I guess you might say I was self-published. Throughout the years I continued to contribute to and edited many newsletters. It was a great experience for me and gave me lots of practice.
Later I began submitting articles for print in newspapers and other local publications. That is when I really learned the power of an editor and the blessing of affirmation from my readers. I’ve also written a significant amount of curriculum for homeschooling, children’s and youth ministry, and women’s Bible studies. Although that material hasn’t been published, it has been used and that perhaps is one of the best blessings to me, and hopefully to others.
When did you begin your first novel-length story, and what led you to take such a big step?
I never used to even read novels because I always had plenty of stories floating around in my head. Enough to entertain me. I started reading Christian fiction about 7 years ago and it wasn’t long after that when I started writing my first novel. My life has been rather stressful and writing fiction became a wonderful outlet for me.
That first novel soon became a series which I’ve hidden away for some time and is in need of polishing. The theme for the series: Precious Jewels. Since then, I’ve been inspired to write many more stories.
On one of your blogs you list three works-in-progress, which include a tale of a gypsy, a Regency romance and a mystery with romantic elements. What sparked each of these historical tales? An actual event? A captivating setting? Characters who came to life and wouldn’t stop talking to you?
I’m very much a theme person. An idea sparks from a Bible verse, an issue or event, sometimes I just get a title in my head. Here’s how these stories came to light.
Dancing with a Gypsy – As I did some historical research I randomly came across information about Gypsies in the 19th century. Suddenly the protagonist, a beautiful gypsy dancer, began to tell me her tale of a life of enduring prejudice and longing to discover who she really was. I wanted her tale to be rather tragic so I included kidnapping and murder!
Evergreen – I imagined a maze of evergreen hedges in the English countryside. This evoked a sense of mystery to me. Of betrayal and danger. Then the wealthy landscape architect who designed the maze came to me, and a jealous antagonist. I heard a harpist playing. A woman who was not respected for self, only her beauty and talent. The theme appeared of finding love that was everlasting, evergreen.
Resurrection in the Cotswolds – This one was unusual as it came from a writing prompt. It brought to mind the Cotswolds in regency England, and there it began. I determined this would be about the rediscovery of life and love for the hero and heroine.
Carla in Cyberspace
You’ve been involved with the Internet since its early days. I’m impressed with your personal and professional involvement and think your experience could benefit many of your visitors. I have a few questions for you, so I invite you to don your web professional hat as we take advantage of your expertise.
You launched your first website in 1996, before many of us were even visiting them. What sparked your interest and resulted in your choice to start a web design business?
I had the chance to learn how to code HTML. At first I thought it was too geeky for me, but when I saw the results I fell in love. My son learned how so I figured I could too. Now I code in my sleep. I love designing and creating webpages. It started as word of mouth actually and became an opportunity to develop a business and a medical professional’s website. That’s when CompuStyle was launched. I enjoy creating site for small businesses, non-profit organizations, ministries, and for writers!
Writers today are strongly encouraged to have a website, even those who have yet to land their first contract. What do you see as the most important aspects for a not-yet-published writer to include on such a site?
Having a web presence is important. It’s important to remember that you’re not boasting by having a website. It’s an opportunity to notify those in the writing industry of your professionalism and serves as an online portfolio. As you share your work it can bless others, give you an outlet for your creativity, increase your writing experience, allow you to build an audience of potential readers, and connect with peers.
Tell them about you – a little something personal, share your writing journey, and your education and experience. If you have links to published work by all means, include them. You may wish to feature some excerpts from some of your writing. Make sure that it is clear what genre you write, who your potential audience is. Be sure to have your contact information available. You may wish to highlight what your are currently working on and manuscripts that are complete. State if you have earned any awards or won writing contests. Indicate your involvement in the writing community, if you are a member of writing groups, etc. Include your social networking links such as facebook and twitter. Have a clear link to your blog. Be sure to get your own domain, preferably yourname.com.
I realize you run a business designing websites for others, but writers who haven’t sold might not have the funds to hire a professional designer even if they would like to do so. What advice would you offer those with financial restrictions who still want to develop a web presence?
The easiest way to go is to set up a blog. It’s free. If you wish you can even get your own domain name which is only about $15 and have it forwarded to the blog. There are also sites online that allow you to create your own homepages for free or at a nominal rate, but beware of hidden expenses. Keep in mind that you want to appear professional, not homemade (ie. don’t use clip art, no blinking lights, tickers, use clean formatting, etc.) Study author/writer sites before you set to work.
Professionally designed basic websites aren’t as expensive as one might think. Your site needn’t be elaborate; a few pages will do. But keep in mind that usually there is a one time development fee and annual fees for webhosting and domain renewal. If I can insert a little plug here, I have special packages that are all inclusive geared for writers that are easy on the budget and can be paid on a monthly basis.
I have two blogs, and some of my writer friends wonder how I keep up with them. In doing my research for your interview, I discovered that you have seven blogs. Wow! How do you manage all of them? Do you have shortcuts and blogging tips you could share?
Do I really have that many? I tell you, blogging was the answer to my prayers! Perfect outlet for me. Since I’m a theme person, it gave me an opportunity to organize and share my thoughts.
One of my blogs is simply a format for my writing portfolio. Relatively Speaking is where I blog my family history and on the topic of genealogy. I write about issues, apologetics, and curiosities at Dappled Things. Something Olde features historical ephemera. Media Meanderings is a collection of favorite songs and books, etc. But Journaling the Journey is my personal blog and a launch pad for the others.
I blog topically and on an occasional basis at each of them, so it isn’t burdensome. Although, I’m considering consolidating. My new blog, Writing to Distraction, is all about writing. I hope everyone will visit me there.
Here are a few blogging tips. Get a good blog design so your blog stands out. You can find free backgrounds all around the web. A custom header is a plus. I know a good designer ;). Make it uniquely you! Including title and content. Some people like to schedule various topics on certain days, that may help your followers know what to expect and when. Never air your dirty laundry online. It may come back to haunt you. Be respectful. When visiting blogs be sure to leave a comment. It’s encouraging to the blogger and you may get a return visit to your own blog. Write your blog posts in wordpad (& save!) and then post it. Many a good blog post or comment has been lost when servers time out.
With the exception of interviews, educational posts, etc. blog posts should not be a lengthy article. Pithy posts are practiced most – there’s a good article about it at ProBlogger. Exchange links with other bloggers to build readership. Blogging should be fun, no need to burn out or revolve your life around it.
Carla’s Writing Process
You run your web design business, work for the literacy organization, blog extensively and spend time with your family. How do you fit writing into your schedule? Do you get up and write while the house is quiet or stay up late? Or do you perhaps write in snatches of time between your other activities?
I only work 15 hours a week for Literacy Volunteers so that leaves me with chunks of time to work on my other projects. I do web design on a project to project basis so that is very manageable. Family time is interwoven throughout my day. I get to spend time with my sons often which is a true blessing since they are busy young adults. This is the second time around with the same husband so we are still on our honeymoon and enjoy spending time together with our reunited family. (A story in itself!) We enjoy spontaneous times together, but it’s also important to plan.
I write whenever I can, but I’m a true night owl. I have some health issues so during times of rest and recovery I get to write a lot. It keeps me encouraged. Typically, I don’t write daily, but often. I do try to learn something about writing each day.
On one of your blogs, you mentioned that you plot, plot and plot some more. However, you went on to say that you like to fly by the seat of your pants. So, which are you? Plotter? Pantser? Or a combination of the two?
Oh, I’m definitely a hybrid. My mind is constantly on. It doesn’t take much for an idea to ignite into a whole story. I seem to mix plotting out the story with free writing. I’m a global thinker, but also very detail oriented. There’s no real method to my madness!
You’re a writer of historicals, so I wasn’t surprised to read that you love research. One of your blogs, Something Olde, documents some interesting facts you’ve unearthed. How do you go about conducting the research needed for your stories? Do you perform much of it beforehand, or do you consult your sources as needed?
I love to research just for fun. I access the Internet for much of my research, visit places, interview people, and read books. I especially love finding old books with interesting facts. Much research is done initially as I’m exploring ideas for the storyline and characters. Then I’m constantly looking up things as it becomes necessary.
For instance, one of my works in progress is about the year there was no summer (1816). I learned everything I could about that event, but from journals of real experiences that I found online. When I decided on a setting, I had to learn about how that location and also how they were affected by the phenomenon. When my characters came to life I researched occupations and lifestyle. I found myself looking up things about tanning, buckskin clothing, muzzle loaders, and bear traps. I’d get to a certain part and call my Dad, an “expert” on such things. Sometimes the characters experience something I hadn’t anticipated and it’s time for more investigation. The process of research is just as much fun for me as writing.
Carla’s Pinnacles and Pitfalls
What have been your greatest successes so far regarding your stories?
I used to say that I wanted to be a writer. When I realized that I was a writer it made a huge difference in launching me toward the goal of publication.
Learning the craft and business of writing. I could tell a story but I needed to learn how to write a novel. When I recognized that my writing had improved and I was “getting it” it built my enthusiasm and confidence.
What have been your biggest hurdles, and how have you overcome them?
To stay on track with my main goals I’ve been trying to involve myself with projects that have common ground. It helps to make up a personal mission statement.
I’m always distracted by new ideas and sometimes it hinders the completion of other projects. I’ve learned to write them down to come back to later to be further developed.
Discouragement. Not everyone understands the path of writing. I try not to take negative comments to heart and know that there is One who fully understands me and equips me. I’m blessed to have many who affirm what I do.
Carla’s Journey Continues
You’ve written several stories so far. What are you working on now? Another historical romance perhaps?
Mostly editing. I’m polishing up the novels I mentioned above for submission, especially the one about the year of no summer which I call Hope Springs Eternal. I do have another story which takes place on a Maine island in a lobstering community.
I have two new stories that are calling out to me, but they must wait. One is about the fascinating times of one of my female ancestors in the 17th century. And another historical entitled The Silence of Verity Crewe.
I also have a non-fiction project that I’ve been working on for some time. Going to Extremes is a study for women on finding peace in the balance. I’m trying to find it myself first! Then perhaps I’ll pursue publication. I will include this as a speaking topic along with a few other topics that I have spoken to women.
Five Ways Carla Fuels Her Creativity
~ Research – I love to learn and gather information. Walking through the pages of time sparks my imagination like nothing else.
~ Sensory stimulation – I’m a very visual person and need to look at color, art, pretty things, interesting things, new things, old things. Tastes, touch, sounds, scents of nature and lots of fresh air. And often just quietness.
~ Exploring – Travel, visiting new and old places near and far (I never get that far, but I can do it online). Exploring new ideas.
~ Inspiration from authors – Reading good fiction, learning from the expertise of published authors and writers on the road to publication.
~ Staying close to the Lord – Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with believers.
Five Ways Carla Strives to Make a Difference
~ To raise awareness for adult illiteracy and teach adults to read. It can change lives for generations. To learn more go to www.proliteracy.com.
~ I’ve started participating in Operation Write Home to encourage the military to stay in touch with loved ones and to be an encouragement to them.
~ I like to help others think critically, through reason and apologetics, about their faith or lack thereof.
~ By sharing the truth of God’s love and faithfulness, His hope of redemption, through my writing.
~ By not hiding “my candle under a bushel”. I want to shine for Christ.
Carla’s Question for You
I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Carla. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. Now it’s your turn to ask your visitors a question, so ask away.
Thank you for having me here, Keli! It has been a real blessing.
Here’s my question. How do you use your writing to influence others?
Learn More About Carla
Visit her website ~ www.carlaspathways.com
Visit her business website ~ www.compustyle.net
Visit her personal blog ~ http://carlaspathways.wordpress.com
Visit her writing blog ~ http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com
Friend her on Facebook ~ Carla Gade
Follow her on Twitter ~ carlagade
Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win
To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place November 20th. I’m giving away a wooden plaque with the words ~ and they lived happily ever after . . .
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by November 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On November 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook
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 November 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 December 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of 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 debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)