Meet Novelist Carol J. Garvin

Carol J. Garvin is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her published articles, short stories, and occasional poetry appear in various Canadian magazines, chapbooks, and newspapers. Her yet-to-be-published novels are tentatively categorized as inspirational romantic suspense—“tentatively” because she never intended to write in the romance genre at all, especially not inspirational romance.

Carol, her husband, and their black Lab live on rural acreage nestled at the foot of the Coast Mountains just beyond the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada. They share their backyard—sometimes even their back deck—with local wildlife such as bears, raccoons, occasional deer and coyotes, and lots of birds.

Carol’s university training was in Education, and she taught elementary school in British Columbia before moving out of the province. Since then she has worked as a private secretary in the national Presbyterian Church offices and as a Collections Agent in the Toronto General Hospital; has bred, trained, and exhibited purebred Shetland Sheepdogs and Labrador Retrievers; and has operated her own dog show business—all as a mother of four (and grandmother of several more) and a pastor’s wife.

Hobbies have overlapped avocations. Carol’s experience with purebred dogs took her onto the executive board of several kennel clubs and the S.P.C.A., and landed her a job as consultant during the filming of the movie, Best In Show. Working summers in an artists’ co-op provided a market for selling her oil paintings. Camping through the years (in eight different RVs!) gave her lots of opportunities for photography. Her photos accompany many of her published articles as well as complement her scrapbooking endeavors. Fourteen years as a choir director and music team leader evolved from her love of music. It also led her to organize an annual multi-church “Festival of Praise” for choristers and instrumentalists, which is now in its eleventh year. In addition to reading and writing, her hobbies have been creative outlets that help maintain her sanity when life in the parish sometimes threatens it.

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I asked Carol if she’d liked to provide a virtual treat, and she has a fun one for you.

I’m a buttered popcorn addict, so before you settle in for the interview grab a handful or fill a bowl, and help yourself to a Diet Coke (or a glass of Chardonnay if you prefer) from the cyber cooler.

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Carol’s Journey Begins

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•Are you one of those writers born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest in writing develop later?

No pen was evident at my birth, but I was writing poetry in elementary school… terrible rhymes that I’m relieved to say didn’t survive beyond my childhood, although some of my accompanying pencil sketches did. In later years I resumed writing poetry along with occasional short stories, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that I went public with a few devotionals and magazine articles.

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•When did you fall in love with romance novels and decide to write your own?

I’m embarrassed to admit that until recently I wasn’t a fan of romance novels or Christian fiction at all, because the first stories I read were syrup-filled and predictable. They put me off reading any more for years. I like pioneering and homesteading stories and a friend gave me a set of three of Jane Kirkpatrick’s books that really caught my imagination. I had written a family memoir by then and it was the same friend who later encouraged me to continue writing and try a novel. That was in 2000.

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Carol’s Bright Spots

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•You’ve written four stories. That’s impressive! How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript? Did it fly from your fingertips, or did the story emerge slowly? Did the others follow in rapid succession or take some time?

My first novel took me the better part of a year to write and four times as long to revise. It was a seat-of-the-pants effort that came easily but wasn’t a very good story. Unless I decide to completely rewrite it someday, it will remain forever hidden in a closet.

I did a lot of how-to reading and research before I tried again and subsequent stories emerged in less time and in better form. My last go-’round during NaNoWriMo produced a rough draft (very rough) in twenty-nine days!

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•Your stories got you attention—and finals—in contests sponsored by the Surrey International Writers’ Conference contest. What role did these successes play in getting you to where you are today? And, I gotta know. Did you laugh, cry, or sigh when you received the good news? Or are you more the happy dancing, shriek-your-lungs-out type?

Being shortlisted as a finalist in two Surrey Conference contests was a great morale booster. The news came via e-mail and I remember a second of initial disbelief followed by several re-readings of the message, then a whispered “Thank you, God. I know you’re behind this.” Of course, I had to fire off a rapid “Guess what?” e-mail to my writing buddies and tell my hubby the instant he came home. Neither contest offered feedback on submissions so I didn’t find out what caught the judges’ attention, but it certainly helped build my confidence.

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•In addition to your romances, you’ve written tons of other stuff. What can you tell us about that? How has that experience served you as a novelist?

I wouldn’t say tons of stuff, but certainly a variety. There are published devotionals and book reviews, short stories and a biography in literary chapbooks, a poem (yes, just one), RVing and cottage country articles, and several dog-themed articles.

I was the editor of a provincial breed newsmagazine for more than a decade, too, so I made good use of my dog-related interests. In fact, my first magazine article wasn’t a queried submission but was requested by the editor of Dogs In Canada. He wanted an item about my job as a consultant during the filming of Best In Show to accompany a review of the movie being written by someone else. After that issue went to press he encouraged me to submit other pieces. More than all the rest, that experience kept me writing—at least, writing creative non-fiction. And it was the creative part that led the way into novel writing.

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Carol’s Writing Process

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•When you approach your writing, do you tend be OC or “Let’s see?” Are you all about schedules, charts, and character outlines, or do you plant yourself in front of the screen, hands poised over the keyboard, and let your fingers do the walking?

I guess you’d say I fall midway between being a plotter and a pantser. My novels start with a recurring mental image that invites me to investigate possibilities. Who is this? What is s/he doing? Why, where, and when?

Once an idea gels I do some basic planning, just enough to point me in a credible direction, maybe jot down a few potential plot points, and then I can’t wait to start writing. As I go, I keep a checklist for details, and I like to create collages with pictures of characters, setting, and items of significance. During the first revision I also add a timeline. That helps when I start relocating scenes or chapters!

All this might make it sound like I’m a well organized writer, but in reality, once I start writing I go wherever the words take me. Sometimes I have to backtrack but I’d rather let the story come out while it’s fresh and worry about editing it later. I do a lot of revising!

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•What does a typical writing day look like for you? Or is there such a thing as a typical day?

On a good writing day my body is up between 7:30-8:00 a.m. (I don’t do mornings well. I’m one who believes mornings would be much nicer if they started at some other time of day.) My dear husband plants a glass of orange juice in my hand and I settle in to watch a bit of television news until my brain wakes up. Then I’m ready for my devotional quiet time.

After devotions I check my e-mail and blog, respond to comments as needed, and move on to read a select handful of other blogs. By mid-morning, I’m likely into a writing project, and I stay there until my husband calls me for lunch. Yes, he makes meals. He’s that wonderful!

If I’m in the midst of a creative run or have a deadline approaching I may spend whole days at my computer but more often afternoons and early evenings will find me doing errands or pursuing home, garden and church things. Late evenings I usually spend another hour or two on my w.i.p. or composing blog posts.

Not every day falls into that pattern, but many do. If there are interruptions because of meetings or company or travel I still write every day, usually after everyone has gone to bed.

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•Where do you craft your stories? Do you hole up in an office, hang out at a coffee house, or sit on a chair in your front yard gazing at the lake?

Almost all of these apply except the coffee house bit. I’m blessed to have my own office, leftover from when I ran a business from home. It has a window that looks out across our yard to the forest beyond, lots of desk space, and a bookcase within reach. Sometimes there’s a rocking chair, although at the moment it’s been shuffled into the family room to make space for a large worktable I use when scrapbooking. (Okay, so it’s covered in a mess of papers and books right now, but sometimes I really do use it for scrapbooking!)

It’s a comfy room but I have to admit that my laptop and I spend a lot of time on the couch in the family room, in the swing on the back deck or, if we’re at our country cabin, in a lawn chair overlooking the lake. I wouldn’t function well in a coffee house because I really do need peace and quiet.

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Carol’s Ventures Into Cyberspace

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•You enjoy blogging, having started your own where you’ve hosted guests and mused about things both writing-related and not. What are your favorite aspects about blogging?

When I first ventured into cyberspace I was skeptical about its advantages. Networking was said to be essential for emerging authors, but I questioned why anyone would even be looking for me online.

Two years later I’m amazed at the blog’s daily statistics and at all the wonderful people I’ve met. The writing community is knowledgeable and helpful and diverse and quirky and friendly and supportive and… should I stop now? Interacting with fellow writers is one reason why I continue to blog. Another is the writing experience I get by creating regular items to post. I love writing. Blogging is another opportunity to put words out into the world.

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•You created and maintain websites for two churches. Please tell us about these experiences and how you used them in establishing your own cyber presence?

My hubby says I’m the technical one in our house but I’m really not a computer geek. I set up our church’s website on the ABS’s ForMinistry server about twelve years ago. The pages were template-based but the formatting required knowledge of HTML so I taught myself what was needed. Two years ago a sister congregation’s website needed revamping, but eventually I took it down and created a new one for them, hosted by our national church on a WordPress platform. It’s much simpler to maintain.

My own blog is on WordPress, too, and I’ve learned enough to be able to make it a well functioning writer’s site. As a published author I will need to shift it to where I can have a more identifiable domain name, but for now it works well for me.

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Partners on Carol’s Journey

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•Many writers have a critique partner, plotting partner, mentors, and cheerleaders. Who are some of yours, and how have they helped you?

My best friend and writing mentor, Earlene Luke, has worked for me and with me in various roles, and has shared my novelling journey from the beginning. As fellow writers, she and my eldest daughter, Shari Green, have attended conferences with me, exchanged critiques, celebrated and commiserated together. I have wonderful family support, with several beta readers and cheerleaders among them. My husband is probably the most tolerant of my partners. While I’m squirreled away with my imaginary people he picks up all my forgotten household responsibilities from cooking to laundry!

Author and writing coach Jessica Page Morrell is another encourager. Her feedback on an earlier novel taught me invaluable lessons. She’s a marvelous communicator whether at a workshop or working one-on-one. I’m a little in awe of her!

The Langley Writers’ Guild is my local writing group and its members are also very supportive. It’s a great group — a little too large for serious critiquing but it offers a good foundation in writing basics. We have a regular instructor/mentor who provides monthly workshops. When I first joined the group Lisa Rector was the instructor, but then she moved to NY to marry Donald Maass. At present our instructor is author Ed Griffin who is the founder of the Surrey Writers’ Conference.

And, of course, I’ve encountered wonderful blogging buddies online in addition to helpful authors, agents, and editors. People are so generous with their time, information and support! I feel very blessed by all my encounters.

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Carol’s Journey Continues

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•What are you working on at this point? Querying agents perhaps? Are any new characters begging you to tell their stories?

I’ve finished the rewrite of an earlier novel, and am polishing it with the intention of seeking agent representation this fall. Another story is waiting impatiently for finishing touches, and yes, there are more characters standing on the curb trying to flag me down. They’re very demanding. I’m thinking I should rent a hall somewhere, hire a caterer and invite all my characters to come and entertain each other while I escape out the fire exit to focus on one group at a time.

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Five Fun Facts About Carol, the Person

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~ I’ve bred, raised, trained and exhibited Shetland Sheepdogs for 35 years, been on the executive of three kennel clubs and run my own dog show business for twelve years. It’s probably no surprise that dogs have found their way into every novel I’ve written.

~ I used to take milk and sugar in both coffee and tea until we went on a camping trip and I forgot to bring any. Now I take neither in either drink (and neither does my hubby, thanks to that unpopular-at-the-time oversight).

~ I’m moderately claustrophobic and have to plan ahead to avoid getting ambushed. (Yes, that’s me sitting at the end of a row close to the back of the conference room with the exit door close by.)

~ I love to garden outdoors but I kill houseplants. Unless it’s a Pothos, left in my hands it’ll be dead in six months!

~ I don’t wear a lot of jewelry — mostly plain gold chains and pearls — but I have a jewelry box filled with pieces of costume jewelry some of which are probably forty years old. I can’t bring myself to throw them out because they might match a new outfit someday.

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Carol’s Question for You

Jewelry isn’t something I usually think to describe in my stories, but it can tell readers a lot about a character. A gold Celtic cross plays an important role in my current novel. What accessories do your characters wear, and what purpose do they serve?

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Carol’s Drawing

Carol has generously offered to give away a “Writing on the Run” kit, which includes a zippered case containing a writing journal, memo pad, biodegradable pen and pencil set, four-color pen, highlighter, eraser, index cards, sticky page markers, AND a bar of scrumptious organic dark chocolate to tempt the Muse

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Carol by midnight September 14 (Pacific Time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.) Note that the drawing is limited to those with U.S. and Canadian addresses

On September 15, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to the winner of the drawing, Tricia Saxby.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Carol

Visit her personal blog ~ Careann’s Musings

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Carol Garvin

See her photos on Flickr ~ Careann

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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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43 Responses to Meet Novelist Carol J. Garvin

  1. territiffany says:

    Hi Carol,
    I loved reading your story about you as a writer. It always amazes me when I see so many of us struggle with similar writing challenges. God bless you!
    I use a small diamond ring in my current romance–the MC’s mother’s ring.

    • It’s fascinating, isn’t it, how we’re all different but are on similar journeys? I’m so thankful that social networking gives us the opportunity to link up with others who understand those challenges.

      You have me wondering about that diamond ring… not hers, but her mothers? Hmm.

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Carol! It’s a pleasure to have you as my guest here at Romance Writers on the Journey and to learn more about you and your writing.

    In answer to your question, the heroine in my current story, an inspirational historical romance, wears a spray of silk violets at her throat. Her dearly departed mother told her that the flowers signify modesty and served as a reminder to show no impropriety in appearance, behavior, or manner. When my heroine finds herself drawn to the hero and wants to push those thoughts from her mind, she fingers the tiny blossoms.

    • Thanks so much for inviting me here, Keli. I tend to be a little on the introverted side when it comes to chatting about myself, but your questions have been great at coaxing out responses. I’m looking forward to getting to know your other readers today. 🙂

    • That spray of silk violets says a lot about your heroine’s personality. It has a ‘lavender and lace’ connotation and is more meaningful than any costume jewelry would ever be. I like that!

  3. LoRee Peery says:

    Carol, you are on my list of new writers to check out. As per jewelry. Moselle is the heroine in my first published book. She wears Native American earrings, similar to those I like to don in the summer time. Like you, I have four jewelry boxes filled with old and new costume pieces that I think I’ll wear “someday.” But since I no longer go to a day job, they are enjoyed by granddaughters.

    • Hi, LoRee. It’s nice to meet another writing friend. I’ll have to hop over to your blog and check it out, too.

      I’m interested in Moselle’s earrings. I have a few pieces of Haidi jewelry in silver, argillite and abalone shell but I don’t wear them very often. Like you, I don’t go many places where I need special jewelry these days.

  4. christicorbett says:

    Carol,

    I’ve been a long time follower of your blog so I was eager to read more about you when you announced your upcoming interview.

    And what a great interview! It was so nice to read all about your writing journey and your varied interests. And we have someone in common…I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar given by Jessica Morrell here in Oregon. She was very helpful and full of great ideas, and I have a page of notes from her seminar taped above my desk.

    Finally, to your question. My characters are traveling along the Oregon Trail in my current novel so jewelry isn’t practical. However, a cowboy hat becomes the center of the story…does that count? 🙂

    Great interview Carol!

    Christi Corbett
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

    • A cowboy hat? If it’s an accessory of importance, sure it counts. Is there a mystery involved?

      Jessica taught workshops at a number of conferences I attended, and then I registered for a weekend class when she came to Vancouver. She’s great at communicating!

  5. Norma McGuire says:

    ALthough I am not a writer I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview with one of my favourite people, who happens to be my niece. Congratulations and love!

  6. Shari says:

    I loved reading this interview — thanks, Keli and Mom! (Love how you formatted it into sections, Keli.)

    No need to enter me in the draw, even though that is an AWESOME prize, cuz it would totally seem unfair if I won! (But if you wanted to give me one for Christmas, Mom, I’d be okay with that… lol, just kidding!)

    • Shari says:

      Oops, forgot to answer the question. And… I have no answer! My MC is seriously lacking in accessories, except for her school backpack. I’ll have to give this some thought during revisions.

    • Thanks for dropping in here, Shari. As for your character’s accessories, a lack of jewelry tells something about her.I suppose a backpack would count as an accessory anyway, especially if there’s something significant about it or its contents.

      A Christmas hint? Hmmm… there’s an idea!

  7. Why am I awake at 4:00 in the morning? I don’t know the answer, but since I was up, I started into blogs and noticed the interview you told us was coming. I thoroughly enjoyed the questions and your answers, Carol. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Dave Ebright says:

    I’m visiting a romance writer’s blog – sheesh – Hey, gotta show my support for my buddy Carol.

    To the jewelry question: My current YA tale involves a whole pile of Aztec gold, & a ceremonial dagger with the hilt fashioned in the shape of a serpent with wings & ‘The Wind Jewel of Quetzalcoatl’ in its center – a relic of great importance for a certain dead pirate.

    Nice post – Thanks Keli for having my awesome friend as your guest.

  9. Tricia Saxby says:

    Wonderful interview, Carol. I look forward to reading your blog. In my current story I don’t have any significant jewelry that plays a big part, but my heroine does wear simple jewelry – nothing flashy, and I feel that says something important about the type of person she is.

    Congrats and will you be attending the SiWC again this year?

    • I agree, Tricia, the simple jewelry has as much to say about your heroine as something more flashy would. For me, selecting jewelry requires more deliberate choices than one’s everyday wardrobe. It’s surprising the vibes those choices send out.

      And yes, I’m registered for the Surrey Conference again. I’ve been attending since 2004 and am just as excited as I was the first time. Are you coming, too? It would be awesome to meet a blogging friend there.

  10. Hi Carol,
    It’s nice to meet you on Keli’s blog. I loved your interview and was delighted at all the things we have in common! I, too, have a hubby who cooks (he even does canning and, as a bonus, cleans and does laundry too). I dislike mornings and do my best writing between 10pm and 2am. I started a couple of organization Websites in the past. And I have dogs in every story too. My daughter is an equine vet and I’ve had horses for 30 years so they find their ways into my books too!

    I wear very little jewelry (but am sort of an earring addict) and I rarely give jewelry a thought in my books. And that opens up a whole new avenue to explore!

    Good luck with your writing and with your agent/editor search. I’m sure with all your experience you’ll have one of each soon!

    • Hi, Lizbeth. I’m pleased to meet you, too, and am glad you enjoyed the interview. It’s always interesting to discover what we have in common with other writers besides just the writing experience. I like horses, too, but have never owned one. I watch the dressage events at Spruce Meadows on TV… does that count as participating in the sport?

  11. elderfox says:

    Hey m’dear friend…do you realize how far you’ve come since those “you can do it…why not?” talks. Wishing you the best (again) at the conference.
    Luv-n-hugs
    mE

  12. Paul Greci says:

    Hi Carol, I loved learning more about you and your writing process, and all that you’ve done over the years. Your writing space sounds like a great place to create stories!

    Good luck with that novel. I hope you get lots of requests and find the perfect match!

  13. Carol, what a surprise to learn you’re writing inspirational romance/suspense novels! That’s where my writing has been heading, too, so it’s wonderful to know someone else who’s following that path. 🙂

    • I never intended to be in this genre, Carol. I’ve always written from a Christian worldview but God has been persistently nudging me in this direction for quite a while so when I decided to rewrite one of my earlier novels I put it in His hands. Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the outcome, but I was.

  14. Laura Best says:

    Carol, you are a lady full of surprises. While I knew some of these facts about you, it made me realize just how little I do know even though we have *known* each other for over a year now. Your story is fascinating!

  15. patti says:

    Wow, Carol! Lots of secrets came out here!
    My favorite great-aunt wore the big costume jewelry–rhinestones and even some semi-precious varieties. I LOVED her pins…and her hat collection!!!

    Blessings,
    Patti

    • I regret that hats aren’t worn much any more. I still have a couple favourites stored away in a hat box that I’ve long since misplaced. There’s an elegance associated with hats setting off matching outfits, complete with white gloves, that belongs to a lost era only accessed in novels, and it’s such a shame.

  16. (Comment accidentally left on my Careann blog by Janna Qualman)

    Sep 14, 2010 @ 07:37:16

    “Now that is a great kit. Thanks for the opportunity, Carol and Keli!”

    jannawritesATyahooDOTcom

  17. Keli Gwyn says:

    Carol, it was great to have you as my guest. Thanks for being here.

    I’ve held the drawing for the “Writing on the Run” kit you so generously offered as a prize, and the winner is Tricia Saxby.

    Congrats, Tricia! I’ll be in touch.

  18. Love, love, love this interview!

    The jewelry thing has me thinking. My MC is a toughened logger. I may need to give him something to show his soft side. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sandra. I’m glad to hear the post has made you think about ways to enrich your main character. Even tough guys can benefit by showing they also have weaknesses or are gentle in unexpected ways. Maybe he feeds a stray cat?

  19. Keli, I was really honoured by your invitation to take part in this interview, and have been delighted by all the exchanges I’ve had with your readers. I’ve made a few new friends in the process, too. Thank you for this wonderful sharing opportunity!

    Congratulations to Tricia Saxby on winning the draw. I hope my Writing on the Run kit will give her everything she needs for those moments of inspiration away from her computer. 🙂

  20. Karen Lange says:

    Great interview! Thank you both for sharing it!

Comments are closed.