Amanda Cabot’s interview

» Posted on Jan 22, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Amanda Cabot’s interview

If you want to be entered into either or both drawings (Lenora Worth’s Heart of the Night and Amanda Cabot’s Paper Roses), please leave a comment this week on a post with your email address. You won’t be entered in the drawing without an email address or you can email me at if you don’t want to leave an email address on the post. The drawings end Sunday evening.

Amanda Cabot’s interview:

1. What made you start writing?
I really cannot remember a time when I didn’t write – or at least want to write, and so I wrote sporadically until I was almost 29. Since then I have come to believe that authors have at least one thing in common with oysters, namely that we need irritation to produce our pearls … er… our books. For me, that irritation was moving to a new area and discovering that what had appeared to be an ideal job was truly awful. Of course, that happened at a time when jobs were hard to find, so I stuck with the one I had for over three years. But the irritation was enough that I decided it was time to become serious about writing.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was seven or eight, but it took the irritation I mentioned above to remind me that I had always had a goal of selling a book before I was thirty. I started what was to become my first published book just before my twenty-ninth birthday and sold it one week before my thirtieth. If this were a fairytale, I’d tell you that I became vastly wealthy and was able to quit my day job. The reality is, for many years (no, I won’t tell you how many) I wrote on nights and weekends, while I worked full time for Corporate America. Now I’m fortunate enough to be a full-time writer.

3. How do you handle rejections?
With chocolate. Seriously. I’ve received so many rejections over the years that I could probably fill an eighteen-wheeler with them. As a result, I’ve developed a workshop for other writers on coping with rejection and – trust me – chocolate plays a big role.

4. Why do you write?
Because it’s part of who I am. In those years of constant rejection, I tried to stop writing, but every time I did, I realized that there was an empty spot deep inside me that could only be filled by writing.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Reading. I agree with Thomas Jefferson who said, “I cannot live without books.”

6. What are you working on right now?
I’m in the midst of the third of the Texas Dreams trilogy. Actually, I’m delighted to be answering your questions, because it’s giving me a needed break from the manuscript. I’m working on the first draft, and – although I love the whole writing process – I have to admit that first drafts are my least favorite part. I describe them as the skeleton: absolutely necessary but not very pretty. So, it’s nice to have an excuse to put that aside for a few minutes.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Not myself, per se, because that would be far too boring for my readers, but I know that part of me creeps into each book. While my characters are never based on real people (including myself), my heroes and heroines frequently embody my personal values. Because I believe in justice and happy endings, readers will find that my protagonists do, too. They’ll also find the recurring theme of the healing power of love, since that’s something I believe in. As for my villains, they tend to be the antithesis of the heroes and heroines, and I’d certainly like to think they’re not based on me.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
Paper Roses, which is the first in the Texas Dreams trilogy, is what authors sometimes call ‘a book of the heart.’ Quite simply, it’s a story that I’ve wanted to write for many years. Here’s a brief description that I used to sell the book:

Socialite Sarah Dobbs never thought she’d be a mail-order bride. But, then, she never thought she’d be destitute, shunned and her young sister’s only hope for a normal life. Drawn to the Texas Hill Country by the poetic letters she calls her paper roses, Sarah believes her secrets will be safe there. But the town is deeply divided and harbors its own secrets, including the identity of the person who murdered Sarah’s fiancé. There’s no one she can trust, not Clay Canfield, and certainly not God. He’s abandoned her.

Talented physician Clay Canfield has only one desire: to find the man who murdered his brother and exact vengeance. He’ll never marry again, especially not a woman burdened with a child. As for faith, that’s not for him, any more than it is for Sarah.

But God has plans for Sarah and Clay, plans that challenge everything they hold dear.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
I have three pieces of advice. The first is to read extensively in the genre you want to write. That’s the best way to learn what a publisher is buying. Secondly, join a writer’s group. ACFW is wonderful for writers in the Christian marketplace, and Romance Writers of America is excellent for anyone interested in writing romance. A writer’s group provides support, networking and so many other resources to the aspiring writer that I can’t over emphasize the importance of joining one. And lastly, never give up. Rejection is a fact of life. I won’t sugarcoat it: rejection hurts. But if you let it defeat you, if you stop sending out your manuscript just because it was rejected, you’ll never be published. Believe in your book and in yourself. Oh … that was four pieces of advice. Sorry!

10. How important is faith in your books?
It’s very important. I wrote for the secular market for years and was not allowed to include faith elements in my books (although I cheated a bit and had one pivotal scene where the hero discovered the power of God’s love and, since it was so key to the plot, the editor let me keep it). It’s been a wonderful change to be able to show characters who struggle with their faith and are changed by it.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
At first I didn’t realize that my books had common themes, but as I look back on them, I realize that I frequently write about the healing power of love. When I wrote for the secular market, that love was between a man and a woman. Now that I’m writing for the Christian market, I can – and do – include the power of God’s love.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
It’s almost a cliché for writers to say that their favorite book is the current one, but in this case, it’s true. Paper Roses is special for me, because it’s the first chance I’ve had to write about God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman.

13. What is your writing schedule like?
I’m almost afraid to tell you this, since when I explained my process to a group of eager readers at a library, another writer jumped out of her seat, clearly horrified, and announced that she didn’t understand how anyone could write that way. So … consider yourself warned. My technique doesn’t work for everyone.

I start with a five to eight-page synopsis, which is primarily a selling tool. (Agents and editors need synopses to decide whether or not they want the whole book.) For my own benefit, I create a chapter-by-chapter outline. The goal of that is to provide a road map, showing me which scenes are in which chapter. After that I write two drafts for each book (the skeleton and the flesh-and-blood). Those are followed by a final read-through and minor tweaking phase, which I refer to as the accessories. In keeping with the analogy of turning a skeleton into a living, breathing person, this is the time for makeup, hairdos and jewelry.

For the two drafts, I put myself on a two-chapters-a-week schedule. Since I’m a morning person, I write most mornings. I’d love to tell you that I always finish my allotted chapters by noon on Friday, but that doesn’t always happen. When it doesn’t, you’ll find me writing during the afternoon, even at night, to get those chapters done. And when I’m in the final polishing phase, I tend to work longer hours, mostly because I want to ensure continuity in the book. It’s during that final phase where I catch errors like a minor character being named Smith in one chapter and Jones in another. Those are the kind of mistakes that bother me when I see them in a published book, so I try my best to eliminate them.

Margaret, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together.