Since the time she could read Nancy Drew, Cara has wanted to write mysteries. In 2005 she attended a book signing at her local Christian bookstore. The rest, as they say, is history. There she met a fellow Indiana writer Colleen Coble. With prompting from her husband, Cara shared her dream with Colleen. Since those infamous words, Cara’s been writing books. This year her 8th, 9th and 10th novels release, including Stars in the Night.
Cara Putman is an active member of ACFW and its conference committee. She served as the Publicity Officer for 2007-2008 and Membership Officer in 2009. She has also been the Indiana ACFW chapter president and currently serves as the Area Coordinator for Indiana.
Cara is an attorney, lecturer at a Big Ten university, active in women's ministry, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids that is. She graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!) and George Mason Law School. You can learn more about Cara at http://www.caraputman.com.
When did you decide to be a writer?
I was probably 14 when I really thought I might want to write books. I even tried writing a couple of novels that my dad thinks he can uncover from an old computer but that I hope are buried to history. But I didn’t really start writing again until 2005 when I met Colleen Coble at a booksigning and my husband told her I wanted to write. Since then I’ve seen nine novels in print, with a total of eleven books out and three more coming. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least!
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
With deadlines I don’t have a choice. I have to be disciplined and write on the days I don’t feel like it. And if I don’t, then I have to write even more the following days to make up the gap. I tend to sit down with a calendar and block out the number of days I think I can write in a month and divide by the required word count for a book. If I know I will miss a day or two, then I up the word count. Deadlines are a great motivator!
What is your favorite novel and what made it special?
My favorite novel? Wow! That’s a tough question. I read so much that it’s hard to narrow it to one book. However, there are a handful of books that I have read over and over and over again. Gone with the Wind – what a sweeping saga. Christy by Catherine Marshall. And then Dee Henderson’s O’Malley seires. When I discovered that series I realized there was a place in Christian fiction for romantic suspense. Yeah!
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
I’m constantly reading. All the time. One reason is because it’s a relaxing endeavor. But I also love reading books by other authors and figuring out what makes them work. And if something doesn’t work, then I try to analyze why it didn’t and what could have improved the book. I think subconsciously I’m absorbing structure and style that then finds it’s way into my writing through my unique voice. Fortunately, I’ve read some great books in the last couple weeks. Here’s a short sample: Tomorrow We Die by Shawn Grady, Back on Murder by Mark Bertrand, Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist, and The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Stars in the Night is set in Hollywood in 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her but instead must identify her body. Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan. Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister. Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?
Where did you get your inspiration for Stars in the Night?
I was working on the last book for my second World War II series for Heartsong Presents and beginning to think about where I might want to set a future series. My husband, who is as big a World War II fan as I am if not more, and I were brainstorming one night. Since I’d done two series set in the Midwest, I kind of wanted to branch out, and I’ve long had a love of classic movies. As Eric and I were talking, we hit on the idea of Hollywood during World War II.
There were so many different roles that the stars played during the war. Canteens. USO tours. Active service. 4-Fed. The plot options and historical details seemed endless. Then as I researched I stumbled on the original Hollywood Victory Caravan. My imagination kicked into overdrive. What if I created a second Victory Caravan? What if a killer followed someone on to the train? What if people died and you were trapped on the train with a killer? And what if romance blossomed in the midst of the suspense? I got pretty pumped very quickly.
Then I got a call from the woman who became my editor at Summerside. She wondered if I might be interested in writing historical romantic suspense for them. And as God works, one of the settings they were interested in was Hollywood. It was perfect timing and a great fit.
Who is your favorite character and why?
Audra Schaeffer is an independent woman who’s taken on a man’s job (attorney) at a time it wasn’t accepted. But she puts her family about her desires. And she wonders if she can allow herself to fall in love with a man who couldn’t possibly be interested in her. But even more, this story has a layer of God wooing her to Him and His truth – even though she’s a Christian – that is so like the way God woos each of us.
Did you know how Stars in the Night would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I had a general idea of what was going to happen. And I had an idea of who I thought had done it. But I can remember sitting in Panera being 5000 words from the end and calling a friend in a panic. “Robin, I’m not sure who did it, and I’m almost at the end!” She talked me off the ledge and in five minutes I realized I was right about who had done it and had placed everything there all along. But boy was that a scary moment or two!
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
That God is always with us. Audra goes through some really tough things, situations that dredge up parts of her past she’d rather ignore. But she can’t. And as she walks through the book she comes to realize that God is always there…even when the sky is dark and the future bleak. I think we all need to realize that whether in the midst of tragedy or everyday life.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
Currently, I’m writing on Guideposts’ new contemporary mystery series. It’s about a 62 year old quilter in the Berkshire area of Massachusetts who keep stumbling into mysteries. And of course she has to solve them. :-) I’ve written book four in the series and am currently writing book ten.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
If you have dreams of writing join American Christian Fiction Writers (http://www.acfw.com). Each of my book contracts has grown out of relationships developed through ACFW. And I’ve learned so much and met wonderful people through the organization.
I can be found at my website (http://www.caraputman.com), facebook, twitter, and shoutlife.
Thanks so much for having me!
Want more? Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from Stars in the Night by Cara Putman!