Thursday, 14 February 2008

Interview with Jamie Carie

Jamie Carie's writing is brilliant ~ evocative and spiritually moving! Be sure to grab a copy of Snow Angel and the soon to be released The Duchess and the Dragon, both historical romance novels that stand out from the crowd due to superlative writing, intriguing characters and gripping storylines.

I was delighted when Jamie willingly shared of her time and herself in this interview ~ it makes for fascinating reading :)


Why Christian fiction?

Well, it all started when I was a young mother with two small boys at home. I had been reading romance novels since I was fourteen and had picked them back up. After a time, I felt God asking me to loosen my grip. I didn’t want to, it was hard, but I did, switching to an occasional Christian romance. They were sweet stories, but I longed for epic tales like Gone With the Wind, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Les Miserable, etc. but had read them over and over. So, on a whim really, I decided to try my hand at writing the kind of romance that I wanted to read. I didn’t really care (and didn’t even understand) the marketability of something that wouldn’t exactly fit into the general vs. Christian market, I didn’t know such a book wouldn’t – for years – fit into any publisher’s niche. I just wrote what I wanted to read.

The other answer I can see so clearly now is that my parents implanted the Word of God in me so strongly that it was and is a part of who I am. “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) That training poured out effortlessly as I began writing. I am so thankful for my Christian upbringing.

What consumed your time before the writing bug bit?

Diapers and baby-food smeared faces, the round, laughing cheeks of my little boys. Homeschooling and play dough and cookie baking messes. Making ends meet on one income and a wonderful husband who learned computer programming on his own, at night, so that he could provide for us and for me to stay at home with them. It was a magical, fleeting time.

You have been writing for sometime now ~ how long did it take to complete your first novel from the inception of the idea to holding the book in your hand?

I began Snow Angel in 1995 and I held it in my hands late 2007 – so 12 years? There were many times during those years that I would give up for a time. But my husband would always say, “Someday, you will look back on all this (waiting and striving) and laugh.” I can’t say I am laughing yet, it’s still a little raw. But I am smiling.

What writing project are you working on now?

Right now I am working on Scarlett and Christophé’s story. It is set in France, in the ancient city of Carcassonne during the French Revolution. I had not written a Chapter One in a long time (my first three novels were all nearly finished when I signed my first three-book deal) so I was a little nervous. Could I really do it again? Then I got this sentence, “She whirled around - long, dark cape and glorious hair, flowers still clutched in her hand. Christophé’s gaze dropped from her frightened face to her rounded stomach and then the grave stone that glared chalk white in the mist behind her.” It has been progressing well since – Praise God! LOL!

You enjoy many writing projects from novels to poetry to song lyrics. What aspects of each of those creative outlets do you enjoy?

I would imagine it is similar to a musician playing different instruments. The core is the same, but each has its strengths and its challenges. Poetry and lyrics are, to me, a caught thought or emotion. Short stories are austere beauty and novels are long, slow love affairs. I enjoy the switch and the challenge of each form.

What does a “typical” writing day look like for you?

I wish I could answer that I am completely disciplined and have a schedule that would make people think I’m amazingly organized. But alas, I cannot. I love to write at night, in the dark, with my headphones on. I try to write in the morning or even early afternoon, but end up doing the other side of this business – researching, emails , marketing, networking, and generally fooling around until that moment where I make myself sit down and get started. Then I just write until my eyelids can’t stay open any longer. 7:30 a.m. (when I have to get my son ready for school) comes really early.

You currently write historical romance novels with God’s love and forgiveness seamlessly woven in to the storyline. Will you turn your hand (keyboard!) to another genre in the future?

I actually have a really great idea about something I would like to do after my next three books are completed. I can’t give it away yet, but I can say I don’t think it has been done in exactly this way before. It’s still historical, in a way, still romance, but with an added element. I just have a gut feel it is going to come together beautifully! LOL!

Snow Angel

Please tell us the inspiration behind this novel

I was sitting at the computer (in the dark) in an old farmhouse in Fishers, Indiana. It was in the middle of winter and the cold was seeping up through the wooden floorboards. My feet felt like icicles, my hands were cold but eager over my keyboard, then I just started typing. Before I knew it I was in Alaska, thick in a blizzard and hoping that this girl, Elizabeth, would make it through. A few days later, I went to the library (pre-internet days – can you imagine?) where I checked out every book on Alaska I could get my hands on. As I read those books and took notebooks full of notes, the plot started coming to me. I knew the gold rush had been done before, but I wanted to really capture what it might have been like. What it was like for a woman back then trying to make it on her own. I prayed God would show me the way . . . and praise Him, I think He did.

Did the plot or characters come to you first?

Characters come first. I usually write the first chapter or so on pure character inspiration. Then I research and study which gives me much of the plot. I want the character’s lives to meld with the time period in such a real way that the reader feels like they have dropped into that world. I want the story to be believable, but not overwhelming in detail that the reader gets lost. No one really wants to know the toilet conditions in the seventeenth century (unless you can make a good/funny scene from it – ha!). That’s why they are called romances – everything is a little blurred, a little less harsh than it really might have been, with the characters still having to overcome so much externally and internally. It’s a balancing act – one of the best challenges in novel writing.

You write historical romance novels (as you know!). Traditionally, the characters in these novels have been somewhat “perfect” and yet your characters have avoided that stereotype - tell us your thoughts on writing realistic characters who struggle with their faith or to understand God.

The Bible. That’s my short answer. There is nothing false, nothing held back so as not to shock us, nothing missing of Truth in the Bible. My characters, like all of us, might seek truth, they might run from it, they might, eventually, kneel to it like Noah and Elizabeth did. We recognize God’s truth when we see it in a novel or a movie or a song or a painting. It resonates through us and something cries out and says, “Yes!” It brings inspiration to our lives; it brings us a little closer to knowing God. I hope, I want so badly, to reveal Truth (Jesus!) through my work.

Elizabeth and Noah are grieving their pasts in many ways and this shapes their outlook and responses to people. Their emotions leap off the page - does that writing flow for you or do you revise many times over to capture those feelings so clearly for your readers?

The best scenes come fast and easy. The scenes that fall flat have to be worked and reworked until I am satisfied with them. If I feel a scene isn’t working I must edit it until it does, otherwise I’m risking that moment when the reader can put it down. I don’t want to give them that moment. I imagine them rushing headlong, till 2 a.m. turning pages, their breath in their throat. I think that’s how God watches each of our stories – He can’t look away, His love is so great. He is so hopeful that we will make it through . . . to Him and eternity.

Any ideas who you might cast in a movie of Snow Angel?

Ha! I’ve always thought Madeleine Stowe would make a perfect Jane (Google her and you’ll see what I mean), but aside from that I’ve always gone back and forth between actors for Elizabeth and Noah. I actually do think my stories will be made into movies. I don’t know why . . . the odds of that happening are staggering, but it just seems like it will :). God has plans I know nothin’ about! I think Elizabeth will be played by some up and coming new actress with incredible talent, someone we don’t know yet. And Noah? Who could be Noah? It will have to be a special man. Maybe he is being prepared even now. Maybe we should all pray it will be so! LOL! Amen and so be it.

What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?

Like the one-of-a-kind snowflake, I hope God’s Spirit individualizes the story for each reader in a way that makes a connection from the Father’s heart to the reader’s heart so that He can do His will for this book. Like the baby Samuel, God gave me this for awhile, but it’s not mine anymore. I gave it back to Him. Now I get to sit back like a proud momma and watch this child go out and make her way in the world. I have three sons. I love my three flesh and blood sons. Now I have some daughters . . . and daughters are a beautiful thing too.

The Duchess and The Dragon

I have had the privilege of reading your soon to be released historical romance, The Duchess and The Dragon. Please tell us how the idea for the story and characters came about.

When I first started writing this story I thought Drake was an aristocrat like all the other aristocrats in romance novels: proud, powerful, devastatingly attractive, waiting for that one woman to tame him. But as the story progressed, God showed me who he really was. I became fascinated by the concept of being born with everything the world could give, born in royalty, and then have it all taken away. That’s when God showed me Moses. Moses was brought up in one of the most powerful and wealthy households of the known world. As Pharaoh’s grandson he had been trained to think and act like royalty. I can imagine him a very confident and proud young man. Then, one day, he discovered he wasn’t who he thought he was. He was one of the Hebrew people, one of the slaves. Can you imagine the guilt? Each time he sat at that sumptuous table, knowing he no longer belonged there. Each time he looked out over the land, he saw the backs of his true people bent in slavery. After the murder, Moses lost so much more than his place in society . . . he lost his identity. He went from being a prince to being a shepherd. It took God forty years to break him down in the wilderness - forty years to break and then build him back up into the man he was destined to be. The Moses that fled Egypt was very different from the man who found the burning bush. Then God told him to be a hero. And Moses, so broken now, said he couldn’t speak. But God insisted that he could. So now, afraid and humbled, Moses had to go back and do a miracle – save his people, a people he didn’t really know. I think he was terrified. He remembered that old way of life and the royalty he had called family. He knew being a princess’s son would not be enough to accomplish this mission. He was fully dependent on God. And that was exactly where God wanted him.

Drake is like Moses. He was born into a world that said power and wealth were his due. And, like Moses, he had to lose everything, his known identity, before he could find his true identity and purpose in Christ.

Drake and Serena’s upbringing and social status could not have been more different. I loved the unique twist you placed on a traditional tale of rich boy meets poor girl. Are you conscious of doing things differently in a genre where it must seem it has been all been done before?

My only conscious thought was that Serena was “raised up right” and then had to have every aspect of her faith, from the miniscule to the abstract, tested and tried. For those of us who were raised in Christian homes, I think at some point we have to go through something that probes our hearts to find out if we truly believe all that we think we do. Serena is richer than Drake spiritually, but is it sure sand? Will it stay her when everything falls apart? Those were my questions when I wrote Duchess. Will Drake finds his true, God-imparted, spirit-born identity, and will Serena hone her faith into something so real that she can live the rest of her life from it – no matter what occurs. Those questions made for some pretty powerful scenes.

I so appreciate that your characters genuinely wrestle with their passions and beliefs. How do you balance the fine line between authentic writing and “acceptable” content for a Christian publisher?

God has blessed me with the right people at the right time. My editors are people who know this business far better than I could ever hope to. I trust them. They are the best and more . . . the ones appointed to me for this time. God is bigger than all of us; He has a plan. I just write what my heart tells me to write, lead by His Holy Spirit, and then trust that those at the gate will temper it and refine it and make it worthy to be called a work of Christian fiction. I am no saint. I sometimes write too steamy or outside the box. But God is in control of this thing . . . has been from the beginning . . . and I trust Him and the people He has blessed me with to do His will.

What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?

That our heavenly Father is sovereign and full of love and grace and yet, sovereign. We are not puppets. We have free will. But He has our backs! He knows all our struggles and temptations and faults (sin-nature). And He made atonement. He has a plan. And it’s good . . . it is so good. Hope. Hope. Don’t give up on hope! Happily ever after isn’t a fantasy . . . it’s our story, it’s our ending. Just believe.

Matters Personal

Can you share a New Year’s resolution with us?!

To read more of the Bible. Every day. More.

Do you read much yourself? If so, some favourites, please?

Just finished, “Rhet Butler’s People” by Donald McCaig. I do so love Scarlett O’Hara.

Favourite of all time romances are: Francine Rivers “Redeeming Love” and Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers From the Storm.” I can’t find anything that beats them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Lots of history books on French Revolution and eighteenth century physicists. (I’m struggling to wrap my mind around that math!) Christophé is a scientist along the lines of “A Beautiful Mind” by your own phenomenal actor Russell Crowe (is he amazing or what?). I’m just beginning “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett. I’ll read just about anything that you give me.

Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?

The Last of the Mohicans, when Hawkeye says to Cora, “Listen. Submit. You hear me? You're strong. You stay alive. I will find you ... no matter how far, how long it takes ... “I will find you. I will come for you.”

I think God says that to us . . .

Who inspires you?

The Holy Spirit. Anyone who is doing what He inspires them to do. Mothers. Fathers. Artsy people who think “outside the box” of what life has dealt them. People who spill out their lives for others. People who love. My characters. My dreams for them and my family. My husband. My sons. My friends. All of us in our great and weak moments. Life. The heaving greatness in all of our striving. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. God’s plan for us through His son. Jesus. Beauty. Eternal beauty.

Please tell us a little about your family

This is actually a really long story. My husband and I met when we were twelve and fourteen. I was cute – there’s no denying thatJ and he was a gangly teenager playing Frisbee with a friend at a church camp meeting. He says that when he saw me he knew. He knew I would someday be his wife. It took a little longer for me to believe that. I was the typical, rebellious preacher’s daughter. I didn’t want anything told to me. I wanted freedom. So I went off to college, got engaged to another man. It looked like we would never get together, but every time I came to the end of myself, I would stop and pray, “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” Then Tony would call or show up at some event (my little brother’s graduation, etc.) and I would say okay, I’m gonna make this work. Within a couple of weeks of dating I would panic and then run (yes, I had some commitment issues:). Finally, we started calling each other. About three months later I moved up to Indianapolis to “date” him. I remember that car ride so vividly. I said. “Okay Lord, if this is what you want then I will go to him, but I have to be “in love.” I can’t marry a man on faith alone. Within nine months I was ready to make the leap. I had a panic attack on the way to pick up my wedding dress, but I pressed through. It’s been twenty years and three boys since. God knew what I didn’t. God knew how perfect he is for me. God knew he would support my gift for writing. God knew our sons and our daughters, these books, and God knew our love. Sometimes a leap of faith is all it takes.

Please share some of your faith journey...

I can’t really remember the first time I “asked Jesus into my heart.” I must have been six or seven. My first memory is of witnessing to a frightened girl in my first grade class about Jesus. Then I remember being at Clark Jr. High and feeling God’s Spirit so close that I would walk down those halls and suddenly inhale and get tears in my eyes. I remember the slow slide during high school when fitting in and finding my way blocked Him for a time. I remember college days where classes where easy or boring, where I lived a double life telling my church and parents an abridged story from reality. I remember a guy who told me he loved me no matter what – my husband. Then, together, we slowly found our way, are still finding it . . . with church and the desert/mountain-top moments with God. But I can honestly say, that no matter where I found myself, I have always proclaimed Christ and the hope of salvation.

Some essential Aussie questions

When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?

Definitely a Koala. So cute!

Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?

I’m thinking a Barrier reef. Would love to go snorkelling on Aussie’s shores.

You are visiting Australia ~ do you say yes or no to some vegemite on toast?!

Had to Google vegemite to be sure, but it sounds great! I’ll have to check around and see if I can order it somewhere. I’ll let you know!!

Any last words?

Thanks so much for allowing me to do this interview! Very thoughtful questions! I would love to meet you and some other Aussie’s someday in person!

Jamie - thank you so much. I loved reading your answers and look forward to many more stories in the future :) By the way, if you are brave enough I'll send you some vegemite!

Read my review of Snow Angel, here.

Check back soon for my review of The Duchess and the Dragon, releasing April, 2008 from Broadman & Holman.


Ausjenny said...

sorry for not posting earlier.
i did read the interview when it was first posted cos i was going to comment on googling vegemite.
I have Snow angel I bought it when i was in the city and am looking forward to reading it.
thanks for the interview

Anonymous said...

Great interview. My fav read is historical romance so will definitely be reading your books. But I ike European history, especially the period around the revolution the most so can't wait for you to finish the book you are presently writng. Isn't just so wonderful that God knows before us who will be our perfect life partner, if only we listen to his promptings. To finish I thought I would just add a word of caution if you re going to try vegimite, it tastes great but must be applied thinly, definitely don't spread it on like you would jam or peanut butter. Regrds Wendyb

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