Thursday, October 21, 2010

Interview with Carolyne Aarsen

Alice Valdal posting here. Today it's my pleasure to introduce a fellow Canadian, author Carolyne Aarsen. Carolyne is multi-published with Steeple Hill and Guideposts. Welcome Carolyne.

Alice: Tell us about your writing journey. Did you write stories as a child? How long were you writing for publication before you landed your first contract?

Carolyne: I was always thinking up stories, but not often writing them down. Until I got to junior high and started doing 'custom' romances for my girlfriends featuring their latest crush and themselves as heroine!
Alice: That sounds like fun! Did you make up stories that featured yourself as the romantic heroine?
Carolyne: Of course. In fact my first real romance had me as the heroine and David Cassidy as the hero.

I've always loved a good romance. I read so many that I figured I should give it a try. But I had kids and we were busy just getting by, first on our acreage, then on our farm. But I knew the time wasn't going to magically come. I had to find it. With that in mind I took a writing correspondence course and from that came a weekly regular article I did for three weekly newspapers. That paid for another correspondence course, on romance writing. I sold my first book in 1997, which means I was writing for about 8 years before I sold my first book.

Alice: You had a book out in July, one in September, one coming in Nov. and another in January. That seems a pretty heavy schedule. Do you consider yourself a fast writer? What is your process?
Carolyne: I'm faster than I used to be,though there are faster writers out there! The Guideposts book in September is a reissue as was the one in July so those weren't 'from scratch' books. But I am writing more each year for various reason. Kids out of the house. More self discipline, a better writing process. I tend to start with my characters - try to nail down their past, their wounds, fears, needs and wants. I try to match them with a hero or heroine who will cause them problems - get in the way of their goals. I probably spend as much time in the pre and post work as I do in actual writing of the book.
Alice: I just took a workshop on using enneagrams for creating characters. Do you have a system for developing your characters?
Carolyne: Actually, I do. I start with a character trait that appeals to me. Sacrifice. Motherhood. Self-supporting. Then work from that trait, imagining my character doing a job. This always takes some time. From there I start figuring out why she’s doing this job. Once I get a bit of an idea of this person I pull out a worksheet I got from a Michael Hague workshop and start figuring out what my character’s identity is. How do they see themselves. What do they want. What do they need? How hard are they willing to fight for what they want. What wound do they have? What is a lie they believe about themselves. (this last one was courtesy of My Book Therapy a wonderful meeting place put on by Suzie May Warren) What are they afraid of. Who do I want them to be at the end of the book and how am I going to make them change. From this I move into my story. Sometimes my hero is easier to envision than my hero, sometimes the other way around.

Alice: Did you always target the inspirational market?
Carolyne: Yes

Alice: You have children of your own, plus you're a foster parent. Does having children underfoot help or hinder your creativity?
Carolyne: My kids are all out of the house, but I was writing when I had four kids at home and a foster child. It was harder to find the time, but I believe I was more focussed when I did get the writing time.

Alice: Do you have an office or special corner where you write? Did you have to post a do not disturb sign when you were at the computer?
Carolyne: I have an office that I write in. It’s on the main floor of our home. I set it up so that anyone coming in will see the back of my computer and my head sticking over it with a frown asking them what they want. My husband put a chair in one corner of the office for him to sit in. Because I don’t have kids at home any more I don’t really need a sign, but mostly I’m willing to sit back for a bit and ‘visit’.

Alice: You write for two publishers. Who are they and how did this come about?
Carolyne: I write for Guideposts and Love Inspired, an imprint of Harlequin's Steeple Hill. For the next while I'm focussing solely on Love Inspired. I got working for two publishers when I got an offer to write something different for Guideposts via my agent, Karen Solem - books that were closer to women's fiction than romance. I wanted to try write other stories and enjoyed the opportunity to stretch my writing muscles. But I am fortunate in that both Guideposts and Steeple Hill/Love Inspired have been great publishers to work for.
Alice: What do you consider the greatest difference between romance and women's fiction? Is there a love interest in your women's fiction books?
Carolyne:Romance fiction is a dual protagonist story about a man and a woman falling in love. Basic. Women’s fiction is about a single protagonist story about a woman’s journey that may or may not include falling in love.

Alice: Did you have an agent before making your first sale? How did you come to meet her? Query letter? Conference? Reference?
Carolyne: No I was unagented when I sold. But I came to the point in my career where I thought I needed an agent. I had heard good things about Karen Solem and when I found out she was going to Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference, I signed up, met her and we’ve been together since.

Alice: This is an international group of writers so we love to armchair travel. Give us a "chamber of commerce" chat about your home.
Carolyne: I'm in Alberta, Canada, north of Edmonton. That's pretty far north! Long cold winters, short hot summers. When you drive down the highway toward's Neerlandia, the first thing you'll notice is the two churches. The next thing you'll notice is the huge Farm and Fuel centre across the road from the first church - thus establishing the two main precepts of my community - faith and farming. The 'Centre' as it is called is a crossroads that has a large church on one corner, a school on another, a store on the third and a garage on the fourth. Cars and trucks, tractors and school busses come and go and during harvest season, if a combine pulls into the garage, your truck or car repairs are put on hold so that the combine can be worked on. The 'centre' has about 40 houses as most of the population of the community live on farms or acreages outside of Neerlandia. Every Sunday, cars and trucks converge on the centre filling both churches and both parking lots to the max. The graveyard, south of the largest church, has markers from 1910 and on and is growing - an ironic sign of a healthy community! It's a good place to raise children, a wonderful place to live. I'm thankful that we can be a part of this community.

Alice: Tell us about your up-coming releases.
Carolyne: In November, Cowboy Daddy is coming out and in January The Baby Promise will hit the shelves. As I said on my website, I've always wanted twins. Didn't get them, for which I'm thankful now. But I've been thankful that I can indulge in my desire for twins in my books. The twin boys in Cowboy Daddy are unwittingly involved in a tug-of-war between their uncle from their father's side and their aunt from their mother's side. Who will win? Read it and find out. (See giveaway details at bottom of this post)

Alice: You are a Canadian writing into a largely American market. Can you comment on the pros and cons of using Canadian settings? Do you consciously try to make them appealing to American readers or do the settings speak for themselves?
Carolyne: What I love about writing for Harlequin is that the setting of my books has never been an issue. They love my Canadian settings and have encouraged me to continue to write what I know and about places I love. I try to make my settings speak for themselves and hope that my love for the places I write about and know so well shines through and doesn't distract from the story. I have written for other publishers that do require me to set my books in the United States. This hasn't been a huge problem, but I prefer writing about places that I not only have visited, but know well.

Alice: Any words of advice for aspiring authors or those wishing to break into a bigger market?
Carolyne: Know what you like to write. Recognize that it will take lots of work and lots of rejection. Writers tend to be a confused sort of people. Because when we're writing the books we have to be sensitive to the characters and their journeys. Then, when we send out the books, we have to suddenly be tough to the rejection and criticism. I've been published for thirteen years and I still get rejections. The one thing I consistently notice about the writers that 'make it' is that hard work trumps talent. Every. Time.

Alice: Anything you'd like to add?
Carolyne: Thanks for this opportunity to talk about my writing and my books. I'd like to encourage those readers who want to be published is to keep working. Make it part of your every day life. You can't wait to be inspired. I seldom am when I sit down in front of my computer. But I show up. Every day. and often the inspiration comes. I'm blessed and thankful that I can write the kind of stories I do. I'm thankful that I can be honest about my faith and that I can have my characters go through a faith journey as well.
You can find me at:
I'd love to give away a set of Cowboy Daddy and The Baby Promise to two readers of this blog.

Alice:Thanks Carolyne, I've enjoyed our cyber visit.

To enter the draw for Carolyne's books, just leave a comment and your e-address written out a Offer void where prohibited by law.

Alice Valdal is at Check out my website for the latest in my life and writing adventures.


  1. Really interesting interview, Alice. It was great to get to know Caralyne Aarson this way. Blessings on your contintinued work---both of you.

  2. Thanks for coming by Carolyne! I've read one of your books and thoroughly enjoyed the Canadian setting. I'd be delighted to win your books!

    valerie at valeriecomer dot com

  3. I just finished "The Cattleman's Courtship"-- very nice sense of Alberta and cattle country. Then again, I've always had a romanticized view of Alberta. Maybe it's the musical sound of the name, combined with cowboys and foothills, but I've always thought it would be a great place to live -- just not when the temperature is thirty below :-)

  4. Hi Carolyne. I really enjoyed your interview, particularly your early writing experiences. My best friend and I used to sit in the Willow tree in the school grounds at lunch time and work on our respective novels. Mine always resembled the last book I'd read (historical of course) and Sue was writing a SCi Fi called "The Intermittent Brain" - strangely we are both now published writers. I think writing is in the genes!

  5. Oops, I forgot, to tell you the draw for the giveaway will run until Oct. 28. The winner will be announced on the Sunday update.

  6. Alice, thank you for introducing us to Carolyne. Carolyne, your books sound like a real fun read. I haven't seen them in the South African shops. I'd love to be entered in the draw, if you're prepared to ship to South Africa.

    My email address is shirley(at)shirleycorder(dot)com.

  7. Alice, great interview! Carolyne, one of the first Love Inspired books I read was one of your early books, and I've enjoyed reading your books over the years. Thanks for visiting with us today :-)

  8. Hi Carolyne and Alice- many thanks for an interesting interview.

    Carolyne, I really like the way in which you have defined the difference between romance and women's fiction.

    Please enter me in the draw if it's open to international readers. My address is ruthanndell(at)mweb(dot)co(dot)za

    Thank you

  9. Oooops. I forgot to put in my email address. My writing name is Christine Lindsay, I'm a member of ICFW blog, but here's my email.


  10. a wonderful posting...thanks for the opportunity to read your wonderful novels :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  11. Wow, this is really an international group of writers. Thanks so much for the comments. I've been away from my computer for awhile - family and grandkids over - so I haven't been able to post on the comments. so thanks again for the kind words!