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Friday, November 11, 2016

Writing the Past for Present Readers: Author Interview with Carrie Fancett Pagels

Carrie Fancett Pagels is a multi-published award-winning author of Christian historical romance. All three of her Christy Lumber Camp books were finalists for Family Fiction’s Book of the Year. Follow along to see how her writing career started. 

What drew you to writing historical romance? Was there a specific author that you read that made you think, “I could write that?”
One of my friends, when my daughter was a toddler, directed me to read Janette Oke’s books and those by the Thoenes. That got me interested in Christian fiction and specifically historical romance. As far as thinking I could write it, after I had my second child, thirteen years later, I began reading again after an almost decade long break from fiction. I had done some writing during that time but was all over the place and hadn’t settled down in my genre. As I read a bunch of CBA historical romance novels, I felt led to write my own stories.

What type of research do you do in writing a story with a historical base? Tell me about the process. 
Early on (and occasionally it still happens) I would research things to death or go down rabbit trails because I love, love, love, historical facts. Now, I’ve had to learn to restrain that urge and research primarily for the story and facts at hand. I try to purchase books that are pertinent to my topic and then research what is missing. Sometimes the nonfiction books on my topic end up missing vast swaths of important info. I had this happen recently in researching 1880s balloonists for Requilted with Love. My husband and son have been very helpful in doing additional research with me and sharing their knowledge.

How much “artistic license” do you use in creating locations for your stories? How do you react when a reader complains that your descriptions of areas aren’t correct?
I tend to put my stories in specific locations and don’t use a lot of license. When a reader complains, I ignore it unless I indeed made an error. For instance, I had a reviewer give me a low rating and complain my historical facts about a certain group were incorrect, when in fact the intense research I’d done dug up little known facts and my information was, indeed, correct. But there was no need arguing.

Amazon shows your first publication as being in a Christmas anthology in 2013. What writing credits did you have before that?
I was published in nonfiction, as a psychologist (I was one for 25 years.) I also published a novella prior to my Guidepost Books,’ A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. I got the rights back to my debut novella Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance and it has been re-released under a new (and beautiful!) cover.

Your list of books on Amazon range from novelettes to compilations with other writers and
standalone novels - all in the last 3 years. Are you that prolific or had you already completed them in at least a rough draft? How do you determine if the book is ready for publication or to be sent out to a publisher?
I had one large manuscript already stockpiled. Also, I was unable to walk much at all for over four years. During that time I wrote a lot. I am a fairly quick writer though and from summer 2014 to summer 2016 I wrote five new novellas (four of which are published, one upcoming with Barbour) and two new short novels (both published) and edited a previously written novel which has been published by Pelican Book Group. 

That was about 245,000 new words over two years which for some people might only be two long novels or three standard novels – but believe me the process is more intense when those words include novellas and not just novels as the entire story lines and characters have to be developed.

Did you set up the compilations with other authors or did the publisher just package them
that way for a new book collection?
On every collection I have been in, I have been approached by the lead on the project and asked to participate (except for Guidepost Books, in which my agent had me do a proposal to the collection after they called for submissions.) In most cases, on the Indie/small press collections, the novellas have released separately and then in the collection. For Barbour, all of my novellas will only be available as part of a complete collection.

I noticed that one of your recent books, Tea Shop Folly, was first released with 85 pages and then re-released a month later at 102 pages. Why the changes?
It didn’t change. That is Kindle giving an estimated page count of possible print pages. Then the book came out in paperback and gave true print sized pages. That is with small margins, however. If those are adjusted, it could come in at 120+ later if the margins end up getting tweaked. Amazon will adjust the pages on Kindle to match the print pages if you notify them.

You also have an assortment of publishers. Are they traditional publishers or hybrid publishers where you input some of the cost? I recognize some of the names but not others. 
Guidepost Books is, of course, a large traditional publisher. Barbour is also a traditional CBA publisher. Pelican is CBA publisher also, with White Rose their historical imprint line. Forget Me Not Romances is a newer small publishing line. I have Indie published some of my books, too, which was a great learning experience. I am a hybrid author, meaning I do both Indie and traditional. Hybrid does not mean inputting cost to a publisher – if you have a “publisher” asking you to pay that is certainly not hybrid, that is a scam.

How many submissions did it take to get your first book published?
As far as submissions, over thirty years ago I pitched a secular book I’d completed and gave up after twenty-one rejections and went back to graduate school (Thank God it was never published!) In the Christian market, my agent had been sending out submissions and getting interest but not contracts. When I was approached by a fellow author who headed a collection with a small press, I went in on that Civil War series for my debut book, Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance which I recently got the rights back to.

At a recent conference I attended, I submitted a novella and was told to write it as a full length novel for better sales. What is your suggestion about writing a novel as opposed to a novella?
I never thought I could write a novella because they present unique challenges. When I first started writing, my stories were coming in over 120,000 words on my historical romances and I had to cut words. I go through spurts where I prefer to read novellas and I think other readers do, too. I’ve never submitted a novella unless it was specifically asked for, e.g., someone doing a collection. So pitching would be for novels. 

How have your novels compared in sales to the novellas? 
Sales are often a guessing game as to what works. If you are going to go full in and write a full length novel, my advice is if you have no contract for that product you better be fully committed to it and you should consider Indie publishing it if you don’t get a contract because that is a lot of work – for me at least four months to the final product. Honestly, at this point in my career, I don’t write unless I have a contract where I’m being paid to write the story or if I’m so compelled by God to write a story that I have to do it!

What other books do you have in the works?
Requilted with Love is part of The Blue Ribbon Brides collection, releases this month. In June 2017, Dime Novel Suitor releases in Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Grooms. And I’m thrilled my full length novel My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring releases July 2017!!! All three are from Barbour Publishing.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Carrie and her writing,
here are some links to get you started.

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