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Friday, May 26, 2023

A Career Isn't Built on One Book: Author Interview with Carolyne Aarsen

Your website shows you’ve published 131 titles. That’s amazing! What inspired you to write that first one? What made you choose western romance?

I think the first story I ever wrote was an historical about a young girl who lived in Wyoming and lived on a ranch. I’ve always been drawn to the lifestyle and the slower pace of western living. And I’ve always, loved reading romance. From that first Violet Winspear book I bought at a church rummage sale, through all of the Harlequin romance lines, I devoured romance. And often thought, I could do this myself. So I wanted to try. 

I started writing articles for our local paper as an assignment for a writing course I had taken by correspondence. (Yes I am dating myself with that comment). The money I made from that paid for a romance writing course from two Harlequin authors. I wrote my first book, Homecoming, while taking that course. It was a huge boost to have them critique and push me and teach me - one on one. I had initially wanted to write for the Harlequin Superromance line and geared my book to that. But I always wanted to keep things low heat and always, always wanted to incorporate a faith journey. So I knew I couldn’t send that book to Harlequin. But no major Christian publishing house was buying romance.

Undaunted, I wrote a second book on the advice of another author. Which was a very important piece of advice I want to share as well. You don’t build a career on one book. So don’t keep massaging and editing and working on that first book. Write a second book. Expand your reach. Anyhow, long story long, I stayed true to what I wanted to write and then, suddenly Harlequin started up the Love Inspired romance line and were actively acquiring. And I had two books  ready to go. I sold Homecoming and after that Ever Faithful and I kept writing and they kept buying.
Your early books were with Harlequin, but now you're an indie-author. What made you switch? 
First off, I need to say that I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity Love Inspired gave me. I had wonderful editors and I learned so much about writing and storytelling. It was, overall, a great experience. They bought my first book and started me off on this incredible and amazing career. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity.  

I switched because after 40+ books with them, I was feeling constrained by the restrictions Love Inspired put on me as an author. I was struggling with the last few books to find something that worked for me and my editor. It was a scary move but I’m so thankful I did it. I have room to write the books I want to write, at the length I want to write, and I found an audience who loves my books.
Do you sell more eBooks than print books?

By far, I sell more e-books than print, though I’m always surprised how many people still want a physical book. So I’m glad I can offer all the options. 

You also do audio books. What does it take to put that together?
As for audio, it’s a big expense and a big undertaking. Thankfully, I found Findaway Voices which made putting it all together much easier. But it was another learning curve for me. I haven’t earned back the money I put into it yet, but, again, I’m glad I can offer this to my readers.
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
The letters I get from my readers that tell me how much they love my books puts a lot of gas in my writing tank. It means so much to me to know that the stories I write, while I’m sitting at my computer in my office are going out into the world and being enjoyed by so many people. I’m often humbled by the things people tell me.
Marketing is the biggest key to making sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?

I have embraced Facebook Ads fully. I have spent enough time on the platform that I feel comfortable using it and I understand how it works. I know Facebook Ads have definitely bumped my income up to another level. I like making the graphics and the challenge of finding just the right combination of text and picture that resonates with people scrolling through their Facebook Feed. Again, another learning curve but I took a few courses on this and am always learning from other writers as well.
What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
This is an interesting question. I think I wish I knew everything I know now, sooner. However, what I know now came from learning and trying and pushing myself before. I’m thankful for the journey of learning I had in my writing career and I know I’m not done. I still haven’t written, what I consider, the perfect book. I’m thankful for all the people in the indie and romance world that are so generous with their advice and help and encouragement. 

I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned from them and if I hadn’t made those particular mistakes, I’m fairly sure I would have made others. I always love listening to the “Wish I’d Known Then” podcast because it helps me learn from other writer’s mistakes but it also encourages me in that many of the people interviewed on the show have made the same mistakes I did. And pushed on. So that’s always reassuring.
I think the only thing I wished I had done, was listen to some advice given to me long ago when I was still writing for Love Inspired. I was told to start a newsletter list and send out newsletters regularly. I did start one, but I never followed through because, to me, it didn’t seem to make a difference in my sales given the way Love Inspired marketed the books. However, had I followed through on that, I know my newsletter list, right now, would be bigger and have more engaged readers.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
One of my Harlequin editors said something that I remind myself of every single time I write a book and this has to do with character development. That is, What can my hero/ine do at the end of the book that they could not do at the beginning of the book? To me, that question, makes me look hard at what my character will go through and how the plot will push them out of their comfort zone to change and grow. There is a lot more, but to me that sums the story up easily and clearly.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

I think we writers need to give ourselves grace in our journey. Realize you’re not going to get everything right in every book you write. Like I said, I feel like I still haven’t written the perfect book and probably never will. But I keep trying. Writers now are so fortunate in that there are so many resources available to writers and places to ask questions and learn. Like Mark Dawson says when he starts his podcast - There has never been a better time to be a writer.
What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short blurb about it?

My next book is coming out July 12th and it’s called Love Like a Christmas Star.

One may be the loneliest number but for Simon Steele, it’s the safest. But when an accident puts him in the hospital, he meets Caitlin Severn, the woman who not only rescued him, but is also now his nurse. She make him want to rethink the hard lessons he learned while growing up in foster homes - that you’re better off taking care of yourself because no one else will. As for Caitlin, Simon is not the kind of man she usually falls for, but maybe his rebellious spirit is exactly what she needs.
Sounds intriguing. If you'd like to learn most about Carolyne's vast array of books, here are two links to get you started...

And here's a bonus for my readers...sign up for her newsletter and you'll get a copy of one of her eBooks Go to her website and scroll down to the bottom of the page and sign up and you'll get the eBook!


  1. Great interview. I can’t imagine writing 131 books! And she never said she learned everything about writing the hard way. She was smart and learned from the pros. Going to look into that podcast she mentioned.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I actually did learn the hard way as well and did make mistakes. But thankful for all the input I received from the professionals in my life.