Writing is an act that brings so many people together, and with our technological wonders of the day, that’s even more true now. Meeting new writer friends and keeping in touch with writers across the globe has never been easier. And that technology is how author Carol L. Paur and I “met.” Carol writes out of Wisconsin (one of my favorite states!) and believes that we can all change the world. And as a novelist, journalist, screenwriter, and playwright, she certainly knows the power that words can have in making those changes. She is the author of Stories, Waves, Praying for the Enemy: Your 911 to Peace, and Isanora Snores, her latest work. Like other authors, Carol wears many hats, so I’m grateful that she took the time to answer my questions about her work.
Christina: You have degrees in psychology and communication. How do those specifically shape your writing?
Carol: Having a degree in psychology had helped me look into the emotional reasons as to why people do things. My indie-published book, Stories, looked at four different characters and what motivated their actions. I do not believe people are born “bad,” but instead they have things that have happened that influenced who they often become. My masters degree in communication has given me greater confidence in my writing, though I still feel a bit insecure about it.
Christina: You’ve published several books now. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or does it do both?
Carol: Writing is what I am meant to do. It energizes me. I had put it off for so long and made all sorts of excuses. When I decided to get serious about my writing, it was as if my life took off. My relationships with my family and friends improved measurably; my self-esteem went up. Of course, rejections are hard to take. I am, however, working on several projects at a time, so when I get a rejection for one book (play or screenplay), I have others to work on. I will go back to the rejected piece and retool it or the query letter before sending it out again.
Christina: You’ve written books for adults and now this picture book for children. Did anything about the writing of Isanora Snores surprise you?
Carol: Isasnora Snores is a middle grade book that I had no intentions of publishing. I have told stories to children since I was a child: in elementary school I would write plays that my classmates performed, and in high school, I would often tell stories to the children that I babysat. I had always in my mind that I would write novels and nonfiction for adults and leave writing children’s stories as a hobby. When I wrote the story now called Isasnora Snores, the title was Snoring Beauty, and it was a short story for my fourth daughter, Monica. She had asked me to have it published. I reached out to agents, who rejected it. I set it aside, but Monica persisted. I told my husband I would self-publish it, but he asked that I try the traditional publisher route.
On Twitter, I follow different literary agents, and one of them had mentioned joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I joined it and began learning more of what constitutes a children’s book. There are several sub-genres inside the term children’s book, and I began to realize that I wanted my book to reach children ages seven to about twelve. I then decided to model the book after Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I checked out the book, looked at how many chapters and words were in the first book, and began rewriting Snoring Beauty into Isasnora Snores.
Once I made those changes, I systematically reached out to publishers—only two per week. I would then work on my other writing. I started that last February, and in March, Black Rose Writing offered me a contract.
Long answer, but I guess my greatest surprise was discovering that there is a process for writing a children’s book.
Christina: Accepting yourself is a main theme in Isanora Snores. Why do you think it is so hard for people to accept themselves? Do we get better at it with age?
Carol: In Isasnora Snores, the protagonist had been rejected by her kingdom for her snoring. I think we all face rejection at some point in our lives, so it is hard to shake off that feeling of insecurity and failure. Despite Isasnora’s malady, she makes friends who love her, and she learns to use something that seems bad for something good. I hope people enjoy the book while learning that it is okay to be who you are, and that you have value no matter what. I also hope that readers learn to accept others, even if they are different. As people age, we would expect them to accept themselves, but I still see a lot of people struggling. There are so many messages in the culture about how we’re supposed to look or act, that it is hard to push back on that.
Christina: Having written multiple books, is there anything you’ve edited out of a book that you wish you hadn’t? Have any of those scrapped sentences become a new creation?
Carol: Actually, there are things I wish I had edited out! For my first book, Stories, I was able to go in and fix things all thanks to my friend, Gretchen Kitzman, who is a fellow writer. Waves and Praying for the Enemy were published so quickly that I did not edit as well as I should have. I was invited to be a guest author at a book signing and wanted Waves out for that event. I was also a vendor for a women’s conference, so I quickly put out Praying for the Enemy. That is one goal for this year: to go back and retool those two books. I still think they’re good books, which is why I want to go back and fix them. That is the luxury of self-publishing!
Christina: On your website you state that if you won a million dollars, you would “use it to travel the globe and snap pictures of mountains, oceans, and the wonders of the world.” Has any book allowed you to travel that way in your mind?
Carol: Stories and Waves take place in the afterlife, so I was able to move forward and into the past and to different countries and cultures in these two books. Isasnora Snores is a medieval tale, so I had to research that time period. The sequel to Isasnora Snores—The Royal Orb of Peace—is a journey, and I had a blast studying different geographies while making up a few of my own.
Christina: What does literary success mean to you?
Carol: In the past, my answer would have been selling lots of books, being on The New York Times Best Sellers list, and running the talk show circuit. Now, literary success is making sure I show up every day to write, and if I’m able to help other writers, that makes me very happy.
Thanks to Carol for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.