Monday, October 29, 2007

Interview with Cara Putman - Author of "Canteen Dreams"

I'm delighted to be doing an interview today with a very special author. She has written a just released book through Heartsong Presents called "Canteen Dreams". I finished reading it a few days ago and it was a wonderful book set in WWII just as America gets pulled into the war. It takes place in my hometown of North Platte, Nebraska and that is reason enough to read it right there! Allow me to interject here that I have a unique view on Cara as an author because she also happens to be my older sister :-) I hope you will enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed hearing the answers to my questions myself!

Sometimes people think of authors as being bigger than life and not "real", so I thought we would start off with a very important question, one that will show people just how real you are! "What dessert can you not resist when it is time to indulge?"

Dutch apple pie. Hands down. I can walk away from just about any other dessert, but if there’s warm Dutch apple pie I am a goner! Yum. Maybe I should go get one now :-)

You started seriously thinking about writing books a long time ago - tell us about the first book you ever started writing and see if I'm thinking of the same one... Do you think you'll ever take another stab at that project for nostalgia reasons?

Let’s see… there would be two projects you could be thinking of. The first was a Revolutionary War era novel set in Boston. I have always loved that time period and enjoyed the research on that one. Then there’s the book I started on what happened to the folks who disappeared from Roanoke Island. I’ve always loved a good mystery, and I loved to think about the what ifs of that situation. I think both books are lost to the ages, though Dad insists they’re still on one of his hard drives in North Platte. I’m not sure I want him to find them. I don’t see tackling them now, but might incorporate Roanoke into a modern book someday. Hmmm…. The wheels are spinning.

I was thinking of the Roanoke Island writing project - I always secretly hoped that you would research it and figure out what actually happened to those poor people - still bugs me... hmm...

You write a lot at the moment delving into your cornhusker roots with Canteen Dreams, Sandhill Dreams and Captive Dreams all being set in different locations in Nebraska. You made trips home to research those specific locations. Is there a setting you would like to use for a book just so you can tell Eric that you HAVE TO GO THERE for research purposes? If so, where?

Oh, that’s a great question. We went to the mountains of North Carolina in August for fun. Eric and I both kept driving around saying it would be a perfect setting for a book. And now it looks like it will be the setting for my next series.

But if I were going to choose anywhere right now, I’d love to set something in one of the urban areas in Europe. Maybe London. I’d love the excuse to go there again and that would certainly tie into my love of World War Two. While I don’t have more WWII books contracted yet, I have a few loose ideas that I fully expect to develop into books at some point. We’ll see…

You always worked hard to excel at everything you did growing up and when you set your mind to writing books I was the least surprised (and most proud) person to hear that you were getting published. Describe your feeling and reaction upon finding out that you were finally achieving a dream that started 20 years ago...

Thanks, Janna. I have to say I have been amazed and floor by the support I received from you and everyone else. It was frankly scary to voice the words, “I’m writing a book.” But when everyone believes you’ll write it and someone will buy it, it helps a lot on those hard-to-write days.
I received my first contract in September 2006 at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ national conference. Barbour Publishing has a wonderful tradition of awarding first contracts to one or two authors at the conference. When I attended my first conference in 2005, I remember being so excited when Mary Connealy (a Nebraska author) received her first contract there. It really made me wonder if that could be me someday. I never really expected it to be me the next year.

But God knows me so well. I knew I was supposed to be writing, but I was really struggling with the timing of it. You know me, I push myself hard, and I wondered if I was pushing ahead of Him. I was literally sitting at a table praying that I would be able to rejoice with whoever received their contract when I heard my editor read my book’s title…Canteen Dreams. I was sitting at a table with friends who started shrieking, and my mentor Colleen Coble started screaming from her table. I went up to collect my envelop with the letter of intent – in kind of a stunned stupor. Then Colleen grabbed me and spun me around. It was an amazing and so public way to receive that first sale.

So many people write in anonymity for years. Some never receive a contract. Yet God made sure that I received my first one in a way that I could never doubt His call on my life. I’m right where I’m supposed to be right now. And I can’t wait to chase Him in this dream.

I know even though these first books you're releasing (The Dream Trilogy) is historical fiction and Deadly Exposure is mystery/suspense, you are starting to write for and lean towards legal thrillers. Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

For the legal suspense that I’m proposing, I pull some of my inspiration from headlines and some from my experience as a litigator. I had the wonderful opportunity to clerk for a federal judge, worked in the non-profit world in Washington, DC, and spent four years working in a firm. All of that experience feeds into my ideas. And the headlines are filled with ideas.

As to inspiration, I’ve been studying novels by authors who do something well that I want to incorporate in my books. Right now, there are five authors that I’m studying: Brandilyn Collins (her passing is fantastic – especially in her Kanner Lake series), Colleen Coble (her books are multi-layered with rich settings), Lisa Gardner (ABA suspense author who is absolutely amazing), John Grisham (ABA legal suspense author – let’s face it, he’s a master!), and Lisa Scottolini (ABA legal suspense author who does a nice job in several of her women in jeopardy suspense).

I don’t want to copy their books, but I can learn techniques from each of them which will work with my unique writing style.

You have some amazing opportunities ahead of you and God's favor is all over you right now - how do you keep balance in your life with family, God, church, writing, law, homeschooling and everything else on your plate?

This is a constant struggle with me. God is opening some amazing doors right now, and one of the things that does worry me is how to keep the balance and continue to sleep. Right now, most of my writing is done between 9 p.m. and midnight. Homeschooling fills most of my mornings, and then there’s leading Bible studies and Sunday school classes at church and all the normal activities of being a mom and wife. But I do know that God will provide the way, talent, creativity and time I need to do what He’s called me to at this time. And I’ve been known to ask Him to make the sun stand still like He did for Joshua, so I can accomplish all the tasks He sets before me.

I’m also very fortunate that most of my writing is pretty clean, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time rewriting. That allows me to keep pushing myself with each book. I want each one to be better than the last.

You were homeschooled and are now homeschooling your children - do you think you will ever incorporate that into any of your writing?

You know, I’m really not sure. Rene Gutteridge has a series (the Hazards) that incorporates a strong homeschooling thread. So far that isn’t me. But I could see it very easily playing into a future book. I just saw a headline from HSLDA this week, that I’m saving because it made me stop. Those articles usually end up in the idea pile and could easily become a plotline in a future book.

Many people perceive homeschooling as limiting your options for your future, do you think that was the case for you? Why?

Absolutely not. Homeschooling has done nothing but open doors for me. It allowed me to start college at 16. I also received a Truman scholarship that paid for law school – in fact I believe homeschooling was part of what made my application unique. Homeschooling also is what got me interested in the law because I saw the impact attorneys made in preserving the right to homeschool once we obtained it in Nebraska.

I also received a fantastic education in everything including writing. So homeschooling has been nothing but a great help and benefit to me.

What project that you are currently working on do you really want everyone to keep watch out for (or can you pick just one?)

Wow! It is hard to choose one. I love the World War Two Nebraska Dreams series. If you like romance with a touch of history, I think you will really enjoy it. I’ve always teased that I should have been a teenager during the war, and writing this series has illustrated how true that is. I love the music, the books, the dances, etc., and I’m NOT that old! Canteen Dreams is starting to show up at places like Amazon, but you can also get it from me with a personalized autograph – find out how at .

I am very excited about Deadly Exposure…it’s a fasts-paced woman in jeopardy who-dun-it. But I have an incredible opportunity in front of me that could open some amazing doors as I move into legal suspense. The first series is set in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I wish I could say more about this one, but let’s just say I am THRILLED to even pursue this opportunity. And I have another series that I’ll propose as soon as the NC idea is out there that will also be legal suspense but set in a fictional Indiana town. This series will be full of quirks, each volume will stand-alone, yet I think readers will really feel like their coming home with each book, too.

Do you hear personally from many of your readers - would you like to? How would they contact you if they were so inclined?

I don’t have many readers yet, but would love to hear from them. A great way to reach me is through my website They can also interact with me at my blog I often give away books there, so it’s a great one to keep an eye on. Or they can email me at caraputman (at) gmail dot com.
Thanks so much for having me, Janna, and for being one of my biggest cheerleaders!

Cara has agreed to giveaway a copy of her book "Canteen Dreams" so be sure to leave a comment and I will pull a winner next Monday! Good Luck!


Eileen said...

Couldn't resist coming here from Cara's site to read this interview. Interesting how her interest in law came about -- through homeschooling action. Also WWII interest jumped out at me. Happens that earlier this evening I realized the same interest. Somehow I found a stash of US history videos in English here in the public library - not too usual for a library, except that I live in Russia) and this week I've been watching a PBS series on The 40's. Learning a lot about what my parents knew as teenagers. Anyway...I will enjoy any books Cara writes of that era. I stop by her blog almost daily and it's always inspiring. EE (

Cara Putman said...

Thanks for coming over here, too, Eileen. WWII is fascinating!

Anonymous said...

I would love to read more about your books
I love to read


Anonymous said...

I think thats neat you are making a world war 2 book
My deceased grandfather was in ww2


Cherie J said...

Could not resist coming over from Cara's blog. Enjoyed the interview! I think this book sounds great!

Melinda S said...

For the last couple of years I've been devouring books taking place during WWII & can't wait to read your book! I've read all of Tricia Goyer's, Judith Pella's, Bodie Thoene's, & others. My parents were teenagers then & I've always loved that time period.

As a homeschool mom I'm glad to hear that the 1st generation to be homeschooled are now doing the same for their children.

Amy said...

How fun to be interviewed by your sister. I am interested in the book. I enjoy reading your guest blogs at Tricia Goyer's site.

Cara Putman said...

Amy, thanks for the reminder that I need to write my post for tomorrow!

Melinda, I think you'll find that there are many of us who were the first generation homeschoolers who are now doing the same with our children. It's hard to imagine it any other way.

Cherie, thanks for popping over to read the interview.

Good luck, y'all!

Gina Conroy said...

Great to learn a little bit more about Cara!! And I'm excited to read Canteen Dreams since I never even got to critique it!

Deborah said...

please enter me! i think i'm trying to win this book everywhere lol. good to see a PBS pal!

Lora said...

I've always been fascinated with this time period, and even more so with our North Platte Canteen. I'm soooooooooo looking forward to reading this book!
Lora Lease

Becca said...

Janna, how fun to interview your sister about her first and forthcomin books! Cara, I can't wait to read Canteen Dreams! I hope I win...

Becca aka

Cara Putman said...

Gina, yeah, I wrote this book too fast. The scary thing is nobody read more than the first 30 pages before the editor did. Yikes!

Deborah, you are persistent! One of these days we'll get you a copy. :-)

Lora, I love that the book gets to share such a great story from NP's heritage.

And Becca, I really think you'll enjoy it when you have a chance to read it!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Sign me up for the drawing. Love you, my girls

Rose McCauley said...

nice to cyber-meet cara's sister! Hope I win the book! rose

Hannah said...

i'd love to win a copy of the book!!!
great interview!

Anonymous said...

very fascinating. I have a 15 year old daughter who loves to read these types of books. I think she would especially like this one being as she is also homeschooled.