Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Carol combines her love of history, romance, and God in her powerful historical stories. Carol spent twelve years on active duty with the Air Force where she met her husband, Tom. They have been married for 23 years and have two sons, Daniel, 19 and David, 18. The boys are active in Scouting and ice hockey and Carol spends a lot of time writing and reading while wrapped in a warm coat at the ice arena. Carol and her family are active members of their church where she sings in the choir and organizes the church's outreach ministry to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Focus: Focus: Carol, you've got an incredible new historical series out in stores. Can you tell our readers a little about it?
Carol Umberger: The Scottish Crown Series is set in the early 1300's during the reign of Scotland's great king, Robert the Bruce. I found Bruce to be an incredibly interesting and complex man and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about this time period.
Focus: I've spoken to a number of readers who are raving about the unusual book and cover design of your novels. Was that a design you had in mind, or did the team at Integrity Publishers develop it?
Carol Umberger: I can't take any credit for it--the design team at Integrity decided on the French flaps and deckled edges and I am delighted with the look of the books.
Focus: You have quite a story to tell about how you became an author for the Christian market. Can you tell us about the process God brought you through?
Carol Umberger: I started writing for the secular romance market in 1995. I had a number of contest wins and other successes but couldn't seem to sell my book. At one point I seriously considered switching to the CBA (Christian Market) because I knew that my characters were people of faith and that I didn't want to take that out of the books. But the time just wasn't right, I now realize. Toward the end of 1999, I made some very difficult decisions. I left my critique group and turned down the sale of a book to be written with them. We were having creative differences and I felt the project just wasn't right for me. In the year that followed, my dad died, four friends at church died, my agent closed her business, I had gall bladder surgery, and I received a final rejection of my manuscript. I think God was trying to get my attention. It worked. :) Through those trials my faith grew and I learned to trust God. In the summer of 2000, Circle of Honor won the Romance Writer's of America Golden Heart, the highest award for an unpublished manuscript.
In October of that year, my husband was lamenting to another dad at a Boy Scout meeting that my book hadn't sold. The other dad is a literary agent of considerable stature--it would have taken months for me to work up the courage to submit to him on my own. He offered to read Circle of Honor, and three weeks later he offered representation. But he said that the book was straddling the line and I needed to decide if I would take out the faith issues or strengthen them. In that moment it became very clear to me that the time was right--that God was asking if I was for Him or against Him. The decision was easy. I revised the book, strengthening the faith journey of the characters and less than six months later sold Circle of Honor and two other books to Integrity Publishers. Just to make sure I kept this success in proper perspective, God timed it so that I learned of the sale on the afternoon of September 11, 2001.
Focus: On your website, you have a intriguing comment about your Scottish Crown Series. It begins with "If there's a fourth book in the series…" We're all wondering the answer to that "if"! Can you tell us what's next for Carol Umberger?
Carol Umberger: I have just signed a contract for Book #4, The Promise of Peace. The heroine is the daughter of Adam and Gwenyth from the first book and the hero is introduced as a young boy in the third book. The Promise of Peace is scheduled for release in fall of 2004.
Focus: In general, how many hours would you say you spend researching and writing a book?
Carol Umberger: Hours? Oh goodness, countless hours. The first two books took several years each since I was learning so much about craft at the same time I was writing. Now the learning curve is less steep and I can finish a book in 8-9 months. Unless I switch to a new historical time period. Then I'll need some additional time for research.
Focus: Our lives have all been touched and challenged by various people. Is there one person who has most influenced your life?
Carol Umberger: It's tough to narrow it down to one--different people have impacted different areas of my life. But I would have to say that my husband has made the biggest difference. His faith--in God and in me-- and his steady heart have anchored me. He is devoted to being an involved father to our sons and has done his best to be the kind of husband God requires.
Focus: Is there a particular book among those you've written that you're especially proud of? If so, why?
Carol Umberger: Circle of Honor will always be special because it was the first and it opened so many doors for me.
Focus: Can you describe your average writing day? Do you have a set schedule, or just work like crazy when you're not cheering at your son's ice hockey games?
Carol Umberger: How I wish I had a set schedule. I try to write for 4-5 hours a day, but I always seem to find a hundred ways to procrastinate. So I physically write about 3 hours and I daydream and jot notes or research the rest of the time.
Focus: You have an unusual, and I think very humorous method for creating the heroines in your stories. Would you be willing to tell us about this?
Carol Umberger: My heroes almost always come first for me--probably because in researching I come across a particular event that strikes my fancy and usually the male perspective dominates history and research materials. Good stories revolve around conflict and romances always revolve around conflict between a man and a woman. So to make the story interesting, you need to create characters that are opposites. When I know the hero, I create a heroine that will wreak havoc on his world. The more opposite they appear to be, the greater the conflict keeping them apart, and the more my readers asks, "How are these two ever going to get together in the end?"
Focus: What would you say your ultimate goal is as a writer?
Carol Umberger: I make no pretense that I am writing great literature. I hope to entertain my readers with well-written stories that remind them of or introduce them to the source of all love, God the Creator, and His son.
Focus: The term "Writer's Block" makes even the staunchest writer quiver. Have you ever experienced "The Block"? If so, what did you do to rekindle your creative spark?
Carol Umberger: Some people will tell you there is no such thing as writer's block, but it is very real for me. While writing The Mark of Salvation, I struggled daily with what author Philip Yancey calls "Impostor Syndrome." I was sure that my publisher, editor and readers were going to awake from their coma and realize I can't write my way out of a paper bag. Then they would demand their money back and I'd be finished as a writer. Apparently this is something many writers struggle with, so it was reassuring to know I wasn't alone in my fears and I wasn't going crazy. I overcame it by pure willpower and an awful lot of prayer. For the day-to-day variety of writer's block, I read some research or pretend I'm telling the story to an audience which usually gets the words flowing.
Focus: Many writers are also avid readers. Do you have any favorite authors? Could you name a few of them?
Carol Umberger: There are so many. Elizabeth Grayson, Deborah Raney, Lisa Tawn Bergren, Pat Conroy, David Baldacci, Morgan Llywelyn, Barbara Samuel, Mary Jo Putney, Laura Kinsale, Bodie and Brock Thoene.
Focus: You have a strong affinity for one specific animal. Can you tell our readers how the letters PPTRC are associated with these animals, and what your work involves?
Carol Umberger: I have been horse crazy for as long as I can remember. I volunteer at Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, helping handicapped children and adults with therapy riding lessons. In addition to helping with weekly classes, I am assigned one of the horses to ride and train. Having an able-bodied rider work the horse keeps it from getting bored and gives it the extra attention and work it needs to stay in good mental and physical health. If you love horses and people, this is an awesome program to be involved in.
Focus: How can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you?
Carol Umberger: I love receiving emails and letters letting me know that my stories have touched them in some way and that they have recommended my books to friends. The nicest thing you can do, though, is to pray that I will continue to listen for God's guidance so that the stories I tell honor Him.