10 Questions for Carol Cox
1. Tricia: I love the description of your newest book so much, I just had to share it.
Annie Trenton’s life will change forever at the 1893 World’s Fair. Annie and her late husband’s partner, Silas Crockett, step off the train at the great world’s fair in Chicago and walk smack into political intrigue. When a stranger accidentally collides with Silas, more than a satchel is unintentionally exchanged, drawing Annie, Silas, and a handsome rodeo rider into a world of deceptions and conspiracies. When Annie’s keen powers of observation threaten to expose devious plots, more than her exhibition plans hang in the balance.
Can you give us a little information about the setting?
Carol: I’d love to! The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair has to be one of the most fascinating settings I’ve ever come across. I’m amazed it hasn’t been used more often. The fairgrounds itself was huge, spread out over 600 acres along the shore of Lake Michigan and interlaced with lagoons and waterways. The buildings that made up the Court of Honor fit right into that grand scale. The Manufactures Building alone covered 30 acres. Then there’s the vast array of exhibits, from Edison’s Kinetoscope to the lavish Tiffany display to smile-inducing items like the Giant Cheese from Canada (weighing in at over 20,000 pounds) and the model of a Spanish conquistador made of dried prunes. Just a mind-boggling assortment!
Poor Annie has to weather the transition from small-town life to the hubbub of the fair while coping with lovable but absent-minded Silas, her greedy in-laws, and a troubling series of mysterious events. It was great fun putting her in that setting and seeing how she’d react. I would love to have been able to see it all in person. If they ever do come up with a way to time travel, that’s one place I want to visit!
2. Tricia: Considering your husband’s two jobs, would it be safe to say he lives like a preacher and dresses like an outlaw? Why this unique combination of work?
Carol: LOL That’s a pretty good description! He might prefer to say he dresses like an Old West parson, though. He’s spent most of his life working with leather as his creative outlet. Using his artistic ability, he has become one of the best leather carvers in the country and uses his knowledge of history to make accurate reproductions of saddles and gun belts from days gone by. He says God called him to be a pastor, but allows him to be a saddlemaker. It’s a happy combination.
Thankfully, the whole family enjoys history. I call our ten-year-old daughter a museumoholic. Turn her loose in a display of old relics, and she is one happy girl. Our grown son has a love of the Old West, too. He once made his living robbing trains, but has since given up his life of crime and settled down. His last heist occurred two days before his wedding, so it’s nice to know he’s been reformed by the love of a good woman.
3. Tricia: What are some of your own personal rules for your inspirational fiction?
Carol: The story comes first. Being able to share a Christian worldview in my writing is a tremendous privilege, but inspirational fiction is no place to preach a sermon. The message should be inherent in the story and characters and their development. There are so many ways to show how God is at work in our lives, there really is no excuse to turn a captivating story into a heavyhanded lesson.
4. Tricia: What’s the first story you remember that transported you to another world?
Carol: When I was five, my dad brought home a book called The Happy Hollisters and challenged me to read it by myself. What? No pictures?? LOL It was my first venture into the world of full-length books. I dipped my toe into the unfamiliar waters, then dived in with a happy splash. I loved spending time getting to know the characters and solving mysteries along with the kids in that fictional family. Better yet, I discovered it was book one in a whole series of titles. Right then, I became hooked on both mysteries and series fiction, something I’ve never outgrown.
5. Tricia: What is one special talent you have that has nothing to do with fiction writing?
Carol: Here’s one you probably don’t hear every day: I’m a whiz at stacking firewood. We cut the wood we use to heat our home during the winter, so that talent comes in quite handy. In fact, I’m putting it to use right now. I’m writing this on my laptop up on the side of Bill Williams Mountain while my husband cuts aspen logs into two-foot lengths. In a few minutes, he’ll have enough ready to load onto our trailer, and The Mighty Stacker (that’s me) will spring into action. Hey, it looks like he’s ready right now, so I’ll go flex my muscles (I do have some–they’re just well-hidden) and be back in a moment.
Back again, and I thought of another talent while I was hefting those chunks of wood around. I also enjoy handcrafts, especially crocheting. There’s something very relaxing and satisfying about letting my fingers do the work while my mind runs free. That may be something that has to be put on the back burner for a while, though. I was frantically working away on Christmas gifts last year, and apparently overused my thumb. After all these months, it still doesn’t want to work the way it’s supposed to. Do I get a lot of sympathy for this? Nope. Some people get tennis elbow; I wind up with crochet thumb. Somehow, it just doesn’t command a high level of respect.
6. Tricia: If you had to dress as one of your characters for a day, who would you pick? What would you wear?
Carol: No question about it–Annie Trenton from Ticket to Tomorrow. I love those 1890s styles–graceful, yet practical. The bustle was on the way out, making the fashions a bit more comfortable, although corsets were still an essential wardrobe item. If I were to go through Annie’s closet, I’d pick out a puffy-sleeved waist and gored skirt in a soft rose fabric. In fact, I have a set of historically accurate patterns to make that very outfit–including the all-important corset. So why haven’t I done that yet? Well, between family and writing and church responsibilities, it seems like the time just slips away.
Or maybe I have some sort of corset phobia. . .
7. Tricia: Do those who know you best see a bit of “you” within your characters? In what way?
Carol: That happens a lot! And it always suprises me, because the things they claim to see–spunkiness, determination, and self-reliance–aren’t qualities I’d use in describing myself. But as long as they think it’s an accurate picture of me, I’m not about to disillusion them. : )
8. Tricia: If you could excel in any talent in addition to writing, what would your choose?
Carol: It would be something connected with music. I play the piano at both our churches and manage to muddle my way through fairly well, but I’d love to be able to play flawlessly and with supreme confidence. I’d also love to play the guitar with real skill instead of just strumming the handful of chords I know. (Is there an easy way to play an F Major, by the way? My fingers simply do not want to cooperate on that one!)
And then there’s singing. I’m not asking to be a second Twila Paris. I’d be a happy camper if I could produce a sound that doesn’t make the dog whimper or threaten to shatter glass. My husband says I’m too hard on myself, but think about it–the man has spent a lot of time out at the shooting range. I’m not sure his hearing is what it used to be, you know?
9. Tricia: How do you see your writing developing over the next five years? What goals have you set for yourself?
Carol: That question makes me think of New Year’s resolutions. I’m great at making them, but my success rate at crossing them all off my list is something else again.
But hey, I’ll give it a try. . .
This goes against the current trend, but I would love to write an ongoing series, where readers can follow the same characters through a whole string of books instead of a handful of titles. As I mentioned before, that’s the kind of reading I enjoyed growing up, and still love today. And, of course, I want to continue to learn and grow as a writer. There’s always a higher level to aim for. That’s part of what makes writing such a fascinating occupation!
10. Tricia: In what ways does God meet you at the keyboard?
Carol: Years ago, a workshop leader at a writers’ conference made the statement, “It’s not about me; it’s about Him.” That simple comment turned out to be one of the most profound things I learned at the conference, and the truth of those words has been brought home to me over and over again. When I sit down to write, I am very much aware of the fact that I can’t do it on my own. I know beyond a doubt it all has to be done through Him and His strength.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve come up with the bare bones of a story idea, then watched Him bring the pieces together, adding texture and depth I never dreamed of. It’s an amazing part of the process, where I almost step back and become a spectator instead of a participant.