Cara Putman is the author of three historical romances: Canteen Dreams, Sandhill Dreams and Captive Dreams (Barbour’s Heartsong Presents) and a romantic suspense, Deadly Exposure (Love Inspired Suspense).
She’s also an attorney, wife, mom, women’s ministry leader, and publicity officer for American Christian Fiction Writers and adviser to the Indiana chapter.
JS: Welcome, Cara, and thanks for taking time to join us. Along with all the other things you do, you’ve just had four books release in under a year. Wow! Do you have any advice for us on how to juggle priorities? Or do we simply have to give up sleep?
CP: Giving up sleep is part of it. LOL But if writing is a dream and a passion, then you find ways to squeeze it in. And having deadlines makes it critical. I’m not writing just because I want to. I now have houses depending on me hitting deadlines. But I’ve cut 99% of TV watching, I’m very careful about commitments, and focusing on what I have to do. The rest slides to the side – at least for now.
JS: You started with historical fiction. Tell us a bit about your three Dreams books from Heartsong.
CP: Each of these historical romances tells a homefront story from World War Two. You could call these the stories of my heart, since I get to tell the world about the wonderful people of my home state, Nebraska. Canteen Dreams is a novelized telling of my grandparents’ story along with the North Platte Canteen. The canteen served more than 6 million servicemen and women during the war. An amazing story of sacrifice and service. Then Sandhill Dreams pulls out the story of war dogs trained at a Fort way up in northwestern Nebraska. That one was fun to research! And Captive Dreams uses the prisoner of war camps scattered across Nebraska as the historical backdrop. Those elements make the stories unique, then the romance and characters blossom from there.
JS: It sounds like setting is important to you. Are you a writer who likes to immerse herself in details of the setting while incubating the story idea?
CP: Absolutely. The series I’m starting right now is set in Ohio. I’ve driven through, but never been. So I took a research trip there and am changing the setting for the first book because I couldn’t get up to the town and was having a terrible time getting resources and people to call me. Rather than get it wrong, I’m moving it. The history is too important to get it wrong.
JS: What differences did you find in writing romantic suspense?
CP: For me, the biggest challenge was making sure there was enough romance. I loved the suspense thread. And because of the tight timing I had to really work to get the romance thread to work in a way that was believable to me. The research is in different areas, but still very important. And it’s all about getting the heroine in lots of trouble. Gotta love that.
JS: Did you have all three Dreams stories written before writing Deadly Exposure?
CP: Actually Deadly Exposure was the first book I started. I wrote Canteen Dreams in the middle because an editor wanted to see that book. I wrote Sandhill Dreams while I edited Deadly Exposure. Talk about challenging. Music became an important cue to remind my brain which story I was writing.
JS: Which songs did you choose to identify each story?
CP: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” for the 1940s – though I have a CD of War era music that I’d listen to. And then for Deadly Exposure it would be contemporary praise and worship or Carrie Underwood 🙂
JS: Are you going to keep writing in both genres?
CP: I’m currently working on a three-book Ohio World War Two series. It will be a lot of fun! And a sequel to Deadly Exposure. I’m in one of those crazy places they always tell you not to go. I write historical romance and romantic suspense. I plan to move to legal thrillers, but right now, I’m straddling genres. I can’t wait to get back to Deadly Judgment, the sequel to Deadly Exposure. All kinds of chaos – and I love the ticking time bomb that suspense has. But I love writing books set in the early 40s, too. One day I’ll have to decide, but right now I get to write in two genres that I love.
JS: Working on so many different projects, do you ever find yourself thinking of one character only to remember that he or she is in a different book?
CP: Not often J But I use music and other cues to help me switch gears. And I keep photos of key characters in a file so I can pull them out when I get a tad lost.
JS: What do you like best about the writing life?
CP: I love creating a world and characters that are familiar, but bigger than my life at the same time. And I love the letters that let me know a truth that was sprinkled into the story resonated with a writer at the right time.
JS: What do you like least?
CP: The solitary nature. That’s why I’m so active in groups like American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m not an introvert, so I need to find time to be with others and sharing what I’m learning.
JS: What do your husband and kids think of your writing?
CP: They are literally my biggest cheerleaders. Abigail is quick to tell others about my books and booksignings. And Eric is always talking me up. I couldn’t do this if they weren’t excited and behind me.
JS: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?
CP: I read all the time! Love books. A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman was a great romance. And Sandra Byrd’s new book Bon Appetit was a delightful surprise. I LOVED Randy Singer’s latest By Reason of Insanity – move over, John Grisham, there is competition in town.
JS: Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Cara. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others-in every area of your life.
CP: Thank you so much for having me. I so appreciate it, Joanna!
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. Isaiah 43
In Sandhill Dreams, Lainie Gardner finds herself on a train to Crawford, NE, and Fort Robinson. It’s the last place she wants to be, but if she wants to be part of the war effort she has no other options. Tom Hamilton enlisted to work with the thousands of horses at Fort Robinson, and finds himself assigned to the War Dog Training Camp.
From the moment Lainie and Tom meet, sparks hot enough to light the prairie on fire fly between the two. Tom is assigned to train the dogs that have been sent to the army by a patriotic public. The only problem is he’s afraid of dogs after being bit by one as a child. Lainie travels to Fort Robinson to find a civilian job at the post after her plan to ship overseas with the Army Nurses Corp. is ended by illness. Join them in their adventure during the summer of 1943.
Sandhill Dreams released in May08 from Barbour’s Heartsong Presents. Right now it’s available from the publisher, and it should be in the online stores sometime this fall.
Cara graciously gave me a copy of Sandhill Dreams. I enjoyed it, and learned something too: I hadn’t known dogs were used in WWII–nor that patriotic Americans were encouraged to donate their family pets!