Interview with Carol Cox
Today we welcome Carol Cox, author of several historical novels, including her new historical suspense series.
1. The third book of your A Fair To Remember Series released on April 1st. Tell us a little about the plot of A Bride So Fair.
Thanks, I’d love to! The storyline of A Bride So Fair revolves around Emily Ralston, who grew up in a Chicago orphanage and is thrilled when she lands a job in the Children's Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. And the White City seems to be living up to its promise of excitement when she meets Stephen Bridger, a handsome Columbian Guard. When Stephen finds a lost child, he delivers the boy to the Children's Building to be cared for until the child’s mother is located. But when a dead body believed to be the boy’s mother is found, a mystery begins to unfold. Tracking down the rest of little Adam’s family proves to be more challenging than they expected when their efforts make all three of them targets of a cold-hearted criminal, and their lives—as well as their blossoming romance—are at risk.
In A Bride So Fair, I had the opportunity to showcase several characters who appeared in the first two books, as well as tie up some loose ends that were left dangling throughout the series. Stephen Bridger, for instance, had been on the fringes of the romances in Ticket to Tomorrow and Fair Game. He was such a likable character that it only seemed fair to give him a chance to shine in a book of his own. Mrs. Purvis, the quirky landlady, is back, and readers will finally learn whether she ever discovers the secret room and the treasure her late husband left behind. And Ian McGinty, the shadowy underworld figure from Fair Game, is back in a much larger—and more ominous—role.
2. Tell us what inspired you to write this historical suspense series..
Several years ago, I happened across an article that made a brief mention of the World’s Columbian Exposition—also known as the Chicago World’s Fair—and talked about what a pivotal event this had been in our country’s history. Well, I’d never even heard of this fair before, so my first response was to check it out on the Internet to find out what I’d missed. It turned out that there was a wealth of information about the fair online, and the more I read, the more fascinated I became. I knew right away that it would be a perfect setting for a series. Being able to write it as historical romantic suspense let me combine my favorite genres of history, mystery, and romance, so it was a win-win situation all around!
3. What bypaths did your research for this project take you down?
Research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, and the research for this series was even more enjoyable than usual. I started with the Internet to get an overview of the fair and to discover other points I wanted to check out in more detail. The Illinois Institute of Technology has a site dedicated to the fair, and it was a treasure trove of information. It even had floor plans of some of the buildings. Thanks to their assistant dean of bibliographic systems, I was able to get copies of those plans, and they helped tremendously in being able to bring the setting to life.
I also purchased a number of books. Some were contemporary, like Dover Publications’ The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893; others were antique volumes published at the time of the fair. Being able to read about the event from the point of view of people who were actually there was like taking a step back in time.
After I’d spent months poring over all the photos, maps, and floor plans I could get my hands on, it was time to travel to Chicago for a firsthand look at Jackson Park, the site for the fair. It was a wonderful way to get a feel for its size and scope. I took along a map that showed the layout of the fair in relation to the roads that crisscross the park today, and that let me pinpoint the locations of the buildings and other areas that I planned to use in the books. Being there in person also provided some rich sensory details that I was able to incorporate into the stories. All in all, it was a fabulous experience!
4. Do you have a favorite character in this book? Who is it and why?
Wow, that’s a little like being asked if you have a favorite child. ☺ Emily is special to me because she struggles with the kind of situation we all face at one time or another. She wants so much to do the right thing but finds it hard to know exactly what that is.
And of course, there’s Mrs. Purvis. She started out as a rather minor secondary character, but she soon let me know that she wasn’t going to be content with staying in the background. In a way, she’s wound up becoming the star of the series. I’ve had more reader mail about her than about any other character! She’s a study in contrasts, and I think the combination of her quirky antics along with her spiritual depth is what has made her a reader favorite. That, plus the ongoing question of whether she’ll ever reach her goal of finding the treasure she’s been looking for all these years.
5. Do you have any tips you’d like to share for organizing your data while writing a series?
I started using Microsoft’s OneNote several years ago, and it’s a fabulous tool for organizing material. I set up a folder for the whole series where I keep files for information that will be used over and over again. Within the series folder, I create separate folders for each of the books, which contain information specific to those stories. I like the program’s versatility—I can jot notes down as they come to mind, send web pages over to a specific folder with the click of a button, and keep track of all the interesting little snippets of information I come up with in the course of doing research. And speaking of interesting little details, be sure to latch onto those when you first come across them. Don’t rely on your memory, thinking you’ll be able to come back and find them later on. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.
6.What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?
A writers conference I attended early in my writing career made a lasting difference. Out of all the information that was presented, there was one simple but profound concept that stood out above all the rest: It’s not about me; it’s about Him. The whole reason for my writing is not to make a name for myself, but to share His truth with others.
7. Any future plans for your writing that you’d like to share? What’s coming up next?
I’m working on several ideas right now, but I’m not sure which will turn out to be the next project. We’ll have to wait to see how that develops!
8. Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing—a project you’d like to write someday?
One of the things I enjoy most is bringing a setting to life in a way that readers can feel like they’ve actually been there. I’d like to do more books set in the Southwest to share the beauty and the rich history of the area I call home.
9. Can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially for someone who has just broken in?
Realize that getting that first contract is only one step in the journey, and not the final destination. Develop a learner’s heart and a teachable spirit. The more I write, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. And that’s a part of the joy of writing. There’s always room to grow and improve!
10. Where can our readers learn more about you and your books?
They can visit my website at www.CarolCoxBooks.com. I’m in the process of having the site redesigned to give it a fresh new look, so it’s currently in a state of transition. I’m not certain of the official launch date for the new design, but I hope your readers will keep watching for it. I’d love to hear what you all think!
Thanks so much for inviting me back to be a part of Keep Me In Suspense. I’ve enjoyed the visit!
(Interview by Susan Page Davis)