I am excited to let you read an interview I had recently with author Candace Salima. She was very kind and generous with us in sharing her thoughts. Let's get started!
C.S.: Tell us a little bit about your background growing up. Your mother, as you state at your website, was a controversial columnist. What experiences did you have as a child that shaped you into who you are today?
CANDACE: Having grown up roaming the American West, instilled deep within my psyche the code of the West: Work hard, family first, watch out for your neighbor and serve faithfully your God and your country. Born of a long line of artisans, musicians and writers who forged their way into the western frontier by sheer grit and faith, I have long known that there was little I could not accomplish if I was simply willing to work hard enough to make it happen.
Growing up on a farm with goats, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, picks, even a calf or two on occasion, instilled in me a solid work ethic. If you don't do your chores on a farm and do them well, somebody dies, mainly the animals placed in your care. If you want food to eat, then make sure you plant that garden and tend it well. If you want eggs and milk, you better feed and take care of the chickens and the goats. This work ethic has held me in good stead in my professional and personal lives.
On top of this, my mother is a self-educated woman with a library the envy of many. She taught me that hope always exists, dreams are always there and reality is but what you shape it to be around the circumstances laid before you. Goethe once wrote: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." He was probably channeling my mother.
C.S: What a background! So when did you first feel you were interested in words and creating stories?
CANDACE: My mother, a columnist and writer in her own right, instilled early in me a love of the written word. She taught us to read and write before any of us ever entered kindergarten. She read to us nightly, first from the words of authors such as James Herriot (a long time favorite of my mother's) and then from the Scriptures. She never failed us. Often we lived far away from civilization or in tiny towns where the Bookmobile was the salvation of those children who loved to read. I remember those weekly trips to the Bookmobile and still today, when I see a Bookmobile, I am struck with such nostalgia and fondness for those memories. Libraries are a great source of comfort and information for me. Sometimes, just walking into a library gives me such a sense of satisfaction that I have created a library of my own in my house. This is where I work and write.
When I was 11 years old I wrote my first story with a beginning, middle and end. I really never looked back. However, it wasn't until I was in my sophomore year at college that I began to pursue writing as a career rather than a hobby. Initially, I began college with the intention of becoming a prosecutor. I wanted to be an attorney that put bad guys away. But as I was guided in another direction (the direction of writing), that desire was infused into my fictional works and melded into a perfect unit. I write fiction, nonfiction and screenplays.
C.S.: Which genre feels most comfortable?
CANDACE: I love them all. There is a huge creative side to my nature which is equally matched by a soul deep hunger for knowledge, both secular and religious. Because of this unique aspect of my nature, I need to write fiction as much as I do nonfiction. Each draws from a different part of my nature, giving me a break from the other when needed. Interestingly enough, my style is similar to my mother's, lyrical and true to my Irish heritage and yet concise and able to write in such a way that subjects are easily understood.
C.S: You mention at your website having been a journalist. How did you first break in as a journalist?
CANDACE: When I was a student at Ricks College in Rexburgh, Idaho, I served on the college newspaper (The Scroll) staff. It only lasted one semester because I simply didn't have the interest necessary at that time. I was going to write books, not newspaper articles. Limiting myself to 300 words is a torturous exercise in futility. Looking back, I can see that it afforded me a unique experience that I wish I had paid more attention to. My mother became a columnist in her early sixties and I have enjoyed her work more than I can say. The hate mail that comes her way just tells me that she's stirring people up and getting them to think and act. You read her columns at www.rockymtstraighttalk.com and you'll see what I am talking about. So yes, there are times when I wish I had stuck to that profession.
C.S.: You've done other kinds of writing as well, such as health booklets. Tell us about those.
CANDACE: My great-grandmother was a doctor and extremely knowledgeable in all sorts of herbs. I think it skipped my grandmother, but my mother has always balanced medical treatment with common sense and alternative medicine (such as herbs, etc.) to keep us healthy. In my early twenties, I didn't care. But when I married and found myself having miscarriage after miscarriage, I started researching. The things my mother taught me growing up started making sense. Suddenly, in my thirties, my health mattered more to me. I learned, I studied, I researched and continue to do so to this day.
I am also very active politically and through that medium, met publisher Calvin Harper, then running Woodland Publishing. We started talking and the next thing I knew I was on board with his company, writing health booklets on the different topics he assigned me. I have two available right now, one on Policosanol and one on Oregano and the health benefits of both. It was fascinating research and I learned a lot as I wrote the booklets. I also wrote one on pregnancy, that didn't end up being published. Currently, I'm in the process of gathering information on herbs, minerals and vitamins from across the globe for creation of my own herbal. I don't know that it will ever be published, but it will sure benefit my family and friends.
C.S.: That is a tremendous amount of work. I can't wait to see the finished project. What was your very manuscript for a full book? How did that come about? And was it nonfiction or fiction?
CANDACE: My first completed manuscript for a book was my romantic suspense book Out of the Shadows . . . Into the Light. It is fiction and subscribes to my way of writing, which is to grab the reader by the throat, yank them into the book and drop them out when I'm finished.
The writing of novels came about, for me, in a very odd way. I also write screenplays, and through a number of interactions with Hollywood I decided to launch my own production company so that I could adhere to my values without interference from someone who has no understanding of my personal morals and values. I put together a business plan, projections, staff, crew and more and finally found an investor who wishes to fund not only my first three movies, but my company as well. While I waited for everything to come together I thought to myself, "Why don't I write a book and see what happens?" And so I did. It was released in December 2004 and is still selling strong. I have been given the moniker of "LDS Nora Roberts" -- a greater compliment I could not imagine.
C.S.: That's quite the path. So what was the process like for you in completing that first book? Ever got discouraged?
CANDACE: I never grew discouraged on my first book. But my second book 13 and 0: Reflections of Champions, a reflection of the journey of the 1984 BYU Football Team which brought home the national championship, brought its own trials. I persevered through them and it was released in August of 2005.
Forged in the Refiner's Fire came very easily and was released in February of 2006. Co-authored with a friend, it is a book of inspiration that brings to light the purpose of trials we face in life.
The frustration and discouragement I face have come with books four and five. Both fiction, one for the LDS market and one for the national market. Life has become so chaotic that finding quiet time to think and write has become exceedingly difficult. However, I've just put my foot down, removed things from my life that were counter-productive and am writing again. I called on a couple of author friends who pointed out where I'd gone wrong in my storylines and I am back on track and writing. These two books will be released February 1, 2007. Watch my website for the titles and publisher.
C.S: When you are writing fiction, how do you approach the process of story telling? Do you outline first? Just write and see what happens? Use index cards to plot?
CANDACE: I actually write a general outline to begin with. From that outline I then identify key points of research which must be conducted. Once the research is completed then the outline is reworked and refined and then writing begins. Sometimes I stick to the outline, sometimes I don't. If it is fiction, characters tend to take on lives of their own and demand a story go in one direction when I want it to go another way. I've found it much simpler to go the direction the characters demand. It always works out better that way.
As far as nonfiction, I identify what I wish to write about. Outline it chapter by chapter and work from there. With these I tend to stick to the outline and stray very little from it.
I do use index cards to keep everything straight. I color code them according to the thread of the story and weave them in and out of each other on the wall. Once it is completed and on the wall, invariably there are chapters or scenes that are switched around to improve the flow. I can only see these problems when it is laid out before me physically. My poor husband had to live with the life and times of Joseph Smith, Jr. as I researched his life, his family, church history, religious history, political history, arts & literature history, national history . . . literally everything that shaped the man who restored a church that has grown into tens of millions. There was no way to keep track of everything without doing that and my husband had to live with those cards on the walls of our home for two years. Yes, I know I'm lucky.
C.S.: Now that's a nice husband! :0) How many people do you let "peek" during the process? Or do you wait until the manuscript is completely done before letting anybody read your work?
CANDACE: My mother works with me chapter by chapter, as I write it she edits it. Once the manuscript is completed, then she reads it completely and I let three professionals (authors I trust) read it. I also create a focus group of 10 to 20 people of all sexes, faiths, ages and heritages to read and answer key questions to make sure my story is solid, entertaining, intriguing and can stand the test of the public. If they want to put it down at any time, I have failed and that area has to be reworked so that when they pick it up it is painful to put down before finishing it.
C.S: Once that draft is completed, how much revising and editing do you do after that?
CANDACE: A first draft really has been rewritten a minimum of five or six times. I follow the process that is in place for a screenplay. First draft, second draft and final draft. Each draft is rewritten several times and then each draft goes to trusted people for feedback and then another rewrite begins. By the time I finish a manuscript or screenplay it has easily been rewritten fifteen or sixteen times.
C.S.: Good words to follow.
Read next week the conclusion of Candace Salima's interview!
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