Greetings from Marti Pieper in summery Seneca, South Carolina. So far our summer has included lots of sunshine, the greenery of our beautiful mountains, and visits from family. Today, I have the special pleasure of visiting with a new writing friend, Caryl McAdoo. I hope you enjoy our conversation!
Welcome, Caryl. Please tell us about your book, Skullduggery.
A brother is for adversity. Friends discover an axe embedded into a human skull in a derelict river bottoms shack. Four friends set out to discover who it belonged to and who left the ax behind, and they’re going to write a book about it—a story within a story!
So with that title and description, I’m curious: What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always thought it would be fun to write mystery but found my whole way of writing had to be adjusted slightly. My first stab at it launched last January, Duplicity at the Lowell House, the Dallas hotel built and owned by Morgan and Charity Lowell—also foretold in a dream (Book Four, Leaving Texas).
Near the end of that story, over supper, four friends—the Lowells and their guests, Henry and May Buckmeyer—hit upon a topic of conversation that sets a fire under the ever-curious Charity. Right then and there she talks her husband into not only investigating, but suggests he write a book with May, a dime novelist of some fame. That was my inspiration for writing Skullduggery in the Sulphur River Bottoms, book two in the Cross Timbers Mystery.
I might mention that Henry Buckmeyer is the patriarch from my first historical romance family saga series, Texas Romances. This thrills me to visit again with beloved characters I’d set aside after ten novels!
I love it when, as a reader, I get to learn more about familiar characters. What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
I live close to the Sulphur River. In the bottoms is the boundary between Red River County and Fannin and Titus Counties, so I’ve seen it flood like crazy since we moved to Clarksville, Texas. When researching for this book, I discovered there was a record flood in 1840 (the setting for my story within a story) that totally washed away the then-thriving town of Jonesborough just north of Clarksville. All that’s left is a tombstone.
I also learned that the Sulphur Basin has the largest average watershed yield of any major river basin in Texas because of the region’s high precipitation and low evaporation rates. This corner of Texas, located in the Cross Timbers with oaks and pines a-plenty, is my home—The Peaceable –on thirty-four acres, and I love it. I love using it in my stories!
That’s fascinating, Caryl. How do you share Christ in your writing?
I share Christ through my characters who love God, readers can see the fruit of the Spirit exhibited: kindness, patience, gentleness, longsuffering, faith, peace, love, goodness and joy. I think of Autumn Hope in book seven in the Cross Timbers Romance Family Saga. She’s loved the Lord and lived to please Him since a small girl.
As a preacher’s kid, serving came naturally. She spent the last years—her would-be courting time—caring for her dying mother, Liberty O’Neal Harrell, and missed all the young men coming ‘round. Most all of them were off fighting the War Between the States anyway.
Sometimes it’s my hero and sometimes the heroine, but at least one character in every story enjoys a strong relationship with Jesus, trusts and obeys Him, and another carries an emptiness in their hearts. They are searching, often without even knowing. Through my characters, and the way they live, I share the way, the truth, and the life.
My author’s motto is “Praying my story gives God glory!” I love it that reviewers often comment that they love the way Scriptures are seamlessly woven into my stories and never get “in your face.” My characters share truths I’ve learned in my own walk—for instance, not believing in luck.
Scripture says all good things are from above, so there is no such thing as good luck—if it’s good, it’s a blessing from God. Conversely, there’s no bad luck.
If something bad happened, it may be consequences of our bad choices, or it may just be a trial or tribulation we’re going through that God will use for our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. So one character may say, “Good luck” or “What awful luck, ” and another will respond with, “I don’t believe in luck,” using the explanation I just did.
I love it when readers say my book made them ponder truth and drew them into a closer relationship with our Father. Of course, there’s always an invitation for some character to accept Christ as their Savior. I explain “the way”—how much He loves them and what He did to be able to forgive their sin, how no sin or sinner is too bad to come to God.
Amen! What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
Salvation, redemption, forgiveness, no fear, no worry, obedience, trust. Like the wonderful old hymn says, “There’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey!” That is what I believe the gospel boils down to: trusting Him and obeying Him. This is my sixtieth book, so I’ve repeated a lot of godly themes!
What a wonderful way to honor the Lord through your work! Why do you write historical Christian romance?
When I first met Mary Sue Seymour, my New York agent (now deceased), at a small East Texas Writer’s Conference, she hugged my neck and told me, “I’ve never met a McAdoo who wasn’t family!” Yes, her maiden name was McAdoo! God was like hitting us both over the head with a velvet hammer: “Pay attention, daughters!”
So we (husband and I) volunteered to drive her the three hours back to DFW Airport and during our conversation, she said, “Write me a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s, and I’ll sell it.” We did, and she did. We wrote Vow Unbroken in nine weeks and sent it to her. She put us under contract for representation and sold it in two months to Simon & Schuster. From meeting her to signing with S&S took less than six months.
That’s an incredible story! I remember Mary Sue—she helped launch many authors (even if they didn’t share her maiden name). Now, please tell us about your funniest moment with a reader.
I was at a book event and was signing a book with the reader standing in front of me, and she kept talking to me while I was writing (there was a line, but I should’ve just stopped). So I tried to concentrate on the note I was writing, and I got to the end. She said something about Diane, and I signed her book—my name—as ”Diane”!
I must have had a funny expression on my face, and she burst out laughing and said to leave it, that it’d be a one-of-a-kind! I signed my real name under it with a little “Ooops” beside it! We both laughed and laughed!
What talents do you have aside from storytelling?
God has certainly blessed me. I’ve always loved to sing, not that I’m terrific, but once upon a time, husband Ron gave me voice lessons as a gift, and the teacher said I had a five-octave range. I was young then. I’ve never been shy to sing in front of people and was almost always on the praise team wherever I went to church. He gives me new songs, too. I’ve recorded a few of them on YouTube, including one titled The Armour of God. Here’s the link to one, titled the Armour of God.
He also blessed me with a good art sense. I enjoy painting and have done fun murals on nursery walls for parents (got paid for it) and my own children and grandsugars—life-sized Disney characters or woodland or under the sea themes with Shamu jumping out over a window. Ron cut the under part of him with a fin out of wood to mount over the window, like a valance of whale! My daddy was a sign painter most my life, working for himself, so it’s in my genes, I guess.
Do you have pets, and do they inspire your writing or hinder it?
We have five outside dogs: Faith, the matriarch and leader of the pack; Honey BooBoo; Henry PupPup; Bonnie BellBell; and Elsa, plus one tiny Yorkie/Maltese mix named Sassy who lives in the house. I’ve had characters in different stories named Faith, Henry, Honey, Bonnie and Sassy! I love writing the animals into stories. My AQHA mare, Bliss, appears in Hearts Stolen, book two of my first family saga series Texas Romances.
We also have an undetermined, ever-changing number of barn cats to keep the rodent population in check, but only a few will let me touch them.
Everyone struggles with time management in our 24/7 world. How do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?
In order to be certain my writing is completed in a timely manner, I write in my calendar a self-imposed deadline several months earlier than it’s actually needed. Of course, life happens and often things pile on top of each other, and I get too far behind, and I find myself staying up late finishing something that has to be turned in tomorrow, but I do get it done! Whatever it takes—unless I’m in the hospital or some natural event keeps me from it—I’m on time! Oh yes, sometimes I plum forget!
I think we can all relate! Please tell us about your next project.
My next release, Texas Timbers, coming September 3, is a part of my fourth annual “Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection” and also my seventh title in my Cross Timbers Romance Family Saga. Here’s its back-cover copy: He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains the Lord’s favor . . . is the reverse true?
Can a romance born of prophecy thrive? Autumn Hope knows for a fact the man she’s to marry cuts timber in the Sulphur River bottoms. She’s seen him in her dreams—exactly what he looks like and where he’s working then even goes so far as to buy that block of timberland.
Of course, she convinces her father she must travel the hundred and fifty miles to meet the man of her dreams. If he isn’t to be her husband, why would she kiss him in her night vision?
The lady’s sudden appearance baffles Sean. Craziness needs a keeper, but how did she ever find him or know his crosscut saw would break? Wounded by lost love, he cannot believe the tall tale the pretty lady is spinning. It has to be a scam, right? God doesn’t work that way . . . or does He?