I’m excited to welcome Candace Carrabus to the Lit Ladies today. She’s going to chat about being a member of the Sandwich Generation and about her books: Raver (fantasy about a woman who discovers she is THE Horsecaller), On the Buckle (contemporary romantic murder mystery), and her novella, The Man, The Dog, His Owner & Her Lover. I won’t babble on about how wonderful Candace is or about her great critiques on my novel, FINDING MY PLACE, when we were in the same critique group or how much fun she is–because you want to get down to the nitty gritty! And plus she’s generous. She’s giving away her books, so go to the Rafflecopter form below and enter to win!
Here’s Candace’s bio in her own words: I’m a horse crazy kid in a grownup body. Small wonder most of my stories are imbued with the wonder and magic they’ve brought to my life. One night, I finished reading a book and thought, I can do this! Pages of pent-up story poured out. I wrote most of Raver within weeks. Years passed before anything came of it. By the time the awards and requests for fulls started, I’d had a child, and she consumed most of my life. In the meantime, I squeaked out a few short creative non-fiction pieces that were picked up and published in the Cup of Comfort collections among others. “The End of Mama” comes out next spring in Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Mom.
My birthday falls in Capricorn on the cusp with Aquarius. Some days are coffee; some call for green tea; and on others, nothing but hot cocoa will do.
Margo: Welcome, Candace, to the Lit Ladies. Before we chat about all your accomplishments we read above, one reason I invited you here today is because you are a part of the Sandwich Generation. Why don’t we start by you telling us a bit about your family?
Candace: Hi Margo. Thanks for inviting me to Lit Ladies. Love your blog. According to Wikipedia, I was one of between 7 to 10 million adults caring for aging parents from a long distance. I am 55 and live in Missouri. While they were still alive, my mom lived in North Carolina, and my dad in southern California. Both had spouses who cared for them, so I wasn’t all that involved. Still, being geographically remote often left me feeling helpless and frustrated.
My father had Parkinsons with Lewy Body Syndrome. For a time, I called him every day to make sure he was okay while my stepmother was at work. But it wasn’t long before he went into a home, and it was all on to her to visit and monitor his condition.
The phone just doesn’t give you the whole picture. In my mother’s case, she hid what was going on with her, and it wasn’t until they came for a visit and my step-dad pulled me aside to give me details that I had any idea. Even then, she was extremely resistant to getting help. Stubborn and strong she was, and I’m nothing like her.
Margo: I can’t even imagine trying to deal with all of that long distance! The one story you shared with me about driving with your daughter and dog when your mom was very sick is just heartbreaking. Would you mind sharing it with us here?
Candace: Sure. My mom went in the hospital with chest pains. At first, we didn’t think her situation was serious. When she found out she needed quintuple bypass surgery, I packed up the kid and two dogs and started driving, staying in touch with my step-dad the whole way. Mom’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Hearing the fear in my step-dad’s voice that day…well, it’s not something you forget. He asked me to hurry, but it’s a long drive with the last bit being over the mountains, and I didn’t want to risk that at night when I was tired, so I stopped at a hotel in Nashville. She died that night. My initial reaction was to get up and start driving. Then, I looked around. Kid asleep in the other bed with one dog. Puppy belly up at my feet. If I needed a reminder that life goes on, there it was. I had a responsibility to myself and my child to take care of. And it’s what my mother would have wanted.
Margo: That story gives me chills, and I would have been thinking the same thing. You made the best choice! What do you think are the special challenges women and men have who have their children later in life and so their own parents are also much older than many grandparents?
Candace: Making time for them to establish relationships. Everyone is so busy. Even if they live nearby, this can be a challenge. Watching my dad with my daughter during one of his visits, I realized that given his age and health, they would see each other perhaps 10 more times, total. Ever. As it turned out, it was even fewer than that.
Margo: Any tips for handling all this?
Candace: Have your kids while you’re younger! Ha ha. Yeah, I know, that’s not always possible. I have nothing unique to bring to the conversation. Make time. Nothing is more precious than these relationships; and once your parents are gone, they’re gone. Even if you’re pissed at one or both of them for some old hurt, don’t let that get in the way of your child’s relationship with his or or her grandparents.
Margo: You are very wise. Sometimes, I think we forget–this is OUR only mom. This is OUR only dad. But we could go on and on about this. Let’s switch to your books! What made you start your own publishing company/brand and self-publish your beautiful books?
Candace: Awww… Thank you! I’ve been writing, editing & rewriting, faithfully attending critique, going to conferences, and submitting my work to contests for years. Had an agent for a while, too. It took some time, but I developed a fairly objective eye for the quality of my work and confidence that it was good enough–maybe even better than a lot of what’s out there. Even though my novels didn’t sell to any of the New York publishers, the feedback was always positive. My sense was the big publishers just didn’t know quite how to position my work as it’s a little cross-genre. But I knew the readers were smarter than that.
All this happened during the same period the technology evolved to make it easier. The amount of time involved is almost the same as if you get picked up by a publisher. Why give them most of the money when I’m doing most of the work? Suddenly, it just didn’t make sense to NOT do it myself.
Margo: What a great choice! What have you learned through this process?
Candace: Do you have space for that here? Let’s see. I think the most important thing is to honestly assess your skills–know what you do well, pay someone else to do the rest. Don’t do this in a vacuum. Join writers’ groups; find a good critique group. You must get feedback, and you must always, always, always strive to improve. Even if you like marketing and publicity and the budget demands you do everything yourself, the best use of your time is writing. Find the balance.
Margo: Great advice! Who is your favorite character in each book?
Candace: Love this question! My favorite is always the heroine. I spend the most time with her, so she’d better be! After that…
In The Man, The Dog, His Owner & Her Lover, it’s William–the dog. William’s character originated with one of our current canines–a black Lab named Carlo–but I gave him a little of each of the many dogs I’ve loved.
In Raver, hands down, it’s the hero, Leinos. I’ve been in love with him from the get-go. [Editor’s note: So is Margo.]
In On The Buckle, it’s a toss up between Sandy and Clara. Sandy cracks me up every time she comes on the page. Clara revealed this edgy undercurrent neither of us knew she had–until she met Vi.
In my WIP, The Good Horse, The Bad Man & The Ugly Woman, it’s Jasmine. She’ll probably get her own story eventually.
Margo: Thanks for letting us know. I can’t wait to read On the Buckle! It’s waiting on my Kindle. Anything else you want to add?
Candace: Since we’re talking about characters, as their creator, you must love all of them (yeah, kinda goddess-like, I know) including the minor ones and the bad guys. Otherwise, you won’t write them well. And if you don’t write them well, readers will know.
Readers are smart like that. And where would authors be without readers?
Margo: Thank you, Candace, for all your insights and sharing your work and life with us today. To find out more about Candace, her books, and how to connect with her, please visit her website: http://www.candacecarrabus.com.
Okay, readers, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to win either a print copy or e-copy of each of Candace’s books (except the novella–it’s only available as an e-book). One book per winner. First winner gets first choice, etc. And if you want a print book, you must have a mailing address in the United States or Canada.