She's from a small town on the edge of the Quabbin Reservoir in west-central Massachusetts. They still have a family tree farm there.
"It's a bigger town than when I was growing up, but I've always loved the classic town common, the old houses, the sense of history and the closeness of the people there," she said. "The University of Massachusetts is right up the road, so there's always lots to do. We renovated an 18th century carriage house. One of my favorite pastimes still is to walk in the woods."
Carla comes from a large family—three brothers and three sisters—she's #3. They all live in the northeast and get together often at the tree farm. Her mother is from northwest Florida, originally, but has lived in New England since right before Carla was born. Her father was from Holland.
"How they met is a book in and of itself!" she assured me. "I'm married to a Tennessean, whose family, literally, arrived in the area with Daniel Boone. We have two grown children, a history professor and a web designer."
I asked her to tell us about Secrets of the Lost Summer.
"It's one of those stories that came to me in a whoosh—I just knew I had to write it. Olivia Frost returns to her small New England hometown to make a fresh start and pursue her dream of transforming her old house into a getaway…but first she has to get the absentee owner of the house next door to clean up his wreck of a yard. That request sets into motion a story of love, mystery, secrets and dreams."
She just finished Heron's Cove, the second book in her new Sharpe & Donovan romantic suspense series—learning more about art crimes expert Emma Sharpe, deep-cover agent Colin Donovan, and Father Finian Bracken—as well as the Donovan brothers. She's also working on That Night on Thistle Lane, the next book in Carla's Swift River Valley series.
Carla has always loved a good story.
"Whether it was listening to tales of my father's days at sea as a Dutch sailor or of my mother's childhood in northwest Florida, or reading book after book out of our little town library, I've always been drawn to stories and storytelling," she said.
She started writing as a kid when she'd climb a tree with a pan and pen.
"I dreamed of becoming a published writer and had several novels in my desk drawer by the time I graduated college. After my first child was born, I finally worked up the nerve to submit a manuscript to an agent…and I've been writing ever since!"
She's never suffered from true writer's block, but she admitted she has hit brick walls in a story. I asked her what she did about it.
"Most of the time the best solution for me is just to walk away for a bit instead of trying to muscle through a problem. Working in the garden is a great way to let a problem sort itself out. Nothing like pulling weeds to get the creative juices flowing!"
For her titles, she brainstorms—often with the help of her husband, Joe.
"With Secrets of the Lost Summer, I knew the story involves a secret that goes back to a 'lost summer' during the building of the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s," she told me. "Four entire towns were depopulated so that the Swift River could be dammed and a source of pure, fresh water created for Boston. It's a beautiful area—I grew up there. We refer to the lost towns, the lost valley…so the title makes sense for the story! Rarely do I come up with the title and then the story."
I asked her to tell us what her writing space was like.
"We live on top of a hill in Vermont and my office is tucked on the lower level, with a huge, old sugar maple right outside. I have a craft-table where I can spread out, and I have an L-shaped desk with all the usual office stuff—desktop computer, printer, files. But I don't stay chained to a desk. I'll take a pad and pen or my MacBook Air and go off to write…including to a little cottage on the southwest coast of Ireland!"
Carla loves to travel and this past year, she and Joe were excited to have the chance to visit her cousins in the Netherlands.
"They live in the cutest little village!" she told me. "We also stopped in London for a few days. Can't wait to go back! Then it was on to Ireland for almost a month of research, hiking and visiting shops, pubs and our growing list of friends there. I also wrote in Ireland…just couldn't resist. The only downside was missing my chives, irises and delphinium at home in Vermont, because I also love to work in the garden."
"Ebook or print?" I asked. "And why?"
"I read both ebook and print but right now I still prefer print. I just love paper. Even with my MacBook Air (which I love!), I still often write longhand (on Rhodia or Levenger paper). I just downloaded several books for an upcoming trip, but I'm also tucking a couple of print books into my suitcase."
"What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?"
"I once went 'in cognito' as a helper to a caterer for a very fancy thoroughbred racing party in Saratoga Springs, New York. What fun to be the proverbial fly on the wall! Id didn't spill anything on anyone, but it was a close call when a woman asked me to light her cigarette for her…I managed not to set her hair on fire."
Carla's favorite meal that she doesn't cook is cheese soup and salad with brown bread and scones at Simon Pearce, at the bottom of our hill here in Quechee, VT. "This doesn't count pub food in Ireland!" she clarified.
She will be flying back to Ireland soon to do research on the third book in her Sharpe and Donovan series, which is set in Maine, Boston, and Ireland.
"I also love to write in Ireland," she told me.
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Focus on your writing more than on the business of publishing. That's the advice I got as a young, new writer, and I fall back on it all the time. The business is likely to change by the time we finish whatever we're working on, anyway—and now more so than ever."
Check out some recipes from Carla on our Long and Short Reviews Guest Blog.
About the Author:
Carla starts most days just before the sun is up, stepping outside her home in the Vermont mountains for a brisk hike. She draws the fresh air into her lungs and lets her mind wander as she thinks about her latest work-in-progress. Once settled into her office overlooking the woods behind her house, she turns her attention to the richly textured, deeply atmospheric stories her readers have come to love.
She takes the craft of creating the world that surrounds the characters in each of her books seriously. Her novels have taken her on a number of adventures of her own, including to the top of the northeast’s highest peaks, onto a shooting range with a police academy instructor and into an ancient Irish stone circle at midnight as she scouts out locations and seeks the authenticity that imbues her writing.
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