Good afternoon Ms. Cassada. My name is Lori (Lototy at CTR), and we welcome you to Coffee Time Romance. The book we will be discussing today with Ms. Carol Cassada is her novel “Going Home Again”. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today Ms. Cassada.
It is always so much fun to get to know a little of the behind the scenes of our favorite authors, and we are anxious to learn more about the lady behind the words. Would you like to tell us a little about your life? Where you are from, and what family is near and dear to your heart?
I'm twenty-five and live in Ringgold, VA, a small town with nothing much to do. I'm a middle child with two brothers; they along with my father teased me a lot growing up. I have a very close relationship with my mother; she's always supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams.
Have you always had the writing bug, and when did you really start making it a full-time commitment?
I became interested in writing when I was about sixteen, it was a very difficult time for me, my parents were going through a divorce and I used writing to create my own little fantasy world and escape from all my problems. I took creative writing in classes in high school and college, I enjoyed it so much that I decided this is something I'd want to do for the rest of my life and in December 2008 I wrote Going Home Again and the rest as they say is history.
Has romance always been your first inclination in writing, and do you plan to keep with this genre, or branch out into something completely different?
The only books I read growing were about ghosts, monsters, and the paranormal; wasn't much of a romance reader, but I did watch a lot of soap operas which helped me get a sense of romance and drama. When I decided to make writing my career I thought about going into romance because it's one of the most popular book genres, so I read Harlequin novels to get inspiration. After the first book I was hooked and settled on romance as the genre to write. As for how long I plan to keep with the genre that's a hard question to answer, for the moment my focus is on romance, but down the road who knows, I may decide to write horror, science fiction, or a children's book, just have to wait and see.
There is so much excitement wrapped up in publishing your first novel. How did this step make you feel, and do you think that feeling will ever change?
As any writer will tell you, getting published is hard; you write query letters, send them to numerous companies, and patiently wait. For me that's the toughest part, I was constantly checking my email a dozen times a day waiting for a response. I got a few rejection letters and it's a blow to your self-esteem, there were times when I thought my book wasn't good enough and maybe I should just call it quits. Then I got the acceptance letter and contract from Romance Divine, there was no greater feeling in the world, I spent the last few months pouring my heart and soul into this book and now to have it published was a dream come true.
I really enjoy reading a wide variety of up and coming authors in multiple genres, mainly because I feel they have a much fresher and more unique take on things. How do you keep the spark alive in your writing? Does is it ever worry you that it could get stale or predictable?
It's does cross my mind maybe my writing's too cliche, I felt that way with Going Home Again; big shot woman returns home to reunite with her high-school sweetheart, there's been hundreds of books with the same plotline and people may tire of reading another. But with my writing I try to add plot twists to keep readers interested, just when they think Rachel and Cole are gonna reunite and live happily ever after, a problem erupts keeping them further apart. I like to have my book with lots of surprises to keep readers hooked and guessing what's gonna happen next.
In your book “Going Home Again” there is a huge amount of emotional overload for Rachel’s character, her mother’s death, and the dissention with her boyfriend. I imagine it is very difficult to get into someone’s psyche like this, and then be able to put it down on paper. How do you formulate this type of drama without going over the top or making it feel watered down?
As a writer I didn't want to go way over the top, I wanted to make the situation as simple and believable as possible, something the readers could relate to. I try to think of myself in Rachel's shoes, how would I react in this situation. Like her I tend to keep my feelings bottled up inside and be strong, then all at once when something goes wrong I get emotional, the same way she reacted when her mother died, she tried to be strong for her sisters, but once she got to the funeral she burst into tears.
When it comes to Rachel finding out about her boyfriend's infidelity, she's upset at first, then she decides to cut her losses, become a stronger woman, and change her life for the better. Me personally I would've given him more than a slap in the face, I'd want to torture him more and make him suffer.
I love that Rachel is so close to her sisters and her grandmother, but yet she is still independent enough to move away from home and make her own life. Does your sense of family play a great part in how you develop the relationships of your characters, and how they interact with each other, and how does this happen for you?
Some of the characters are based loosely on my family, and this helped me develop the relationships of the characters, especially Rachel and her mother. As I mentioned earlier my mom and I have a close relationship and that helped me write the bond between Rachel and Nancy; she encouraged Rachel to follow her dreams even though it meant she'd have to leave home, that's the way it is with my mom, if I had to move away to further my career, she'd be sad, but at the same time she'd be supportive.
Another thing I like is Edie's preaching the importance of family and there's one line where she says "That's the thing with families, they can get on your nerves, you have arguments and fights, but deep down you never stop loving them." Everyone can relate to that, including myself, even though my family and I have disagreements and our little quarrels, we love each other and will always be there for each other.
We also get a glimpse into the heart of Rachel’s long ago boyfriend Cole. He comes off as a very loving and honest young man, but one whose heart was more than a little bruised by Rachel’s decisions. Where do you find the best inspiration for your male characters, and is it hard to make them emotionally honest without emasculating them in the process?
I got most of my inspiration from soap operas and other romance novels, a big stereotype for men is they're supposed to be tough, which all women love, but they also want a man who's not afraid to show his sensitive side. That's what I wanted with Cole, a handsome, rugged man, who has an emotional side, the hero women could root for. In a way I think it's hard to make a male character emotionally honest without emasculating them, while women are touched by Cole's softer side and his love for Rachel, men on the other hand would say, "Snap out of it boy, there's other fish in the sea." In the end, I think I made a good combination of him being tough and sensitive at the same time, for instance the scene outside the bar where Rachel breaks his heart for the second time, he shows his emotional side, yet he shows his tough side when he tells Rachel she's changed, then storms off. I think readers cheered for him in that scene.
Losing a close family member is terribly difficult to deal with, and everyone has their own coping mechanisms. It is amazing to see the diversity in how Rachel and her family handle their grief. Is this something that took a great deal of research and/or soul searching to accomplish, and how did this affect you personally?
I admit I teared up a few times during those scenes; they were the toughest to write. People grieve in diverse ways and I wanted to show the different methods through the characters. Edie, Laney, and Rachel are the best examples of mourning in various ways. Edie lost her only daughter and she tried to push it out of her head by keeping herself busy cooking and cleaning. Laney being the youngest had anger issues over the car accident locked herself in her room cut off from the rest of her family. Rachel being the oldest tries to put up a brave front and tough it out for her family. Then one by one having them break down revealing their feelings and allowing others to comfort them showed the strength of their family.
"Going Home Again” is a wonderful read, full of the ups and downs of love and relationships, and I am thrilled to learn that you will have a new book coming out soon. Can you give us a little insight to your next novel “Westmore”, and when can we look forward to seeing it on the market?
Westmore is the first in a series of volumes, it's a literay form of a soap opera, it has everything; romance, drama, and suspense. It's set in a fictional New England town and revolves around three families: The Greens, The Braxtons, and The Reynolds. The characters experience may heartaches, joys, and towards the end of the book a tragedy happens affecting all the families. Currently I'm trying to get it published and when I do, I'll update everyone.
Getting to know new authors is the best part of this interviewing process, and I thank you once again for joining us today! We all look forward to reading more of your work for many years to come, and wish you all the luck with your next book. Have a wonderful day, and please stop in to chat with us sometime!