Cara Lockwood, USA Today best-selling novelist, has edited several of my short stories and also worked on Salvation Station. We had a great conversation about writing, romance, plagiarism, and what it’s like to be a best-selling author. Cara and her family reside in Chicago.
Kathryn Schleich: Where did you grow up?
Cara Lockwood: I grew up in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. I was born in Dallas to an English-American mother and Japanese-American father, both native Texans as well.
KS: Did you always have the desire to be a writer?
CL: Always! I’ve wanted to write stories almost as soon as I learned to read.
KS: What’s the first piece you published?
CL: I think the very first piece of fiction was published in my high school literary magazine. My first novel was I Do (But I Don’t).
KS: I read the sequel, I Did (But I Wouldn’t Now) while I was in New York City with my niece. She told me, “That book sure makes you laugh a lot. You must really like it.” Which I did. How did you decide to write a second book featuring the Crandell sisters?
CL: Many people had been writing and asking me to revisit the lives of Lauren and Nick (main characters of I Do). I got the idea of writing a book from the perspective of Lily (Lauren’s little sister) and thought that would be the best way of exploring the characters with a fresh perspective.
KS: What’s your educational background and/or writing related employment?
CL: I earned a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania. Penn now has a creative writing house, but when I was there, I worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. My first job out of college was working for the daily newspaper in Austin, The Austin American-Statesman. I worked there four years and then decided I’d rather spend my time writing fiction. I quit the job and took a marketing writing gig while I wrote my first novel.
KS: What made you choose romance as the main genre you wanted to write in?
CL: I’ve always loved romances. I used to steal my mom’s Victoria Holt and Danielle Steele books to read them when I was in sixth grade.
KS: Do you write in other genres?
CL: I have, including young adult, paranormal, and suspense.
KS: The plagiarism scandal rocking the romance novel industry this year has impacted numerous hard-working authors and editors. With the advent of the internet, and access by writers around the world, the problem appears to be growing. Have you encountered your own works being plagiarized? If you have, what action did you take to put a stop to it?
CL: I haven’t found direct plagiarism, but I have found bootlegged digital copies of my books posted for free. I’ve had my publisher fight those copyright issues.
KS: What would you advise to authors who find themselves in that situation?
CL: If you have a traditional publisher, then let them (and their legal team) go to bat for you. If you’re an indie or self-published author, I’d call the plagiarist out on what they’re doing, ask them to cease and desist. But, I wouldn’t spend too much time obsessing over it. I think it’s good to remember that plagiarists never win. If you were talented enough to write something someone wanted to steal, then you’ve got what it takes to continue writing. You’ll write more stories, better stories, and the readers will love you for it. Keep on doing what you do best: writing. Everything else will fall into place.
KS: Excellent point. Do you have any tips for authors on how to avoid having their works plagiarized?
CL: I think it’s hard to protect oneself entirely, and, even worse, there are folks out there looking to take advantage of fears of plagiarism. For instance, I know some indie/self-published authors who have bought additional copyrights for their work, or hired freelancers to “register” their works, but this isn’t necessary. You own the right to your work the moment you type it into your computer. There’s no need to register your work, nor to pay someone else to register it. I think there are agencies out there trying to take advantage of fears of plagiarism, but the law in the U.S., at least, is pretty clear. (For more on copyright protection: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html)
KS: Let’s talk about writing your many novels. Do you have a specific writing process that works for you?
CL: I typically write the synopsis of my idea first, and then a general outline. It’s not too specific, because I like to improvise as I write, and also, I find the characters take on a life of their own once I get started. I also have a word count I have to hit every day, and do my best to hit it, regardless of how I’m feeling about what I’m putting down on the page. Editing later is a lot easier than writing from scratch.
KS: How has being a best-selling novelist changed your life?
CL: It’s changed my life in a number of ways. I never imagined being able to make a living writing and I am doing that. The best part is working in my pajamas. Sometimes I don’t get dressed until noon. I also never imagined how amazing it would be to connect with readers. They truly are the best and lift me up every day. Of course, none of my kids think I’m all that cool. I’m still just mom at home.
KS: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
CL: Read everything. Even bad novels can teach you about writing.
KS: On the other side, what advice would you give aspiring authors?
CL: Keep on writing. Success is 30% talent, 20% luck and 50% perseverance.
KS: What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
CL: I’d like to think I’ve entertained my readers and gave them a little escape. I don’t know that I’d have anything as fancy as a legacy!
KS: What projects are you currently working on?
CL: I’m working on a new romance for Harlequin, as yet untitled. In August, I published a new sizzling romance, Hot Mistake.
KS: Anything else you would like readers to know?
CL: Just a big old thank you. Without you, none of this would be possible!
KS: Thank you, Cara, for taking time from your writing to chat!
Cara writes all types of romance novels – funny, steamy, and just plain sweet. Several of her novels have been made into TV movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. Keep up-to-date on Cara’s many novels at her website: www.caralockwood.com. And look for Hot Mistake, available now on Amazon.