Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris). She was an editorial assistant at ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE, a submissions reader at ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY, and ran a boutique business called, The Word Source. When writing, Caron enjoys exploring the complexities of family relationships. Her stories are rich in emotion and delve deep into the intricate dynamics of love and heartbreak. She is currently at work on her third novel. Born on the west coast, Caron has lived all over the country and in Belgium, but now calls western Connecticut home. She and her husband have three grown children and an adorable grandchild who they visit often.
What is your latest book?
My second novel, The Lies We Keep was released in October 2015. Set ten years after the tragedies of 9-11, the story follows Alex Gershom from New York City across the country to Sedona, Arizona, where he tends horses and works at a restaurant at night. While on a cigarette break in the alleyway, he notices a woman hiding in the shadows, a ghost from his past that sets in motion the long buried memories of the life he left behind.
As a character-driven author, I really like the themes that you write about in your novels: the secrets people keep, the restoration of the human soul after tragedy, and much more. Do you find that you learn more about these topics through the process of writing about them? Will readers find any similar themes in future novels?
I definitely learn about human nature as I research and write. I learn from following my characters pathway, they show me who they are through their actions. I’m simply the medium for their stories. The idea for The Lies We Keep came from the notion of people who choose to disappear. Why do some people decide to walk away from their lives? Their families left to wonder if they are alive or dead. What would have to be so wrong for someone to walk away? There’s the obvious answers, financial trouble, crimes committed, abuse, addictions, avoiding fallout of some type. But what if there is no apparent reason? What went wrong inside that person? This is the story I was after with The Lies We Keep…these are the stories I’m always after.
In my first novel, Restoration, I asked myself the simple question, what would happen if life was going along just fine and in an instant everything changed when a man lost his wife, who happened to be the glue holding it all together? What would happen to him? Would he pull it together? Would he fall apart? I like to examine human pathos, the depth of emotional response to life’s tragedies, large and small. Why do some people pick up and move on so easily and others struggle to regain any sense of normalcy? Where does strength come from? Why are others so fragile? The more I write, the more I learn and the more I seem to be able to understand people. And yes, I’m sure I’ll be writing more on these themes.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
I write commercial/mainstream fiction, but some have suggested it leans toward literary fiction because of the depth of emotional content and the lessons learned by the characters. Others like to call my work, love stories, because there’s always love and heartbreak at the core. My most recent novel, The Lies We Keep is a suspense novel. I’m currently at work on a new novel that seems to fall under all of the above.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Every character is a compilation of people I have known, or know or even just see around town. It’s almost as if characters are created out of all my questions about life. Why is he so mean? Why does she talk so loud? What makes one person kinder and another cruel? I’m always wondering. And I’m always wandering! I’ve lived all over the country and in Europe and everywhere I go, people are basically the same. They want the same things. They may have different accents or speak another language, but for the most part, give or take a few lunatics along the way — everyone is after the same things. Security. Love — a good life. So yes, my characters are based on everyone I know and everyone I don’t know.
What else have you written?
For a while I was obsessed with writing super short pieces. Short-shorts. And verses. Poetry. I was never good at short stories. Although, I haven’t given up, I still try to write short stories. I have one in particular that I have revised over and over for the last seventeen years, never satisfied. I love reading short stories. Some authors are so good at telling a story in sparse, crisp detail. I’d love to be able to write that way. Like the story, Inventing The Abbotts by Sue Miller. Brilliant. I worked for a literary magazine in San Francisco called Zoetrope: All-Story. I would read through stacks and stacks of stories in the slush pile secretly hoping to learn more about the mysteries of short story. I’m still stunned when an author can take me in so deep, so quickly and finish up so fast leaving me totally satisfied. I’ve also written articles for town newspapers and was an editorial assistant writing restaurant reviews for a regional magazine. At one time, I had my own boutique business called The Word Source, and you name it, I wrote it – resumes, menus, and promotional ads, even medical transcription. When I was in the corporate world (payroll, accounting, and then sales), I also wrote the division newsletter. I guess you could say I’m always the writer. And I blog, like all authors are expected to these days, but in a run-on sentence type of way, as a way to break from the rules of prose. Oh, and I write killer love letters. But it’s novels I love to write most. That’s where my heart is happiest as a writer.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Everyday. When my husband comes home, I often say, “You’ll never guess what they did today.”
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I love the total immersion of the novel. Becoming obsessed with the story, the characters, and the settings. But, I hate when my knees and wrists begin to hurt after I write too long.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
Always in order — the characters drive the plot.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I always know the ending before I begin. I’ve listened to the characters for months before I sit down to write the story. There are surprises along the way, but I know where they are ultimately going. It’s almost as if I’m going back to the beginning to see how they got there. The title is important but I can start without it.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I write straight through on the first draft. Then Edit. Then Revise. Then edit, revise, and repeat until I’m satisfied.
After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
I’m fortunate to have a few close folks who tell me when I’m off the path, and a great editor who wields a big, red pen with abandon. And I love and appreciate them all.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Read. Read. Read. This is the way you learn.
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
You don’t want to hear my sad story! Let’s just pretend it was all fairy angels and pixie dust, and not hard work, determination, doors slammed in my face, a binder full of rejection letters and all those humiliatingly awful pitch sessions at writer’s conferences. No, it all happened in a beautiful dream. But seriously, I set goals for myself, I was polite and helpful and grateful to everyone and anyone who could point me in the right direction. I got involved, volunteered, took classes, joined writer’s groups, went to conferences, read at least forty books a year, worked for free in publishing to learn about the industry, and finally, when I was ready, I called myself an author, gave myself a five year deadline to write my first novel, find an agent and land a contract with a publisher. I met that five-year deadline by pushing myself, and others (politely) to be in the right place at the right time, by staying active and searching out every lead. You have to be your own advocate. You have to believe in yourself, and in your work. Successful authors create a great product, market and sell that product and are always setting new goals. Successful doesn’t necessarily mean bestselling. Being true to yourself, going after your dreams, and being realistic will keep you in the game. And here’s the biggest way to get published — just be nice. Believe it or not, having good manners goes a long way in the publishing industry.
What do you like best about the books you read?
I love books that stay with me long after I’ve read them.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I knew early in life I wanted to be an author. I loved wandering the stacks at the library and visited the bookmobile every week at the park near my house growing up. There’s nothing better than getting lost in the pages of a good book and I wanted to do the same thing, write those kinds of books.
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
I live in a quintessential New England village about an hour north of New York City. After living in thirteen different cities in thirty years, my husband and I struggle to figure out where we will retire. There are so many places we love. But if we had to move again, and it wasn’t a transfer for my husband’s work, I’d probably want to move closer to our three adult children. And luckily, they live in really cool places.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
Automobiles. Always love a good road trip. It’s the only time I eat candy bars from gas stations.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
I’d hang out at the White House. With an invisible pen and notebook.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My husband and three children, they’re the gift that keeps giving.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
To hit a homerun, as in — be athletic.
What music soothes your soul?
Classical. (And okay, Adele)
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Stay calm. Tell the truth. Be kind.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Walking in nature. Babies laughing. Church bells. Fresh flowers. Big hugs. Warm baths. Clean sheets. Train stations. Sunny days. First snow. Waves breaking. Sunset.
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