Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, with translations in 24 languages. Born and raised on the western edge of the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir in rural Massachusetts, Carla grew up with tales of her father’s life as a Dutch sailor and her mother’s childhood in northwest Florida.
At a young age, Carla began penning her own stories on a branch high up in her favorite sugar maple. Now she enjoys spending time at the family homestead (now a tree farm) with her six brothers and sisters and their families.
When she’s not writing, Carla loves to travel, hike, kayak, garden, and, of course, dive into a good book. She lives with her family in Vermont, not far from picturesque Quechee Gorge.
When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it's partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family's connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.
Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable assets—a deep–cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He's back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent's long–held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—the very intriguing Emma Sharp is at the center of it all.
A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin in the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.
Carla, welcome to Romance Author Buzz. Is there a back story to Saint’s Gate?
Emma Sharpe, the heroine of SAINT'S GATE, started to take shape while I was on one of our trips to the Maine coast. I was walking on the rocky coast in the fog and could picture an FBI agent -- a woman -- arriving at an isolated convent...and I knew something bad happens and that she has a past that involves the convent. Visualizing that initial scene helped Emma take shape. I think many of us have aspects of our past (or our present!) that we don't talk about not because we're hiding anything but because it's just complicated. That's Emma!
How long have you been writing and what was your call story?
I've been writing since I was a kid. I grew up in rural western Massachsuetts with six brothers and sisters and would climb a tree with a pad and pen and sit on my favorite branch and write. I did that right through college! In fact, I've started a new blog, "Out on a Limb," that arises out of that feeling of being up on that branch! I'd also sit on a rock in the middle of the wide brook across from our house and write. The first book I sent to an agent, THE VENUS SHOE, wasn't the first book I sold, but it did eventually launch a series of romantic suspense novels published by Avon.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?
Writing was a dream for me early on but I wrote because I loved telling stories. I still do! I started out at the Boston University College of Fine Arts as a music major but switched to journalism, and I freelanced after college. I was lucky enough to sell a book early on. I submitted my first manuscript to an agent right after my daughter was born. I'd type while she was on the blotter next to me! Then she learned to roll over, and I put her on a mat on the floor. :-)
Do you plot your stories or let your characters lead you?
A little of both. It depends on the story but I've discovered there's a basic pattern to how I write. With SAINT'S GATE, I could see Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan before I knew exactly what they were up to. That's not unusual, although sometimes it's the other way around: I'll know what the characters are up to but not exactly who they are! I knew Colin would be an undercover agent with questions about Emma, and that Emma's past with the convent where she finds a murdered nun plays a role in the story. I wrote up a brief synopsis that became a jumping off point. My synopses are never precise road maps but they do give me a sense of the story as a whole. Then I started writing, to get a feel for Emma, Colin and their story, and after 50 pages or so, I came up for air and figured out what was what. That's pretty much how I write most books. I've tried different approaches, but I think as writers we're happiest and most productive when we're true to our own creative process.
Of all of your characters, do you have a favorite you identify with and why?
Interesting question! Each character comes to life for me at some point in the writing process. If Emma Sharpe walked into my house, I'd recognize her. Same with any of the characters in my books. I don't see them as extensions of myself but that doesn't mean their likes, dislikes, struggles and triumphs don't resonate with me. I can identify with Emma's struggle to not let others stereotype or define her based on her past. I think many readers will be able to identify with that struggle, even if they never spent time at a convent!
What are you currently working on?
I just finished editing SECRETS OF THE LOST SUMMER, which is due out in February 2012. It's my return to contemporary romance! I had the idea for a long time, and I'm so passionate about this book. It's set in a fictional small town on the edge of the Quabbin Reservoir -- not all that different from where I grew up. I drew on the history of the four towns that were wiped off the map to create the reservoir in the 1930s. Olivia Frost, my graphic designer heroine, deals with betrayal, dashed dreams, new dreams, long-lost treasure and a very sexy hockey player. Such fun to write! I've just gone back to working on HERON'S COVE, the next book after SAINT'S GATE in my Sharpe & Donovan series. Emma and Colin are in a real mess this time!
What is the best thing about your job as an author? What is the hardest thing?
The best thing is doing what I love, getting to work with great people who also love books and writing and talking with and meeting readers. There's nothing quite like talking with readers about a new author they've discovered, or a book they've just read and love. The hardest thing? The uncertainties, but I think most of us face uncertainties in our lives and work. Just have to focus on the present and enjoy the day!
If you were invited on a show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
Something to do with crossroads, I think. I love to talk about SAINT'S GATE but I'm a writer not a producer! Gah. Hm. A woman caught at the crossroads of art and murder...and at a personal crossroads as an FBI agent...I like that.
Describe a day in the life of Carla Neggers.
Since I'm not particularly regimented, I don't have a lot of typical days, but I do rise early, dive into a pot of coffee, walk (provided it's above zero!) and get started on the work at hand. I love to write in the morning but I can write anytime, anywhere. I haven't climbed a tree with a pad and pen lately, though, as I did as a kid!
What is something you definitely want readers to know about you?
That I love to write today as much as ever. I'm bursting with stories and creative energy!
When the time comes for you to retire from writing, what would you like your readers to remember the most about you and your writing?
Retire from writing???????
Who is your favorite author?
I don't have one favorite, but I love to read. This summer I've reread several novels by Mary Stewart, REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier and OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. I also try to keep up with books by my writer friends!
What are you currently reading?
THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE by Todd Henry. It's non-fiction and one of the best books I've ever read on the rhythms of a creative life. I recommend it to anyone who works in a creative field. Terrific!
Before I let you go is there anything I forgot to ask that you want the readers and fans to know?
I think we've covered the waterfront! Thank you so much!! This was fun. Great questions. I'm still thinking about that theme one... ;-)
Carla, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me!
To win a copy of Saint's Gate, follow Carla on Facebook and Twitter. Tell her what you thought of her interview here. Please leave your email so that you can be contacted. Contest is for US residents only. Winner will be announced September 25th.