Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse and author of the Mercy Hospital, Grace Medical, and Crisis Team series. Often called “medical hope opera,” her stories offer readers a chance to “scrub in” on the exciting world of emergency medicine. Wife, mother, and very proud grandmother, Candace makes her home in northern California.
How to connect with Candace...
Get to know Candace Calvert
How did you start writing?
Many folks already know that my writing career got a dramatic jumpstart when I suffered serious injuries in a fall from a horse—a nurse landing in her own ER with a broken neck and spinal cord damage. During my recovery, I had a strong sense I’d been spared for a reason. When my inspirational account of that accident was chosen for Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, I knew God was calling me to write.
Emilie here: Oh wow! I didn't know this and that is amazing!
Tell us a little bit about your book...
Why did you write this book?
Step by Step is the second book in my Crisis Team series, stories that honor selfless and compassionate community volunteers—chaplains who offer solace to survivors after life-altering tragedy. True unsung heroes. It’s my privilege to honor them.
That said, I’ll admit to having had a writer’s crush on story hero Seth Donovan since the moment this big-hearted chaplain walked on scene in By Your Side. He has a regrettable past, a passionate new calling, a bum knee, and a gangly Labrador puppy— a man described by our story’s heroine as “a mix of well-worn teddy bear and fearsome warrior.” Who could resist that?
Emilie here: Um, he sounds pretty fantastic!
What is the story’s theme?
The theme of Step by Step centers around our need for personal control and the reluctance to put our lives in God’s hands—even when everything is falling apart around us. I especially loved showing nurse Taylor Cabot’s efforts at control by giving her an activity tracking bracelet. She counts her calories and exercise effort—“step by step.”
And, um . . . I suppose I should admit here that I own a Fitbit.
Emilie here: Hehe! Everyone keeps raving about these...and, admission: I kind of want one.
Did you face any challenges writing this story?
It was particularly challenging to write from the point of view of Step by Step secondary character, ER nurse Sloane Wilder. She’s a brittle and complex character, easy to dislike because of her actions and outward attitude. Yet, because Sloane will be a continuing character, I had to offer readers a hint of softness and vulnerability beneath that prickly exterior. I needed them to risk caring for her even a little; to want to understand what made Sloane the way she is. It was an intriguing task. And, in the end, I enjoyed it very much.
How many rejections did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
It took me literally 100 queries to find an agent to represent my work—that meant 99 rejections.
Then, even with a top notch agent (Natasha Kern), it was more than two years before we secured a first publishing contract. I learned, I honed . . . and I printed off reams of paper. In those days, manuscripts were submitted hard copy. Returned (rejected) manuscripts arrived in a disappointing thunk in the mailbox. I have writer friends who left wrapped candies, tootsie roll pops, etc. to appease the “mail gods.” I’ll admit to planting good luck kisses on manuscript boxes.
Emilie here: I think it's something I'm starting to realize on my own publishing journey--a book is not written nor published in a day! Time can be a good thing thought (at least that's what I keep telling myself).
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Here are some things that helped me:
- Study craft (I initially took online classes)
- Make connections with other writers/published authors. Insider glimpses help so much with navigating this biz.
- Join ACFW. Completely invaluable.
- Attend conferences/workshops. Not only do you learn, but you make those all-important networking connections.
- Read widely. Successful writers are avid readers.
Are you a Pantster or Plotter?
A mix, probably. I always know the opening scene (high adrenaline, emotive action), the climax and Dark Moment, and how it will all end. I’ve learned to grit my teeth and jot down a brief synopsis covering those points. Then I start writing, letting the characters talk, fight, fall in love, and generally fill in the blanks. I especially love it when minor characters pop up and introduce themselves. Like the wise and wonderful former rodeo clown in Trauma Plan, an abused one-eyed donkey in Code Triage, the elderly California-hippie coffee shop owners in Disaster Status . . . My office gets crowded.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
(Unlike many writers) I really love the editing process—snipping, tweaking, and shaping that manuscript. I always joke that it’s like topiary gardening, and I’m a happy Edward Scissorhands.
What I enjoy least is the “tick, tick, tick” of multiple deadlines. Being creative under pressure is an enormous challenge. I’m SO not a math person, but you’d better believe I break down the process into daily word counts and set written goals/dates for percentages of completion. I plan it so I’m finished early enough to let the work “steep” for a few weeks, then revisit it with fresh eyes before deadline.
Emilie here: Yeah, I'd have to say at this moment I don't love the editing process near as much as I probably should...realizing that it does shape the story. But I am with you on breaking it down! I do that with my daily word counts too.
All right, let’s keep things real: Flowers or chocolate . . . or books?
I have to choose? Well, maybe a book that offers (along with action, love, humor, tears) some yummy dessert scenes, the occasional romantic flower bouquet, and . . . Hey, wait. I write that.
What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentine’s date or gift?
Way back (before I met my amazing husband, aka “Mr. Bond”), a guy I was dating sent an enormous bouquet of long-stemmed red roses to the ER. Right to the nurses’ desk in front of the entire staff and all the patients. I think I nearly blushed myself onto a trauma gurney. Much later, it served as research: the revised rose scene appears in Trauma Plan.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished (and heartily endorsed!) Carla Laureano’s Under Scottish Stars, the final book in The MacDonald Family Trilogy.
Emilie here: Thank you so much for being my guest Candace! Readers, I got the distinct pleasure of taking headshots for this lovely lady and she is just the sweetest person you'll every meet! Seriously! I am so happy I could snag her for a few minutes to share some insights into her writing and her writing life. Don't forget to leave a comment below for her to enter to win a copy of this amazing book!
Debra E. Marvin on the blog last week and she offered up a copy of her new release (with Susanne Dietz, Anita Mae Draper, and Gina Welborn - all ladies I just LOVE!) and we've got a winner:
Congrats Laruie - I know you're going to love this compilation!