A little bit about Kara...
Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two Hobbit-sized children.
Connect with Kara...
Purchase: Can't Help Falling
Get to know Kara...
Let's talk about your book...
Why did you write Can't Help Falling?
The high level concept for Can’t Help Falling came in a Skype conversation with my editor-to-be before I received my book contract. Howard Books wanted to acquire my debut novel, Close To You, but also wanted a second book that was somehow thematically linked. Close To You has a J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings theme running through it. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were part of the literary group known as The Inklings at Oxford University and so I pitched the idea of the second book with a C.S. Lewis / Chronicle of Narnia theme because I’ve been a huge Narnia fan since I was very young. Thankfully she loved it! When I signed my contract in February 2015 all it said about the second book was that it would be set in Oxford and have a C.S. Lewis connection – everything else was left up to me 😀
What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
Can’t Help Falling was easily the toughest of my five manuscripts that I’ve written. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer meaning I don’t have a detailed plot laid out before I start writing. Usually, I let characters bounce around in my head for a few months before I try to put any words on the page but with only eight months from signing the contract to turning the manuscript in I had to start writing straight away. Writing a manuscript under contract for the first time, while also doing four rounds of edits on Close To You and juggling a day job and two preschoolers was a huge challenge. I can’t say I conquered it! What I turned in at the end of October 2015 was far from where it needed to be and big rewrites were required over Christmas to pull it all together. If it wasn’t for God, my incredible husband, my critique partners and my amazing editor I couldn’t have done it.
Peter and Emelia were both really difficult characters to pin down. It wasn’t until the developmental edits that I felt like I was coming to grips with what made them tick. Unlike Jackson and Allie in Close To You, they are both quite private and reserved characters and so writing them in a way that was both true to who they are but still created tension in scenes was an adventure!
What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
LOL. So many things! Since I have never been to Oxford and didn’t know anything about rowing before I started writing this book Google and YouTube became two close compatriots. I Googled everything from the menu at a pub they eat at, through to pictures of venues they visit, to train schedules, to the types of rowing sculls an elite athlete might use. Probably the most random was I spent a lot of time on a website that specialized in athletic rowing gear working out what a character would wear in a particular scene only for that scene to get cut during rewrites 😀
What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book?
Emelia’s cousin, Lacey, surprised me. Because of her history of being let down by people, Emelia doesn’t easily let people in and the story needed someone who knew the secret she is hiding, is on her side, but also unafraid to challenge her and could act as a foil to Emelia’s more serious nature. I was grappling with who that character could be and my husband was like “just give her a cousin or something!” Once I put Lacey on the page she just took on a life of her own!
Let's talk a little bit about your writing process...
How long did you write before you got published?
It was just over ten years from the first time I opened a laptop with the crazy idea that I might try to write a book to Close To You being published.
What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Enter contests and learn how to really process and apply criticism. The first time I entered a writing contest my scores were abysmal. I was in an airport and I stood in the departure lounge bawling! (Lesson #1: never ever open a contest scoresheet in public if you don’t know what will be on it!) As tough as some of those judges’ comments were over the years (I had one who once told me my entry had caused her to lose the will to live!) it means that once your books are out there you are better equipped to deal with the negative reviews that inevitably come.
How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I honestly lost count (and some I never even saw because they went to my agent). I can tell you that I have been rejected by every medium-large Christian publisher – most of them more than once!
Are you a Panster or Plotter?
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My least favorite is the first draft. It’s horrible and messy. I’m basically throwing words at the page hoping some of them stick and that eventually I’ll work out what on earth this story is really about. I have a lot of favorites: seeing the short list of possible covers for the first time, line edits when my editor is in the manuscript with me line by line, and getting to work with all the amazing people at Howard Books.
What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement?
As much as having a publishing contract has been a dream come true, even more valuable has been all the friendships I’ve made along the way. Some of my best friends are people that I never ever would have met if it wasn’t for our shared writing dreams bringing us together. Even if I had never received a book contract it still would have been worth it and when I did receive it the joy was magnified so many more fold because of all the amazing people celebrating with me 😀
How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
My husband is an extrovert so we worked out early in the process that it worked well if I “scheduled” in his calendar times when I was going to be on a deadline and holed up in my writer’s cave. That way he knew he should make his own plans. He’s happy because he’s seen a lot of “guy movies” over the last couple of years that he probably wouldn’t have other seen!!
What will you do for Thanksgiving?
Alas, we don’t have Thanksgiving in New Zealand (unless I can charm some American friends into inviting me to theirs!) I am expecting a baby in late November so I will either be whale-sized and very over it, in hospital, or wandering around in a newborn haze 😀
What is your favorite food of the Thanksgiving dinner?
I have heard that there exists a dish that involves sweet potatoes and marshmallows. In New Zealand sweet potatoes are something you only use in savory dishes so it’s on my Bucket List to try it one day!
What are three things you’re thankful for?
My family, that I live in a country with great medical care, and being able to see my books in the hands of readers.
What are you currently reading?
Made Well by Jenny Simmons, Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg and The Sea Keeper's Daughters by Lisa Wingate.
Emilie here: Kara is just the sweetest! I got to meet her at the ACFW Conference (pictured above) and our talk was lovely. I am so excited to have her here and for the fact that she's offering a copy of this STUNNING book. I mean...just look at it in appreciation 😍 Enter below!
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