Q&A: Cara Lynn James
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING A PATH TOWARD LOVE?
My primary goal was to tell a good story with an important theme for everyone, especially Christians. In A Path toward Love I wrote about betrayal and forgiveness. To me that effects all of us at some point in our lives. If we learned to forgive each other and relinquish our grudges, we’d have much more peaceful lives. But forgiveness involves letting go and sometimes that’s hard to do. Certainly, it’s difficult without the Lord’s help.
I also wanted to emphasize how seeking and following the path the Lord lays out for each of will bring spiritual joy. Worldly happiness—maybe yes, maybe no. But it’ll give up a purpose in life, something we all want, I think.
One of my goals in writing this book was to explore the lives of privileged people living during the Gilded Age. It’s interesting to explore what money or the lack of it can do to people. Although most Christians would deny it, sometimes we wonder if more money or more material things might increase our happiness or at least make our lives easier. Money could insulate us from a handful of our problems, but it wouldn’t take care of everything, including our self-absorption!
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF WRITING THE STORY?
Revisions. To make the story stronger I eliminated a few characters and tightened up the plot. I added a new beginning that took place in central Florida. I had to do quite a bit of research. But I love learning, so I can’t complain. My husband and I visited an orange grove and museums and learned the history of the area including the Great Freeze of 1894 and 1895 when the cold weather destroyed the citrus crop and crippled the industry for years. Since we live in Florida, it was only a three or four day trip including traveling.
Writing about central Florida and the Adirondack Mountains presented a challenge because I wasn’t quite as familiar with those areas as I was with Newport, Rhode Island, the location for the Ladies of Sumerhill series.
But I lived in northern Vermont for twenty years on the edge of the Green Mountains, so I knew I wanted to set a story in a mountain range. From my road I could see across the Champlain Valley and Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks. We spent our summers at our lake house (it was a cottage but called a camp in Vermont) right near the Quebec border. So I combined a lake with mountains and came up with my setting for the book. It made me nostalgic for the north and a little bit ‘homesick.’
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES FROM THE STORY WHERE YOU DREW ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE?
My heroine in A Path toward Love is Katherine Osborne, a young widow who discovers her husband was unfaithful and had a child with his mistress. I’ve been close to friends who, like Katherine, suffered from infidelity and unforgiveness. The pain of betrayal isn’t easy to overcome and forgive, but a person has to get past it to move on with their life.
It’s hard to relinquish anger, especially when it’s justified. The dilemma is, as Christians, we don’t have any other option. Unless we’re super-human--and most of us aren’t--we need God’s grace to let go and forgive the people who’ve hurt us. My main characters aren’t carbon copies of any real individuals, but from composites of several people I know with different experiences, but common emotions. I think we can all relate to pain inflicted by others and the anger that comes from it.
I set the story in an area of the country that I love. My husband and I also enjoy camping on a lake in the woods, so I adapted the outdoor elements to my story. Of course our little A frame camper isn’t anything like those Great Camps built by the turn-of-the-century millionaires, but the scent of camp fires, and fir trees are the same.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS GET OUT OF YOUR WORK?
I hope they get a few hours of reading enjoyment and maybe a ‘visit’ to a place they’re not familiar with.
WHY DO YOU THINK STORY SUCH A POWERFUL WAY TO COMMUNICATE TRUTH?
Unlike a sermon, fiction often conveys truth indirectly and more subtly, but sometimes it can have an even greater impact. Truth can be shown through the story characters’ lives, their weaknesses and strengths, and through the events that happen to them that demand hard choices. When I read or write a book, the characters come alive and seem almost real to me. I can relate to the character and experience their emotions, their indecision and their decisions, and their relationship to the Lord. I go through what they go through and maybe learn something from their experiences. I hope my readers can do the same.