by C.J. Darlington
Candace Calvert Interview
was millimeters from the fate of Christopher Reeve. It knocked the
wind out of me in more ways than one. During my recovery, I finally
learned the difference between being “strong” and having
strength. The difference is faith."
-- Candace Calvert
C.J.: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Candace: I can’t remember a time when I haven’t felt driven to write; it’s always been a passion and a great emotional outlet. I became serious about publication around ten years ago.
It was a riding accident that finally drove you to set pen to paper. Could you share with us that story?
Back in 1997, a series of very tough life experiences that I call The Triple Whammy, combined to land me “on the other side of the stethoscope” as patient in my own trauma room. I was thrown from my young horse, suffered multiple rib fractures, a bleeding lung, back fractures, a broken neck and a spinal cord injury. The neurosurgeon told me I was millimeters from the fate of Christopher Reeve. It knocked the wind out of me in more ways than one. During my recovery, I finally learned the difference between being “strong” and having strength. The difference is faith. I have no doubt it was God who scooped me up off the ground that day and believe with all my heart it was because He had plans for me. The inspirational account of that event, “By Accident,” appears in Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul and was my first published work.
What inspired you to write fiction after beginning with nonfiction?
My father was an amazing storyteller. I blame genetics for my tendency toward embellishment and dramatic flights of fancy.
Your first novels were comic mysteries for the general market. Share with us how you decided to write medical dramas for the Christian market.
My wacky cruise mysteries featured a nurse heroine—action-packed medical scenarios come naturally after three decades as an ER nurse. They were fun, but I felt a strong calling to return to inspirational work. It bothered me that very popular TV medical shows rarely addressed issues of faith, so I decided to help “Grey’s Anatomy find its soul.”
As a nurse who spent 30 years in the ER, you have a huge well to draw from! Do you ever find it challenging to distance yourself enough from your own experiences to write novels? Or is that not a problem for you?
Interestingly, I would have initially answered, “no problem.” After spending more than half my life in scrubs, I was sure I could write medical scenes in my sleep. But when my (wonderfully talented) Tyndale editors pressed me for more and more emotion (“Show us, make us cry!”), I realized that I’d been holding back to “protect” my readers. Much the same way I tried to shield my family from the gritty realities and heartbreak that were sometimes part of “what Mommy does at work.” When I dug deep, as my editors suggested, the story began to breathe—even if I had to relive some of those emotions to make that happen. But then, I didn’t hold back on the laughter and joy either, so it’s a great balance.
What was the most miraculous experience you had during your ER days? We’d love to hear stories!
Once, when resuscitating a woman, I’m certain I saw her glimpse heaven: in the midst of all our intrusive medical chaos, she was suddenly radiant and joyful, describing light, beauty, and “all those famous faces.” She was being welcomed and accepted that blessing. I’ll never forget how peaceful and happy she looked.
Share with us about Critical Incidence Stress and why you chose to write about it.
For rescue workers,
a “critical incident” is an event that
has enough emotional power to overwhelm usual coping mechanisms—even
though they encounter human trauma on a regular basis. Stress symptoms
can occur as a result of something as front-page dramatic as Ground Zero
New York or as private as a nurse’s lingering sadness after a heart-breaking
pediatric Code Blue. Without help, symptoms can worsen and become post
traumatic stress disorder, affecting work, relationships, health.
I’ve been a member of emergency teams facing very tough situations, and acted as a peer counselor for critical stress--part of the team that “heals the healers.” I wanted to give readers an inside glimpse into the lives—and faith struggles—of medical, rescue and law enforcement workers, heroes who put it all on the line for us every day.
What was the hardest part about writing your novel Critical Care?
Climbing back “into scrubs” emotionally. I shed a few tears on the keyboard. But I chuckled plenty of times, too.
Do any of the medical TV shows (or books for that matter!) get it right? :)
I watched “ER” in the early days and found it quite authentic, enough that I’d be tense, start second-guessing the next medication, get poised to rock and roll as part of the medical team. Then wondered: why am I doing this after working twelve hours in a real ER? It was overtime, not entertainment! But bottom line: these programs rarely show expressions of faith, which is disappointing and unrealistic. Trust me, countless prayers are sent heavenward from hospitals, by patients, family and plenty of medical staff.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
Romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. I hope to do both, one day.
Who are some authors you enjoy reading now, and why do you enjoy them?
In the CBA too many to list, and I’m delighted to have met many of these authors this past year. In the general market, I’ve recently enjoyed Sara Gruen and Jodi Picoult. These writers approach their stories with amazingly vulnerable and authentic voices, the dialogue is natural, the characters flawed, human and recognizable—imagery gorgeous, emotion . . . right there.
What authors or books have had the most influence on you as a writer?
I’ll choose a couple of writing books that have influenced me: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Bill Johnson’s, A Story is a Promise.
Do you ever find it challenging to head to your keyboard every day? What do you do when the words don’t seem to come?
“Heading to the keyboard every day,” as a full-time job is an almost inexpressible joy—I am still pinching myself. And so very grateful that God had this amazing plan for me. Getting “stuck,” hasn’t been a problem so far, but I find that ideas often come when I’m doing something physical, like gardening or exercising—or just floating in our pool and cloud-watching.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
That it’s difficult to find a balance between the writing life, family, work, recreation, and other pursuits—but it’s imperative to do that.
I hear there might be a medical suspense novel in your future?
You did? Seriously, though I have no immediate plans, I love suspense and I think it blends well with things medical. So maybe . . .
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m afraid of whales, and I never really learned to tie my shoes.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Travel, especially aboard cruise ships, cooking, bird-watching, Beth Moore Bible studies.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
An omelet with zucchini, onion, mushrooms and cheese.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Lemons, sun-tea, and an avalanche of salad dressings.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Hazelnut skinny latte, Tall. And, if it’s autumn, a glazed pumpkin scone!
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
A world cruise, learning to nap, moving closer to our grandchildren, and writing a bestseller of course.
When was the last time you cried?
Two weeks ago, when my husband sang karaoke with residents of an Alzheimer’s facility.
Three words that best describe you:
Funny, responsible, hopeful
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Country: Toby Keith, Josh Turner
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
The second book in the Mercy Hospital series will be released in January, and I’ll be posting Chapter One on my website at: www.candacecalvert.com. Please stop by!
Thank you, CJ and Titletrakk.com
readers, it’s been wonderful connecting
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.