Caryl McAdoo has always loved to write, and her first book debuted in ’99. For the next nine years, she averaged a title a year, from four presses: two non-fiction, four novels, and three mid-grade chapter books.
In April 2012, she attended a writers’ conference and met a literary agent who asked if she could write an historical romance. Four months later, Caryl signed a contract with that agent—and two months later Vow Unbroken sold to Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Caryl and her husband, Ron, live on a farm in northeast Texas.
Detours, while unplanned, are often God working in our lives. Has He ever provided an unexpected “detour” that changed your life for the better?
Oh my yes, Kathy! A recent major divine detour was moving from Irving, Texas, my almost lifelong home—for the last forty-six years, my husband’s for fifty-six years—to Red River County three hours north and east from the DFW Metroplex. That was in 2008. We knew no one here. We had no job to come to. But God blasted us out of Irving, and we knew this was where He wanted us. My husband actually mentioned living in a tent when we first arrived, citing Abraham and Sarah : ) But Praise God for providing a little farm house on eleven acres—plenty of room for our horses and goats—on the county line road, and we lived on the right side! Red River County is known as The Gateway to Texas, and we’ve been praying for Texas so many years!
We thought the farm house was temporary, so I didn’t even unpack everything. We lived there five years until God gave us a brand new house in the woods a few miles south of Clarksville, the county seat. I named it The Peaceable. We got to choose everything from floor plan to wall paint, but didn’t pick up one bill. God provided it all! I know, amazing, right? He is indeed, and it isn’t only His grace that’s amazing either!
An older major detour came in 2002 when God filled our empty nest (after only one year of being alone together having reared our four children) with four grandsons. The boys were six, four, three, and newborn then. The oldest is a senior in high school now, the baby eleven, and moving them to the country has been an awesome change for the better for all of us!
How does your faith play into your writing?
Before meeting my agent, Mary Sue Seymour, I wrote with my husband and we wrote ‘clean’ novels and mid-grade stories, but steered away from putting in very much of our relationship with God thinking it would lessen our chances to be published. But Mary Sue suggested I write a historical Christian romance and wanted me to join ACFW. I did both, and being able to open up and write about faith, relationship, scripture and Godly principles set me free!
Miraculously, God made a way for me to go to the ACFW Conference, and I was absolutely overwhelmed to know there were so many Christian authors and that God blesses them all. I’m thrilled that He is moving in the realm of entertainment and expect to see many more Christian films made from all the wonderful scripture based novels being written. Things, they are a’changin’, and I am so very blessed to be a part of His plan!
At our writers’ group, a retired teacher and historian in this area read about the farmers of Red River County in the early 1800s taking their crops to market by wagon train on the Jefferson Trace. His story inspired the journey of Susannah Baylor in Vow Unbroken. She’s a young, spunky widow rearing her young daughter and orphaned nephew alone in 1832. She’s baled her best cotton crop ever and thinks she has it sold locally so waves goodbye to her neighbors.
Four days later when she delivers her lint, the unscrupulous buyer reneges and offers only half of his original bid for her cotton. This infuriates her and she determines, one way or another, she’ll get her crop to market on her own. It’s a dangerous hundred miles and her best friend convinces her not to try it alone. But the only available man who might go is a ne’er-do-well of bad reputation, Henry Buckmeyer.
Reluctantly, she hires him and off they go. Since their story is a romance, you can guess they fall in love, but he is a heathen, and she’s made a vow not to remarry without her father’s blessing. There seems to be no way, but we know that God can always make a way, and that is my story of love, determination, forgiveness, and relationship.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
So! You’ve noticed that, too! Well, Sue is a lot like me. She’s a little hard headed, stubborn, and/or opinionated. She’s impatient and quick to jump to conclusions, which often gets her in trouble. She blames herself for the tragedy in her life and constantly beats herself up over it, but she loves God with her whole heart and pleasing Him is the desire of her heart above all else.
My dear husband (high school sweetheart and best friend) often warns me when I’m fixin’ to leap into something I shouldn’t—as Henry does Sue—but I usually don’t listen. I’ve found myself paying more attention to his wisdom these days after seeing how Sue could have made her life so much easier had she not kept butting heads with Henry : ) Please don’t tell Ron I said that : )
What’s next for you?
Only God knows! I have the first book, Starfish Prime, of a mid-grade trilogy, The King’s Highway, at a publisher’s now waiting for a contract! I’ve got book two, Heart Stolen, ready and waiting for VOW’s follow up, and book three, Hope Reborn, more than half written. Since I’ve been writing almost thirty years, there’s also plenty of old-new stories already written just waiting for God to pull the trigger on.
He put it in my heart to write, guided Ron and I to the DFW Writers’ Workshop where we were mentored and learned our craft over fifteen years of membership, then moved us to Red River County which became the setting for these historical romances, introduced me to Mary Sue, my agent, and sold Vow Unbroken to Simon and Schuster’s Howard Books. So I know He has a plan. I’m along for the wonderful ride wanting only to bring Him glory!
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Anything with tomatoes and jalapeños : ) Our country city of Clarksville is blessed to have Rio Verde, a fantastic little restaurant that makes a “Steak Mexican” I think I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week, but I only have it now and then. Ron takes me there to celebrate.
And on my desk is almost always a 9 oz. bag of Lindor irresistibly smooth milk chocolate truffles. They’re great for writer’s block. I mean, they’re amazing! : )
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
My name Caryl (pronounced carol) means joyful song. Since the ’80s, God has blessed me with new songs! Mostly praise and worship, but also family songs—one for each of Grami’s fourteen grandsugars, my Mama, my Mean Old Uncle Jim’s retirement and fun children’s tunes to go with our (co-authored with O’Pa) mid-grade chapter books.
The Lord’s even given me Susannah’s Ballad, a love song my Vow Unbroken heroine would sing. I’ll probably share it at a few of my Launch Parties. I’d sing it for you if you had a player on your website : )
I’m liable to break out into song at any minute as the melody strikes me, used to embarrass my daughter when she was little singing at the grocery store or her school. But now she does the same thing, and her daughters cry, “MOTHER! PLEASE!” When she was five or six, she told a little friend of hers, “My mama knows all the words to all the songs, even the ones she hasn’t heard.”
Yes, I am a singer lady. And my best times in this life are when the Spirit carries me to His throne in praise and worship!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I would be a praise song extolling the greatness of my Abba! I would be so bouncy and happy that believers who sang me couldn’t keep their feet still even if they wanted to—they’d just have to dance! With much forte, I would usher them into His Holy courts with blasts from shofars and flutes, guitars and drum rolls. Then. I would stretch out my melody long and slow down my exultation, go into a pianissimo that guides His children to worship, into the Holy of Holies where they would bow down. They and I would then be silent and breathe in His manifest presence.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Most definitely and unhesitantly, the strong female lead. I was the firstborn and Mama’s only child for eight years. My ability to take charge and get things done was one of my qualities that attracted my Ron, although he’s become the king of our castle, my ‘head,’ and I do my best to submit as unto the Lord—though sometimes, I forget and have to repent later. Yes, I’m a lot like Susannah in Vow Unbroken : )
I have always loved horses, since I can remember, and still have my Strawberry Bliss who was born on my birthday in 2001. I also love Nigerian dwarf goats and had a herd of eighty at one time. I used to milk a dozen twice every day, but just don’t have the time for that anymore. Their guardian when we were in Irving and had the River Bottom Ranch was a Great Pyrenees named Amazing Graci, now we have another Pyr, our precious Zoe.
On VOW’s cover is our ‘Roo’—full name Franklin Doganor Roosevelt! He helped with the goats at our little farm house and tried to herd the horses, too. When I corresponded with the graphic artist Simon and Schuster assigned my cover to, Kirk DouPonce at DogEared Design, I told him about a major character in the book named Blue Dog based on Roo and sent Roo’s photo with a goat so Kirk could see what he looked like. I was beyond THRILLED when the first draft of the cover came and ROO was on it. All my kids love it, too! SO much fun!
Besides the outside dogs and about five barn cats (our 4th or 5th generations), I have two wee inside doggies. Mama, my Berri Bitti ‘Belle’ is half Yorkie, half Maltese, and her baby from breeding with a full blood 4 pound Yorkie named Thomas, is a little girl named Sassy, but though she loves me, Sassy Fras chose Ron and has my big ol’ bearded husband wrapped around her wee paw! : )
Thank you, Caryl! It’s been fun to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
It has so been my pleasure, Kathy! Thank you so much for having me! Aren’t we blessed to follow His Divine Detours! We serve a GOOD God! Hugs and blessings from Texas!
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To learn more about Caryl, visit her website.
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