Day 3 Cara Elliott – Celebrating Childhood, Friendship & Love

Childhood Lessons On Life & Love

I grew up in a family of avid readers, so ever since I can remember, books have been an integral part of my life. Words, pictures, the magic of a story unfolding with each turn of the page . . . But because my mother favored serious non-fiction works on history and cultural subjects while my brothers were fascinated by science fiction, “romance” wasn’t a genre on any of our bookshelves. Cara Elliott Sinfully Yours

So I was weaned on the classics — Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh. From there it was on to swashbuckling adventures of chivalry and valor, like Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Otto of the Silver Hand, and Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers saga.

But as I look back now, I realize that though I didn’t know it at the time, the real heart of romance was there in everything I read. The elemental themes in the stories that resonated with me were all about friendship, and how those bonds made the heroes and heroines — whether they were a spider, a bear, a princess or a knight in shining armor — stronger than they could be on their own.

Conflict, loss, disappointment, despair, hope, longing — all the complex emotions of real life were there in those many pages that filled my childhood reading hours, and the ultimate message, however subtle, was that it’s possible to triumph over any adversity with help of the redemptive power of love.

Think about it — that’s the common thread that stitches so many stories together, no matter what genre. From ancient myths and legends to history books and modern memoirs; from classic literature to chick lit, so many stories and true life tales celebrate Love and the resilience of the human spirit.

I was in high school when I first read Pride and Prejudice and I think it was at that moment, however subconsciously, that I understood the power of a romance novel to make us laugh, to make us cry, to make us dream, and most importantly to make us believe that however dark things may look, we should never lose hope that we can persevere and find our happily ever after. These days, there are many times when people raise their eyebrows and smirk when they hear that I write romance novels. Jane Austen encountered the same “disrespect,” and I love how she slyly answered her critics in a passage of Northanger Abbey: “It is only a novel … or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language”

Like Jane, I’m proud of what I do and the message that is at the heart of my books. Love. Hope. Have the courage to dream big dreams. And you know, when I fire back and say that’s romance books are all about, it’s amazing how quickly those smirks disappear.

So what about you—do you have a favorite book from childhood that celebrated friendship and love? Please share! Mine are The House at Pooh Corner and The Wind in the Willows.

Recommendations: There are SO many wonderful authors whose books I love—it’s hard to name just a few. That said, here are some of my automatic buys: Mary Jo Putney (and all my fellow Word Wenches!), Loretta Chase and Deanna Raybourn. It’s also always fun to discover new authors, and one recent addition to my shelves is Maggie Robinson, whose book, In the Arms of an Heiress,  was a delightful read.


 

Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

One summer during college, I toured all over Europe on a motorcycle with my boyfriend. It turned out to be all three of the things listed above! I tended to be cautious, so by daring to be daring, I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was adventurous, and along the way I learned to laugh at the bumps that inevitably pop up in the road. (Humor is very important in life!) And it was inspiring because seeing new places and meeting people from different cultures reminded me that being inquisitive and open to new things is how we grow as people. All three lessons were invaluable ones that have stuck with me to this day.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

Well, I actually wrote my first book at age five, (an illustrated Western!) so I guess I always know in my heart that I wanted to tell stories. However, writing got put on the back burner as I studied art in college, and went on to have a career in publication design (still loved word and pictures!) But books were always there in the back of my mind, and one day I just challenged myself to sit down and write one . . . and here I am. (Note to aspiring authors—dare to dream!)

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)The Fabulous Flight

I blogged about the influence of children’s books and their celebration of love and friendship, so I’ll choose The Fabulous Flight by Robert Lawson. It’s an amazingly inventive story of a boy whose scientist father accidentally shrinks him to a size of a mouse. He strikes up a wonderful friendship with Gus, a seagull . . . and suddenly the two of them are enlisted in a grand adventure that involves saving the world from Evil. It had everything I love to this day—adventure, mystery, love in the form of a special friendship, and a happily ever after. But most of all, it showed me at an early age the power of the imagination. The story whisked me off to a whole new world where anything was possible. I loved that about books, and it make me realize how much joy and inspiration they bring.

Cara is generously offering an e-book edition of Scandalously Yours, the first book in her Hellions of High Street trilogy. (Domestic only, apologies to international readers.) And don’t forget to enter the RARM Week 1 giveaway – A Month of Romance: 31 Novels from Berkley Romance authors.


Cara Elliott Author photoI began my writing career at age five with a number of lavishly illustrated Westerns, which were lovingly preserved for posterity by my first fan (Thanks, Mom!)

I have since moved on to Regency England, an era that has fascinated me ever since I picked up a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice.

Books have always been an important part of my life. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I’ve always had a very vivid imagination . . . so much so that I think at times it worried my parents that I was so happy in my own little world, drawing pictures and creating stories.

My teachers will also tell you that I was the class history geek, even in grade school. I don’t really know why, but I have always been fascinated with the past.

As an undergrad at Yale, I majored in art and went on to get a MFA in Graphic Design. So storytelling got put on the back burner for a while.

But The Muse kept whispering in my ear, and one day I sat down at the keyboard . . . and realized that writing is what I love.

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  • angryreader

    I was not familiar with this author and am pleased to find she writes in the period that most interests me! I will have to give her books a read!

    • Cara Elliott

      Thanks, Angryreader. I hope you will be Happyreader if you try one of my books.

      • angryreader

        I really am a happy reader! My username came about because I signed up for disqus in a political thread, and I was protesting a social injustice! Truly, when I read, especially romance, I am almost always a blissful reader!

        • :o) xoxo

        • Cara Elliott

          Glad to hear it. I’m always a happy reader when I have a book in my hands too!

  • Sharon Forbes

    I agree with you about family influencing your reading habits. I, too, come from a family of readers, we are always sharing books, talking about how we liked or disliked a book, etc. I also am a voracious reader, I especially love to read romances, but enjoy just reading, it’s so theraputic to me! I will have to give one of your books a read, haven’t read anything yet by you, but I bet it will be good!

    • Cara Elliott

      Raeding is truly theraputic. Whenever I get down, a good book makes the world feel brighter. Hope you enjoy one of my books!

  • pamela paterakis

    Have not read her books; but sounds like I have a new author!

    • Cara Elliott

      Awww, thank you, Pamela. That’s so nice!

  • Kylan Alexander

    Cara became one of my auto buys with her Circle of Sin series! Loved those ladies! I also really enjoyed Arianna and Saybrook in the Cocoa Conspiracy series she wrote as Andrea Pickens. 🙂

    • Cara Elliott

      Thank you SO much for the kind words, Kylan. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.

  • LisaVH

    The Fabulous Flight sounds like a book I might introduce to my son. Thank you for the recommendation.

    • Cara Elliott

      You’re very welcome, Lisa. I hope you and your son love it as much as I do.

  • Martha B

    I’m going to have to read your books – especially since historical (Regency) romances are what I read the most. I’ve read all of the authors you’ve mentioned. Somehow I’ve missed you… Yikes, how is that possible? Well, I’ll correct that as soon as I finish reading Not Quite a Wife (Mary Jo Putney). 🙂

    PS Which one of yours should I read first?

    • Cara Elliott

      Thank you, Martha! I love reading Regencies as well as writing them. LOL on your having to finish Mary Jo’s book. She’s been an idol of mine since I started writing, and I’m now lucky enough to be pals with her—I’m reading her latest and can’t put it down. I’d suggest you read SCANDALOUSLY YOURS first. It’s the first book in my latest trilogy, and I have a special place in my heart for the Sloane sisters.

      • Martha B

        Many, many thanks for your answer (and recommendation) about where to begin. It makes perfect sense to start with Book 1 of a trilogy. Sometimes, authors have so many different series, that I wonder where to start. BTW, I already looked you up (on your web site). I now know even more about you! LOL

  • Nicole Fortuna

    I am definitely going to try your books. I read a lot of historical romance and am always looking for new authors

    • Cara Elliott

      I appreciate that, Nicole! Glad you enjoy historicals!

  • Moriah

    I’ve love all your earlier books, but I’m a little behind with the current trilogy.

    • Cara Elliott

      Thanks so much, Moriah! Hope you enjoy the Sloane sisters and their heroes!

  • Emmel

    I have a special fondness for the Betsy/Tacy books. A great celebration of friendship, and the series moves into romance as well!

    • Cara Elliott

      Oh, a friend mentioned those books recently and I’m not familiar with them. Must go look them up. Thanks for stopping by, Emmel.

  • Meghan

    My favorite books when I was young included Nancy Drew novels and To Kill A Mockingbird. I think the latter definitely showed me that friendships are powerful and often come from unlikely places.

    • Cara Elliott

      Meghan, To Kill A Mockingbird had a powerful influence on me too—great freindship. (And Gregory Peck sets a pretty high bar as a hero!)

  • ki pha

    Hi Cara!!

    It’s great seeing which books changed or influenced you and your writing as you were growing up. As for me mine was The Giver by Lois Lowry when in was a 6 th grader. That book changed how I saw and read books. It was also one of the very first dystopian fiction novel and I still love it. And it’s still one of my favorites, besides Historical romances of course.

    • Cara Elliott

      Hi Ki! Thanks so much for stopping by to say hello. I am having such fun discovering new books suggested by all of you. I don’t know the Giver, but have added it to my TBR pile.

  • Patty Vasquez

    It’s funny, I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read The House at Pooh Corner. That’s how often that book sat in my lap! But the book- or book series- that really had the most impact on my reading is The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. It is a classic children’s fantasy of the pig-keeper, Taran, who with his mentors and friends, defeats the Shadow King, wins the love of the Princess Eilonwy, and becomes The High King. Technically, Taran was the first hero I fell in love with at the tender age of 12 (I still have a soft spot for him). I became a romance reader and a lover of the happily-ever-after because of that book series.

    • Cara Elliott

      Patty, Iadored Pooh, and still do. But am unfamiliar with the Prydain Chronicles. Will definitely look them up—they sound terrific.

      • Patty Vasquez

        I hope you get a chance to read, or at least skim through the books, some day. LLoyd Alexander was a gifted writer. He had a unique style, capturing the time and place of magic, castles, and kings. He won a Newbery Award for the final book in the series, The High King, in 1969.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I loved Anne of Green Gables! I liked her for her adventurous nature that got her into all kinds of trouble.

    • Cara Elliott

      Oh, that’s such a classic, Melissa. It always has to go on a top ten list of children’s books. But there are so many wonderful ones!

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    • Cara Elliott

      Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, Eileen.

  • Laurie Skinner Gray

    Thanks for the tip on The Fabulous Flight. I’ve never heard of the book, but will search for it now.

    • Cara Elliott

      I think you’ll enjoy it, Laurie.

  • Lynne Oberdieck Ernst

    The Fabulous Flight sounds wonderful. I think I will track to down to read with my daughters.

    • Cara Elliott

      Please do, Lynne. I just loved the imagination behind it, especially for its day. It was a magical read.

  • Thanks so much for joining us at RARM, Cara! Lovely to have you. One of my favorites was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Barnett. xoxo

    • Cara Elliott

      Thanks so much for asking me to be part of this fabulous celebration, Bobbi! That’s a wonderful choice of books. Ihope parents keep introducing their kids to books at an early age. Loving to read is such a great gift for a lifetime.

  • mariannewestrich

    You should share the illustrated western with your fans! 😎

    • Cara Elliott

      Ha! Interesting idea, Marianne. Maybe as a children’s book!

  • Gretchen Miller

    Quite nice

    • Cara Elliott

      Thanks, Gretchen.

  • Great words! I was an avid reader from my youth, so it’s difficult to pick only one book that has defined my world. I think the strongest effects were made by The neverending story by Michael Ende, The little prince by De Saint-Exupéry and Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. European child, yes, it’s me! Thank you so much for remembering us that all the children stories talk to us about love and life.

    • Cara Elliott

      Marinella, so glad you enjoyed the blog. The Little Prince was a great favorite of mine too growing up.

  • Quinn Fforde

    The Anne of Green Gables series informed many choices I made as I grew up. I still think of Anne often. Love that Northanger Abbey quote very much!

    • Cara Elliott

      I love that quote too, Quinn. The Anne of Green Gables has had such a huge influence on so many readers.

  • Michelle Harlan

    One of my favorite childhood books is Where the Red Fern Grows. It completely broke my heart, and yet I was left with a feeling that all was right with the world. I’ll never forget giving my copy to my son to read when he was in 4th grade. After reading a particularly heart-breaking scene, he came to me with tears in his eyes and asked, “Why did you give this book to me? This is horrible, Mom! Why would you do this to me?!” I told him to stick with it. I promised it was worth it. To this day, it remains one of his favorites, too. He recently gave the copy to his sister & told her, “It’s gonna’ tear you up, but keep going. It’s about love.” I’ve never been happier that my kids are avid readers!

    • Cara Elliott

      What a wonderful story, Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing. Huzzah to you for encouraging your kids to love books and reading. (Have made a note to look up Where the Red Fern Grows.)

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I inherited my love for reading from my mother, and I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on all my life. But my heart belongs to romance!

  • rebecca moe

    Northanger Abbey just doesn’t get the respect it deserves–love that quote! (And Henry Tilney–what a hero :))

    Thanks for posting!

    • Cara Elliott

      So true about Northanger Abbey. And Jane’s defense of the novel in that book was brilliant!

      • rebecca moe

        It really was! I also love the quote “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid.” I have it on a t-shirt 😉

  • Anna

    Oh, so many childhood favorites. I don’t think I could even choose one! But maybe (as a read aloud) the Winnie-the-Pooh books, since I vividly remember having those read to me when I was sick. And Little Women/Anne of Green Gables which I read to myself. Love and romance abound there!

    • Cara Elliott

      Pooh, is a great favorite, and Anne of Green gables has really struck a chord among today’s readers. But there have also been a great many other wonderful titles mentioned. Glad to see so many of us loved reading at an early age!

  • Joan Varner

    My mother was an avid reader of mysteries, so I grew up reading Nancy Drew. I enjoy reading historicals, so I will be looking for your books.

    • Cara Elliott

      Joan, I love mysteries too, and often find myself weaving in a mystery element to my romances.

  • Janie McGaugh

    I read Winnie the Pooh so many times to myself and my children. I also remember reading Pyle’s Robin Hood (and still have my copy!) and The Three Musketeers. Some of the other childhood books you mention I either read to my children or haven’t read at all.

  • Sheila M

    Thanks for the recommendation on The Fabulous Flight…sounds perfect for my son.

  • Glenda

    I did love the Pooh Bear books. As I got older I fell in love with the Little House on the Prairie books.- Laura Ingalls Wilder was my favorite author, closely followed by C.S.Lewis.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Great essay! I look forward to checking out your books 🙂 I too grew up on the classics like Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web and Winnie the Pooh. I think The Secret Garden was probably one of my favorites before launching into my obsession with the romance genre but I love going back occasionally and rereading my favorite childhood books.

  • Jen C

    I wasn’t an avid reader as a kid, but I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series as an adult. And I loved reading Bridge to Terabithia with my daughter.

  • Texas Book Lover

    Just the title Sinfully Yours make me want to read this! It sounds addicting!

  • PEGGY ALLEN

    This sounds great. Need to read

  • Anne

    Thank you for sharing, Cara! My first favorites were the Happy Hollister series. They were the ones that opened my eyes to reading and I have been an avid one since then. I totally agree with you about romance being in all the great novels. How could the main character grow or persevere without the struggle? Thank you for joining RAR this year!

  • Linnea Bassin

    I am also an avid reader, my daughters are also avid readers, even my child who is dyslexic. I am so proud of her. They enjoy reading all sorts of books. I love it and can’t wait until they are older and can read romances.

  • Thank you for your post. It reminds me of when I was child and had an interest in writing–I made up newspapers and also excelled at history. I went on to become a librarian. Can’t write great books but at least I get to be surrounded by them. lol.

  • Angela H

    I love the cover of your book, it makes me want to dive right in. Also I think it is cool that you toured Europe on a motorcycle.

  • LSUReader

    It doesn’t relate to love and friendship the way yours do, but
    my favorite childhood book–The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader–certainly
    cemented my love for reading at an early age. (It’s about how woodland
    animals prepare for winter’s first snow.) Thanks for an interesting post. I
    enjoy your books, Cara.

  • Erin F

    Anne of Green Gables… I think it was actually Anne of Avonlea? in which she finally admits her love for Gilbert 🙂

  • Adaffern

    My favorite book from childhood was The Black Stallion; the friendship between Alec and Henry and the love Alec holds for the Black.

  • Gretchen

    I loved all the horse books by Marguerite Henry.

  • Judy Goodnight

    My favorite books from childhood that feature friendship & love are Louisa May Alcott’s (esp. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom) and the Anne of Green Gables books.