CJ Carmichael

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FAQ Category: Questions About CJ's Books

How do you decide on cover design and why do they sometimes change over time?

I’ve had input on my bookcovers with all my publishers, but it’s a much more hands-on approach with Tule Publishing. When I started out to write the Carrigans of The Circle C, initially there were only  going to be 4 stories. I had a rough idea of the stories I would write and the characters, so, together with the editorial and creative team at Tule Publishing we decided on a certain “look” for the series and had covers designed accordingly.

Then I wrote the books. And four books became five. And I got to know the characters and their world, on a very intimate basis. And suddenly we had a problem with the “look.” It needed to change.

Fortunately Tule is open to experimenting with authors’ books. Here is the new look we came up with for Book 2, Good Together (old is on the left, new is on the right):

A very different look, right? Interestingly, I found an even split between the readers who preferred the old and those who appreciated the new.

Next we asked the designer to come up with a new cover for Book 5, which was Callan Carrigan’s story. Callan is the youngest of the Carrigan sisters, and in many ways her story is the most important, as it reveals old family secrets and deals with the future of the Circle C Ranch.

The first cover we had for this book, just didn’t feel right to me anymore. First, the setting was wrong. Since the ranch is so pivotal to the story, we needed to be there on the cover. Also, Callan looked too urban and, well, frivolous.

That wasn’t our only problem. The timing was working out so that this book would end at Christmas. It seemed to make sense that we reflect that in the title. So now we needed a new title AND a new cover. Here is what we decided on (again, old cover on the left, new on the right):

I’m hoping we got it right and came up with the perfect “packaging” for both these stories. Here is the way the covers look when they’re all together. I love my Carrigan girls!


(Originally published on Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs in 2013)

How long does it take to write a book?

This is one of the questions people most frequently ask me when they hear that I’m an author. I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re hoping it doesn’t take much time and they might be able to squeeze “writing a book” into their calendar next month?

The answer, of course, is complicated. Many factors come into play. How long is the book? (My books range from short novellas of 35,000 words, to longer novels upwards of 80,000 words.) Also, how much research is required to write the book? And what else is going on in my life—are there going to be interruptions for holidays, family-stuff or other writing-related tasks.

writing-brambleHere is a photo of me, starting a new book in June of 2015. I had the title (A Bramble House Christmas), and the picture that would be on the cover of the book, and not much else. At the time, I had planned the book to be 40,000 words and I hoped it would be ready at the end of October.

What actually happened, is that despite tons of fun distractions (lake and hiking stuff) the book turned out to be 45,000 words and I finished three weeks early. I guess I got lucky this time…once I really had time to focus, the story just sort of flowed. Some books are like that. Others are like English Assignments from Hell. But maybe I shouldn’t get too smug. I haven’t had comments back from my editor yet, which means I still don’t know how much time I’ll be spending on revisions.

And that’s the other tricky thing. When people ask how long to write a book, do they mean including revisions, copy edits, etc? Since there can be time lags of weeks or even months between these stages, you can see why it’s a hard question to answer.

So next time you ask an author a question, ask her something easy like… “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

What’s happened to some of your backlist titles…I can’t find them!

If you’ve noticed that some of my earliest novels are no longer listed on my book page or available as e-books there’s a good reason. I’m currently working on updating the content and having new covers designed. Make sure you subscribe to my First to Know newsletter to keep up-to-date on this process.

Is there romance in your mysteries?

While I’ve written over 45 romance novels, my first love as a reader and aspiring author (if you can call a twelve-year-old that!) was mystery. I devoured the Trixie Belden series as a kid, then went on to enjoy Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and pretty much everything Agatha Christie wrote. Nowadays, my favorite mystery authors run to the like of Liane Moriarty, Kate Atkinson and Laura Lippman.

What appeals to me most as a reader, is what I’m trying to do now as a writer. I’m not into on-scene violence, gory details, or clinical forensics. It’s the people—characters—who fascinate me (including a little romance). Their motivations and secrets, their past and hopes for the future. I also love the psychology of small towns, the idea that everyone knows one another’s business—or at least they think they do!

Is it true that one of your books was made into a movie?

Yes! A Bramble House Christmas, which was produced for the Hallmark Channel’s line-up of holiday movies in 2017.

You can watch a preview, see the cast and more on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. It was also released on DVD. See all the ways you can read or listen.