I was given the opportunity to take up some of Carrie Dugovic’s time with an interview. She is the author of The Lens of God. She was kind enough to answer my questions and now I get to share her answers with you!
Carrie is one of the kindest people I have met. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting her you will feel her genuine love of people instantly. I met Carrie through my husband’s job. He had just started at the job about the same time her book was published. I thought it was so amazing my husband was now working with an author of such a wonderful book (you can read my review of The Lens of God here).
“Carrie Dugovi’s favorite saying is “People are the only thing you can take to Heaven.” This is how she livers her life; she invests in people. Having coffee or a walk with a friend, teaching adult literacy, mentoring university students, hosting children’s pottery classes and giving pomade ceramic mugs to cancer patients are some of her favorite ways to engage. She delights in the wonders of God, especially photographing nature while exploring with her loyal dog.” (from the back of her book)
Carrie is now retired and spends time with her three adults kids, pottery, backyard chickens, wine making, gardening, and so much more. She recently moved has a beautiful house in a beautiful area and I can’t wait to go see it in person some day.
What is the first book that made you cry?
It’s hard to remember because so many have made me cry. The first? Perhaps Charlotte’s Web. It is such a tender story with a great ending.
Di: That was one of my favorites when I was little and I remember having so many emotions with that one.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing can be energizing, especially when getting into the story and finding out what happens next. However, sometimes after writing, I feel like I’ve been run over. Difficult or emotional scenes can take a lot out of you.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
God. I pray before I write and ask for His words when I need inspiration.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No, because I have no aspirations to be famous, and I want people to contact me about how my book impacted them or to discuss it further.
Di: I love this about you. I love how you just love people and want to truly connect with your readers.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t rush and enjoy the process of character development. Put the computer away and have a conversation with your character during a walk, sitting by a stream or a place that brings you joy. Make your characters complex and ones that your reader is drawn to long after they put the book down.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I haven’t started a second book yet, but I suppose I will write it the same way as the first book. Some authors have an outline that they follow. I just started a story and told it as it came to me.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I write fiction and it is simply a story. I write about what interests me. Characters in The Lens of God are photographers, and I love photography. So writing about the mechanics of photography in the novel were based upon my own knowledge. There are also several references to the Bible. I chose those carefully from what was meaningful to me in my past experiences and also spent quite a bit of time in the Bible looking for references that were appropriate for the scene.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
By the time I was 16 years old, my parents had moved 20 times. That meant for me at least one, sometimes two schools per year. I often felt alone as I tried to yet again make new friends. I had a big yellow bean bag in my room, and there, engrossed in novel after novel, I escaped into adventures and found comfort in the words. Language at that point in my life was about comfort, but it also greatly increased my vocabulary and set me up for a lifetime of success in education, my career and writing a book of my own.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The School of Essential Ingredients. I’m not sure it is under-appreciated, but it is one of the few books I’ve read many times. Mindfulness is a word I’m hearing a lot about lately. Erica Bauermeister does a wonderful job describing how to savor the moments in our lives instead of rushing through them.
Di: I am going to have to look into this book for sure!
What did you edit out of this book?
I was told by an agent in a book writing group I attended for a time that I needed to be put on an “adjective budget.” She said to not overthink for your audience. So, I critically read through the entire book and asked myself if my detailed descriptions added to the scene or were just extra unneeded words.
How do you select the names of your characters?
As each character was introduced into the book, I paused, thought of a name that would fit and used it. I didn’t use names of people I know.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do, I am greatly encouraged by the positive words of my readers and keep an open mind about criticism. I don’t think anyone really likes criticism, but we are all life-long learners and reviews are a helpful way to learn more about our craft.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
*************************SPOILER IN THE NEXT ANSWER***************************
What was your hardest scene to write?
When Stephen went to the morgue to see his mom and girlfriend. I had to stop several times because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the computer screen. As I mentioned, I pray for the words before writing, and this one really surprised me. It might sound odd, but I didn’t know until I started writing that scene that they would be killed by a drunk driver. Even through all the editing passes, knowing it was coming, each time I read that scene I cried.
Di: That was such a hard scene to read so I can understand why it would be hard to write.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Sometimes I was uninspired and I would set the writing aside. Rather than force the words, I chose to do something else for awhile and then come back to it.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
I am grateful to have a family that supports me in all of my passions, writing just being one of them. My husband and children are my biggest supporters. They are also honest with me, which I appreciate because I know their feedback is sincere.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
My career is in Information Technology, however, I think that taking more writing classes in college would have benefited me both in writing for work and a novel. I spent some time volunteering in adult literacy. I have a whole new appreciation for English teachers. The English language is very difficult to teach with all of its exceptions and rules that sometimes don’t make sense. Taking more classes would have definitely helped in both teaching and writing. I spent quite a bit of time brushing up on grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.
How long did it take you to finish writing The Lens of God?
It took me a year in my spare time to write the first 200 pages. Then I went through a very heart-breaking experience and put the novel aside for over 10 years. When I started writing again, it took me six months to finish it, then another six months of editing.
***********************SPOILER IN THE ANSWER***********************************
Tasha was adopted, her parents were unable to have their own children. For me this was a personal part of the book. I was adopted and I struggled with infertility and losses before my two kids. These are not “normal” life situations. Did you develop these storylines from you own life experiences?
I do not have any experience with adoption, other than what my friends have shared. I was concerned with this aspect of the novel because I wanted to do justice to the valid feelings of all involved. I sincerely hope I represented both the child and adoptive parents well. I’m sure many adopted children want to have “perfect” birth parents, but in the case of Tasha, that is not how it turned out for her. We all have our reasons for relying on the healing power of God. I used this situation for Tasha to come to God, not as a child taken to church by her parents, but to come for herself with an overwhelming need that was too big to handle on her own.
Di: As an adopted child I think you did well at capturing the situation and the emotions involved. I think I appreciated that her parents were not the perfect parents who only gave their child up because they loved them so much. I come from a background where I was taken away from unfit biological parents who did not do things out of love for me and my two siblings. That helped me relate a lot more to Tasha.
I love that you used things you knew in your personal life in your book. You are also a photographer as are your main characters in the book. When did you start getting into photography and what drew you to that hobby?
We all experience God in many different ways. For me, it is nature. I truly delight in God’s creation. To capture just a bit of it on film to enjoy, share and invoke memories at a later date brings me great joy. I got my first “real” camera, a 35mm Canon AE-1 and signed up for a wildlife photography class at the local community college to learn how to use it. I was hooked!
Will there be more books in the future? Will future books be brand new stories or will it be a continuation of The Lens of God?
I never had an ambition to write a book. However, I am an avid story teller, and my children constantly asked me for stories while they were growing up. I am also an avid dreamer. My dreams are vivid, and I often remember them when I awake. The prologue of The Lens of God was from one of my dreams. I can’t explain it other than I felt compelled to write it down, and that became the book. When I finished the book, I thought, “Great, now I can check that off the bucket list.” Then came the overwhelming positive response from my readers. I can’t tell you how many have exhorted me to write another book. I’ve been praying about it and definitely have every intention of writing another book. It won’t be a sequel to The Lens of God. The characters will definitely revolve around one of my other interests. I am a potter, backyard chicken lover, wine maker, home remodeler and outdoor enthusiast among other things. My characters will have difficult things happen to them and need God’s truths to get them through, as we all do. I hope when my reader absorbs these truths that it will help them with past hurts and the words come to mind when they experience future challenges.
Di; I will look forward to reading your next book. I think it’s so important to have those reminders that God’s truth and love is what we need to cling to at all times.
Can you explain the significance of the cover photo on The Lens of God?
At first I wanted to use a picture of my beautiful daughter on the cover, but she objected, saying the reader should form their own opinion of how the characters should look. After considering her thoughts, I agreed. When I started the book, Tasha had a Volkswagen, as I did when I was younger. Little did I know at that time that my daughter would also have an adorable 1965 Volkswagen bug. So rather than use a picture of my daughter, I used one of her car. I cropped the photo to focus on the headlight representing a lens and also God’s focus on us, His children.
I know that you write, and you do photography as a hobby, but I also know that you do pottery as well. Could you share why you got pulled into pottery. Do you have any other hobbies and talents that you would be willing to share about?
I love learning new things. When I saw an adult education pottery class offered at our local high school, I signed up for it. I fell in love with pottery and now have my own home studio. I could have just as easily thought this is not for me and gone on to try something else. The important thing is to try and doing so we learn more about ourselves. Similarly, I heard on the radio one day about a free wine making class at a local winery. I invited a friend, and after attending the class decided to give it a try. My husband and I now pick about a ton of grapes per year and make delicious red wine to share with our friends and non-profit fundraisers. It’s a great hobby to get outdoors, meet fun people and literally enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Di: You make some beautiful items. I love the mugs that you make for cancer patients. We had a young friend going through cancer treatments and I know he was very touched and grateful for his mug that you made for him.
What advice would you give to other writers trying to write a book?
Write for yourself, for the enjoyment of putting words to paper. Write what you love and it will show through in your work. Only then will others want to read what you’ve written and see your heart.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I appreciate it!
Thank you, Dianna. May God bless you in this grand adventure!