C.P. Stiles lives and writes in Washington, DC. The Call House: A Washington Novel is her first published novel, but she has a drawerful of new novels just waiting to be published.
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About the Book:
A war on vice In Washington, DC—a city constantly awash in scandals? Hard to believe, but it reallyOnly not exactly the way it’s told here.
All Mattie Simon knows is that she want adventure and her hometown doesn’t have any. She wants independence, maybe some romance.
All Andrew Stevens wants is to do his job as a newly-elected congressman.
But Washington has a way of changing people—even when they get what they want.
Fast-paced and funny, The Call House takes you back to a time of relative innocence, when people flocked to Washington, DC, in the 1940s to do good works and instead got caught up in sex, money, and politics. What else would you expect?
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Thanks for this interview, Caro. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?
Thanks for inviting me.
I’ve been writing all my life. Honest. I’ve had writing jobs and I’ve taught writing, but my real passion is writing fiction. Especially novels. I keep trying to learn to write short stories but as much as I enjoy reading them, I just can’t seem to figure out how to write them.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
I read a lot. And yes, I’ll admit it, I do watch TV – mostly for news and movies and I can’t pass up a good series when I can watch it all at once. I probably spend way too much time with my dog. The rest of the time I like hanging out with my family and friends.
Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?
THE war changed everything. But that was later.
This was February 1941, and Washington had yet to become the city it was meant to be. Nation’s capital? World capital? If you’d visited Paris or London, if you’d been to Boston or New York, then you knew Washington was still a small Southern town. Provincial and unsophisticated.
But if you were elected to Congress from Muskegon, Michigan, or Carbondale, Illinois, if you came looking for work from Greensboro, North Carolina, or Smyrna, Tennessee—Washington was the biggest goddamn city in the world. A Mecca for men of ambition. A refuge for women who refused to marry. And the closest thing to the Promised Land for anyone out of a job.
Ambitious and earnest, unmarried and adventurous, people poured in on trains and buses, crowding each other out of rooms in rundown boarding houses and bumping up against one another at night in the smoky bars on Capitol Hill or down on F Street where Negroes weren’t allowed to take a seat unless they could play the piano.
It was February 1941—boys were men, women were girls, and everyone was more innocent than they’d ever be again.
But Mattie Simon didn’t know any of that when she stepped off the train in Union Station, wearing a navy poplin shirtwaist dress with a white collar and matching navy-blue pumps. She carried a smooth cardboard suitcase tied together with rough twine.
Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
Rocky – definitely. But I hope it’s a journey that will be useful to other writers. Maybe 10 or 12 years ago, I finished the novel. Sent it to an agent. He loved it and had a lot of good suggestions. He sent it around and while the comments were good, no one was ready to buy it. So, I rewrote and he sent it around again. A funny thing happened – this time the comments weren’t as positive. In changing the book, I didn’t make it better.
We agreed to let it sit a while.
Two years or so later, I came back to it. Then put it aside. I did this several times. Then last year, I was lucky enough to have some uninterrupted time and I guess with enough distance, I was finally able to be a little ruthless in editing and I could see a way to make it work.
By this time, the whole publishing landscape had changed and I knew I wanted to go with a small press instead of trying for one of the big, traditional ones.
For some reason, I just wasn’t able to really move on to another project until I go this one right.
If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?
Washington has a way of changing people, even when they get what they want.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
That’s a tough one for me to answer. I think it all depends on what other books someone is reading. Maybe it’s that the city of Washington, DC, is the main character as well as the setting.
If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
You know, when I wrote the book, I thought it was literary fiction, but the editors who read it thought it was historical fiction. I guess that’s accurate since it’s set in the 1940s.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
I can’t really see it as a series. I do know there were a lot of different ways I could have told the story – but I think it’s pretty much complete the way it is.
What’s next for you?
Speaking of doing a series. I’ve got an idea for one. I’ve got at least the first three books in mind. Now I just have to write them. I’ve also got another novel I started a few years ago. Since I’ve learned how to be ruthless in editing my work, I want to see if I can get that one in shape.