Football season is in full swing and I know you’re going to enjoy meeting author, Candee Fick, and hearing about her contemporary romance, Catch of a Lifetime. Your comments are your ticket to win a Kindle copy! Make certain to sign in on the Rafflecopter for even more chances to win!
Welcome, Candee! Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
I’m a pastor’s kid, wife of a high school football coach, and mom to three kids including a middle-schooler, a high-school senior, and a recently graduated special needs daughter. My writing journey started with a love of reading and the unrealistic idea that I could easily write better stories than some that I’d read. However, when I finally sat down to pursue the dream, the first idea that came to mind was a devotional-type book comparing faith and football. I eventually transitioned to fiction and honed my craft through years of writers’ groups and contests as I learned that imagining a story was a whole bunch easier than putting it into words.
You hold a day job, as well as having a very busy and demanding family life. What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?
The biggest challenge has also been my biggest blessing when it came to character growth. As a former perfectionist with an unhealthy approval addition, having a child with a rare genetic syndrome taught me that true acceptance and love isn’t based on performance. But her autistic-like characteristics make her think the world revolves around her demands and she struggles to understand the concept of “do not disturb.” I am blessed to work from home on a project-by-project basis, so I can be very flexible in scheduling my time as long as the deadlines are met. In order to protect my writing time while juggling the rest of life, I block out chunks of “creating” time while my daughter is away at her job-training program and do my best to keep the interruptible tasks for when she’s around. However, depending on the week’s priorities, I’ve been known to work for a couple of hours after she goes to bed.
How did you come up with the idea for Catch of a Lifetime?
I grew up playing football with the boys at recess, am married to a coach, and our oldest son plays wide receiver for his high school. I couldn’t imagine not liking football, but when I woke up from a dream one morning wrapped up in a scene about a college student who hated football players but had to work with them … Well, let’s just say my imagination took over. Why would she feel that way? And what would it take to change her mind?
How do you “design” your characters?
I like to start with a two-word descriptive phrase such as “bitter tutor” or “rookie coach” because that sparks my imagination about the character’s emotional backstory, goals, actions, and even the internal change to come through the story. I then search for a photo that seems to capture how I imagine them to look. Finally, I interview them and keep asking “why” until I discover what happened in the past that shaped their present and what their dream future would hold. Of course, as those pieces get plugged into the plot, I can see where I need to dig deeper or change their motivations to achieve a story goal.
How do you go about researching and creating a setting?
One of my goals is to create a setting that is so real that it seems like a secondary character. I start with the physical descriptions and brainstorm a list of unique locations for different scenes to take place. I also make a list of sensory words or observations tied to that setting, and sometimes that means taking a field trip and sitting down with my eyes closed. But I’ve found that a setting is much more than a place and so I research the occupation and culture searching for the typical routines and procedures that bring realism to a character’s action beats. When immersing myself in the setting, I also often find natural sources of conflict and that sparks new directions for my plot.
What is one thing you recommend to writers who are starting out?
Be patient and don’t try to short-cut the journey. Yes, you should read a lot, especially in your chosen genre so you get a feel for story structure and what’s working. Yes, you should write a lot because the writing muscle gets stronger and easier with use. Yes, you should keep learning and focus on one element of the craft at a time until you’ve figured it out. But all of the above takes time, and if you try to rush the process, you won’t have a strong foundation for a writing career.
Some people have a problem with Christian romance, what would you say to them?
The Bible is the greatest love story ever told. God pursues Israel, despite her failings and wanderings, loves the world so much He sends His Son, Jesus sacrifices His life for us, and the story ends with a wedding feast and happily-ever-after eternity. I believe a Christian romance can be a reflection of that same love story in ways our frail humanity better understands. In addition to flawed characters trying to serve and love each other, the strand of faith woven through their relationship can point readers to the only One who can ultimately satisfy their longings.
What was your greatest roadblock in writing Catch of a Lifetime, and how did you overcome it?
To be honest, my greatest roadblock in this book came from home. I’m married to a football coach, and like anyone who has ever been married could understand, there were a few days when I didn’t exactly like him very much. So, turning around and trying to create a romance with a football coach hero took more imagination than I had some days. I stepped away from the book for a bit, focused on getting my heart right in my marriage, created differences in my main character so he didn’t remind me of my husband quite so much, and then pushed forward. I also decided in the future to create heroes that weren’t quite so “close to home.”
Please share the first page or scene of Catch of a Lifetime with us.
“It’s about time you showed up.”
Cassie Parker stiffened and turned her attention from the retreating receptionist to the silver-haired football coach glaring across his desk.
“I’m sorry, but I only found out an hour ago that the university hired someone to teach aerobics and eliminated my graduate assistantship position. I understood that I wasn’t supposed to report until classes start next Monday.”
“Then I suppose it’s a good thing you decided to report early.” Coach Thomas raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his black leather chair.
He thought it was a good thing to have her hopes crash to the mat? Not exactly. But she’d trained for years to get back up after a fall.
If only getting up wasn’t so hard to face this time.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Just like Mom always said.
She squared her shoulders and removed an envelope from her handbag. “Like your receptionist said, I’m Cassie Parker—a new graduate student in the Health and Exercise Science program.” She unfolded the financial aid packet and slid the paperwork across the desktop.
She swallowed hard as he picked up the papers and read the first page. “You’re our newest academic adviser, since the guy we had lined up left with a family emergency.”
He flipped through the rest of the pages, snatched a pen from his holder, signed the last page with a flourish, and slid the papers back to her. Making the position official.
Feeling a little light-headed, she perched on the edge of a chair with her handbag in her lap. A tension headache pounded in her temples.
Maybe skipping lunch to save her dwindling cash hadn’t been such a good idea.
“So, Coach Thomas, what do I need to know?”
“We’re a Division I football team with a lot of work ahead of us if we’re going to win our conference championship or reach a Bowl game again. As you said, classes start Monday, and the first game against our in-state rival is less than two weeks away. Your primary job will be to help keep our athletes academically eligible.”
She wanted to ask for specifics on how she was expected to keep them “eligible.” Did they even know what a book was? Cassie bit her lip. Sometimes the fine line between being blunt and being mean challenged her.
The head coach rambled on about NCAA rules and regulations while printing out and handing her more papers. Team schedules for the next two weeks. Instructions to have her classes rescheduled for mornings. She hoped to find everything written down somewhere because, as if performing on the balance beam, she still teetered one misstep shy of an emotional collapse. Why had moving across the country to pursue her dream landed her in the middle of a nightmare?
She rubbed a hand over her aching forehead. In exchange for full tuition and a stipend for living expenses, she would be in frequent contact with football players. She glanced around the room in search of a miracle, but framed photographs or autographed footballs covered every surface. The walls crowded in, looming over her.
Just like in Judge Whitworth’s private chambers eighteen months ago. No miracle in sight. Could she really spend hours around jocks with egos the size of Texas and muscles to match? Of all the programs available, why did hers have to be football?
God, why are you doing this to me?
“Not to mention, with your undergrad degree, you can pitch in and help the training staff at practices and games,” Coach Thomas continued.
“Games?” Not even her weekends were safe. Her stomach hurt.
What other information had she missed?
“Yes, games. That’s what we do around here.” The sarcasm in the air threatened to strangle her. “Unless you don’t think you’re qualified.”
“Qualified?” Cassie frowned. “I can tape ankles with the best of them.”
“Hey, Boss?” A blond giant of a man rounded the corner and stopped. His pale blue eyes surveyed the room and widened when they landed on her—as if he’d never seen a girl in a dress before. A flash of appreciation appeared as his gaze swept over her, and a smile slowly formed. Spread.
Her heart thundered in response. Likely in dismay over the source, she decided. While she had wanted to look nice when meeting her new supervisor, she hadn’t felt the need to impress a bunch of football players. Yet here she sat, facing a handsome hulk, who—based on the Front Range University football logo on his dark green polo shirt—unfortunately counted as part of the enemy camp.
She weighed the benefit of the job against the violent impact of her past and decided she must try to get along.
She forced a weak smile and nodded a greeting.
The man seemed to gather his wits and turned toward the head coach. “I wondered—”
“Perfect timing. Cassie?” Coach Thomas stood. “This is Reed Worthington, our receivers’ coach. And, Reed, Cassie is our newest academic adviser and will also be helping the trainers.”
She extended her hand as good manners dictated. Reed’s huge palm squeezed her tiny bones. “Ouch.”
“Oops. Sorry.” Reed released her hand. Well-defined muscles bulged from his short sleeves.
Cassie rubbed the sting out of her crumpled fingers while trying to ignore the tingle of awareness his touch sparked. He probably spent hours in the weight room—and equal time staring at himself in the mirror. Probably had girls fawning all over him to ogle his bodybuilder physique. Likely all brawn, no brains.
“Reed? I need you to give Cassie a tour so she can find the academic center and training facilities. Then you can finish up that practice film before our staff meeting later.”
“No problem, Boss.” Reed’s deep voice was too cheery to fit her mood.
The man behind the desk found his first smile. “I told you to stop calling me that.”
“Sure thing … Boss.”
Another glance at the giant—who seemed so unlike a reed—revealed twinkling blue eyes and a dimpled cheek, as if he hid a smile. An expression that almost made her want to like him.
He breathes football. She shudders at the very mention of the sport. After a tragedy involving a football player destroyed her family, athletic trainer and graduate student Cassie moves across the country looking for a fresh start, but a change in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare. Meanwhile, rookie coach Reed worries his dream career will slip away as injuries plague his players and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility. As the two work together to salvage the season, sparks fly, and Reed must eventually choose between the game he cherishes and the woman he loves.
Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.
Connect with Candee:
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHTwYjEu6vI
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Author.Candee.Fick