|a.k.a. Charlotte Carter, Charlotte Maclay, and Charlotte Moore|
If I were to compare Charlotte to an inanimate object, I’d consider her a biscuit. Slightly flaky (that adorable sense of humor!). At times, a little crusty on the outside, but always soft and tender inside. And always, always warm and nourishing. After an encounter with either Charlotte or her books, friends and readers left feeling filled up and ever so satisfied.
One memorable year, our usual conference roommates did not attend, so Char and I roomed together. A former smoker, she carried a small supply of nicotine gum in a plastic sandwich bag and occasionally pinched off a tiny corner to stave off any cravings. Prior to the fancy awards gala, Char applied her makeup and zoomed through blow drying her hair. I stationed myself in front of the mirror over the desk, carefully wrapped a strand of my hair around the brush, and blew that section dry before moving on to the next. The dryer whirred on and off for several minutes. Char stepped out the bathroom, looking all put together and ready to meet editors, writers, and fans. Seeing me hard at work, wrapping and styling the stubborn strands, she stopped in her tracks. “Why are you still fussing with your hair? You look great. Just dry it and be done with it.”
Pragmatic and no-nonsense, that’s our Char. Although kind to everyone, she didn’t tolerate foolishness. A blend of sweet and strong, she believed in saving the drama for the books. Once, when writers were discussing the difficulties of getting loved ones to accept their answer when they said “no,” Char was clearly confused by their trouble. “Just say no and move on,” she said. Char had no problem saying no when the situation required it. But if a friend needed her, she also had no difficulty saying yes to helping them out.
I still laugh when I think of the time she said no to an overzealous copyeditor who made numerous changes for no real reason. Now, Char was as professional as they come. She could take editorial feedback and deliver what was required without flinching. And she appreciated good edits because she valued the opportunity to learn from them. But this situation was clearly excessive and unnecessary. It took several pads of Post-It notes and a huge waste of her time to return the undesirable phrasings to the way she’d originally written them. As soon as she sent the manuscript back with all those yellow stickies protruding from the pages, she placed an order for a rubber stamp that read STET … an editorial term for “leave it as originally written.” She was prepared for any future encounters with this copyeditor or others like her and actually used the stamp on occasion. She got her point across. No drama.
The ups and downs that are inherent in publishing eventually left some gaps between contracts. But rather than bemoan the fickleness and problems that come with the job, Char took the opportunity to learn standup comedy and entertained those who were fortunate enough to attend her gigs at local retirement homes and the Curves exercise center where she worked out.
Shortly afterward, one of her former editors, newly hired at Guideposts Books, called and invited her to write mysteries for the Christian publisher. Later, Love Inspired romances became another outlet for her fertile creativity. It wasn’t hard for her to make the switch from “sweet” romances to Christian fiction. Her father had been a deacon in the church as she was growing up, and she knew her way around the Bible, so it was a fun challenge to embark on this latest adventure.
An artist with an excellent business head (a rare combination), Char noticed that readers loved stories set in the west, so she put her characters in Montana. Thus began her wildly popular Montana stories for Love Inspired. Not surprisingly, the combination of excellent storytelling and the trendy marketing hook resulted in rave reviews and strong sales. She was in her element.
Then the cough that had occasionally interrupted her speech over the years developed into something more serious. The doctor called it bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics, but they didn’t help. Worse, she found it difficult to catch her breath. Tests were run, and specialists were consulted.
Char had just finished revisions on a book for Love Inspired. In mid-March 2013, she emailed to let me know she’d read a book of mine and offered some sweet compliments about its execution. In that same email, she noted it was fortunate that her illness fell between contracts because that would allow her time to undergo surgery and take care of her health before sending in the next proposal.
Unfortunately, the health problem turned out to be an inoperable lung cancer. True to form, Charlotte fought back with strength, determination, and grace. She mustered the strength to visit with family and friends, and despite her difficulty breathing, managed to help her husband and daughters make some important final decisions. Hospice nurses came to help. Less than three months later, on the morning of June 2, Charlotte C. Lobb passed away in her sleep.
Oh, and the other thing she said to me in that last email? She already had an idea for the next Love Inspired novel. In fact, she said, “I have plenty of stories left in me.”
Charlotte Carter’s recent Love Inspired releases are Home to Montana, March 2013, and Montana Wrangler, July 2013.