Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Remembering Charlotte Lobb (1935-2013)


a.k.a. Charlotte Carter, Charlotte Maclay, and Charlotte Moore


By Carolyn Greene

 I met Charlotte Lobb’s writing several months before I met the person who had crafted it. No, her work hadn’t been published yet (it was the early 1990s), but she had entered the first three chapters and synopsis of her book in a contest for unpublished novelists. I, on the other hand, had published one book for Silhouette Romance, was finishing the second, and possessed an eagerness to “give back” to the writing community that had taught me so much.

Most of the entries in the contest had the usual beginner mistakes. My eyes glazed over. And then I pulled out another submission and began reading. A humorous story, like mine. A heroine with a first name and occupation similar to my character’s. The likenesses kept stacking up, but that’s not what made me sit up and take notice. What blew my mind away was the writing itself: Funny, articulate, entertaining, and polished, it grabbed my attention and made me forget to write comments in the margins. Because of the lighthearted, mischievous humor in the story, I pictured the writer as a young, gifted author who had already come into her own. When I finally got to the end of chapter 3, I wanted more. I told her so in an accompanying letter filled with gushing praise. And I added a P.S. (in case she should think I stole from her work), saying that we had both somehow managed to tap into the same stream of ideas.

At the Romance Writers of America conference a few months later, I was approached by a woman more than twenty years my senior who said her name was Charlotte Lobb. “You judged my manuscript,” she told me, and my mind went back to all the similarities we had come up with. Was she upset? Would she demand I change the book I had already completed and turned in to my editor?

Before I could think of what to do or say next, she grabbed my hand to shake it, seemed to think better of it, and threw her arms around my neck for a warm hug. As much as I had gushed over her manuscript, she gushed over my effusive praise. In that moment, I knew I had met a kindred spirit. We soon became a mutual admiration society.

Not long afterward, Charlotte sold to Harlequin/Silhouette and became Charlotte Maclay. Then she sold again, and again, and again. She zoomed past me, selling to Silhouette Romance, Harlequin American, and Harlequin Love & Laughter, and we cheered each other on.

She was a writing machine, steadily producing new books for her avid fans. I asked her about her work ethic, and she modestly explained that, as a child, good grades did not come easily to her. She had learned that if she wanted grades she could be proud of, she’d have to work hard … often much harder than her peers. But she never regretted that experience; rather, she viewed it as excellent training for the rigors of an author’s life. The only thing that slowed her down was the occasional change of editors and the whim of trends in the industry. But I never heard a complaint … she merely found out what the new editor wanted or tweaked a proposal to include the latest trend, and she’d be off publishing again.

Her humble attitude appeared again when we compared our philosophies about critique groups. “When I join a critique group, I want to be the dumbest one there,” she said. Sure, she learned plenty from those critiquers she admired and respected so much, but I know they learned plenty from her, as well.

Some people write for fame, some for fortune, and others for a myriad other reasons. My friend Char’s ever present concern was her young grandchildren’s college funds. Whenever she signed a new contract, she’d laugh and say, “That ought to put one kid through college for about a week.”

Occasionally, her writing income would take her and her husband Chuck on a well deserved vacation. One vacation, however, paid for itself. A trip to Patagonia netted an idea for a romantic suspense novel. For a while, she started scheming other tax deductible trips to foreign countries, but ultimately decided to stick closer to home and continue to pad her grandkids’ college funds.

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.



35 comments:

  1. Breathtaking! Thank you for sharing Charlotte with us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, Carolyn, what a beautiful tribute. I miss her so much.

    Holly

    ReplyDelete
  3. Such a touching tribute. Thank you so much, Carolyn, for sharing your memories of Charlotte's with us. Her memorial is today at 1:00. She'll be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Carolyn - What a beautiful and moving tribute to our wonderful Char. I miss her terribly.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Carolyn, thanks so much for sharing the wonderful stories about Charlotte. She'll be sorely missed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Carolyn,
    Wow. Such an amazing tribute to an amazing, loving woman. Char was so kind and giving. And so incredibly talented.

    Sandy (Belle Calhoune)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm so sorry to hear this! I had no idea she was sick. I have enjoyed her books very much. I recently won a contest of hers and she named a character after me in one of her recent Montana books that is coming out next. It will mean a great deal to me now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you, Carolyn for sharing your memories and love of this special lady. I never had the pleasure of meeting Charlotte in person, I wish I had. She will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you, everyone. Char will definitely be missed. It breaks my heart that she had so many more stories to tell that we won't get to read.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Such a beautiful tribute to a very special woman. You brought Char back to us for just a few minutes. Thank you. But now I miss her all over again.

    I comfort myself with the picture of her, sitting with God, saying a punch line, sighing and rolling her eyes.

    God's laughing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. She sounded like an incredible woman! Thanks for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for this lovely homage for Charlotte. I met her when I'd booked you to come to my local chapter if RWA - LARA - as a workshop speaker. Charlotte put you up at her house and brought you to the workshop. After that I kept in touch with her because she was such a delight. I asked her to come and speak at LARA, too. I'd run into her at national conference, and she was always a delight to speak to. Year before last I asked her to come to speak to LARA about inspirational romance on a panel about several romance genres. She was a humble lady who could make you smile. Oh, and I read her Romantic Suspense set in South America and thought it was great. I'm so glad I told her so to her face when I had the opportunity.
    I will miss her, and I hope her last months were pain free and peaceful, filled with love.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a moving tribute! Rest in peace, Charlotte. I wish I could've known you. Thanks for sharing your memories, Carolyn.
    ~Cecelia Dowdy~

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for this, Carolyn. It helps, and it's a wonderful tribute. In a way, it makes me miss her less because they're such good memories.

    ReplyDelete
  16. What a wonderful tribute to Charlotte. It brought tears and laughter and made me wish I'd known her. What a blessing she was to all who did have that privilege. Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Carolyn, thank you for the lovely tribute for a beautiful woman. Brought tears to my eyes and a deep sense of loss. I wish I had known her better.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Carolyn, what a wonderful tribute to your friend, Charlotte. I have never met either of you and I have tears in my eyes. I wish I had met Charlotte and I wish I could give you a hug. Charlotte was lucky to have you as a friend...and you, her.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you so very much for sharing your memories of Charlotte. I very much appreciate it. Such a nice tribute, especially today.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of Charlotte. I met her way back when at an OCC meeting and fell in love with her. And even though I moved out of California years and years later when we would see each other it was like time had stood still. She was a very special lady and I am grateful that I have her books on my keeper shelf to keep her close to my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  21. A beautiful tribute. Everyone at OC loved Charlotte. She was kind and generous to fellow writers.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Carolyn--

    Thank you so much for highlighting Charlotte and what an amazing person she was. She was a kind soul and so full of encouragement to me throughout the years. I'm going to miss her terribly, but am truly blessed for having known her!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a lovely tribute. I only met Charlotte last year at RWA in Anaheim, and she was just so sweet to me. I'm so thankful I met her, and grateful for the chats we had during the conference.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you, Carolyn. I wish you could have been at the service today. It was beautiful. We're going to miss her so much!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you, Carolyn. I wish you could have been at the service today. It was beautiful. We're going to miss her so much!

    ReplyDelete
  26. A sad loss. But to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD>

    ReplyDelete
  27. Today's service was a wonderful tribute to such a very special lady. She truly embodied the steel spine of our local writing chapter and I miss her terribly.

    I'm happy to see such a beautiful article honoring her, especially since the internet is forever. I'll come here and visit with her for a while, whenever I'm going through Char withdrawals.

    Thanks so much for sharing her with the world.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a beautiful way to remember Charlotte. Thank you for sharing, Carolyn.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The only time I had the joy of working with Char was on her last book, a LI continuity that will come out in Nov. of this year, the month before mine. I knew she was special just by her responses to me and the other series authors. I wish I'd had the chance to know her better.

    ReplyDelete
  31. What a lovely tribute to Charlotte. You sound like a good friend and I can see how much her friendship met to you. It's amazing how writing books can bring so many wonderful people into our lives. And it's sad for us that your friend Charlotte had to head on to heaven. I hope she gets to tell her stories to the angels :)))

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for this Carolyn, I only got to know Char in the last year and found her to be a lovely lady. She let me read one of her books to review and she was there for me when I was having some issues last year.
    She will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Any thing you want in Entertainment for Fun... Entertainment Articles, Entertainment News, Entertainment Pictures, Bollywood, Hollywood and Lollywood Pictures and Videos, Entertainment Latest updates, Hot Entertainment News and Pictures Funny Entertainment Pictures, lol Pictures, Funny Pictures and Much More Fun Only on 1 Current Affairs Network
    hotcurrentaffairs.com

    ReplyDelete
  34. World's best Online Hot Current Affairs Network where you can get every thing, World's Most Popular Classified Sites, Full Entertainment, Entertainment Pictures Article and Latest News, Latest Mp3 Tunes, Internet Online Jobs, Data Entry, Copy Pasting, Clicking, Facebook and Marketing Jobs, Online Marketing, Facebook Marketing, SEO Marketing, Latest Funny Entertainment Hot and Lol pictures, Funny Hot and Entertainment Videos
    hotcurrentaffairs.com

    ReplyDelete