Hi Carolyn and welcome. I am so glad you could join us here at RomanceJunkies. To start, will you please tell us a little bit about your current projects?
I have two books in progress, at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is done and out, and my job is to continually promote it: The Mobius Striptease, currently an e-novel, with print version coming out (hopefully!) later this year. It’s a metaphysical mystery blended with romantic suspense, revolving around psychic power: how it works, why it exists, and how to deal with it.
Book number two, I’m just starting from scratch to reinvent a YA horsey romance into a coming-of-age story, set on Cape Cod in the 1970s.
When first beginning a new project, how do you begin? Are you an outliner? Do you know the names of your characters right away? Edit as you go? Have the ending worked out in the beginning of the first draft?
Both of the books mentioned above, I drafted when I was very young, so have spent a long time developing them -- which includes learning a routine. I’m definitely NOT an outliner, though I wish I was, for that would make the whole process a lot simpler! Instead, I conceive a notion, then start writing. After the book is roughed out, I work backwards, manipulating story elements into a coherent form.
For names I either just relax my mind and let them pop up, usually taking the first one; or, if I’m deriving a character from a real person, I twist their name around into something similar, or which links in a way only I understand, and use that.
I’ve never planned an ending, mostly because I only write stories that end happily ever after. All I need to do is make sure the plot and characters arrive there at the same time.
If you could change one thing about the way you write, what would it be…even though you know you will keep doing it the same way forever?
Writing a synopsis and outline first!
Do you always write in the same spot all the time, or do you roam from room to room, area to area as the mood strikes?
When I wrote in longhand, I worked anywhere, anytime. Now that I write on computer, I’m constrained to my desk. Occasionally I use a hand-me-down laptop but I have trouble managing the little button that moves the cursor, so I plug in a mouse and thus have to sit upright and have a surface available, so I might as well just sit at my desk.
A writer with many rejections under her belt comes crying to you. "Help me! Help me!" she pleads. "I've just been told I'll never be good enough to be published. I am gonna quit!" What do you say to her?
First question is, Who told you that? Then, Why do you believe them?
Followed by a long conversation, assuming the person wants to talk -- and listen. Real writers don’t quit. They may go underground for a while and lick their wounds, but if you’ve got the bug, you’ll keep writing (as is true for any creative passion). And if you’ve got the ego, you’ll keep trying for publication. Sooner or later you learn that all art is subjective, and success means getting your work in front of the right person on the right day. It also means paying your dues by learning craft.
In today’s publishing world, there’s little excuse for not being published; there’s only a hierarchy of status and distribution (and, of course, quality -- certain publishers still select the highest-quality work and produce it with talented, experienced staff, and you have to compete like mad to get your book into their hands).
It’s incredibly difficult to get to the top, which means being published by the best houses, with your book in print form -- especially hardcover; and to be given a big advance, plus a promotional team that sends you around the country and splashes your book across the broadest media, earning you royalties to keep you in groceries until you’ve finished the next book. To earn such top spots, you must understand the rules of the game and the marketplace. Meanwhile, there are many other venues, large and small, ranging from free to lucrative -- but for all of which you must hustle the book yourself.
We all love hearing about "the call" that came for your first book…though nowadays seems to be more "the email". What form did yours come in? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
I never got that call. My first book was a quasi work-for-hire deal, where I contributed a volume to a series and it was accepted from the proposal, by e-mail. My second book was acquired by an e-publisher, who accepted by e-mail many months after I submitted the manuscript.
To celebrate, my husband and I went to the pub we visit weekly, and I had a big dinner instead of a bar sandwich and two drinks instead of one!
If you were to go back to school, what would you choose to study?
Do you have any hobbies or collections? Is there anything special you'd love to take up if you could just find the time?
I have a small collection of Breyer horses and Harlequinware (plates, bowls, and cups, by the people who made Fiestaware). But these are minor interests, and I stopped when I’d obtained the pieces I wanted. I have other hobbies, mainly outdoor activities I dabble in for enjoyment, exercise, and social life. My primary recreation is reading.
If I had the time, I would go back to art and music, which is where I came from.
What has been your biggest adventure to date?
Hm, don’t know. I don’t think in those terms. Life itself is an adventure!
I’ve had many small adventures, but nothing stands out as The Big One. I steer clear of activities with adventurous qualities, since I’m a physical coward. I’d rather observe other people having big adventures -- then write about it!
The grandest thing I ever did was spend two weeks in Hawaii with my cousin, 25 years ago. Elements from that trip found their way into The Mobius Striptease.
What is this romance writer's idea of the "ideal romantic evening"?
Not something I care to share publicly.
How do you describe Carolyn Haley? How do Carolyn Haley's family and friends describe her?
I describe myself as a nerd, a geek, or an intellectual artist. I don’t know how other people describe me, though they remark often about the way I wave my arms around when talking and use strange words...
Who is the person who has had the biggest influence on your life? Whom will you pass this “influence” on to?
I don’t know.
Surprise! Surprise! The Trip Genie is going to whisk you away to wherever you want to go! Where are you going and how many suitcases are you taking?
I’m going to the British Isles for a long tour, and will take only the luggage I can carry.
Name the one food you hated as a child but love now??
Where are your car keys right now? Are they always in the same spot?
On a hook by the back door. They move between that and a hook by the front door, since we hang the keys closest to where the cars are parked. We have many cars, and park them all over the yard and driveways.
And lastly, no interview of a writer would be complete without this question: what is your favorite comfort food?
Make that plural -- comfort foodS: Milk chocolate, especially with caramel; macaroni and cheese; grilled-cheese sandwiches; toast with lots of butter; certain veggies with lots of cheese. Guess I’m a dairy-fat and sugar girl!