Author interview Carol K. Carr
Hi Carol, welcome over to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.
BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Carol K. Carr is? What are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
CK: I’ve been a lawyer and corporate executive. Now I work in my pajamas. I’m a history buff, news junkie and coffee lover. I can hit a lovely nine iron and shoot a shotgun. Currently trending with me: Jack Black, Penny Dreadful (what the heck is going on?), S.J. Bolton’s latest book and organic facials. If it’s summer, I’ll be drinking a gin and tonic.
BP: You have been writing for a few years already, do you still know the moment when you decided that you wanted to become a full time author?
CK: I’d actually characterize it as the moment I decided not to pursue gainful employment, ever again. I much prefer staring at a blank computer screen than donning heels, slapping on makeup and being nice to people all day. But I’m very grateful for that corporate paycheck. It gave me the freedom to try my hand at this writing thing and work taught me a great deal about the human condition, which comes in handy when you’re writing about, you know, people.
BP: India Black was your first book, what gave you the idea behind the story?
CK: I’m enamored with the history of the British Empire and the Victorian period. The men and women from that era seem larger than life to me: Benjamin Disraeli, Richard Burton, Francis Younghusband, Chinese Gordon, and Queen Victoria. They are so colorful they practically beg to be included in historical fiction. The most direct source of inspiration for the book, however, was George MacDonald Fraser and his incomparable creation, Harry Flashman. I just love that cowardly, womanizing, drunken poltroon of a protagonist. India Black is my pale imitation of Fraser’s character.
BP: India Black was your debut in fiction, writing a debut is a daunting task, how did you go about and plan this?
CK: I’m not a pantser. I have to plan everything. This interview, for example, was on my to-do list for today. I worked from an outline, containing the major scenes I wanted to write. I didn’t have to do a lot of research. By the time I was ready to the write the novel, I had a good grasp of the history of the events discussed in the book. I set a goal for my daily word count, and try to achieve that. For the first book in the series, I was writing around 2,000 words per day. Since then, I’ve cut back to 1,000, with more time spent editing and proofing the day’s word count. That saves a bit of time in the final editing process.
BP: The third book in the Madame of Espionage series will be published soon, had you gained valuable experience from the others that you are using when you plan to write a new addition to the series?
CK: Oh, most definitely. Writing is like any other skill: it improves with practice. I certainly feel more confident with most of the technical aspects of writing, such as characterization, narrative structure and the arc of the story. I’ve always felt very comfortable with writing India in the first person. Her views and mine are the same. Her voice belongs to me. Writing her gets easier with each book. I’ve also learned that if my instinct tells me to change, delete or add a scene, or revise dialogue because it doesn’t sound right for a particular character, then I should do what my instinct prescribes. In other words, I can more easily see what is natural to the story and what isn’t. If it doesn’t feel “organic” to the final product, it needs to come out.
BP: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy is out June 13th, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
CK: Brothel owner infiltrates a nest of anarchists at the request of the Prime Minister, and hilarity ensues.
BP: Did you encounter specific problems when you were writing any of the India Black stories?
CK: Writer’s block? No, that was never a problem. Difficulties with research? Nope. Oh, yes. My house burned down when I was halfway through the first book. The restoration company was able to salvage the hard drive from my computer and after months of living in a hotel and surviving a remodel, I was able to finish the story. If I had had to start over on the book, I probably wouldn’t have. India owes her existence to a computer nerd in a windowless office in the American Midwest.
BP: What has been the hardest part when you were writing the India Black stories?
CK: The most difficult part is making myself start writing each day. I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing. Checking email. Looking at Facebook. Watching music videos on YouTube. In a pinch, I’ll even do housework. But once I finally fire up the computer, I don’t usually have a problem churning out the words.
BP: Besides the hardest part of the book, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
CK: I have a fondness for certain characters. I like writing Mrs. Drinkwater, India’s cook. I enjoy the Marchioness of Tullabardine, who has developed into the bane of India’s existence. I always enjoy penning India’s observations about politics. And because I spent several years in Human Resources, I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from writing about India’s philosophy of employee management. It’s a tricky area, considering that we are talking about tarts.
BP: If you would be given the chance to rewrite any particular scene of any of the India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy before it hits the shelves this June, would you do so? If yes, which part and why?
CK: I’m a perfectionist, so I’ve never written anything that completely satisfies me. There’s no specific scene I’d rewrite, but you can bet I’d go over the thing with a fine-toothed comb, and eliminate a word here, a sentence there.
BP: Will The fourth book in the Madame of Espionage series will be out later in August this year, will you be adding more books to the series?
CK: I have ideas aplenty for future books. I’d like to drop India, French and Vincent into the Anglo-Zulu War. A visit to India (the country) would be delightful. Given the scope of Britain’s global interests during the Victorian era, I can find quite a few things for India to do.
BP: Do you have any other projects that you would like to pursue?
CK: I’ve got more ideas than time. At the moment, I’m working on a couple of thrillers with female protagonists that make India look like a sober, well-adjusted woman. Then there’s the World War II espionage novel I’d like to write. And there’s always a short story brewing.
BP: What do you like most about historical fiction?
CK: Hello? History buff here. When it’s done well, historical fiction is utterly enchanting to people like me. If you can write a piece of fiction that convinces me that I have dropped into Edwardian England, for example, or America during the Civil War or a French castle in the Middle Ages, for the duration of the book, I’m yours. Give me the sights, sounds and smells. Create characters who think and speak in the language of the time. Make them men and women of their age, but show me the commonality they share with their modern counterparts. In other words, make history come alive.
BP: If you would have to give you top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
CK: Sob. I can’t possibly limit myself to five books. I’ll try, but I’m going to cheat a little by including some authors in the list. Here goes:
Dickens, for his stunning characters who illustrate the sweeping variety of human types
Mark Twain, the most American of authors. My favorite: Letters From Earth.
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall. Historical fiction at its best.
Sarah Caudwell’s mysteries. I like to laugh. These make me laugh. A lot.
Ruth Dudley Edwards’s series featuring Jack Troutbeck. How I wish I’d written these.
BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of Madame of Espionage series?
CK: As you know, the fourth book will be out later this year. India encounters an old flame and learns the secret (well, part of it) of her past. And she has to deal with a pregnant collie. Good times!
BP: Thank you very much for your time Carol and good luck with your future writing projects!