I’m so excited about today’s blog. It has nothing to do with it being my day off. I have a very special guest visiting my blog today. This author has taken time out of her VERY hectic schedule of promoting her debut novel Heart Search- Lost. She made the long trip all the way from the UK to NW Arkansas to have tea with ME! Yes, that’s right…the Carlie M.A. Cullen that I’ve been blogging about all month is here.
Welcome to NW Arkansas Carlie, I hope you had a nice trip. You picked the perfect time to visit this area. The weather couldn’t be better and the trees have changed to their fall colors…my favorite time of year.
Hi Joy! Thanks so much for inviting me over today and for the cup of tea.
Carlie, I’m so glad you’ve stopped by I have a LOT of questions for you. Oh, and I might have forgotten to mention that here in the south we serve our guests a tall glass of iced tea instead of a cup of hot tea. Anyway…let’s get to the fun stuff and the real reason you’re here today.
JK: Where are you from?
CC: I was born in East London and moved to Hertfordshire when I was about 16 months old, which is where I grew up. I now live in Essex.
JK: What is your favorite color?
CC: I like most colours, but my absolute favourite is royal blue, closely followed by purple.
JK: Do you have a favorite holiday or season?
CC:I love the magic of Christmas and still get a kick out of seeing my daughter open her gifts, even though she’s in her twenties. My favourite season is summer. I love the sun and heat, the profusion of colours and scents from seasonal flowers and it’s when I’m at my happiest.
JK: They say to be a better writer you need to read, read and read some more…so what kinds of books do you read when you’re not busy writing your own?
CC: I’ve always loved fantasy books, although in the past I’ve read books from Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Harold Robbins, Jeffery Archer, Virginia Andrews and too many others to mention.. However, I always come back to fantasy. More recently I’ve been reading books from fantasy sub-genres to get a flavor of how they differ from the books I’m used to. So I’ve recently read some urban fantasy and Steampunk and found I like them both for different reasons.
JK: I’ve heard all work and no fun makes…life really boring or something like that, so what do you do to have fun? (No writing doesn’t count.)
CC: Oh yes it does! [Laughs] I used to be a professional dance teacher which was something I absolutely loved, but unfortunately I’m unable to do that anymore. With my disability a lot of social activities are impossible, i.e. I can’t go to the movies any more (which was something I really enjoyed), going out for a drink or meal is extremely difficult and as I can no longer drive, I can’t get out to see friends unless my daughter takes me, although they do visit me.
When I’m not writing or editing, I enjoy watching DVD’s, reading (of course), and there are a few series on TV which I’m hooked on, like True Blood, Secret Circle and Casualty.
JK: Which writer or writers do you consider your mentor? Why?
CC: This is a much harder one to answer because each author I’ve read has contributed something new to my knowledge of writing. If I had to pick some it would have to be, J R Tolkein for his world-building (although he tended to over-describe), Virginia Andrews for emotion, Stephen King and Dean Koontz for building suspense, and Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon for storytelling.
JK: Now that you are a published author what will you do to mentor or encourage writers just starting out?
CC: Basically anything I can. I already write blog posts with ideas and tips for things like creating characters and making them 3-dimensional. I have writers just starting out in the writing group I run and I design challenges to help stretch their creativity and learn how to self-edit (up to a point), I give them lots of encouragement and positive feedback, but I also give constructive criticism worded in such a way that it doesn’t deflate them. I give editing advice to anyone who needs it.
I’m a great believer in ‘giving something back’, so would host Blog Tours for debut novelists too.
My email address is on my website and I’d be happy to help any budding authors who contact me for advice.
JK: Where did you get the idea for Heart Search and how long did it take you to write it?
CC: I’d had this idea pop into my head out of the blue and was playing with it for about a month. As I thought about it my two main characters formed and kept nagging me to tell their story so then I began. It took me around nine months to write the first draft as I was fitting it in around work, dancing and home life.
JK: Where did you get the title for your book?
CC: It came from the original idea for the story (which morphed into something a little different during writing), but was based on the journey of one of the main characters. It started off as the working title, but it grew on me and I stuck with it.
JK: Who designed the killer cover for Heart Search? (I love it by the way!)
CC: The cover was designed by the very talented, Nicole Antonia Carson, who is also a published author. She came up with about ten designs and the cover I picked was actually the first one Nicole designed. I had a tiny bit of input on it, but the rest of it was all her work. I fell in love with it and everything else paled in comparison (although she came up with some amazing designs).
JK: What do you feel was the hardest part of writing your first novel?
CC: There were two things really. One was trying to show the emotional scenes without going OTT. The other thing was where to end the novel. It became clear to me quite early on there was too much story for it to fit into one book and I wanted a dramatic ending, so trying to decide where to finish it was quite a challenge.
JK: If you could have dinner with 1 person dead or alive who would it be and where would you go? Why?
CC: Hmmm, I think it would have to be my paternal grandfather. We would go to the Skylon revolving restaurant at Niagara Falls – I went there when I was a teenager on vacation and we celebrated my mum’s birthday there. The sight of the Falls illuminated in different coloured lights is something which has stayed with me ever since.
My grandfather died before my dad reached his first birthday and through my sister’s efforts tracing our family tree, it appears he led a very colourful life and had more than a few skeletons in his closet. I’m intrigued by some of his antics, his many wives and his multiple journeys back and forth across the Atlantic.
JK: All writers are different when it comes to where, when and how they write. Some have rather weird rituals they have to go through before even sitting down to start a piece. Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing time and space? Do you listen to music or do you prefer silence? If you listen to music while you create, what kind do you prefer? Do you use paper & pen or let your fingers dance across the keyboard of your computer? Are you in your bedroom, office or bathroom with the door locked and is it midnight or the crack of dawn?
CC: I don’t have any weird rituals as such; all I do is close my eyes, relax and ask my Muse to guide me. I don’t have any quirks regarding my writing space; I always write in the same place within the house as I’m limited by my disability, so I don’t have the options available to able-bodied writers.
A lot of the time I write in silence. When I do listen to music, it depends on the part of the book I’m writing as to what I choose. My favourite artists for writing are Muse, Sarah McLaughlan and relaxing instrumentals.
My fingers definitely dance across the keyboard. I use pen and paper to make notes if I’m out and something comes to me or I see something inspirational (I never leave home without a notebook and pen).
I write in the lounge, reclined on the sofa (as I cannot sit for very long) with my laptop balanced on my thighs. I’m more of a night owl than an early bird and have often got so caught up in the story that I suddenly discover it’s stupid o’clock in the morning and I really should have gone to bed at least two or three hours earlier.
JK: If you got the call in the morning that Heart Search was being made into the next block buster movie who do you picture playing the lead characters?
CC: Being a UK author, I would want British actors to play the lead roles. For the female lead I would pick Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films), as she has the right ‘look’ and I believe she would be amazing in the role. For the male lead, I’d like to see Bradley James in the role (he plays King Arthur in the BBC series, Merlin). He has the boyish good looks coupled with the maturity needed.
JK: When you sit down to write a novel do you us an outline or do you just sit down and let if free flow to the paper below? If you outline what kind do you use? Why do you prefer it this way?
CC: When I was about to start writing Heart Search, I spent a great deal of time crafting my characters, I wrote an outline for the entire story and a plan for the first twelve chapters. When it came to actually writing it, the story just began to flow and write itself and the chapter plan was totally scrapped. Even the outline of the story changed although only part of it.
Now I’m writing book two, Heart Search: Found, I’ve written a vague outline, but I know in my head where the story is going and more or less how it’s going to get there. I’m just letting it flow and I’ve already thrown myself a ‘curve ball’ which wasn’t planned, but will make an incredibly potent link. I’ve almost finished chapter fourteen, but have had to put it to one side while I concentrate on launching book one. I think about it quite a bit when I’m not physically writing so the story is still very much alive and bursting to get out.
JK: Do you ever get writers block? If yes, how do you break through it?
CC: I did have a couple of small incidences of writers block during Heart Search: Lost. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words just hid behind the folds of my skirt and wouldn’t come out. I left it for about an hour and did something completely different, like the laundry, housework, shopping. It had to be something which would require a certain amount of concentration yet still allowing my mind a little freedom to wander. When I went back to the writing, the words just flowed and I was okay again.
JK: If you had a time machine and could travel anywhere…real or fantasy where would you go? Who would you take? Why?
CC: Oh, this is a tricky one – too many places to choose from! I’m now pulling my hair out and going in ever decreasing circles trying to decide!!
With my love of fantasy and magic, I think I would have to travel to Y’Eírialiastar, The Otherworld from the Yasmine Galenorn books and I would take my daughter with me (as she’s as nutty about fantasy as I am). Although they are set in present day, it has all the elements to delight someone like me. There are witches, vampires, were-creatures (not just werewolves), trolls, goblins, faeries, elves, unicorns, dragons and, of course, plenty of magic!
JK: Finish this statement. “You’ll like Heart Search –book 1 Lost if you like______.
CC: Vampires, characters you can really connect with, a strong story line written differently to normal and like books which surprise you with subtle (and some not so subtle) twists.
JK: Is there anything you want readers to know about your book?
CC: Apart from the fact it’s totally awesome you mean? [Chuckles] Actually, yes there is. The way this book has been written is very different from the norm. You have two main characters yet they have been written in two voices; one has been written in first voice and the other in third voice. I wanted to break a few rules and make Heart Search as unique as possible. I hope my readers will think I’ve achieved that.
JK:What new projects we can look forward to reading from you in the future?
CC: Well, as I’ve already mentioned I’m writing book 2 in the trilogy at the moment. Book three will then follow. After that, I’ve decided the beautiful lady I use as my avatar deserves a book of her own, so that will be my next project after the Heart Search trilogy is complete.
JK: Do you have any advice for new/aspiring writers?
CC: My best piece of advice is to read as much as you can, but don’t only read the story, look at how the story has been constructed, look at the characterization, look how the plot unfolds and learn from it, and write as much as you can to practice and hone your craft. Never be afraid to ask for advice – I’ve found other writers to be incredibly supportive of their peers as well as those who are just beginning their writing journey. And finally, follow your dream and don’t give up!
JK: Do you make your bed in the morning or find it pointless?
CC: I do make my bed, after a fashion. It’s only a matter of throwing the duvet back to cover the mattress and straightening it a little – it’s a thirty second job and something I just do automatically without thinking about it!
Thank you so much for having me here today, Joy – I’ve had a blast! 🙂
It has been my pleasure Carlie, thank you for stopping by and answering ALL of my questions. That’s another thing about us southern girls…we have the gift of gab. Feel free to stop by anytime you’re in my neck of the woods. Congratulations again on your debut novel Heart Search- Lost…I really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to book two already.
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Stay tuned…more to come.