A Conversation With Carla

Preferred promo shotI always struggle on what to say about myself. After all, I don’t regard the information as that interesting. However, my Oreo-munching muse and good friend Laurel-Ann volunteered to ask me some pertinent questions and she posted the information here. I was a little hesitant about it at first but finally gave in. After all, a writer should trust his/her muse.

Laurel-Ann: Why do you bill yourself as a novelist?

Carla: Well, I wrote a book. Actually, I’ve written four but only one or two (so far) will ever see the light of day as it beams through a bookstore’s window. I love the long form because it gives me a chance to expand the number of characters and weave them in and out of terrible situations without feeling too constrained by word count.

Laurel-Ann: What’s your genre?

Carla: I think most writers don’t want to be pinholed into one type genre over another. I’ve written or plan to write children’s books, some borderline fantasies, deep thrillers, and mysteries. I prefer to create the story first and perfect it before I worry what shelf it belongs on. Having said that, it is probably safe to say I’ll never do westerns or creative nonfiction due to a lack of expertise.

Laurel-Ann: I’ve heard you cackle while you work. What’s up with that?

Carla: When that happens, someone is dying in a spectacularly dramatic way. On paper that is. You giggle occasionally too. What’s up with that?

Laurel-Ann: Only when I’ve found where you hid the double-stuffed cookies or I decided to give you a particularly awful scene to work with. Let’s talk about your background. You have two very different degrees, one in molecular biology, and the other in professional writing. Care to explain that?

Carla: My first love and original career was as a research technician at a Dallas medical school. Even now, I still love the smell of petrie dishes in the morning. However, life became tricky with a move across Texas and other factors. Eventually I got assignments creating standardized test material in science and language arts, but some of my submissions were rejected as being too funny or too interesting. Turns out there is no humor in assessment. Stories kept popping up in my head and I shifted away from test material. Once we moved to Indiana, I published my first novel and tried getting a local job in writing and communications. No luck. So I entered an online Masters of Professional Writing program at Chatham University. People took me seriously after that.

However, I want to point out that no one needs a degree to publish a book. Most authors have two careers ultimately: the job they take on while writing their early works and the point when they turn into a full-time writer. It doesn’t take a degree to make that transition.

Laurel-Ann: What does it take?

Carla: A thick skin, the ability to continuously learn to improve your work, a self-confidence that your story is worth telling, and a stubbornness to never give up even in the face of rejection.

Laurel-Ann: Is your background in biology the reason why you wrote Independence Day Plague?

Carla:They say write what you know. I knew about microscopic bugs and what they can do. I also spent many summers in Washington DC, enjoying the 4th of July celebrations. The book was a labor of love coming at a time where America was worried about anthrax in envelopes and terrorists releasing vials of viruses in shopping malls.

Laurel-Ann: What other topics do you want to hit in the future?

Carla: Definitely ghosts as they interact with people. I have a three-book series planned with a spirit-talker. The first one is completed and waiting publication. Other ideas that I want to explore include Robert LaSalle; airplane crashes; interactions between nature-oriented gods and men; and vampires, Rasputin, and the fall of Russian monarchy. New characters continue to whisper in my ears and the ideas never stop flowing.

Laurel-Ann: Any advice for other writers?

Carla: Create your story with the characters that live inside of you and not whatever topic is fashionable at the moment. Research the facts well because accuracy shows through, making the book a better and more believable. And when the muse hits (and you’ve wacked me hard upside the head several times), sit down right away and work out the core of the story. Otherwise you’ll lose it before you get the time to write it all down.

Michigan City Lighthouse

View of the 2015 winter in Michigan City, IN. Notice the frozen lake beyond.

Laurel-Ann: Okay, give us some quick facts: most interesting place that you have been, unusual hobbies, favorite movies, dream vacation?

Carla: I lived in Tokyo, Japan for one year and really delved into the culture. I’ve also been to several Caribbean islands and more than half of the states in the union.

I’m a hobby magpie. If it is new and interesting, I want to try it. The current favorites are woodworking (burning, lathe work, scroll saw) and original Lego creations.

I love sci-fi movies, psychological thrillers, and action-packed films as long as they have a good plot. I don’t like violence only for the sake of having gore on the screen.

One day I hope to travel through Australia, preferably camping or even on motorcycle. I read A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute and have wanted to visit ever since.