Monday 5 September 2011

INTERVIEW: Lee Carroll

For many authors, writing is a solitary pursuit that usually has them hiding away like a hermit during the working day getting their fevered mind to work the details out, yet occassionally you get tales written by a two authors and occassionally couples. Joining thier ranks are a husband and wife team writing under the name Lee Carroll whose Black Swan Rising series broke into the UK market last year from Bantam.

Here we talk to them about the story, writing and those hidden little nooks and crannies in the writers mind...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Lee Carroll: We agree with the first part but as to the second, we think you can HAVE to do things that you also WANT to do. Fortunately, that seems to be true in our case(s).

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

LC: Since we are in reality two people, we will answer this kind of question Carol first and Lee second. Age 9 and age 17 respectively.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

LC: We can't be sure if this is generally true but Carol's best selling first novel, THE LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES, did start out as a short story. And so did THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, albeit a long one. When it comes to plotting mystery novels, it might well be true that plotting mystery short stories first can help a writer to master the genre.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

LC: BLACK SWAN RISING shows how an ordinary person, Garet James, can be caught up in extraordinary circumstances. And so does THE WATCHTOWER, also taking Will Hughes back to his somewhat ordinary origins. So, THESE THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU! (pointing a finger politely at the customer).

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

See line 1, answer #4 (17 words).

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

LC: Charlotte Bronte and the poet Kenneth Rexroth respectively, and as to the latest release Deborah Harkness for both of us!

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your ideas develop
as you write?

LC: Lee Carroll does some of both but, given the requirements of a trilogy, tries to outline the broader themes for all three books in advance.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

LC: We both like to hike, swim, and watch television. Carol has read AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FAIRIES, HOBGOBLINS, BROWNIES, BOGIES AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL CREATURES by Katharine Briggs, and Lee has read THE JEWEL HOUSE
by Deborah Harkness and YELLOW PLUM SEASON, a book of poems, by Pui Ying Wong.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

LC: Sleeping late.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

LC: Our lovable poodle Zoe is still around but our lovable Siamese cat Sassy passed away last March. Their key traits are and were that they are lovable. And we do write the occasional lovable character, although we try not to do that to excess.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

LC: Speaking for Carol and INCUBUS, Soheila Lilly, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Fairwick College and succubus (Soheila is very ancient: her kind were once wind spirits of the desert, then owls, and then they assumed the shapes that men desired for them). Speaking for Lee and THE WATCHTOWER, Jean Robin, who is based on the actual botanist at the court of King Henri IV of France, because Lee and Jean share(d) an intense affection for trees and in Lee's Pythagoras poems, the protagonist often dreams of being reincarnated as a tree.

FT: How similar to your principal protagonist are you?

LC: Carol has the geniality and romantic tendencies of Garet James, and Lee has the inclination toward poetry and managing a hedge fund of Will Hughes.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

LC: We are sadly too busy for much in the way of hobbies right now, but Carol's interest in painting and art can be found in all Carol Goodman and Lee Carroll novels, and Lee's in poetry in all CG and LC novels as well!

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

LC: Anywhere and everywhere, but more often while walking than sitting. Although we do get the occasional idea while reading.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

LC: Some scenes and chapters come much more easily than others, and we try to overcome the resistant ones through persistence.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

LC: We try to maintain normal business (more like bankers) hours, and others know to avoid us while we are working.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

LC: We have loaded up aesthetically with art and poetry at this point. It will be a sign of progress, or fatigue, when we can start to bring music into it more.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

LC: We both started out thinking that nothing comes easy in writing or publishing. This turned out not to be a misconception.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

LC: Writing is the expression of love, even when it comes to creating villains. Evil is unfortunately a part of life, and love of life creates good writing, so villains are part of the whole package.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

LC: It is called THE SHAPE STEALER and we are working on it right now.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

LC:, a wonderfully creative comic book serial, to find the work of an excellent short story and opinion writer named Harry Lazerus, where there is some superb poetry, art and music, for obvious reasons, and

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

LC: Memorably, we met in a mystery writing class, Lee the instructor and Carol the best and most interesting student he ever had (adult ed, no grades). We also both have graduate writing degrees, and studied with a number of prominent writers, including the late Anthony Burgess, the late William Gaddis, the poet Daniel Hoffman, Sheila Kohler, the late poet William Matthews, Rick Moody, and the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

LC: We both had a lot of enthusiastic support and encouragement from many others to help overcome these barriers. Ultimately, it is important to be able to judge your own work, both favorably and critically when necessary, and stick to your judgment in the face of any and all adversity.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

LC: The best aspect is being paid for something you love to do. The worst is the insecurity of having to live from contract to contract.

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