CAROL BROWNE author of Being Krystyna, The Edwardian Chronicles and many more.
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in-depth answers to questions that our staff have decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
I wrote a poem when I was about seven years old and the teacher at school praised it so much I knew I had found something I could do, but when I actually had stories in my head to write down, I have no idea. I remember always making up stories and telling them to my dolls and teddy bears when I was in bed at night. I had a far more fertile imagination then, as children usually do. My mother often shouted up the stairs to me to shut up and go to sleep. I have always had problems going to sleep as my mind goes into top gear then. Once I began to be more proficient at writing, I had notebooks filled with stories of all kinds. Most children seem to love writing horror stories, which I did, and I remember I filled four notebooks with a tale about a girl who is abducted by Martians and goes to live on Mars and doesn’t want to come home. I created a detective duo as well –Septimus Screw and Clueless Peabody. I still have these notebooks. I got the detective stories out recently to see if I could revamp them but it was childish tripe and I quickly put it back in the drawer!
I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
I think speculative fiction is my true home but when I get an idea it can be any genre and then it is the characters that matter. I really enjoyed writing my non-fiction novella, Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII. That was a life-changing experience and very valuable to me both as a writer and a person. If I have a preference for genre I’d say anything that includes a suggestion of the paranormal, and I wish I could write crime thrillers because that is probably my favorite genre to read.
Currently, there are over a million books that I want to read… and some I have in the past I wish I had written myself, do you have any that you read that you thought about and said, I wish I had written that book?
I can’t remember but most of them were probably written by Stephen King. I loved Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall too and I let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I’m a fan of Rose Tremain and Ruth Ware. I’ve read too many books I’ve loved to be able to recall the titles.
What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
My favorite book is Precious Bane by Mary Webb. It is just a perfect story, beautifully written, with a very satisfying end. It’s the one book I’ve read many times and will read again, even though it has romance elements and I don’t like romance. The protagonist is a poor young woman living in rural England in the early nineteenth century. She has a harelip and villagers suspect this means she is bewitched. I’ve seldom encountered a character I cared about more than her.
My own favorite book is Gateway to Elvendom, the second book in The Elwardain Chronicles, which is being published by Burning Willow Press later this year. I live in a rural area and while I was writing it, I worked out the plot during walks with my beloved dog, Harry. It was an idyllic summer for me as I so enjoyed writing that book and sending each chapter as it was written to my beta reader for her verdict. I put some of the scenery around me into the book and I felt I was in the adventure with my characters. Harry is long gone but I can still get the same feeling when I walk in the countryside here; he’s with me in spirit and there is something magical about it.
When the muse is off doing their own thing instead of pushing you to write, albeit by gunpoint at times, what is your favorite time-waster?
Probably social media!
What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood? For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
I have found that listening to music often inspires me. Funny really, because I have to have quiet when actually writing. And I don’t try to get in the mood. It either happens or it doesn’t. When it works it is because I have had an inspiration. If I try to write, it is a terrible slog to come up with anything. Like writing an assignment at school or something.
Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
My first experience of working with an editor was traumatic. I wasn’t prepared to have so much of what I had written thrown away. That particular editor was very ruthless but she probably needed to be to improve my manuscript. Some years later, I am used to having to delete pieces of the narrative if they don’t work, even if I love them. I know it is the overall integrity of the finished product that matters. My first novel was a behemoth and cringe-worthy in places. I’m a much better writer these days so there is less work for me to do at the editing stage. I have a very helpful editor at the moment and have enjoyed working with her.
When you read a book by another author do you ever look at it and criticize it or edit it in your head as the way you would have done it yourself?
As a proofreader, I am always spotting typos and mistakes. I’m hoping one day to read a book without any. I’d love to tell Stephen King’s editor that ‘for a while’ and ‘awhile’ have the same meaning, so you can’t say ‘for awhile’. Every book. Drives me nuts.
What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
To be continued.
What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
We didn’t celebrate Halloween much in the UK when I was a kid. It’s different now because of the American influence and kids here go trick or treating. (Not down my road, though. No-one wants to walk down my road after dark. That’s another story!) We call candy sweets/ confectionery/chocolate. Candy is not a word we used but people are using it now, like cookies (we call them biscuits). I don’t think the candy I liked as a child would mean anything to most people now. It was all rather archaic! But I did absolutely love licorice.
What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
That has to be the original Halloween movie which was so scary at the time. For suspense and nasty shocks; it still is the best, I think. The music creates such a tense atmosphere.
Beach, Mountains, Country, City? And follow up… favorite season… just a hint here… you should say, Autumn.
I love the seaside best and would live there if I could. Yes, of course Autumn is my favorite season. That’s when my birthday is.
I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Notice I did not ask about audio?
My reading is largely determined by my finances so I definitely prefer eBooks! The only paperbacks I’ve bought are ones I want to keep. I don’t like clutter. I am at that age when I know there are too many books and too little time. And time here is the operative word because on a day-to-day basis I don’t have much time to read anyway these days.
If you could not be an author then what would you be?
A proofreader with enough clients for me to make this my main job.
What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
I wanted to be a kennel hand. This was an ambition I achieved in my forties. It didn’t end well!
Cats, dogs, both, other?
I’m a dog lover. I love all animals but they are my favorite.
Most newbie authors are told to write emotional state in what they already know… so how did you break away from that newbie status of writing what you know in the beginning?
I’ve always just written what I want or what I’ve been inspired to write. This is perhaps why my first fantasy novel took me so long to write and had so many revisions—I hadn’t a clue what I was doing! I have a novella I wrote from the perspective of what I know and it’s a disturbing read!
Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
Persevere no matter how long it takes, don’t take rejection personally and learn from the feedback you get.
Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCI-FI? Other genres?
I don’t have a family and when I was growing up, I felt a bit like a cuckoo in the wrong nest. My parents didn’t understand writers. Or me! I don’t think my mother ever read a book her whole life. I’ve been married twice and those relationships were deleterious and actually hindered me from being an author. The only support I’ve received in my attempts to write has been from a few teachers at school and from my close friends (who are amazing people). Other authors have been immensely supportive too and of course, Edd and Kindra at BWP are the best publishers you could wish for.
Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
I have an amazing beta reader. She’s a very erudite and well-read Scot and she always spots the errors in my work. She’s great at pointing out plot holes and mistakes in continuity. I remember when she read the penultimate chapter of the first draft of Gateway to Elvendom and she was completely baffled. Of course, it was a horrible mess! I managed to fix it to her satisfaction thankfully. I have another beta reader in the south of England I sometimes call upon for a second opinion. She’s another educated person with a passion for reading. I’m very lucky to be able to call these people my friends as well as my betas.
The editor I have worked with at Burning Willow Press – Donna Marie West – has been marvelous to work with and she has helped me to improve my work.
I have a great proofreader too: me.
In your day of writing… do you push through it all day or do you take mental breaks?
I have day jobs so my writing schedule is very hit and miss but if I get a good idea, particularly if it is for a short story, I will spend my next day off on it until I have got it right.
Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
I have struggled with agoraphobia all my adult life and living where I do find it difficult to travel anywhere anyway, but I did do a read-dating event in Market Deeping, a nearby market town, in 2017. It was held as part of a literary festival. I was expecting to be very anxious but I loved it and, although I only had an eBook out then, I did sell some and get a couple of reviews. I have already been booked for the next event in 2019. The festival was such a success in 2017 that it is sure to be even bigger this time, and I will know what to expect. One thing that did impress me was the enthusiasm of the readers who wanted to know about my writing. I wasn’t prepared for that.
What do you have coming out in the next year and who is producing it?
In 2019, I am looking forward to Book III of The Elwardain Chronicles which will be published by Burning Willow Press. [It’s e]ntitled Wyrd’s End [and] it completes the trilogy. I’m hoping to have a short story in the BWP charity anthology Crossroads in the Dark V too, but that depends on Edd!
What is your go-to alcoholic beverage of choice?
In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
Definitely a cup of tea. If the weather is good, a walk among the trees near my home.
Ideas come from all over. I get mine everywhere… so my question is what was the inspiration for the last (or upcoming) book you released?
The last book I released was The Exile of Elindel (Elwardain Chronicles I), published by Burning Willow Press. Bizarre that there are more than three decades between me writing Book I and Book II! Although Book I was released in 2017, I wrote it in 1977. It came to me in a daydream while I was listening to a record on a jukebox in an English pub in a town called Runcorn.
Do they still have jukeboxes anywhere?!
The two main characters were standing on a ridge of land watching a herd of horses galloping towards them and I wondered who these people were. I knew one was an elf and that I was watching them near the end of their adventure, not the beginning. I felt compelled to write their story to find out who they were and how they came to be at the stage they were at in my daydream.
Have you ever had any supernatural experiences? If so, have you ever used it as source material?
I’ve had many paranormal experiences but none of them has appeared in my published writing so far. I do always talk to the Spirit world when I am writing because I know they are helping me. Some of the ideas that have come to me when I am completely stuck for a word or a plot line have spooked me, so I have to say thanks.
I don’t have the brains to come up with some of the things that have occurred to me when I’m in the zone. I have a short novel as yet unpublished that does feature a supernatural element and I enjoyed writing it tremendously because the paranormal elements felt ‘real’. There’s an old-fashioned séance in it that was fun to write. My mother was psychic and her uncle did weekly séances of the physical kind – where objects fly about! It scared my mother to death as a child, being made to go along with her mother who wanted to contact her dead husband. I heard all these tales when I was little and every week we would go to grandma’s house so her gypsy housekeeper Bella could read our tea leaves. Bella was such a character perhaps I ought to put her in a book one day.
When writing a novel, do you have an intended audience (i.e. adult or young adult)?
I always write for myself, although there’s one book I’ve written and not yet published that is aimed at a New Adult audience.
Do you ever base characters on people that you know? If so, do you ever kill said characters and feel bad?
Yes, I’ve done that with people who have been bad to me. Revenge is a dish best served cold as they say. There’s only one character I killed that I regretted and that’s in Gateway to Elvendom. This character was based on a composite of three other fictitious characters (portrayed on the small screen) and I had no idea I was going to end up liking this character as much as I did. The death scene made me both sad and annoyed. My beta reader was furious. My editor was none too happy either! J
Do you ever feel that your characters have a mind of their own and change the course of the planned storyline?
This happens a lot and I usually resist it unless it takes me down an unplanned route to something interesting. There’s a scene in Gateway to Elvendom where my character Godwin, does something unexpected and I went along with it to see what would happen. I was thinking, “What on earth are you doing? You’re going to make yourself unpopular, you idiot!” But I soon realized that Godwin was showing some very basic and worthy empathy in doing what he did and later in the story, it turned out that his compassion didn’t go unnoticed.
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Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0034P87QC