Last week I introduced you to a new author, Carlie Cullen, whose first book, "Heart Search: Lost" has just debuted. Many readers responded, wanting to know more about Carlie, so I asked her to sit down with me digitally for a few moments.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I’ll try not to bore you too much! [Chuckles] I live in a small town in Essex with my lovely daughter and am almost single. I began dancing when I was five and continued on, turning professional nearly fifteen years ago. I taught adults and children and was something I derived a great deal of personal satisfaction from. Regrettably I had to stop dancing in April this year when I developed serious spinal problems and I’m now disabled.
I’ve very interested in spirituality and do Tarot readings. My mother and grandmother both had the gift of ‘second sight’ or clairvoyance if you prefer, and it’s something I’ve inherited. I first realised I had the gift when I was a teenager and it continued into adulthood. However, as I faced various traumas in my life and began to carry psychological baggage around with me, the gift became supressed and I only got occasional flashes of it. In the last year or two, I’ve found a way of getting rid of the excess baggage and put the past firmly where it belongs. As a result, my gift has come back and is getting stronger. I know not everyone believes in it, but it’s a very real part of my life and I’m thankful to have it.
I have quite a wacky sense of humour, love using sarcasm (but not in a nasty way) and my friends think I’m crazy as a loon!
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
My daughter would say I’m never not writing, lol. Unfortunately my disability prevents me from participating in things I used to enjoy, like dancing, going to the movies and eating out.
These days, on the odd occasions my daughter can prise the laptop from my fingers, I enjoy watching DVD’s and am hooked on a few TV series, one of which is True Blood (is that any surprise?). I must admit to being extremely miffed having to wait so long for Season Five to arrive on UK TV. We didn’t get the first episode until 17 September and I knew my American and Aussie friends had seen the entire series before we got it! [Sorry, rant over, lol].
I love spending time with my friends, although it’s now limited to being in each other’s homes – I’m very lucky to have people outside of my family who care for me so much. Good friends really are worth their weight in gold!
At the end of the day I love writing and I’m now a professional editor too so between them both, I’m doing what I love and that, I feel, is what’s important.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
I used to have. I was an administrator for a Hot Tub company in the next town to where I live. They were only a small company and when it became clear my spinal problems meant I wouldn’t be able to return to work for some time, if at all, they had to let me go.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I began writing before I hit double digits. I loved the stories of Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm and growing up as an only child, there were times when I had to make my own entertainment. When I wasn’t reading, I used to make up my own fairy tales. I had a very vivid imagination as a child!
I finished my first full-length book, which is actually Heart Search: Lost, in the early hours of 26 October 2011. It was after my daughter had gone to bed so I couldn’t exactly whoop and holler to express how I felt. I poured myself a glass of wine and sat revelling in the euphoria which swept me up so I felt I was sitting on a cloud, until it had been overtaken by tiredness. It still took me ages to fall asleep though.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in?
In some ways I think it chose me rather than the other way around. As I mentioned in the previous question, I began writing my own fairy stories at around the age of eight or nine. I was fascinated by the world of magic and fantastical creatures and still am, although I look at them now through different eyes. I’m also fascinated by the paranormal and supernatural. It was the obvious choice for me to write paranormal/fantasy.
6. Where do you get your ideas?
Sometimes ideas just pop into my head out of nowhere, like it did for Heart Search. Other times it can be an image which really resonates with me, or a phrase I see or hear. It can also be my surroundings or places I’ve visited in the past which have remained in my memory for a particular reason.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
That’s a harder one to answer because I think every book I’ve ever read has influenced me in one way or another. I believe every book you read teaches you something about writing; some teach you how not to do things while others add to your knowledge in more positive ways.
If I had to pick just one, then I guess I would have to choose Hans Christian Anderson, whose wonderful stories sparked my young imagination enough for me to want to start writing in the first place and I’ve done so ever since.
Heart Search: Lost is set in present day. It’s about a young couple, Remy and Joshua, who are about to get married. Joshua gets bitten by a vampire and disappears two days before the wedding, leaving just a note.
Obviously Remy is devastated, but her twin sister manages to talk some sense into her, telling her to fight for him instead of wallowing in self-pity. Remy comes up with a plan and leaves on what becomes a long, lonely and emotional journey around the country.
In the meantime, Joshua has found his maker and joined the coven. He feeds from humans and discovers he possesses amazing gifts in addition to the enhanced senses, strength and speed all vampires enjoy. He begins a relationship with another member of the coven, but is still plagued by his love for Remy. Many dramas afflict the coven, each presenting particular challenges.
As Remy’s journey progresses, strange and inexplicable occurrences leave her questioning her sanity and she has to draw on an inner strength to continue. She also discovers strange links to Joshua and his new life, but never manages to work out what these connections really mean.
Joshua unwittingly finds himself embroiled in coven politics which leads to him fighting for survival.
On her way home, Remy makes one final stop and sees Joshua. She chases after him, but he manages to elude her and she then returns home, emotionally and physically exhausted.
The book finishes on a bit of a cliff-hanger.
9. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The entire story is purely all from my imagination. However, some of the characters are loosely based on people I know.
Remy is sort of based on my daughter. The only things they have in common looks-wise are they are both pretty and have warm brown eyes. My daughter was one of a twin, but unfortunately I lost her twin during the pregnancy, so Remy’s twin is based on what I think she would have been like. Some of the banter in the novel between the twins has shades of my daughter and me joking around, but I didn’t realise it until my best friend, who was my alpha reader, pointed it out. Remy’s best friend, Jakki, is based on my best friend.
Apart from that, all the other characters are purely from my imagination.
As far as experiences are concerned. I think most authors draw something from their past into their writing, whether it was a painful experience, an argument or something happy. I think I drew from some previous heartbreak in some scenes to make them realistic.
10. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
OMG! You couldn’t have picked a harder question for me to answer! They are all my favourites for different reasons.
Ok, the best I can come up with to answer your question is more character based. I really enjoyed writing the scenes with Dayna in yet conversely she’s my least favourite character in a lot of ways.
Dayna is the bitch of the coven, but she’s madly in love with their maker. The only time she’s pleasant is when she’s talking to him directly. She snipes at everyone, can take sarcasm to new levels and takes great delight in bullying the weakest member of the coven. She shows no remorse for any of her actions and blames her victims when she gets caught out.
I enjoyed writing her as she’s everything I’m not. Trying to get into the head of someone like Dayna was a real challenge. Whilst I think everyone has the odd bitchy thought about other people, I included, writing a character that very rarely has a pleasant thought in her head and enjoys inflicting emotional pain on others really kept me on my toes.
11. How did you come up with the title?
I wanted a title to reflect Remy’s pursuit of Joshua based on my original idea for the book. So putting together her lost love and her quest to find him I came up with Heart Search. It was originally a working title, but it grew on me. When it became clear the story was going to end up spanning three books, I then added the subtitle Lost.
12. What project are you working on now?
I’m now working on book two of the Heart Search trilogy, Found. I’ve written up to chapter fourteen so far, but have had to put it on the back burner for a little while as I had two copy edits to do and, of course, now I’m writing the guest posts and doing the interviews for the Blog Tour launch of book one.
13. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I hope to have book two out around late spring 2013 (if not earlier) and book three is pencilled in for the end of 2013.
14. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism was also the one which made the biggest difference to Heart Search. When I originally wrote the first draft, I had Remy and Joshua sections in the same chapters. My beta reader, Alison DeLuca, gave me the great advice to separate them out as it was confusing to read as it was. This entailed a major restructuring of the book which was quite tough to do as I had to ensure the continuity wasn’t compromised and all the little subtle connections remained in a position where they still made sense.
The best compliment was actually from my alpha reader who doesn’t like books in the paranormal/fantasy genre. Having read Heart Search, she loved it so much, she said it was one of the few books she’d ever read which she would want to read again and again.
15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Yes – I have a few nuggets of gold to pass their way.
First and foremost, read as much as you can. But don’t just read the story, look at things like sentence structure, how the author weaves the tale, building suspense or how the twists are brought in, also look at the characters and analyse whether you can relate to them in any way. Look at how the author describes places – can you picture them at all? Then think about the story as a whole – does it make sense?
Secondly, write as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask for critique. Joining a good writing group is an excellent way to ease you in to this. It’s important to remember critique is not a personal attack on you or your writing abilities, good constructive criticism serves to help you improve your writing not destroy your confidence. Also never be afraid to ask for help; most authors are only too pleased to offer advice and support.
Finally, follow your dreams. If you want to be a published author, you can be. It’s a long and sometimes rocky road, but if you’re really determined to reach your goal, you will. However, be realistic with your expectations – only one in a million becomes the next J K Rowling!
Thank you for inviting me to do this interview, Kathy – I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.