Carole Ann, tell us all about you! What would you most like your readers to know?
I was born and raised New York City where I’ve been working as a midwife. My extended family is from Massachusetts, and I did my residency in Boston-a city I love as much as my hometown. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are my favorite genres, but I’ve dabbled with dark fantasy and contemporary and magical realism. I also write non fiction that focuses on women’s and political issues. I read everything.
Are you one of those writers born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest develop later?
I always kept a diary, journals, and wrote poetry. These days most mundane thing can trigger a story in my mind, but I didn’t break away from boring, academic writing until ten years ago.
When did you become serious about seeing your name in print and begin writing your first romance novel?
I am so excited that on my ten year anniversary of creative writing, I got word that Soulmate Publishing will be publishing Breakwater Beach, Book One in the Unfinished Business Series. I started writing that novel in 2006, so this is very gratifying. Book Two, The Widow’s Walk was published, by Soulmate in 2014 and just came out in print.
How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript? Did it fly from your fingertips, or did the story emerge slowly?
Breakwater Beach was a whirlwind write, beginning on Fourth of July weekend when I was opening up a summer cottage, pulling off dustcovers and vacuuming up dead flies. I got his idea for the story of a woman that finds a trunk of old clothes in an attic. I missed the parades and barbeques but by the time I was headed home, I’d written a novelette. My beta readers loved it, but wanted more. It took quite some time to “novelize” it, primarily due to the research I needed to do, including traveling to England. I also did a reading in a very pretty dress for the local historical society cemetery tour. Dress up and masquerades always give me a feel for what the character is experiencing.
Breakwater is very complex, with weaving of timelines for the first half of the book. I am so thrilled that is will be released late in 2015 or early in 2016.
Book Two, The Widow’s Walk, was a much quicker novel to write, and since it was less complex in structures and set mainly on Cape Cod, it was ready much faster. Both were written to stand alone, so reading one before the other isn’t too much of a spoiler—there are some real twists that create lots of suspense at the end—things that were alluded to in Breakwater Beach, but never fully developed.
Breakwater Beach is Elisabeth and Edward’s stories. The Widow’s Walk focuses on Mike and Liz.
Tell us about your writing process. Soft lights and music?
Hell, no. I write in my kitchen surrounded by three kids, husband, dog, cat, and all the related chaos. As a midwife, I have mastered multitasking, the ability to block our all but life threatening distractions, and being able to stay up all night. I create playlists for my novels, and if I’m blocked or need some inspiration, I let them listen over and over. I do my best work early I the morning and late at night.
What sets your writing mood and pushes you forward?
Long drives are always good for ideas and inspirations. Once I get into the heads of the characters they take over and they are always anxious to tell their stories.
What are some life experiences that have infiltrated your stories?
Midwifery, for sure. There are babies born in almost all of my books. Like all good midwives, I know a bit about herbs and use of homeopathic and natural remedies. Plus, because of my profession, I have met many people who embrace paganism and alternative lifestyles. That has given me the privilege of experiencing a variety of spiritual practices and customs surrounding pregnancy and birth. My midwifery residency took me to the North Shore of Massachusetts, near Salem where there are a lot of witches and cool places to visit. I have also gone on paranormal investigations and many ghost tours.
The Unfinished Business Series is set in Surrey, UK, London, and Brewster, Massachusetts, a historic sea captain’s town. I have been spending summers there for many years and grew up in and around all kids of boats and watercraft.
Throughout your life, what novels have lifted you, made you think, “Someday I want to create something like that . . .”
The first book that comes to mind as a writing inspiration is Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. It is such a hauntingly beautiful story, and she does such a masterful job of weaving mystery and the hint of the paranormal together. I didn’t think about it until now, but I suppose that is what I was aiming to do with this series. And of course, JK Rowling’s fantastic word building in the Harry Potter series is something I admire tremendously. I am also at work on an three book urban fantasy called The Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams, set in The Bronx (where I grew up and still work). Driving in and walking around everyday provides all the inspiration I need.
Let’s talk about romance. How do you set the mood for your characters, what do you draw from that helps your hero/heroine achieve oneness with each other? And how much conflict do you give them, along the way?
My characters are composites of people I know which I think make them come alive. I always start by thinking about what they have in common that makes them wind up together, but try to find believable obstacles to put in their way. The settings are part of the characterization, and I describe them in great detail. To enhance the paranormal aspects, I use astrology to develop the characters and enhance the conflicts. And magical systems like Tarot and Santería are very prominent in my story structures.
What shining moment in your journey stands out the most as a real turning point for you as a writer?
My first publishing success was in non-fiction and I won the Oasis Journal contest for best nonfiction in 2009. But I was so happy to meet Deborah Gilbert of Soulmate at Connecticut Fiction Fest in 2013 in, if you can believe it, Mystic Connecticut. I knew from our conversation that she was very interested in the Unfinished Business series. And she sent me a contract shortly thereafter.
Five vital things surround you as you create. What are they? What makes them special to you?
My computer for writing and research.
My cat Midnight would always sit on my lap when I wrote. She died this year, at the age of 18, and I miss her so much. My new kitty, Diego isn’t a lap cat yet, but he sleeps by the windowsill and makes me laugh with his kittenish antics.
My books. I have a library of novels and non fiction books I read for inspiration, ideas and for research. They are dog-eared and post-its adorn many pages so I can find what I’m looking for.
A cup of coffee, or I would not be able to stay awake.
Writers face many time-constraint challenges. What are some of yours? What do you do to overcome them?
I juggle a lot of balls and sometimes one or two hit me in the head. My house is always a mess, and the refrigerator always seems to be empty. The email inboxes are packed. My job is very stressful and demanding, and it is hard to switch gears when I get home and finally sit down to write.
I get up at 5:30 in the morning most days to go through email and figure out exactly what I need to accomplish that day. I also set up schedule for the week. I make post-it lists to keep me focused and moving forward.
What is the most thrilling aspect of the writing process for you?
When the story gets moving and it almost writes itself. My fingers can’t keep up and I dream in scene and dialogue. Of course, it’s pretty cool to hold your book in your hand. I am old-fashioned and like the feel and smell and crackle of opening a new book.
What aspects of the writing process do you find most difficult?
I hate editing. It is so tedious and time consuming. I prefer to write. But polishing is critical to success so I follow a strict regimen of getting feedback from beta readers I trust, making the changes, then doing an extensive re-write of my first draft. When I’ve got it where I want it, I use the deep editing process developed by Margie Lawson. Then I put into a text to voice program, which picks up a lot of problems. Then there is the final copy edit and formatting. Just that can take three months or more for a novel—and Breakwater Beach took years.
How do you begin a story? Do you just sit down with an idea in mind and start writing, or are you a person who wouldn’t dream of starting without a detailed outline, character sketches, and pages of research data?
I’m a pantser. Ideas come to me, I write a scene and let it sit. More often than not, I jump in to do the first three chapters or so. I do use Snowflake Pro to organize my character sheets and research notes but don’t have the patience to plot out a story. Sometimes I have to stop in the middle and do more extensive research. For Breakwater, I had to travel in London and study Victorian conventions. For Boulevard, that meant a two-three month hiatus from writing while I read, took classes in astrology and the Tarot, and did some ethnographic research.
I was an academic writer before I started writing fiction, and have always found that being immersed it a setting enables me to get a very good sense of the people (characters) the setting (neighborhood, sights and sounds) and the obstacles (problems and dilemmas they face). In real life this type of research informs academic research, program design and patient care. In creative writing, ethnographic research makes the setting come alive and makes the characters believable.
Tell us a little about what you’re currently working on.
I am actually working on the third book in the Unfinished Business series with a working tittle of Storm Watch. I know the characters and setting very well, and have three chapters, the end, and a few scenes in the middle in draft form. This is the point where I go to Snowflake Pro and figure out how I am going to get from the beginning to the middle and finally to the end. But I write the scenes as they come to me (never in order) when the ideas are fresh. I just got one written while on a business trip to Boston, wandering around a beautiful old rose garden where I sought refuge during my residency in that post call zombie state. I saw this statue and immediately placed Liz in my shoes, mourning for her past life. It’s a great scene, and tears were running down my cheeks while I wrote. I think that’s because there was so much of my own emotion poured into it.
How about a favorite activity of yours?
I’ve been taking ballet classes all my life but was never good enough to dance professionally. I am so privileged to be able to take class at a Manhattan studio and school with instructors who have been principal dancers in some of the most famous New York ballet companies. It isn’t easy on my feet and my knees, which are always hurting but chiropractic and yoga (plus aspirin) keep me on my toes.
Here’s a free read about it: http://www.noneuclideancafe.com/issues/vol2_issue4_Summer2007/moleti.htm
Carole Ann’s Debut book with Soul Mate, THE WIDOW’S WALK:
Mike and Liz Keeny are newlyweds, new parents, and the proprietors of the Barrett Inn, an 1875 Victorian on Cape Cod, which just happens to be haunted. By their own ghosts. The Inn had become an annex of Purgatory, putting Mike, Liz, and their infant son in danger. Selling the historic seaside bed and breakfast was the only answer, one that Liz and her own tortured specter refused to consider. Were they doomed to follow the same path that led to disaster in their previous lives? Was getting out, getting away, enough?
BUY LINK: AMAZON:
Carole Ann, thanks so much for visiting with us today!
Thanks for having me! Don’t forget, Breakwater Beach, Book One, will be published by Soulmate in late 2015 or early 2016.
Carole Ann is giving away an ebook copy of The Widow’s Walk using random.org to one person who subscribes to her newsletter for updates on The Unfinished Business Series at this link!