Today on the blog, on the release date for the Glass Gauntlet, I have the privilege of hosting Carter Roy, as well as a giveaway of his awesome new release. Why head to the bookstore when you can win this baby with the click of a button? To celebrate its release I'd like to welcome Mr. Roy to the Underground!
1. Out of the many jobs you've had, which one most influenced your writing?
It is boringly obvious, but my jobs in publishing have most influenced how I write. I started as an editorial assistant and ended up in the position of editorial director at a major publishing house, and along the way I learned from the literally hundreds and hundreds of books I was lucky enough to work on.
2. What made you switch from writing for adults to children? What appeals to you about each?
I don't really feel like I made a "switch," exactly—I still write both! But the stuff for younger readers is less thinky and a lot more fun, while the adult stuff assumes a greater sophistication in the reader.
(This is not to slander younger readers; far from it. But part of growing up as a reader is to acquire a readerly sophistication that allows you to switch with ease from a novel by Charlaine Harris to one by Thomas Harris to one by Thomas Pynchon. Writing for adults has a bigger playing field as a result, if that makes sense.)
3. Did you have any trouble switching from short stories to a novel length tale?
Yes and no. Figuring out the pacing of a novel turns out to be really a lot of work. Ideally, there is a page-turning quality to the storytelling, right? But there also needs to be breathing room for exposition and character development and so on, so it can't all be breathless excitement. (Besides which, breathless excitement gets pretty dull after a while, and proper lulls in the storytelling make the more active bits all the more thrilling.) But with a novel, you get all this room to play around in that you don't have in a short story. The reader has settled in for the long haul with a novel, so she gives you more space for your tale. Not so in a short story. There, every line has to count. There are real challenges to each form.
4. When do you write? Do you have any routines or rituals?
I try to write to a schedule, but those can be awfully hard to nail down. (I recently became a father, and suddenly all routines went out the window.)
Ideally, I get up early (five to six am), brew some coffee, read the news, and then turn on Freedom (a program that blocks the internet for a set amount of time). And then I write that day's word count target, which can be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 words depending on the draft and where I am at in the book. (Later chapters and earlier drafts come faster; revision is where the writing slows to a crawl.)
Between chunks of the story (when I reach the end of a scene, say), I take a break and do other things. It's important to give your brain a break once in a while, and doing something else often shakes things loose. Walks are good for solving story problems.
5. Do you have any difficulties switching from editor mode to writer mode?
I don't think so. If anything, I'm too severe with my edits on later drafts. "When in doubt, cut it out" is my mantra. Each successive revision of The Blood Guard came in shorter than the previous one, because if I feel something is slow or not working well or showing the author's hand too much, I toss it. The first draft was a 100 pages longer than the finished book. The story is all still there, but there's no fat on its bones.
6. What advice do you have for young writers on writing an excellent story?
Never mind writing what you know, or what you think the market wants. Instead, write what you love. Nothing else is worth your time, and anything other than a story you love is going to get mired down in dreary, dead prose. Writing is tough, surely, but it is also fun. When you're clicking along writing the kind of book you want to read, then a certain kind of alchemy happens, and you find little pockets of joy in the writing all over the place. Love it or loathe it, but The Blood Guard is the kind of book I loved when I was eleven. Write what you love. Otherwise, why bother?
7. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you find it easier to plan or go with the flow?
Both. I work up a very detailed outline ... and then I feel free to diverge from it as the story comes together. I'm a firm believer in the liberating power of formal constraint. Outlines? They're safety nets. They allow you to feel secure as you blindly follow inspiration. As a writer, you can attempt bigger feats of daring when you know that even if you fail, you'll have the outline to fall back on.
8. What made you choose Evelyn as your main character's name?
Evelyn because I am fan of the hilarious, cutting novels of Evelyn Waugh; Truelove is because a friend's last name is actually Truelove, which struck me as both wonderful and a kind of curse.
9. What was the most challenging part of writing the Glass Gauntlet?
Making the story stand more-or-less alone but at the same time matter in the larger arc of Ronan's story.
Middle books in a series are always challenges—they can't move the story all the way to the end, but no reader wants to feel as though she is spinning her wheels waiting for the book three to thump down onto the doorstep with the conclusion of the tale. I knew Ronan and his friends couldn't leap right into full-blown action yet, because there is no way they could be ready to go to battle by book two. Instead, they needed to face a contained set of experiences that could dovetail with the larger story—and also set them up for the third book. Did I succeed? Beats me. But I certainly tried my best.
10. What is the best feedback you've received from readers? Got any stories?
I suppose my favorite (?) feedback comes from a few impassioned commentators who see The Blood Guard as having an agenda. (It doesn't. Honest.)
One letter writer accused me of having an anti-science, pro-religion bias, because the bad guys in the series employ cutting-edge technology. Another was sure I was against organized religion because the same bad guys have strange religious underpinnings to their beliefs.
The truth is that I didn't want to malign my villains just because they are true believers. Why shouldn't such people also recognize the power of science and technology? That bad people take advantage of technology doesn't mean I think science is bad; and just because some people commit heinous acts in the name of a religious belief doesn't mean religion is bad, either. It's a very complicated world out there, and I was hoping to make the opponents Ronan faces reflect that a little bit.
Why this has to be an either/or thing for some readers mystifies me. But I do appreciate their passion for their points of view, and I am grateful that they read my book and took the time to write to me.
Wow! Gotta love the last answer there. I definitely didn't see that one coming. Thank you so much Carter Roy for stopping by, and for those of you excited to get your hands on The Glass Gauntlet, I hope you'll enter the contest below! Simply comment that you would like a copy with an email address to contact you, and I will select a winner using a random number generator on Monday, August 24th. The contest is international, so enter quickly!
Trust me, you'll want this one.