Friday, March 28, 2008

Dame Topaz -- Carrie Masek

Carrie is a fellow member of Jewels of the Quill and a past rival. We were finalists last year in the Dream Realm awards for YA fantasy. She was the winner and rightfully so. Jane

1 Which comes first the characters or the plot?

I usually start with a character. Often, the character will jump into my mind and nag me until I sit down and write his/her story. I usually have a sense of the beginning of that story and where it will end up, but I learn the path the character will take to get from the beginning to the end while I’m writing.
2 How do you create your characters?

I’m not sure “create” is the right word for the way my characters evolve. I start with a general feel for my characters and get to know them better as I write. A really good example of this happened while I was writing my vampire thriller, TWICE DAMNED. I was three quarters of the way through the first draft, around page 180 in the published book, when I discovered that in addition to the survivor’s guilt, my main character was driven by a need for vengeance. His guilt was a passive emotion; it was the call for vengeance that kept him going in the face of despair. That’s one thing I love about writing, the way I discover things about my characters and their stories as I go.

3 Do you make a plan or go with the flow?

As you can probably guess from my answers above, I tend to go with the flow. I’ve tried to plot out books, to outline and structure the story before I start writing, but that has never worked well for me. The story goes along the way I planned for a while, but inevitably one of the characters will decide to take the story in a different direction. When that happens, I can either, “go with the flow,” or I can try to force the characters to stick to my plan. The last time I tried to force a story, the characters went on a four week sit-down strike and refused to do anything until I threw out the outline and gave them free reign. Now, I don’t even try.
4. How much research do you do?

I love digging through books, surfing the internet, etc. It’s fun, interesting, and a lot easier than writing. To avoid the temptation to research my writing time away, I do the bare minimum research necessary to start a story and then do spot research as needed. Referring back to TWICE DAMNED, for instance, before I could even begin the story, I needed a time-line for WWII, including the date for the fire-bombing of Dresden. That was enough to get me going, but once I reached the scene where Dresden burns, I went back to my books to learn details like the pattern of damage, specific areas and buildings that were destroyed, facts about the people in the city (including refugees fleeing the invading Russians), street names, landmarks, etc. When I’m deep in a story, I find it easier to resist the urge to sit down and read the whole research text.
5 How do you select the characters goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them?

I don’t so much select my characters’ goals as uncover them. Writing the first draft of a story is a process of discovery for me. During it, I learn what a character’s motivations and goals are. I use the revision process to sharpen and clarify those goals and to find ways to reveal them to the reader in the course of the unfolding story.6 What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time?

In addition to polishing my contribution to the upcoming Jewels of the Quill Valentine’s Day Anthology Magical Kisses, I’m finishing the first draft of one novel and seriously thinking of going back to two others I have waiting in the wings. I would like to be one of those focused people who can tune out distractions and give all their attention to one project at a time. Unfortunately, I’m not. Unless I’m writing to a deadline – deadlines are wonderful focusing agents – I tend the write the story of the character who’s yelling at me the loudest. Rarely, the other books’ characters will stay politely quiet until I finish the story. More commonly, they all start demanding attention and I find myself trying to write two or more novels simultaneously. 7 What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?

I’m working on stories for both of the Jewels of the Quill 2009 anthologies, Magical Kisses and Tales from the Treasure Trove, Vol. 5. I’m also finishing sequels for two of my published novels, TWICE DAMNED (Mundania Press, 2005) and A DRAGON’S TAIL (Double Dragon Publishing, 2005). 8 What's on your back list.

Mundania Press put out a wonderful pair of anthologies in 2004 called Beyond the Mundane. One volume, Flights of Mind was full of fantasy stories. Unravelings, was an anthology of horror and mystery. I was delighted when my story, “Cybergeist,” was selected to be included in Unravelings, and very sad when the anthology went out of print last November. If any of your readers run across a copy of either anthology, they should grab it. The stories in both are excellent.

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