Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Anna Grace Carpenter's Loss and Love

Anna Grace Carpenter is one of the newest writers I've met. We met during the Connooga convention earlier this year, and when I checked out her work, I knew I'd need to have her here on the blog so you could meet her too. 

She also has a lot of practical advice for writers at http://wordimonki.blogspot.com/.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

The current novel-in-progress is a Southern Gothic about a young woman who can see and change the future. She falls in love with an FBI agent who comes to investigate a series of mysterious murders and goes to great lengths to save his life and then find her way back to him after she winds up a ghost. It's a lot closer to Horror than I've written in the past which is a lot of fun, but also challenging because it's new territory, genre-wise.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Loss of family members, especially parents. I've written three novels and one novella so far and in all of them, the protagonist has lost or loses at least one parent in violent circumstances. To balance that out, I also tend to look at the families we build for ourselves as we become adults -- friends and lovers -- and how that "new" family interacts with or makes up for the loss of the original family.

I'm quite fond of romantic secondary plots, so you can expect to find a love story of some sort in most of my novels. Not always a healthy love story, and there are frequently big challenges to overcome before the happy couple is actually a happy couple.

What would be your dream project?

Finally writing a really good Space Opera. That was the sub-genre that really made me fall in love with SF/F and want to write speculative fiction, but even though I keep coming back to it, it's still eluding me. So, being able to produce a novel in this sub-genre I love would be a dream come true.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

That would have to be Brass Stars, my SF Western novella. It's a fast ride, and I wrote it to follow the film structure of a revenge Western -- a young woman is seeking justice for murdered mother and has tracked down and killed all but one of the men responsible. It starts off with a gunfight in a brothel and the bodies just keep piling up throughout the rest of the story. But the action is so tightly packed, I think if I were going to do it over again (which I might be), I would definitely add in more subplot and probably continue the story past the point where it currently ends.

What inspires you to write?

Originally it was feeling that I couldn't find the stories I wanted to read on the shelves at the library. So I thought I would just write them myself. And I'm still doing that. But more specific inspiration actually comes from folks telling me (usually indirectly) that certain things can't be done either because they've been overdone or they're boring or they're too political. The spectrum is broad; everything from vampires and werewolves to kid learns about magic from a family member to QUILTBAG characters/protagonists to female protagonist who doesn't fall in love as part of her story arc. (That last one was a challenge due to loving a little bit of love on the side with my fiction, but it worked out better that way.)

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Authors who have influenced me would have to include Charles Williams, Flannery O'Connor, Mervyn Peake, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, Joan Aiken and Susan Cooper. But I've also picked up a lot of creative influence from folks like Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Alan Moore, Hiroaki Samura, Andrei Tarkovsky, Shohei Imamura, Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I'd have to say it's art, not science. Science would imply there's set criteria that can always produce a book/story that people love, but personal experience says that every story is different and unpredictable. Also, just because something is "art" doesn't mean there isn't a large amount of skill and craft that goes into it. Learning which words to put on the page is definitely a skill. (It's almost as important as learning which words NOT to put on the page.) But the result is never guaranteed.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

At the moment the three novels I've written in the past two years are all in some layer of submission hell. So, nothing concrete. But folks can always check out my short stories (links on my blog -- http://agcarpenter.blogspot.com/p/bibliography.html), most of which are available to read for free online.