I am constantly amazed at the energy and resource Carrie brings to her life in general and her life as a writer in particular, which is why I asked her if she would consider answering a few questions. Her debut novel is The Early Bird Café. Though this book is within the romance genre, writers working in other genres should find her replies instructive. I know I did.
For years, Jim and Eve have shared breakfast every morning at the Early Bird Café. Their constant friendship, however, is thrown into chaos when Jim begins writing his second novel. Their friendship strained, the novel takes all of Jim’s focus, and a grievous string of events coupled with Jim’s manipulative new lover put their friendship to the ultimate test.
You are not a full-time writer. What is your present job and do you enjoy it?
“Secretary by day, writer by night” is my Twitter intro and I stick by that! I am a secretary at a logistics firm in Erie, PA where I’ve done endless filing, typing, ordering, sorting and taxes for the past fifteen years. I put out our company newsletter, ‘The Drive On Digest’, I manage our company websites and social media presences, I stock all supplies for our five divisions, I do billing and tax management for our real estate division and our trucking division plus see to any needs of my six managers and CEO. As a third generation ‘trucker gal’, it’s in my blood to LOVE this type of work! Gramps was a dispatcher for Lyons Transportation, Dad hauls diesel fuel for E. L. Heard, and I work for ‘Poppa Joe’ Benacci at Lake Erie Logistics and Benco Leasing. (a mouthful, I know!)
Do you aspire to be a full-time writer, replacing your present salary by income from writing?
My current career is very important to me and, this being a family business, I’ve built something here with the Benacci’s that I could never walk away from. If I became a full-time writer, I feel it would start to feel too much like ‘work’ and I might sour to being stuck in front of a blank page all the time. This balance of ‘day job’ and ‘night job’ really works for my writing juices!
It is sometimes said that the best way to succeed as a writer in today’s market is to select a genre and work within it. Would you do this if you felt it increased your chances of success or would you follow your inspiration wherever it happened to lead?
Unfortunately, no, I’ve never worked like that. My other novels are westerns, a mob trilogy, and general contemporary fiction. Characters have to find me, speak to me – then I write their story. And, since all kinds of people interest me, all kinds of stories come bubbling out! I understand that sticking to a genre builds brand recognition, and I’m not against that. I have future characters who have a romance waiting for them. But, I want my writing to reflect my own excitement and passion for my characters – whatever their story may turn out to be!
Either way, are you now working on a follow-up to The Early Bird Café and, if so, can you tell us anything about it?
One enduring quality about Jim is that Eve describes him as a ‘continual mystery, ever evolving’. As the reader discovers how these two friends decide to change their relationship, that will be one variable that does NOT change! There are going to be some growing pains for these two in the sequel. They are some very stubborn people who have come to love the structure of their lives. No matter what happens, both of these people are going to butt heads over expectations versus reality.
One bit of unexpected feedback I got recently was a question about the character of Kate. So, I’m now looking into her a bit more. I’m not sure if she’ll show back up or not, but I don’t think that readers have heard the last from Jim’s fling!
What draws readers to romances? Are they providing something for their readers which is unfortunately lacking in their lives?
You answer your own question! What draws anyone to any book? It fulfills a need they have. Some wish to escape, to dream, to relax. Everyone is looking for something or someone. If a reader can see themselves in the pages, they will read it. Those who wish to escape may find themselves drawn to sci-fi to picture themselves in another world, somewhere that they might feel more confident or powerful when they wish they were more confident and powerful in their present lives. Those lovers of romance might wish they had the level of desire or validation that the characters give each other in the book. They might be drawn to the plot to relive a similar situation from their own past. Somehow, romance readers love to step inside the pages of their favorite stories and live with those characters. That’s what I work to give my readers. I want to give them the world they want to visit over and over, where they can set down the stress of the day and find the connection
Authors today are expected to market their work, which usually involves active use of social media to spread the word. Do you do this?
I’ve been going through a very intense roller-coaster ride of learning how to expedite my social media marketing ever since the book went live and I love it. Nobody knows my personal brand better than me and I wouldn’t want anyone else driving this except me! It’s a fantastic way to meet inspiring people who can drive you on in support of your pursuit of this lovely adventure of writing. Currently, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, MerchantCircle, YouTube, Goodreads and Shelfari!
Given that active use of social media takes time and effort, would you prefer to spend your time writing, rather than tweeting, leaving messages on timelines, liking status updates, uploading photographs, making comments, responding to comments?
Coming from my day job background, I see such potential in the marketing aspect of publishing that I don’t mind dividing my time between writing and social media. Some writers shy away from it for whatever reason. But, in this day and age, one can’t really nurture the “Techno-Phobia” mentality. Google searches aren’t going anywhere, eReaders are here to stay – we are IN the computer age. We might as well embrace it and make it work for us!
There are ways to streamline and utilize programs that can totally redefine the way you spend your social media time, such as using Hootsuite. I don’t individually go to each profile and individually type out separate posts over and over in my marketing campaign. I think that, as authors will get more and more into their options, they’ll find that this is still just a plastic and metal box in front of us and we can still have all the control over it to make it do what we want.
How do you fit in your writing with other aspects of your life such as family and job?
My days start before 6am and end around midnight, so there’s plenty of time to schedule a bit of everything in that amount of time. I always carry a journal with me, I have an audio recorder on my cell phone should I be inspired while in the car, and my desk job always finds me near scrap paper and pen, so I fit my writing in wherever I can. I know some writers go into their “Writing Cave” for an hour or two each morning or evening, but I’m more flexible than that. I keep my schedule open so that I don’t feel boxed in to HAVE to sit down and write if I really can’t. Taking that pressure off of me helps me keep my writing feeling more natural and open.