Hello Emily! Congratulations on your newest book, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters. I’m part way through it and finding it riveting! As much as I want to talk about the book, since it has just come out, I don’t want to risk any spoilers. Especially for myself. Suffice it to say, Readers, this is Emily Carpenter. Read the book. Read all of them…
So, thank you for taking time out for this interview. Roswell Reads, as you know, celebrates Southern writers and their stories. We thought it would be interesting to talk to you about your work and what makes you tick as a writer. Here we go…
Q: Your books all have an element of psychological suspense, but they can also be classified as Southern Gothic. Your settings include creepy houses and/or asylums, isolated locations, swamps and classic evil characters. Where does that come from? What draws you to these characters and settings?
A: Maybe something super-strange in me? I’m not sure – all I can say is that I’ve loved scary, spooky stories from the time I was a little girl and I’ve never strayed far from that first love. I’ve always seen the evocative atmosphere of the South, always felt the ghosts of the old South in my bones so I enjoy conveying that to readers in my stories.
Q: You write books that are plot-driven. The plots are intricately woven and I wonder how difficult that is. How do you avoid plot holes? How do you ensure the story all comes together without any loose ends?
A: I love a complex plot, but I wish I could even tell a simpler story. But again, I enjoy reading books that are a bit more intricate, so I guess that’s what I end up writing. I always have plenty of plot holes, but that’s what excellent editors are for! Catching those buggers so I can clean them up!
Q: I also love the characters in your books, and how they relate to each other. They seem very real to me. How real do your characters feel to you? Are you more like a puppet master - controlling them throughout the book or do they, at some point, take on a life of their own?
A: Thank you! I think it takes me a good three-quarters of the book to get to the point where the characters solidify. Until then, a lot of times, I’m searching for who they are – for what truly motivates and scares them. When I finally get to the end of the book, I know them better, but sometimes it takes further edits and revisions to really hone in on their complexity and realness.
Q: Who is your own favorite character?
A: I love Daphne Amos from EVERY SINGLE SECRET because she had such a rough, lonely childhood and just wanted a family of her own. She believes in love. Truly believes. I also love Dove Jarrod from HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS and REVIVING THE HAWTHORN SISTERS. She is smart, resourceful, funny, pragmatic, and courageous.
Q: Here’s a strange question: I get a little nervous when I read your books, partly because of the suspense but also because some characters are just plain frightening. Do you ever scare yourself? Like, if you’re home alone do you ever start thinking about the book you’re working on and get scared of your own creations?
A: I’ve never scared myself. I’m pretty immune to that I think. If I wrote a character that scared me, I feel like the book would delve into full-on horror!
Q: Would any of your family members, friends, or enemies recognize themselves in your books?
A: No. Truly, all my characters are fictional. They have to fit the needs of the plot and I couldn’t just stick a real-life person into any old plot. It just wouldn’t work.
Q: Your books contain a wealth of information on things like buildings, mental health issues, and history, just to name a few. It all rings true to your readers. How much research do you do?
A: I do enjoy research but only to a point. It’s got to serve the story. The characters. Occasionally, I’ll find myself going down a rabbit hole, but generally, I want to get back to the task at hand – writing the book.
Q: In your spare time, how much reading do you do? Who are some of your favorite books and authors? What writers have most influenced you?
A: I am, regrettably, a slow reader, and with this difficult year, easily distracted. I wish I read more. I love all sorts of authors, from all kinds of genres, but I would say I’m heavily influenced by Gillian Flynn, Stephen King, Lois Duncan, and the Brontes!
Q: Speaking of spare time, what do you do when you take a break from writing?
A: I love movies and TV! Recently I decided I needed to take up a hobby that didn’t require work or intense struggle to improve or perform so I’m getting back into horseback riding, something I did as a kid. But not training, just good, old fashioned trail riding for fun and relaxation.
Q: Before you got your first book published, did you ever get discouraged? Do you ever feel discouraged or overwhelmed now? A lot of people think writing is easy, but it’s work and can be hard at times just like any other job. What keeps you going?
A: Oh, there were years of discouragement, just ask my husband. Lots of rejection and getting your hopes up, only to have them crash down. Even after getting published, you hope for readers to find your book, buy it, and love it! And that doesn’t always happen to the degree you want. Occasionally, I feel discouraged, but I really try to keep perspective on what I’ve accomplished and how much fun I’ve had. Wherever I go from here, it’s always a joy to get back to a story and just write. That is the greatest gift.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your time and thoughts with us. Keep writing!
Check it out! Atlanta Authors presents Emily Carpenter on December 5, 2020!