Qs for Stevie.
Today my guest in the Comfy Chair is my friend Stevie Carroll, author of ‘The Monitors’, in Noble Romance’s Echoes of Possibilities, which was longlisted by the Tiptree Awards in 2010. She has also written short stories that appeared in British Flash and Tea and Crumpet, anthologies published by the UK Meet organisation. Her first solo collection of short stories, A Series of Ordinary Adventures, is published by Candlemark and Gleam in May.
Hi Stevie, thanks for joining me today.
Stevie: Thank you for having me here.
Elin: I’ve been very impressed by the series of photos that you display on your blog. Do you often get inspiration from the places you visit?
Stevie: All the time! Most of the stories in A Series of Ordinary Adventures were inspired in no small part by their setting. I’m glad people like my photos, since I’m definitely more of a landscape photographer than I am any other kind of visual artist. I love buildings: castles and stately homes, but also ordinary houses from different eras and in different areas. We have such a wealth of different building styles in the UK depending on what materials have been available locally as well as dictated by the varying fashions of the ages.
One place I’m yet to write about, but must at some point is Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire (photograph attached). My friends and I are convinced that the sagging caused by the Long Gallery being built on the joists of the floor below rather than on the supporting walls would never have happened if the owner at the time had listened to his wife a little more.
A place that definitely gets referenced in the current set of stories, however is Portchester Castle, just down the road from where I live now. I popped back a couple of times while I was writing and editing to make sure I’d got all the details right. On the other hand, I had to rely on my memory, my vast collection of photo files, and the internet for a lot of the setting details for the other stories.
Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Stevie: It varies, although I always learn more about my characters as I write them. Rose in ‘Hawks and Dragon’ was pretty well formed before I started writing about her, although I don’t think I knew that much about her background early on. Tariq in ‘Breaking the Silence’ was a complete surprise to me: all I knew when I started was that something was lurking in the attic of a private school and that a group of friends were going to find out what it was during a school reunion. I wrote the first paragraph, and suddenly there was this Muslim car dealer with a couple demanding of ex-wives and a fairly high-up role in local government directing how the story developed from there.
Elin: I’ve enjoyed your f/f stories and I know that in your most recent collection of stories there is one where nobody is quite what they seem. Have you any advice for authors who want to fill in some of the other LBGTQ letters?
Stevie: You’re talking about ‘Charmed by Prince Charming’, aren’t you? That one was inspired by the two great British theatre traditions for crossdressing: pantomime and Shakespeare. I think the trick is just to remember that people are far more than just their sexuality and/or their gender identity. Ash is bisexual and genderfluid/genderqueer, but more importantly has a thing for both girly girls like live-in partner (and romantic co-lead) Jen and shy-but-blokey blokes like Jen’s best friend Colin (the comic relief in most of their productions). Ash also likes pub quizzes, real ale, and trips out to local ruins for picnics.
I also have a story about a trans* character in the collection, and tried to bust a few of the stereotypes when writing about her. She’s arty, and likes her tweed skirts or smart skirt-suits, but she’s also a bit of an expert on DIY and as good with her carpentry tools as she is with her various looms and spinning bobbins. Of course she’s only just moved from the city to a small town, so she’s still figuring out where she fits in with respect to the locals, especially one man in particular who seems rather keen on her.
Elin: I understand that Candlemark and Gleam are using Kickstarter, a crowd sourcing organisation, to fund the print run for A Series of Ordinary Events. Can you explain to people who may not have heard of it how Kickstarter works?
Stevie: Kickstarter is a US-based project that’s been going for a while now, although more UK folk are figuring out ways to use it. Basically it’s a way for creators – artists, writers, musicians, film makers and so on – to raise money for new projects, whether that’s a couple of hundred dollars, or thousands. People can pledge as much or as little as they like towards the target, but only have to pay out if the target is reached by the deadline. Different levels of pledges receive different tiers of rewards, so for A Series of Ordinary Adventures the lowest reward tier gets you e and print copies of the book, while higher tiers include additionally a signed bookplate, then two bonus stories that tie in with one of the collection’s two novellas, and then various pieces of photo-art that relate to the stories or my other sources of inspiration as the level of the pledge increases.
Payment is via amazon.com and the money won’t be taken until and unless the project is funded after the deadline day.
Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Stevie: Photography is my main outlet besides writing, although I have enjoyed various (for want of a better word) fibrecrafts in the past, especially weaving (which I mentioned writing about) and multi-stitch embroidery (usually on quite a large scale).
Elin: What are you working on at present?
Stevie: I’m hoping to have a story in this year’s Lashings of Sauce anthology, although that depends on whether I hit my extended deadline in time. After that’s done, I want to go back to the various novels I need to tidy up and start submitting places (one SF/space opera, one recent past urban fantasy and one time-slip mystery), and to draft a category romance in time for this year’s Festival of Romance (assuming they have the editor one-to-ones again this year).
Elin: Out of all your characters who would you feel most inclined to a] push down the stairs, b] share a cab with or c] have move in next door?
Stevie: For a] it would have to be Monty Summers of ‘Seven for the Devil’, even though his revenge might not be very palatable. For b] I think Grace of ‘The Footballer’s Mistress’, so long as the cabbie didn’t interrogate her too much about her past and for c] I’ll have to say Mr Singh of ‘Mr Singh Confronts the Minotaur’ because he has a solution for every situation he finds himself in.
Elin: Please may we have an excerpt of something? Published, freebie, Work In Progress?
Stevie: How about a little bit of ‘The Footballer’s Mistress’, which is the one story that makes me sniffle happily every time I reread it?
The footballer left before sunset, but returned two days later with a gift for Grace. She tore the paper off, as excited as a child at Christmas, forgetting in an instant how downcast she had been at his leaving. The box within held a locket—gold on a gold chain—inside which was a picture of the footballer and a curled strand of his hair.
“Much better than that old thing,” he said as he replaced Poppy’s mother’s pendant with the new one.
“Well, I like them both.” Grace strode to her bedroom, with Poppy trailing after her.
Digging through her jewellery box, Grace found a shorter silver chain, slightly thicker than that which had hung around her neck. She transferred the silver locket onto it, then fixed the chain around her wrist.
“There, that’s everyone happy.” Was she talking to herself ? To her footballer? To Poppy? The footballer was in the sitting room, flicking through the sports pages of the day’s newspaper, and Grace had shown no previous sign that she was aware of Poppy’s presence.
Poppy drifted away, down and outside to the meeting rooms, where she watched the single men and women drinking together, and the families eating their meals. Not all the drinkers had beer, and few of the diners ate pies, but Poppy found their laughter and the camaraderie comforting. She preferred not to witness the rutting of the footballer and his mistress again, although she was bracing herself for Grace’s tears after he left. Why did women put themselves through so much pain for men?
Not that it was always the women. There was a not-unattractive bachelor in one of the smaller ground-floor flats, who always seemed to be either in love or nursing a broken heart. Sometimes he carried a torch for one of the local women, but more often he seemed smitten with some man or other that he had met in the city. In all likelihood, he would be no better a match for Grace than her footballer, but perhaps they could advise each other on the fickleness of humanity in general.
Thank you for hosting me today!
For anyone who would like to follow Stevie or know more about her work, links below.
Listen to me read an excerpt: http://candlemarkandgleam.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ab9aa9a62d83c67fd7eef513&id=9999fcda30&e=a8fe974325
Read the first story in the collection via BookBuzzr: http://www.freado.com/read/12577/a-series-of-ordinary-adventures