Greetings everyone, this is Safa Shaqsy and I’m interviewing Carol James Marshall about her as a writer. If you don’t know Carol, well, she’s the author of Starburst about the women of the Grey, an alien race of female clones that come to Earth under the orders of their leader Superior Mother. Let’s start shall we?
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Besides the obvious answer of being able to quit the day job and spend my life in pajama pants happily typing away at home. My wish is to have fans, not a zillion but some. The idea that someone would read my book (soon books) and be a “fan” of my work is a validation that all those stories bouncing around my head aren’t terrible.
Which writers inspire you?
One of the first books that really shook me was Suicide Blonde by Darcey Steinke. Reading Suicide Blonde I felt that Darcey Steinke voice was my voice. Her poetic hypotonic style was shooting an arrow right at me. Reading it I had the feeling of “how could this author know me so well.” I still have my original copy of Suicide Blonde and two others, there is always a copy of that book in my home. OH, nerd girl fact I was super exited when Darcey Steinke accepted my friend request on Facebook, major fan girl moment.
So, what have you written?
I have written Starburst book 1 of my Women of the Grey series. Actually, Starburst is my 3rd book but I never believed in myself before with Starburst I decided to take that deep breath and jump in the pool, put my writing out there to the world something I was never brave enough to do.
(*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
Where can we buy or see them?
Starburst book 1# Women of the Grey is available on kindle, kindle unlimited and paperback via Createspace.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The leader of the Grey, Superior Mother keeps the women of the grey ignorant to the details of The Grey and about humans. She believes that information is earned. It is to Superior Mother a way to control the women of The Grey. Lisa is our main character, she gets sent on her first mission amongst the humans. This first mission is sink or swim, do as your told figure it out on your own or drown. Lisa wants badly to follow the way of The Grey, she is after all one of them, but she finds herself questioning every aspect of human life along with life in The Grey. It’s a coming of age story really, going off to the school of life for the first time after leaving the nest, just my twisty turny way off telling it. What makes Lisa special is the depth of her emotions, she’s been raised to be not feel yet she feels so very deeply. I do my best to portray that.
What are you working on at the minute?
The list is a little long, Red Drug book 2 of Women of the Grey is written and being edited by my editor and myself. After the first draft of edits I had a change of heart about the ending. I am working to fatten it up a bit, make the plot a little juicer. I want a nice set up for book 3. Besides that I am writing a novel called The Demon Dealer, all under the premise of if those that could, would purchase a demon for their household. The Demon would be the protector of their homes and families becoming very protective of its family that it was purchased and raised in. it follows the life of one such demon Valentina, from birth to adulthood. My inspiration for this book is mostly Stephen King mixed in with a little Stranger Things, it’s been really fun to write. I also have a book of poetry called the Diabla collection, that came about while watching Dexter. What if the devil was a girl? What if Dexter had been female? Lastly, I’m poking at a short story called Life Song. Lots of cool stuff coming up.
What genre are your books?
Ahhh, the genre question. I hate that question. I hate it because I don’t have a great answer for Women of the Grey. My editor finally landed on paranormal horror, but that’s not really me. I have a bit of sci-fi, supernatural, dark fantasy, horror, blah it’s all in there. The important thing is, when I wrote it I wanted the sci-fi/supernatural as a background and it is. Starburst is about Lisa a young woman trying to navigate her situation in her world, that she’s an alien clone is a tiny part of the story. This may sound ridicules but it’s true I focus on characters and getting the reader into their heads and their feelings. I have yet to figure out a label for that.
What draws you to this genre?
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I love this question! I love it because it’s a fun thought, but also because I know exactly who it is Taylor Momsen lead singer of The Pretty Reckless. When I was thinking about The Women of the Grey and the story line I saw the video for Miss Nothing by The Pretty Reckless and I thought “yes, that is Lisa.” To this day when I need a Lisa vibe while working on her I watch Miss Nothing.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always been a writer since I could put a pencil to paper poems and stories have taken life. I would like to tell you about the day I decided to take myself seriously as a writer, the day I decided to come out. This is 100% true. I had already written Starburst, had several friends read it. It was the third book I’ve written (I never bothered to do anything with the first two) and was wondering what to do with this thing I created. I am at a doctor’s appointment the very large African-American women (I’m telling you this for imagery) sitting next to me was busy reading on her kindle. Now, I’m very nosey about what people are reading. I believe it gives us insight into who they are, like looking into someone’s medical cabinet. I ask her what she’s reading and she says “Well honey, my husband makes fun of me, but I just love werewolf romance novels. I just can’t get enough.”
Now, that answer was a trillion percent unexpected and I had to take a moment after it to reflect on the fact that werewolf romance novels were a thing, someone somewhere was writing them, and people were reading them. After that I convinced myself there was an audience for the stories in my head and decided to get serious not only about Starburst, but all my writing.
Why do you write?
I write because I have to. Sounds overly dramatic but it’s true. I get these stories in my head that wrap around me, so I write and get them out. I am always happy when I’ve had a good day of writing. It is therapy for me keeps me sane and gives me identity.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I have two boys, boys that I adore, boys that took up every second of my day along with work, laundry and dogs. I got lost for many years and did not write for lack of time. Once my boys got older one day I realized that I had free time again. I was going through a rough patch in life at the time and a friend of mine asked me “well who are you?” The answer was “a writer” I went home and started Starburst that night.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I strive to write every day but sometimes that’s not possible. There are days when I feel the urge to write but life gets in the way and days where I have the time but there’s nothing brewing. Usually, I write 2-3 hours a day, but it’s not consistent.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I don’t do that set amount of words or chapter or whatever. Writing to me is like vomiting. I get this feeling, this urge and everything needs to come out. Once it comes out I know I’m done for that day. Someday that’s hours of writing other days that might be 15 minutes.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I don’t do an outline. I’m not very conventional when it comes to writing. I have the ideas in my head, the basics of where I’m going and who I’m going with jumping around my skull, but besides that it’s stream of consciousness. I do however keep a note pad by my laptop and take notes as I write. I keep track of what’s going on and with who plus where I want to go with that character.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
Starburst is book 1 in my Women of the Grey series. I was looking at the ying yang symbol one day. Thinking what color was it between the black and the white, the answer is gray of course. I had the idea of these alien clone woman on earth, would they be wicked or kind? My answer was neither, they’d be somewhere in between. Mix the somewhere in between with my wanting to take a cannonball dive into the characters and Women of the Grey was born.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I never meant to write a series. I meant to write a novel and I am watching myself very closely while writing The Demon Dealer to make sure it doesn’t evolve into a series. When I was done with Starburst, I still had so much left to say. That I felt I had to keep it a series I could not leave my ideas undone. What scares me is, as an author I have a bit of attachment to my characters, knowing it’s a series at one point I will have to say goodbye to them. At one point the conversation has to end, and that gives me anxiety.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I strongly believe in having an editor. Every writer out there needs a great working relationship with a professional editor. Lucky for me I found Courtney Lindmann @readingonrepeat.com. I needed someone who would tell me when my ideas sucked or when I was on the right track as well as fixing my endless grammar mistakes. I can’t emphasize enough a professional editor is worth their weight in gold.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes, I believe the cover is a big deal and I will openly say now that I made a huge mistake with my cover for Starburst. I actually love the original cover for Starburst done my zacksnowart.com. It’s exactly what I wanted. I noticed books were very dark in my general genre so I went with black and white, stark like a 1980’s generic cereal box. Now with some time to reflect my taste is not pleasing to the public or an eye catcher. The cover has been changed, but I still regret now not doing something different more eye catching. Lesson learned I will not repeat that mistake again, the cover for Red Drug will be epic.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I self-published on the recommendation of my editor. The idea was to self-publish get my name out as an author, build my social media platform and then query agents. I am following that process. I have just now started to query agents. I do not want to be an indie author, for my own personal reasons being that I am not business savvy. it takes an incredible amount of self-marketing and endless research to figure out the back alleys and paths of the publishing world. That is not me, it works wonderfully for many authors but I don’t see if as a permanent place for myself. I will continue to self-publish till I can land an agent or publishing house.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
social media does not equal sales, it doesn’t for me anyway. I look at social media as a way to get my name out plant that seed in readers heads so that when they go to purchase a book they might remember me, but that’s a very big might.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Would have loved to have written The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta it’s the book that opened my eyes to the supernatural element being the background story.
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Thank you Carol for taking this interview. Hope to chat with you again.
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