Hi, Stephanie! It’s nice to have you back on the Military Spouse Book Review. (For those who don’t know, Stephanie is the author of an historical fiction novel, A White Room, reviewed here this summer.)
Stephanie has spent the month of January working on something called The Legacy Project. Here, she discusses her involvement with it, the story she’s writing, and where we can find the final result.
So, Stephanie, can you tell us about #30Authors and the Legacy Project?
Yes! Allison Hiltz, founder of the The Book Wheel, a wonderful book review blog, and creator of the #30Authors event, has joined with Adria J. Cimino, author and founder of Velvet Morning Press, to put on an interactive writing challenge. The project challenges authors to write a short story or nonfiction piece on the theme of legacy in thirty days, starting at the beginning of January.
Throughout the month, the authors are posting updates on Twitter and Facebook about our process and experience. You can check out all the posts and discussions by searching for the #30Authors hashtag.
At the end of January, we will all submit our stories which will be included in an anthology called Legacy, to be published by Velvet Morning Press in the spring of 2015. Proceeds from online sales will go to the adorable charity Paws for Reading, a program that allows children to read to therapy dogs, cats, and even bunnies, to improve their reading and communication skills.
Is writing a short story in a single month a challenge for you and other authors?
Yes. I’m used to writing longer pieces, so writing a short story on its own is a challenge, and then making it good enough to publish in thirty days is an intimidating challenge. I, like many writers, take time away from my projects in order to gain perspective because after a while, you don’t see your words or even your mistakes. So far, it has been difficult, but exciting and rewarding as I am loving what I am writing and that this story will be a part of my portfolio.
What did you come up with based off of the theme of legacy?
At first I was at a loss. As I am a fiction author, my goal wasn’t to write about my desires regarding my own legacy, but that of a fictional character. When I think of legacy, I automatically think of someone winning a gold medal in the Olympics, or passing on their life lessons to their grandchildren, or an author writing something that will be remembered, but all of those happy things just don’t inspire me to write a story. I think it’s because my stories are bit darker.
So I got to thinking a little bit more about my darker feelings about legacy, and my mind went to this desire I’ve had since I was a child. I’ve always wanted to do something important for my maker, for God, but all my attempts seem to flop. At times, I have thought of this almost as a curse, something about my desire to make an impact is wrong and has doomed me to die without having done anything truly important.
Dark, I know . . . but that gave me the idea! What if a person knew they were going to die without a legacy and their last days were filled with these failed attempts to make a difference?
So a part of this challenge is sharing your process as you figured out your story. Where did you go from there?
After having that idea, I still didn’t know what to make of it for several days, so I started listing things I wanted the story to have, such as time period, setting, etc. I listed these words: Dark, magical realism, strange, unexpected, subtle, bitter-sweet, sad, female main, turn of the century, Gothic, mysterious house.
I started to piece things together and finally wrote out several paragraphs about my character and what I thought would be her back story, i.e. her dilemma, family life, etc. At first, I thought this would be something like a beginning, but after looking at it for a while, I realized I’d pretty much written the story in summary form.
I had written about a character named Lauraline Rosland who knows that the day after her thirtieth birthday, she will die. All she wants is to do one thing that will make a difference before she dies, but she only has three days left.
Have you had any hiccups or gotten stuck at all?
I did get stuck with the setting. I imagined Lauraline living in her grandmother’s old house, which I saw as being one of those tall rectangle-like Victorian houses you see in San Francisco, which I learned are called Stick-Eastlake houses.
I researched the houses with great delight but was struggling to figure out how to represent historic San Francisco accurately without much time to research. I finally decided to send the story to a friend who lives there, and he pointed me in the direction of Colma, California, a city where the dead outnumber the living. Inspired!
In 1900, around when my story was set, San Francisco passed an ordinance preventing any more burials in the city limits, so everyone buried their dead a little bit south of the city in Colma. At the time of my story, there were already ten cemeteries there, and several years later in 1914, San Francisco sent eviction notices to those with family buried within the city limits, and guess where the graves were relocated? Colma was much easier for me to represent and so I had my setting!
Setting seems to play an important role in your work.
After writing this story, it’s clear to me now how much of a major role setting plays. This is pretty obvious with A White Room, my historical novel where the house and furniture come to life, but I didn’t realize when I wrote that story that setting was going to play character-level roles in almost all of work. What can I say? I just love old houses and creepy little towns.
After January ends and your story is turned in, what else are you working on this year?
I have multiple projects going on at the moment, and I can’t really say which will be finished first because I tend to take a break from one thing and work on another for a while. I wish I could say I know I will publish something new this year, but I have found that as an artist, a project might seem near completion and then turn a corner and require a complete overhaul.
I have three major projects going right now. I’ve been working on a new novel for several years called The Binding of Saint Barbara, which revolves around the history of the first death by electrocution which took place in Auburn Prison, Auburn, N.Y., 1890. The story follows the fictionalized story of the prison warden’s daughter as she discovers the realities of good and evil through her interactions with several prisoners, including the ax-murderer condemned to die.
In addition to that piece, in January 2014, I wrote a science fiction novel, S0L M8, about a not-too-distant future when the environment is destroyed, but mankind has survived by retreating to isolated underground homes where they live and interact via virtual reality, except for their immediate family units and their soul mates, who are accurately chosen during childhood via an algorithm. It’s still in its first draft.
Whoa! Sounds very cool. These are some pretty diverse projects. What’s the last one?
This past October, inspired by Halloween and a research spree into the classic Gothic tradition, I wrote my own Gothic novella about a young women who is sent to the dilapidated home of an out-of-work spinal specialist in order to receive treatment for her mysterious pain condition. Also, still in its first draft.
How can people find out when Legacy and your other books are released?
I write about my experiences with authorship and publishing all the time in my quarterly newsletter. It’s also where I announce new books and special opportunities for those who want to become test readers. Sign up for Coming Unhinged with Stephanie Carroll today!
Velvet Morning Press and The Book Wheel’s Twitter pages are also great places to find information about Legacy’s debut. Velvet Morning Press is also looking for test readers for Legacy, so if you are interested in reading an advanced copy ebook (mobi, epub, or pdf file) and posting a review on Amazon, send an email to email@example.com.
I heard you also have some announcements regarding your blog Unhinged and Empowered.
Yes! Unhinged & Empowered is looking for new writers. We currently have three Navy Wives and a Navy Girlfriend writing for the blog, but we are looking to “branch out” and include wives, girlfriends, husbands, or any significant others from other branches of the military. Unhinged & Empowered is a blog focused on support and encouragement for those who support their military men but at times feel like they might come unhinged! We also support our writers and feature any books or products they have. If you are interested please feel free to contact me!
About Stephanie Carroll
As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. She holds degrees in history and social science and graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.
Her dark and magical historical fiction is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). She also writes science fiction and nonfiction, including the blog Unhinged & Empowered. A White Room is her first novel.
Stephanie lives in California, where her husband was originally stationed with the U.S. Navy. Check out her website at http://www.stephaniecarroll.net and sign up for her quarterly newsletter, Coming Unhinged with Stephanie Carroll to be notified of new books and free goodies. Also, find her @CarrollBooks on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.