Welcome to the three hundred and eighty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Carol Anita Ryan. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Carol. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Carol: I always wanted to be an anthropologist and / or a travel writer, but to actually earn a living I had a career in Information Technology. Fortunately I was able to pursue my passions by traveling extensively between positions. One of my last traveling adventures is the basis for Right Now Is Perfect. This memoir about sailing aboard a 36-foot boat across the Pacific with my would-be soul mate concludes with the unexpected diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and the impact of progressing disability. It was only when I became too disabled to work that I finally got serious about writing. I live in northern California with my poodle, Napoleon.
Morgen: I love his (her?) name. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Carol: I have some deep-seated need to tell the truth and although I enjoy reading fiction, I’ve only written non-fiction. I hope someday to be creative enough to do fiction.
Morgen: It is wonderful. The only non-fiction writing I do is about writing. 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Carol: Right Now Is Perfect: A Romance, An Adventure, The Unexpected Thereafter is my first book. I use my middle name because there are millions named Carol Ryan, but not so many named Carol Anita Ryan.
Morgen: Good idea. There are three Morgen Baileys that I know of, online certainly, and I don’t think either of the other two write, so I’m lucky in that respect. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Carol: It took me six years to write my first book. The first version (which was a travel narrative) was rejected without as much as a comment, by the agent I sent a sample to. After that, I worked with a well-known writing coach for two years and totally rewrote the book. The final version is more of a story, hopefully appealing to a broader range of readers. The first version was very important to the process though. It took those years to recall details that were important to get the story right.
Morgen: I don’t think you can put too much effort into getting a book right. I had planned to get my (four) novels online well before now but hopefully they’ll all be up by the end of the year. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
My book trailer also won an award. It was created by a talented friend.
Morgen: Oh yay, well done. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Carol: I don’t have an agent. Maybe that’s the problem!
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Carol: Yes. I submitted my book to Smashwords.com and did the formatting myself so it is available in all major eBook formats (I also created the Kindle format). I have a Kindle and I like to read books on it, mainly because it is physically hard for me to hold a book these days. I love real books, but have learned to love eBooks for their advantages.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Carol: I am doing the marketing myself. I write a blog on my website (www.RightNowIsPerfect.com), have a Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/#!/Right.Now.Is.Perfect), and participate in online book discussions.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Carol: Jeff Bridges would definitely play the antagonist, Bill, in Right Now Is Perfect!
Morgen: Oh yes, good choice. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Carol: I gave input into the cover design and chose from three excellent options. I came up with the title myself—but asked for feedback before finalizing it. My working title was Don’t Wait and I loved it. Some advised against a negative title, so I changed it.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Carol: I’m thinking about Overland to Nepal: the Diaries from a much earlier time in my life.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Carol: On a daily basis I do short marketing related writing, but it takes me a while to make myself write more seriously.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Carol: I worked very hard to make every word/sentence count and relate to my ‘prove’ statement. Every plot twist in my book had to refer back to a cause/effect sequence I wrote prior to beginning to write.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Carol: I work in non-fiction and I use real first names (unless it would be too revealing). People who know my characters have found them spot-on.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Carol: I do editing, but I also use editors. For me it’s essential.
Morgen: I think every author should even if they’re seasoned. We are usually too close to our own work to spot sometimes silly little mistakes and my editor / first readers are worth their weight. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
Carol: I do fact checking. If I say something factual it has to be right.
Morgen: Because if it’s not, someone will point it out. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Carol: I find first person easiest. I tried writing my book in third person and as fictional, but I couldn’t do it.
Morgen: That’s interesting. I write first and third person fiction but I have changed tense on a story before and it’s surprising how different it is. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Morgen: 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Carol: Actually trying to sell books is my least favourite thing. Marketing can be very diverting and time consuming.
Morgen: Can’t it just. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Carol: Keep at it. Publish on Smashwords to get feedback. Use an editor!
Morgen: I do… and I do. 🙂 If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Carol: Bernini (who did so many artistic masterpieces such as Saint Teresa of Avila), because he could tell me about beauty. Krishnamurti because he could tell me about truth. And Bill Clinton because he would be so interesting to talk to. I’d make a fabulous eggplant dish I love. There would be red wine and strong coffee too. What a great idea!
Morgen: 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Carol: You don’t know what you don’t know.
Morgen: That’s very true. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Carol: These days my life is very sleek due to disability from MS. So I don’t have much of a non-writing life. 🙂
Morgen: I’m blessed with pretty good health (sciatica) but still don’t have much of a non-writing life. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Carol: I’m on Goodreads.com and Linkedin.com. They are interesting and I’ve learned a lot from them.
Morgen: LinkedIn is probably where we met. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Carol: I think being able to think and write clearly will always be valuable, although the future is hard to envision.
Morgen: eBooks certainly seems to be the direction most people are going in. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Thank you, Carol.
I then invited Carol to include an extract of her writing…
This week’s dispiriting news from Afghanistan, that Qurans were ‘accidentally’ burned, infuriates me. I start with the ridiculous assertion that a holy book of Islam can be ‘accidentally’ burned. It’s like we invaded the Vatican and ‘accidentally’ desecrated communion hosts. No one in any capacity in Afghanistan should be that dumb, or that culturally unaware. It’s not like it’s a big secret that Moslems don’t like the Quran being burnt (deaths have recently resulted from a previous case of Quran burning). Everyone in Afghanistan must know the basics of Afghan culture and how Islam is practiced in the country we have invaded and now occupy. We have spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of U.S. lives and now the whole enterprise may be lost by an Afghan Spring of our own ‘accidental’ making.
The other thing about this disaster is the role of cultural ignorance that many Americans like to celebrate. We can’t afford to be an international player if we are going to remain tone deaf to other cultures’ values. Why do so many politicians and commentators see this form of knowledge as weakness?
Although I seldom agree with Newt Gingrich, he may be onto something. We should take this Afghan uprising against U.S. and NATO occupation as the opportunity to leave Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead; we’ve done all we can do to rid Afghanistan of Al Qaida, let’s take this opportunity to get out now!
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