TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Carol: My husband tells me he can tell how my writing day has gone. If the kitchen floor has been scrubbed, the porch is swept, and the bathrooms are clean, he'll walk into the house, look around and say, "Ah. Plot problems, I see."
I prefer to take a long walk to work out ideas, but when things get tough, scrubbing a floor really works. Of course, if the idea solves itself halfway through the job, then the floor can finish scrubbing itself; I'm off to write.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Carol: Since my background is in playwriting, I have to start with Shakespeare. Anybody wincing or ducking right now, please know, Shakespeare was not written to be read. His work was written to be seen. And in fact, it wasn't the English academics who carried his work forward all these centuries; it's theater folks. Once you've performed the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, or the mad scene in King Lear, or the scene where Puck mixes up who loves whom in Midsummer Night's Dream, you never let the play go. I love Shakespeare's scene work. I love his understanding of the proportions of plot. Most of all I love and envy his masterful ability to set a tension level at, say, five (on a scale of one to ten), hold it there for three hours without raising or lowering it (try that some time!), take it up to a seven, and end the play. I tend to pump the tension level all the time, just to make sure people are still reading. Shakespeare leaves a lot to aspire to, and that's completely leaving aside his being one of the master word wranglers of all time. (What's that story of the woman who saw Hamlet for the first time, and came out saying, "It's just a bunch of old clichés!")
Contemporary authors, Lois McMasters Bujold, Terry Pratchett, and Diana Wynne Jones (RIP) have my complete respect and attention. If I'm being influenced by other writers, I hope it would be to try and plot as masterfully at Bujold, to be as joyful and clever as Pratchett, and as imaginative as Wynne Jones.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Carol: The way I see it, you get this idea, and you add to it another idea, and another and another, and then there's this other idea running parallel to it, and another one over there, so you weave them all together . . . and you go on like that for a long time. Have you ever made a wax candle? You dip the wick in the wax, you wait for it to dry, you dip it again. If you don't wait, the new wax melts off the old, and you'll be left with waxy string, but if you wait, the next layer will come on all thick, and the one after that . . . and you get something that will burn well for a long time. Doing head work for a books, I find, is like that.
Then, when you get it all worked out, and you know the beginning, and it's blaring at you to get to work and write it down, and you know all your major plot points, and you can see your ending and it's fantastic, (no, really, you have to be that in love with what you're doing, or you'll never do all those hours and hours and hours of work, this moment is not the time for humility or any sense of proportion whatsoever), then you start to write, and all kinds of things explode out of nowhere and pile on new layers, new events, and unimagined reverberations. It's like, you bring a certain amount to the endeavour, and then your unconscious brings a whole lot more. It's magic. It's breathtaking. It's a joy.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Carol: I wrote my first book over thirty years ago. Summoning is about the tenth book I've written. Now, admittedly my early books are bad. It took a long time to get the proportions right, and also to learn to write narrative fiction, after writing plays for so long. But still. Thirty years? Who could ever have imagined it would take thirty years to get a novel published? So, to all you fifteen-year sloggers out there, keep on writing! It can actually happen!
TQ: Describe Summoning in 140 characters or less.
Carol: Shape-shifting wolf girl runs away, finds herself the key player in a fight to save the world helped by a beautiful demon servant who claims her as his mistress.
TQ: What inspired you to write Summoning?
Carol: I wrote a play in which Dr. John Dee, the magician to Queen Elizabeth I, is conjured into the modern world by a historian who has gotten her hands on a 16th century spellbook. John Dee tried all his life to raise a demon/angel. (At that time, scholars argued that demons and angels were the same creature; which one they were depended on whether they sided with Satan or God in the Great Battle). So, I got to thinking, what if Dee had succeeded? So, that's where the demon boy came from.
The World Snake about to swallow Los Angeles, well, if you live in L.A., when is it not?
Barbara Hambly pointed out that every culture in the world has a tradition of vampires. What is also true is that every culture on earth has a tradition of shape changers.
So, wolf girl + demon boy + World Snake, and from this (and a few thousand dips into the well of imagining) came Summoning.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Summoning?
Carol: Aside from all the research I'd done for the Dee play, I read a lot of books about wolves and other canines. Having two border collies, one of whom is a genius (they say that about lots of border collies, but Tay is, really, ask anyone who knows him), has been a great help. And anyone who has lived in L.A. has done a lot of driving, which was a necessity for telling this story.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Carol: Amber, my main character, leaped off the page from the first word. When I was re- and re-reading the book in preparation for publication, I was still finding out more about her, just from the way she expressed herself. It can't be easier than having them throw themselves at you, narrating at full volume. The hardest character? There's a priest who kept changing aspect on me. I think he's insane, and I didn't quite nail that. Maybe I'll have to revisit him sometime.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Summoning?
Carol: There are a couple of scenes where Amber and Richard, which is what she calls the demon (Dr. John Dee commanded him into the guise of a beautiful youth, in which he's been stuck all this time), have adventures together, like good fighting comrades. I like those.
TQ: What's next?
Carol: Well, Night Shade bought the second book, too, Binding, which I just finished writing and am now doing the rewrites prior to turning in. The project after that is to finish my playwriting manual, that I've been working on for, oh, fifteen years: Playwriting: the Merciless Manual, Techniques of Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Playwriting, which has been accepted for publication by AmbushBooks (I am having a really good year!). Then, I have a play to rewrite, a short film to shoot and edit, and after that, it is my hope that there will have been enough interest, whereby I'll be asked to write the third book of the Moon Wolf Saga, Crossing.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Carol: Thank you for letting me play!
SummoningMoon Wolf Saga 1
Night Shade Books, April 2012
Trade Paperback, 300 pages
The World Snake is coming, devourer of Thrace and Atlantis... and the only one standing in its way is Amber, a sixteen-year-old runaway, recently arrived in Los Angeles.
Amber is more than just a girl with a stolen ID and an attitude; she is a daughter of the wolf-kind, a shapeshifter able to change forms at will. One night, as Amber prowls the Hollywood Hills in wolf form, she stumbles onto an occult ceremony, interrupting the ritual. As a result, Amber finds herself the unwilling mistress of a handsome demonic servant, Richard.
Appearing as a fair youth of eighteen years, Richard is a demon accidentally summoned, then captured, by Dr. John Dee, court magician to Queen Elizabeth I. Richard has been trying for four centuries to free himself from a succession of masters and mistresses, but finds himself bound to Amber, the only one who can protect him from his greatest fear, the herald of the World Snake, the Eater of Souls.
The last thing a girl of the wolf-kind needs is a boy following her around like a lap-dog, but Amber agrees to help Richard reclaim his soul from two of his old foes, hopings soul from two of his old foes, hoping to grant Richard his freedom. But all hell is about to break loose, and Amber and Richard are going to need some allies to stop the Eater of Souls and avert the World Snake, and the battle has only begun.
From Carol Wolf comes the urban fantasy debut Summoning, a novel of a wolf girl, a demon boy, and a city on the edge of disaster.
Carol Wolf earned a BA in History at Mills College, and an MFA at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, where she was a Levin Scholar. Her plays have been seen on both coasts and on five continents, and include The Terrible Experiment of Jonathan Fish, The Boss's Wife, Day/BlackNight/Morning, Walking on Bones, and The Thousandth Night, which won the London Fringe First, the Bay Area Critic’s Circle Award, and the L.A. Drama Critic’s Circle Award. Wolf taught Master’s classes in Playwriting at Manhattan College and Mills College, and for ten years headed the playwriting program at Foothill College. She wrote the scripts for the blockbuster video games Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and Legacy of Kain: Defiance. She co-founded the micro-budget film company Paw Print Studios, for which she wrote and directed two feature films, The Valley of Fear, and Far from the Sea, and is currently in production with the documentary, Letters to my Grandchildren. Her playwriting manual, Playwriting: the Merciless Craft, Techniques in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Playwriting, has been accepted for publication by AmbushBooks and will be released in April, 2012. She lives in the foothills of the California Sierra Nevadas in with her husband, two border collies, and a varying number of sheep.
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How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Which is your favorite type (or types) of shape-shifter?
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