Ed: Hola! Since I hear writers are creative people, please answer each of the following biographic questions twice, once with the truth and once with a lie.
CS: Carolyn Steele. And, they call me Rocky…it’s a nickname that stuck after a long and boring story about installing some closet doors. When you go through life with a name that doesn’t lend itself to diminutives, you get kinda desperate for a nickname so I allowed it to stick. Oops, that’s not a lie. But then I write non-fiction.
Ed: Where you from?
CS: London. Tottenham to be precise, famous for a football team and a race riot. Not “London, England” though, only people who don’t come from London call it that. Now, I live in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, famous for Mennonites and physicists. And I sometimes have to refer to “London, England.”
(and) I wish I came from somewhere that I hadn’t needed to leave to feel alive. if I were a fiction writer, I could probably think of somewhere.
Ed: You have one of those Day jobs?
CS: Copywriter and website developer. Middle-aged ladies with BBC accents aren’t supposed to be geeks but I do love a good css gag and can’t quite believe I use phrases such as, ‘I’ve almost solved it but the code is a little clumsy’.
(and) Long distance truck driver, taking less-than-load auto parts across the border to the US mid-west in an 18-wheeler. Pest exterminator, specializing in wasps, fleas and bedbugs. And rehoming lost bee swarms. None of them are lies, although one is in the past. I’m not sure if I wish they were untrue or not.
Ed: How about your Dream job?
CS: I’m easily bored, there’s a list of things I want to have a go at and they’d be the dream job for at least a year and then I’d be on the move again. Driving examiner, lace maker, chocolatier, I’d like to get back into trucking someday for long enough to be able to teach it. Oh and I want to learn to fly, and do some radio and…
Ed: Finally the inevitable question – Why do you write?
CS: Because every experience is better shared. You know how you say to someone ‘wasn’t it great when…’ and you retell a splendid event and it becomes more real? I want to treasure every moment, we only go around once (unless all that coming back as a cat is true, in which case, I’ll find a writer to live with, there will be loads of nice important papers to sit on.) Where was I? I learned way back that the best way to make sense of life was to find the funny and pass it on. It’s a habit now, if I haven’t written it down, it hasn’t really happened.
Quick! What is your favorite,
Band – Here’s a confession, I have zero music in my soul. Can I have a favourite comedian instead? Bill Bailey.
Food – My son’s signature salmon and artichoke pasta.
Game – Kersplatt! A mad card game based on a food fight.
Album – See above.
Word – Splendid. It’s so nice to say, I am on a mission to restore it to common usage.
Color – Khaki, I like to fade into the background.
Animal – Cat (hey, I’m an old lady, but I’m only owned by two.)
Piece of clothing – My souvenir ball cap from a terrifying day with an 18-wheeler on a skid pan.
TV show – Judge Judy.
Drink – Gin and tonic, with a slice of lime, not lemon and only one piece of ice.
Line from a song – From the above…
“The duck lies shredded in a pancake, soaking in the hoisin of your lies.”
Pizza topping – Is it ok to not like pizza?
Crime – Defenestration.
Place – Venice.
Quote – “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room.” Dr Strangelove, I’m a sucker for Peter Sellers movies.
Ed: Finally, three random things about yourself, please.
CS: 1.) I once got drunk with Monty Python’s Terry Jones. 2.) I am the only person I know who has actually seen what hanged people look like. 3.) I am a devotee of the traditional lacemaking craft of tatting.
What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?
CS: Author and mood I guess. I’m not much of a one for genre fiction, although I do like a good genre send-up, Terry Pratchett for fantasy and Christopher Brookmyre for whodunits. I want to laugh these days, more than to impress by the literariness of my bookshelf.
Ed: Hypothetically, say you are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever. What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”
CS: If it makes me grin, I’ll go for it. At the blurb-reading point I’m more interested in style than story.
Ed: What genre do you enjoy most?
CS: Anything based in reality, psychological drama that makes me think, I don’t mind whether it’s Dostoyevsky, Joanna Trollope or John Grisham, I want to to feel as though I’m being enabled to understand people a bit more.
Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?
CS: Anything vampire or zombie.
Ed: Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?
CS: I aspire to be Bill Bryson, to the extent that I refrain from reading his stuff when I’m writing. I don’t want to have his voice in my head when I’m trying to use my own. But, for faves, I’ve mentioned most of them but I should add Anthony Trollope to the list. He’s out of fashion and has somehow lost out to Dickens in the ‘classic’ stakes but I defy anyone to read one of his books and not meet a character they have worked with.
Ed: Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?
CS: Anthony Trollope again, Barchester Towers. I’ve read it twice, which doesn’t sound a lot but I never normally reread books, I resent the time when there are so many out there to find and read for the first time.
Ed: What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?
CS: The play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard. I’d been to see it and the word play was so dazzling I had to buy the book to really appreciate it all.
Ed: That explains why you are here playing “Questions.” 😉
Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?
CS: Um. No.
Ed: Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?
CS: A friend wrote and self-published a children’s book which turned me off at the blurb. I always slide the conversation round to the publishing experience…
Ed: Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?
CS: Oh dear yes. Confession time. I’d been told I’d love Thomas Pynchon, by people whose taste I respect. I spent proper money on Against the Day. Awful, self-indulgent twaddle, I hated every moment and bear a real grudge that he, and they, stole so much of my life.
Ed: Heh. I love Pynchon, though I admit that one isn’t my favorite. 😉
Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?
CS: I visited Savannah as a tourist and every shop had piles of copies of “Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. It’s the true tale of a murderous scandal that happened there, there’s a movie too. It seemed like you couldn’t visit the place without buying a copy so I did. And it was a total delight. I have to see the movie now, and go back to Savannah to look round again now I’ve read the book.
Ed: As is usually the case, that book was a lot better than the movie, so careful there. 😉
What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)
CS: “To this day, I remain impressed by the ability of Britons of all ages and social backgrounds to get genuinely excited by the prospect of a hot beverage.” Bill Bryson, “Notes From a Small Island”
How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?
CS: I steal them from other people, sooner or later someone comes up with a quip that sums up the phase I’m writing about and I nick it. Sometimes I tell them.
Ed: How do your characters get their names?
CS: Since I write non-fiction I don’t have to worry too much, they name themselves. Although I have a policy of using real names for the people I’m nice about and changing the names of people who won’t like what they read if they know it’s them. Sometimes I’ll give the baddies a nickname.
Ed: What do you think your books say about you?
CS: Self-obsessed. I have no idea why people read my stuff, I feel like the pub bore when I’m marketing…’Hey people. Read about me!’ But I see life through the lens of humour, everything that happens has its funny side and apparently people like that.
Ed: Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?
CS: My first book began as a journal and it stayed true to the unfolding of events when it was published. If I revise it, which I might, I think I would impose more structure, give it more of a story arc.
Ed: What’s your favorite line which you have written?
CS: “Almost Ice Road Truckers, except for the tulip bulbs.”
Plotter or Pantser?
CS: Pantser, the great thing about doing mad stuff for a living and then writing about it is that the plots write themselves.
Ed: What is the Best and Worst advice you ever got as a writer?
CS: Don’t bother, only your Mum will read it.
Ed: What is the Best and Worst thing about being a writer?
CS: Best thing is definitely how it alters your approach to disasters. Whenever anything goes wrong, like, say, getting fired with a week’s notice in a foreign country when your home was part of the job, or finding out you’ve been harbouring a murderer in your B&B for 6 months, or accidentally ripping the door off a 53 foot trailer, you might thing ‘oh dear’ (or words to that effect) first but pretty much instantly you’re working out just how funny it will be in writing.
Worst thing, um, struggling to think of one.
Ed: Why Indie?
CS: I write about obscure stuff, I got sick of the rejections that said ‘send us something else’. That was a few years ago, now Indies are a vibrant, supportive community, working to improve things for all of us. I like the collaborative, inclusive perfectionism.
Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?
CS: I’ve only started calling myself a writer quite recently, although I’ve been writing for years. Once I had a paid gig, even though it was very part-time, I decided I could justify the label and I’ve been surprised that people don’t scoff when you tell them that’s what you do. Apparently it’s an ok thing to be. Who knew?
Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?
CS: I am hoping to collaborate on the next book, which will be written from three people’s points of view because I think it will be funnier that way. Then I have plans to write more seriously, about the stuff I have studied properly instead of rampaging around the world having a blast, those may well be collaborative books. I’m planning one about post traumatic stress and one about coping with losses, I’m lining up some people to work with who know these from the inside.
Ed: Finally, What’s the moral of the story?
CS: Have fun.
Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back. You can save one thing off the hard drive. What is it?
CS: The WIP, what else?
Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities. What do you do?
CS: Tatting and crafting, while catching up with the dramas on BBC Radio 4. Unless of course someone has bought me a gift certificate for flying lessons, a skid pan day or racing car experience.
Ed: Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?
CS: Consider it very carefully, in case they are right. Ask the betas what they think. Decide whether it’s ego or integrity, dump the first, hang on to the second.
Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing. What do you do?
CS: Um, can I podcast? I promise to improvise and nor write anything down.
Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?
CS: Should a writer try to grow up?
Thanks much Carolyn Steele for stopping by and playing along, and all readers please do feel free to check out Carolyn’s books, mentioned here with a FIVE WORD SYNOPSIS I ask all writers to do, because I know how deeply they loath distilling their work into ridiculously brief tag lines. 😉
“Pink baseball caps don’t help.”
“Travelling is mostly about meatballs.”