Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Author Interview | Stephanie Carroll

Yesterday, I posted about the Legacy anthology, featuring several talented authors sharing their short stories dealing with legacies. Today, I am sharing an interview with one of the authors, Stephanie Carroll, who wrote the short story Forget Me Not. 

1) With this being an anthology and a collaboration of so many talented authors, what was the writing process like for you for this specific piece? 

The writing process for this was really interesting because all the authors were challenged to write the piece in a period of thirty days, in the tradition of the #30Authors event, which brought us together. Allison Hiltz, founder of The Book Wheel blog created the #30Authors event to connect authors and book bloggers by having an author post a book review on a different book blog every day for thirty days.

I don’t usually write short stories, so it was kind of interesting for me to see how my process played out with a smaller piece and in a shorter period of time, like watching a microcosm develop. I started off the same way I start off many of my stories, with a disturbing idea: What if you knew you were going to die without leaving a legacy? I then moved onto brainstorming by just listing things I wanted to write about: Dark, magical realism, strange, unexpected, subtle, bitter-sweet, sad, female main, turn of the century, Gothic, mysterious house.

Then, like a spider spinning its web, my mind started to conjure characters and histories, so I wrote out what I thought was just back story, but when I reread it, I realized it was actually the story in summary form. I used my summary as an outline and fleshed it out into scenes. Sprinkle in a lot of researching historical details and some initial editing, and presto, a rough draft.

Like my novel A White Room, much of my story was driven by the house I imagined it revolving around. I knew I imagined my turn of the century character living in one of those rectangle-shaped Stick-Eastlake houses for which San Francisco is known. There was a problem though. I’ve only visited San Francisco and didn’t feel comfortable trying to recreate the experience of living in such a large place without more time for research.

This was a stopper for me because setting plays almost character-level parts in my writing, so I couldn’t just give it a small role or be brief about it. I contacted a writer friend who lives in San Francisco and asked for suggestions, and he recommended I set the story somewhere outside of the city, so there’d be less need for as much research. So, I did a little more searching and stumbled upon Colma, a city made up of cemeteries.

In 1900, around the time my story was set, San Francisco passed an ordinance preventing any more burials in the city limits for fear of running out of land, so people buried their dead a little bit south of the city, and one of the main locations was a town called 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 members buried within the city limits, and guess where the graves were relocated?

When I was all finished, I ended up with “Forget Me Not,” set in turn of the century Colma, a place where the dead outnumber the living. Lauraline Rosland has three days left, three days to do something—anything—that will make her life worth remembering because the day after her thirtieth birthday she is going to die.

2) Where did the inspiration for your story, Forget Me Not, come from?

I had a couple different inspirations. I am a visual person and always use a lot of pictures to help me describe historical houses, locations, clothing, etc. I have a Pinterest board for each of my projects, including “Forget Me Not.” A lot of the house images there inspired the house in the story.

The idea of the story was mostly inspired by my turning thirty last year. I’ve never been one for getting upset about getting older. I’ve always looked at getting older as a great thing because it means you get more respect, more acknowledgement, you have more experience, more achievements under your belt, and more control and understanding of the world around you.

Yet, when the big three-oh came along, all of sudden, it was like WHAM—you are OLD, and one day you are going to DIE! Holy Macaroni! I was suddenly struggling with something that had never bothered me before, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was all wrought with the fear of death and being forgotten, and yada, yada. I’m over it now, mostly, and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore, but at the time, it was kind of heavy.

People get irritated when I talk about struggling with thirty because thirty is not that old, and I know that, but what can I say, when you turn thirty, it’s the oldest you’ve ever been.

3) What goes into putting together an anthology? Do all the author’s discuss what topics/subjects they’d like to cover in it? 

Velvet Morning Press founders and authors Adria J. Cimino and Vicki Lesage did a wonderful job putting it all together. The rest of us wrote our stories and Tweeted our experiences using the  #30Authors hashtag. Some of us traded stories to get feedback, but it was mostly a solitary writing experience. It still introduced us to one another as authors, and I have chatted with a few on social media and email, and I’m so happy I’ve gotten to meet them. The great thing about Allison Hiltz’s #30Authors and this anthology is that it brings together authors and bloggers who may never have connected otherwise. I’m really grateful to have been a part it.

4) You’re main character, Lauraline, is afraid of being forgotten after she is gone. What is something  you’d like to be remembered for?

My writing, my books. I published my first novel A White Room, also a turn of the century historical, in 2013, and I’m working on a second. I hope to be prolific, and I hope at least one or two will be significant or good enough to be remembered.

I’d like to make an impact, even if not remembered for it. I’d like to help people somehow, live right in God’s eyes. (This particular desire has been in my mind since I was young, and I feel I’ve never lived up to it, a tragic feeling that readers may notice in “Forget Me Not.”)

5) What are some of your favorite stories found in the Legacy anthology? 

All of the stories in this anthology are either fascinating, heartwarming, or heartbreaking in the best sort of way. Each story deals with such innate human experiences that resonate deeply. Marissa Stapley’s “The Monument” was fantastic. Marissa develops the character Delia and the storyline so smoothly—it’s the kind of thing that creeps up on you as you realize the heart-aching truth of it all. JJ Hensley’s “Four Days Forever” is the kind of story you read faster and faster, and when you get to the end, you are so pleasantly surprised, you have to go back to the beginning to re-realize it all. Then there was “Gracie’s Gift” by Piper Punches, a story that follows Amelia, a woman who has had so much tragedy and struggle in her life, and yet she is so strong and selfless to the end—it just brought me to tears.

I think readers will really enjoy this anthology because writing about something that holds so much meaning for people, it brings out the most intense emotions and best writing skills, and all the contributing authors really brought their talent and skills to each entry. It’s a great way for readers to sort of do author taste-testing.

6) What is the message you’d like readers to take from your story?

I wanted this story to dig deep into people’s fears and deep into their hearts. There is a lot of meaning in it for myself, but I ended it somewhat ambiguously because I want the reader to search for the meaning and find the one that rings true for him or herself, just as we do in life.

Thank you, Stephanie, for allowing me the opportunity to interview you! 

About Legacy: An Anthology


Long after we’ve left this world, our legacy remains. Or it doesn’t. If you had a choice, what mark would you leave?

In January 2015, Velvet Morning Press and the The Book Wheel blogger Allison Hiltz challenged fourteen fiction and nonfiction authors to sit down in the month of January 2015, shut out distractions and write on this transcendent topic, all the while Tweeting about their efforts. The resulting fiction and nonfiction stories fill the pages of Legacy: An Anthology.

The book includes stories from Kristopher Jansma, winner of the 2014 Sherwood Anderson Award for Fiction, New York Times best-selling author Regina Calcaterra and Canadian best-selling author Marissa Stapley among others. Read about all the contributing authors on Velvet Morning Press.

Within these pages, there is laughter, pride and hope. There is romance and rock and roll. Certain messages are eerie, while others bestow a sense of peace. The collection, through the discerning lens of each writer, runs the gamut of the human experience.

Legacy: An Anthology debuted April 17 and is available on Amazon. Proceeds from online book sales go to the reading program Paws for Reading, a program that allows children to read aloud to a therapy dog (or cat, or bunny!) in order to improve reading and communication skills.

About Stephanie Carroll

As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Author Stephanie Carroll at The Irwin Street Inn by Corey  RalstonNewspaper 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.

Stephanie lives in California, where her husband was originally stationed with the U.S. Navy. Check out 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, Instagram, and Pinterest.

A White Room is her debut novel and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Praise for A White Room

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”             —Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

About A White Room

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

3 Responses to “Author Interview | Stephanie Carroll”

  1. Stephanie Carroll

    Thank you Heather so much for reviewing “Legacy” and for interviewing me on my featured short story “Forget Me Not.” I really enjoyed responding to these questions and rethinking about everything that lead up to the creation of this piece. I really had no idea what I was going to do and just am so happy it turned into what it did. I really enjoyed writing this, and I hope the readers of “Legacy: An Anthology” enjoy it too.

    Stephanie Carroll

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