Carolyn lives on a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne. She has a science degree, far too many pets and a fear of the ocean that makes her Mauritian mother roll her eyes. She enjoys writing spec fiction novels, playing games with her horse and frightening hairdressers with the concept of the forthcoming Singularity. Carolyn has written short stories for Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways magazines. She is currently working to complete the fourth and final book in The Sentinels of Eden and after that she may just retire to Eden herself. They have great music there.
Who or what inspired you?
When my eldest daughter uttered the phrase “my teacher thinks I should make a story from my dream diary, but I’m not good enough to write a whole book”, it was like a red flag to a bull. A mother bull. Fine, a cow, then. The point is, that phrase led to an entire lecture from me that went something like “just because you don’t see yourself as naturally talented at something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go. You won’t get good at anything until you do it.” This led to us trying to write a story together, which led to my daughter getting bored and me getting addicted, and now here we are.
What has been your journey up to this point?
Well, the problem with having lectured my daughter was that once I’d finished the book, I could hardly turn to her and say that I didn’t think I was a good enough writer to bother trying to get published, could I? That journey was full of lovely role-modelling opportunities: how to handle rejections and set-backs, how to keep persisting, and how to disrupt an entire cinema full of people by checking emails while waiting for the new Terminator movie to start, and seeing the acceptance email from my publisher.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m re-visiting an early draft of a new space opera/time travel series I’ve been thinking about, and I’m relishing the process of meeting this new set of characters. I’ve finished the final book in Sentinels, but I’ll leave it alone for a couple of months and then probably re-write whole chunks of it. It must be perfect, I tell you, Perfect!
As a child, what was your relationship with books?
To be honest, up until my teenage years, if it didn’t have a horse on the cover, I wasn’t interested. Then Elyne Mitchell caught my attention with a story from a brumby’s point of view that was written with such a depth of passion for the landscape it was set in that I began to understand just how much a well-written novel could do. Then I happened to pick up a book my dad was reading. It had fire-lizards in it. And dragons. There ended my chances of having a ‘normal’ high school social life. No regrets. Not one.
What is the most important thing about what you do?
We are all influenced by what we see and what we read. The world is changing so fast. A lot of it is very serious, and a lot of it is very sad. Readers take on the burden of the things they read, and they also take on the joy and the triumphs. You read about a girl that feels unprepared for the world who goes exploring and discovers a bright new realm, and you take a little of that new confidence with you to school or work the next day. You read a romance that makes your heart skip, and you carry that joy to the next encounter you have with your own partner. The joy spreads. I love that I can provide the spark for that.
What are the challenges you face in this industry?
I read a statistic recently that mentioned that bookstores are offered around 9000 new titles every month. I can appreciate the difficulty for authors – especially those published with small press – to get a word in edgewise (pun intended). It isn’t enough to say that over 90% of people who have read my book have loved it, because it’s still so hard to get noticed at all. On the other hand, social media has given me opportunities to be heard in all sorts of new places, and engage with readers directly. Because of that, I can hear what people are saying. I can learn what I need to do differently. I can learn what stories people want to hear. If I’m serious about providing those sparks that can enrich people’s lives, then the spark is what’s important, not making enough noise to be heard.
What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?
Don’t assume you know what a particular demographic of readers want to read. Talk to them. Ask what they like and don’t like. Don’t just ask readers. Ask people who are addicted to TV shows or movies because they understand ‘story’ just as well, and will probably have less patience for the parts of a story that don’t work. Yes, what I mean is that you should listen to the whingers! Just don’t let yourself get too dragged down by negative comments. Search for those sparks, and use them to drive your stories.
What is your definition of success?
I am rather partial to hearing someone laugh out loud when they read something I wrote. Or hearing that they cried. Good thing I can’t spy on all my readers, otherwise I’d constantly be asking them which bit they just read.
What is your ultimate goal?
Cheesy as it sounds, I just want to bring people a bit of joy. Maybe some inspiration. Maybe even some hope when they most need it. Also, I want to hone my craft. I mean, really hone it to the level of one of the greats. I’d love to be able to write superb high fantasy, and I mean really good, with detailed and rich new worlds. Full of clever politics and thrilling action scenes and characters that feel like they’re holding your hand and pulling you along with them the whole time. Stories that are full of creative magical systems that no one has come close to imagining ever before…
Well, you did say Ultimate goal, after all.
Where can we support her cause: