An Interview by Pamela James
MM: Carola, where do you write your books?
My first I wrote at the kitchen table. I've had dedicated office in the house for decades now. I have a big window looking down the garden and a good view of the bird feeders—without which I might write faster...
MM: Why, when, where and how did you begin writing your books?
I'd had lots of part-time and temp jobs while my son was small and we were moving often. When at last we settled down, in 1979, my (now ex) husband wanted me to get a "proper" job. At the same time, I'd read and reread Georgette Heyer's books so many times I knew what was coming on the next page; I read some newly published Regencies and decided I could do at least as well, and trying would postpone the job hunt.
I wrote longhand. Having to my surprise actually finished a manuscript, I thought I might as well try to get it published. Once I'd typed it up, I sent out queries with 3 chapters (not the first 3; the how-to book I consulted just said 3 so I picked what I considered the best). A couple of rejections and three requests for the rest of the ms—and I got an offer remarkably quickly.
Having sold one, of course I had to write another... In the end I wrote 32 full-length Regencies and about a dozen novellas, all now available as ebooks. Then I turned to mystery. The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, now number 22, and there are 3 Cornish mysteries out.
MM: 2016 is here what are your writing plans?
I finished my 4th Cornish Mystery, Buried in the Country, in December and I've already started on the next Daisy mystery.
MM: On a personal note. Be our tour guide and tell us about the attractions of where you live and why you like living there?
After growing up in England and living in Southern California for many years, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, nearly 25 years ago, the longest I've ever lived anywhere.
Oregon is a beautiful state with a stunning coastline, mountains, rivers, lakes, and high desert all easily accessible from Eugene. Some special places are Crater Lake, Mount Hood, the Columbia Gorge, the Painted Hills, the John Day Fossil Beds, and extraordinary lava formations. Most of the time, though, I'm quite satisfied with my daily walk (with dog) by the Willamette River in Eugene.
It's not true that "old Oregonians never die, they only rust away," but we do have high rainfall in winter. The climate is quite like England's. That's what keeps it so green.
For a mid-size city, Eugene supports an excellent symphony orchestra and classical music station, essentials to my life. The city library is good—another necessity. The presence of the University of Oregon is another plus.
Eugene is a friendly, laid-back place. After 20 years in ever-more-crowded Southern California (and more sun than I, as a redhead, can cope with) , I love it here.
MM: Do you ever binge watch some of your favorite shows, movies or read some of your favorite series? If so which ones do you watch and read?
I don't have a TV so no shows or movies. I like to reread books, especially mysteries, written in the periods I write about. A first reading is for the story and characters. On rereading, I'm more interested in the period details and "zeitgeist", and the way the mystery is constructed.
Apart from those, books I regularly reread are The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, and all of Jane Austen.
MM: What is one of your favorite meals and dessert?
Top meal: Indian restaurant buffet. Top dessert: my mother's hazelnut torte, which is a hazelnut meringue sandwiched with raspberries and whipped cream. Neither for frequent consumption!
MM: Do you like to cook or bake?
Not much into cooking. I like baking but do it infrequently as I also like to eat the products.
MM: What is your favorite part of being an author?
Hearing from happy readers! I especially like letters/messages/whatever from people who have found escape from their troubles in my books.
MM: Do you belong to any writer's groups? What are some of your favorite conventions? How about bookstores and places to autograph your books?
I belong to Sisters in Crime. My favourite convention is Left Coast Crime, smaller and friendlier than Bouchercon.
I pretty much stick to the West Coast for signings: Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Mystery Ink, Mysterious Galaxy, and Bob's Beach Books on the Oregon Coast. So many favourites have closed, alas.
MM: What is the strangest writing question you were ever asked?
I don't remember any particularly strange questions. The strangest letter I've ever received was from a woman who was all het up about one of my Regencies, saying she'd never read another because of the degenerate morals of the hero of that book. Further correspondence elicited that she hadn't actually read the book (A Susceptible Gentleman). She was basing her opinion on the description on the back cover, which I hadn't written. Back cover blurbs are notoriously inaccurate and hyped up. At that point I gave up trying to explain.
MM: They say it takes a village to become a published author. Who is in your village?
For the first book, a supportive husband, a friend who offered to type the manuscript, and another friend who had a book about how to submit to publishers and what to expect of a contract. (I didn't have a typewriter and I'd never taken any creative writing classes nor read any how-to books.)
Since then, I've had loads of help from all sorts of people. I find as soon as I say I'm researching for a mystery/crime fiction, most are happy to answer questions on their area of expertise.
MM: What was your most perfect writing day?
The most perfect day is the day my editor tells me the "delivery and acceptance" cheque is on the way!
MM: Leave us with some words of wisdom by your protagonist?
Both Daisy and Eleanor would say, "If you expect to like the people you meet and treat them that way, most people will turn out to be likable."
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