Interview with Charlotte Blackwood

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. It's a very chill place, one of the few parts of the country where even though the landscape is diverse, colors don't matter. It's the Everyplace, to me, and so when I write I often eliminate the importance of WHERE. I like to think that my stories can happen anywhere, any small town or college town or mill town in the country. But I suppose, in doing that, everywhere becomes a bit more like my hometown.
When did you first start writing?
I remember writing stories with my friends in elementary school. We had these fantastic stories where we were all traversing space and saving the universe. It's ironic that I really don't write sci-fi, since that was my first genre, but I guess when you're young you think you can do anything. Now I know I've got limits, and coming up with tech words that sound cool is definitely not one of them.

Seriously writing, though, probably happened when I was in high school. It started with poetry, songs, plays, and then my inspiration for those things ran dry and all of a sudden my prose just took off and it was all I wanted to do.
Who are your favorite authors?
I could probably give a list a mile long. My very first author to inspire me and capture my attention was Charles Dickens, followed by Edgar Allen Poe. I suppose I'll just list them by when they inspired me.... J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Leo Tolstoy, Pablo Neruda, Czeslaw Milosz, George R.R. Martin, Suzanne Collins.

Yes, lots of authors of more genre work, but I know what I like.

I would say that my love of Tolstoy, Dickens, and Poe have most inspired me throughout the years, and always rekindle my excitement for reading and writing. I've just never found something of theirs I didn't like, and when you think of how much writing there is between the three of them, that's saying quite a lot.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I've read a lot. As far as what was first, I know I read Dr. Seuss, but I suppose that's not really what's meant here.

When I was eight, I went up to the bookshelf in my classroom because I was bored and I grabbed two books I'd heard of before: Moby Dick and The Tale of Two Cities. On a whim, I started with Dickens, and I'm really glad I did. It transported me, it excited me, and it thrilled my little over-active imagination with vivid description and a time period I'm still obsessed with to this day.

Moby Dick, on the other hand, was far from my favorite book ever, and no matter how many times I read it, I can't stand it. If I'd decided to read it first, I probably would have put both back on the shelf and never read again, much less write. But Dickens became not only one of my favorite authors, but something to strive toward in my own work. Not his same greatness, but my own kind of Dickensian greatness. I can never be Dickens. He, in my opinion, achieved perfection in his style of work.

So I'm trying to achieve that same perfection in my own style.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
A few different things influenced my decision. There's so much red tape in the industry that there's no guarantee that really great works get out there. Especially as my first work was a novella, and short works from unknowns have a hard time getting through the massive sieve of publishing, it just made a lot of sense to start sharing my voice through an indie network and not waste time I could spend writing trying to convince someone that my work was worth publishing.

I'm also a bit...unconventional. I have controversial things I want to cover, and that makes it difficult to get a second glance. Open-minded editors and readers are great, but convincing a major publishing house that my sensitive topics are marketable is a whole other beast.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There was a really great line in a film I saw recently (Anonymous) about voices in ones head. And his wife thought he was possessed. I don't actually hear voices in my head, but I do see and hear the interactions of my characters in a non-creepy way, and it's always wonderful to read what my writing represents it as and say, "Yeah, that's exactly what I meant." When other people read what I've written and connect with my characters in the same way I have, that's true reward. It means I've done something right.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything. Right now my fan base is limited, but I appreciate every single one of them so much. If no one was reading, my writing would literally be in a stack of notebooks in a box collecting dust, never to be shared, probably dug up again by relatives after I'm dead. But these people actual want to read what I have to say, and that's incredible. For anyone who's experienced it, it's like a drug. The more people say, "I really like this," the happier you are to reply, "Just wait until you read what I'm working on now!" Every time someone tells me they liked something, anything, it makes me want to go write something just for them.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

I also enjoy the occasional television. I'm hooked on Broadchurch right now (ITV, BBC America). I'm a sucker for Top Gear, Revenge, Doctor Who. I like watching re-runs of Star Trek and the X-Files. Honestly, it's amazing I don't write sci-fi. I also enjoy murder mystery television.

I also love music. I'm hooked on Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Seether. I think that their genre, as well as alternative and whatever genre you'd call the likes of Matt Nathanson and people like him, are the best genres to write to.

You can also find me cooking and baking when not writing. This usually involves music as well. And me singing at the top of my lungs while the oven does its magic.
What is your writing process?
This is definitely unusual, but I start with characters. I think of what they might look like, how many men, women, children.... I list them out, come up with names, and think of how they relate and interact. I see the story unfold, the beginning and the end, and then I write up character descriptions. Sometimes these are short and basic. Sometimes it's a very involved process.

That's where I usually come up with the middle of the story, especially on the lengthier character profiles. Then I make a list of things that happen in the story by considering the character bios and the interactions, how each character gets from beginning to end. I make an outline off of putting this list in order and dividing it into chapters.

And then I write. I use the outline mostly as guidance, but it's more a way to show me where logical breaks are than to tell me how things are going to work. I've already started writing in my head long before this point. Sometimes I've already jotted down partial scenes that have been tormenting me with their completeness.

By the end, I might read it all over one last time, and then I send it to my editor, and the back and forth from that point on is pretty much history.
What are your six favorite books, and why?
1. Anna Karenina: I first read this when I was sixteen, and fell so completely in love that I read it every year. The story of Levin and Kitty tells a realistic, natural sort of love that is missing in most novels, right down to the wonderfully real depiction of childbirth through the eyes of a worrying father-to-be. The tale of Anna is usually the favorite, but to me this story is really about Levin, and Anna serves as a contrast to his bliss. His is the happy family that the first line tells about, so without contrasting it with unhappy families all around him, there wouldn't be much of a story. But I think the happy family is the very best part.

2. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: There's just something here for everyone to love. I've read it cover to cover dozens of times since I was about nine. I personally prefer the short stories, but even his poetry is something I can get excited about, and poetry's not really my thing. No one has a better command of the dark side of human language and love than Poe. And I love the dark side of things. There's such a beauty in how he describes the most terrifying facts of our nature, and things so true to life that you wonder if maybe you can hear the heartbeat in your own floor, or imagine that damp cellar with the screaming man.

3. Our Mutual Friend: This is probably one of the darkest pieces Dickens ever wrote, and I love it. It's dark in the way Bleak House is, but the opening scene is a girl and her father fishing in the river for a living, and not fishing for fish. They find bodies among their other finds, and it just makes you sick to think of the dust heaps and the grime of the Thames in this period. London's not the world's cleanest city, even today, but the mega-description of Dickensian London will probably have you thinking twice before swimming in any river.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Like many in my generation, the Harry Potter series was my childhood, plain and simple. This is, to me, the darkest book, not because anyone dies (because no one does), but because for the first time the relatively innocent children of Hogwarts are living in absolute fear, Harry actually thinks of killing somebody, and treachery of the most intimate sorts comes into play. These aren't people with no real connection to Harry's past betraying him, like Quirrell, or the-diary-made-me-do-it moments, but people who were friends with Harry's parents, who knew him as a baby. It sets up some of the best, most complicated characters in the series, proves Dumbledore's not infallible, and even shows off how well-planned the whole series is. After all, Sirius Black was not brought in out of nowhere. He was in the very first chapter of the very first book. It's also a reminder that no matter how good Snape actually is, everyone has their limits.

5. The Return of the King: I've read the Lord of the Rings 165 times. And that's a fact, not an exaggeration. For me, even before Pottermania, there was Middle-Earth. When I was young, Tolkien was on the same level as Dickens. Now I can recognize that they're like comparing apples and oranges, but this book, more than anything else Tolkien has ever written (and I've read most all of it), has a way of tugging at my heartstrings. After having been to the sites of Tokien's childhood in Birmingham, after seeing the mill where the willow he loved no longer stands, the scene that always made me cry where Sam sees the Party Tree has been cut down and cries holds such powerful meaning. It's funny, because I don't really cry at books (although Harry Potter might be a bit of an exception to that), but from a young age and every single time I read it, that scene always made me cry. That's powerful writing.

6. The Two Princesses of Bamarre: There are childhood favorite books, and then there are books that are just favorite books. From the author of Ella Enchanted, this one was always my favorite. I can't even say why, necessarily, but every time I come across it, no matter where I am and what I'm supposed to be doing, I drop everything and read the book, usually multiple times in the same day. I've not counted, but I know I must have read that book hundreds of times, and every time I get the same rushes of emotion, the same feelings, the same highs and lows, and it's never, ever dull. Children's literature need not be simplistic, need not be basic, need not be just for children, and this book is a very clear indication of that. It turns all sorts of things on its head and never ceases to delight.
What are you working on next?
I've got a dystopian military/espionage trilogy in the works. I'm doing some research on military procedure and fixing the draft I have of the first book. My editor is literally in love with a couple of my characters and said if I kill them off she'll never forgive me, but I make no promises.

I've also got dozens of other projects in various stages of development. Short stories, novellas, novels, even a screenplay. But the primary focus is the trilogy, I would say.
Published 2013-08-30.
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Books by This Author

Those We Trust
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 19,720. Language: English. Published: October 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Harmony Boyd is an aspiring writer and college student who falls in love with a tabooed man, and that love is returned. What she doesn't know is someone close to her is watching everything. What will the consequences of her actions be, for her and everyone around her?