Interview with Demelza Carlton

Published 2013-08-31.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Western Australia, where everything's trying to kill you. The little spiders want to bite and kill you. The big spiders scare the hell out of you, but they're okay, because they eat the little spiders. My cat used to bring home live, venomous snakes and leave them on the doorstep. Sometimes the beaches are closed because there are 5 m long sharks swimming close to shore. The local birds are so big, they use my cat for target practice with their pine-cone grenades. You don't drive at night outside the city unless you're willing to have your car taken out by a kamikaze kangaroo - and I've seen a big buck 'roo write off a four wheel drive.

My writing has a distinct Aussie flavour, which includes the local wildlife. I mean, even my romance has whales, possums and snakes in it.
When did you first start writing?
I think I started trying to write books when I was twelve, with the faint beginnings of what is now my Nightmares trilogy. I submitted the first manuscript to a publisher when I was twelve, too - which, thankfully, was rejected, because it was terrible.

I didn't seriously start writing again until I was thirty, when I was inspired to write the story that became Ocean's Gift. It spawned a whole series...and even I don't know how many books are in it.
Describe your desk
Messy. I have two huge monitors and the space around these is mostly clear, but there are always papers stacked across the rest of the desk surface. At the moment, there's a netbook and a condenser microphone between the papers, both of which I use for my YouTube background videos for my work.

I do an incredible amount of research before I write my books. I visit the scenes where they happen, taking photographs and videos of the sites, which I later share on YouTube and my blog as background for my readers.

If my mermaids swim through a coral garden, you can bet I've been there with my GoPro. If a whale breached beside my characters' boat, my DSLR has pictures of the breach and resulting splash.
How do you approach cover design?
With my extensive library of my own photographs and a few stock photo websites...and input from my beta readers. I've learned the hard way that to get a good cover from a graphic designer, you have to give a very specific brief. Even then, your idea might look absolutely awful - and that's not the graphic designer's fault. The first cover for Ocean's Gift had a lobster on the front...and the first cover for Water and Fire had a glass of kerosene burning on it. Both were my misguided ideas.

After listening to feedback from readers, letting them give me their opinions and ideas on covers, I've been lucky enough to release my books with covers that are far more appealing to the eye.

I love using photographs, to show the sites and occasionally the people in my stories - even at home, most of the art on my walls are framed photographs or prints of famous paintings. So, now when I'm looking for cover photos, I tend to look through images before I make a decision - the cover for Water and Fire wasn't the image I was looking for at all, but once I spotted the photo of Bel and Aidan...I had to use it.
What do you read for pleasure?
Almost anything that catches my eye - but generally fiction or history. I'm always reading at least one book - though I try to only read one at a time. I read very little romance or erotica - and I read so much horror as a teenager that I tend to stay away from it now.

I also read my own books, as I wrote them originally for my own enjoyment. From the first time I loaded my Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer on my Kindle, I was surprised by how much I liked reading it. I'd read a bit of it, then sit or lie back to daydream about the chapters I could visualise in my own head. No other book or movie gives me such vivid visualisations, because my books involve the characters who've chosen to inhabit my head. It sure beats TV!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My husband bought me a Kindle, insisting that it was the best e-reader available at the time. I've never tried another e-reader, so I can't really compare. With a netbook, smartphone and tablet, too, I still prefer the e-ink display of my Kindle for reading than any other device I own. Plus, it fits neatly in my handbag, so it can go with me everywhere...
What's the story behind your latest book?
Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller is the twin of Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer, complementary stories that simply aren't complete without the other. Unfortunately, each book is novel-length, so I didn't want to combine the two in one enormous book that takes forever to read.

When I was twelve, I had a series of recurring nightmares. Each one was different, but kept to a similar theme - kidnapping and being held captive with multiple captors. I wrote them down, in the hope that they'd go away. They didn't. What did happen was that my imagination started filling in the gaps - giving the characters of my nightmares names and trying to work out their motivations. Within a year, I'd written a complete story...which was absolutely awful. I sat down with my mother's mechanical typewriter to rewrite it. A few years later, I rewrote it again on a Pentium at school...and I've been rewriting it ever since. Now, it's been published as two complete novels, Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer and Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller.

Both books include descriptions of Caitlin's nightmares - which are her very accurate recollections of the abuse she's suffered - and events from the time she was found dumped on a beach, from both her and her rescuer's perspective. Each book is from a different perspective - and each only tells half of the story, which makes it confusing at times because the character is confused, too.

I initially didn't want to share these stories at all, but was persuaded to release Nightmares, the first book, on writing site Wattpad, where it was read over a million times. This amazing response inspired me to publish both books.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
A friend of mine, a very cynical reader, expressed his interest in reading Ocean's Gift, my first novel. I gave him a copy, sure he was just being polite, expecting him to take a little look at it and that was it. I figured he'd never mention it again. Later that night, he called me, telling me he couldn't stop reading it...

I was so stunned that I decided I had to publish Ocean's Gift...and started seriously looking at the best and fastest way to do so. Independent publishing seemed the most enticing option, so that's what I decided to do.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Honestly, it's a combination of two things.

The greatest joy in writing is meeting my characters and finding out what they'll do next. The steamy romance of Belinda and Aidan's book, the tear-jerking sympathy of Caitlin's tale, the unpredictable comedy in Sirena and Joe's story...I love writing the first draft of a book, because the story is as new for me as it will be for my readers on release day.

The greatest joy in publishing is knowing a complete stranger sought out and enjoyed my book. Taking the first draft of a story to a published final copy is hard work, but I know it's worth the effort if as a result of sharing my story, someone else derives enjoyment from it, too.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sunrise. I'm particularly fond of a colourful dawn - and I've photographed a fair few.

I'm one of those horrible morning people who can smile and look like they enjoy being up at the crack of dawn. When I was university, I worked part-time as a breakfast waitress - with shifts starting as early as 4 am. People wanted a smile with their fresh-brewed coffee and I definitely delivered. Admittedly, I only looked awake - but most of my customers didn't expect me to be capable of discussing quantum physics, politics or anything else complicated, so no one ever suspected.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me the opportunity to distribute my books more widely, in an international market. Living in the most remote capital city in the world - Perth, Western Australia - I'm used to seeing significant barriers to reaching anywhere outside my state.

I don't like confining myself to a single market like Amazon or Apple - if people want to read my stories, I need to make them as easily available to my readers as possible. I mean, if it takes you half an hour to find a copy of my book...that's valuable reading time lost!

Add that to Smashwords' single upload platform...I love being able to submit just the one format and check my sales figures for multiple markets in one place. Instead of clicking on a dozen different websites, I just go straight to Smashwords and it's all here.
What are you working on next?
Next, I'll be working on some more background videos for my books, plus making sure all of them are available in paperback and audiobook format. Not everyone likes or can read ebooks - and I'd like to make sure my books are as accessible as possible.

In terms of my next writing projects...well, there's the third book in the Nightmares Trilogy, Afterlife, already taking shape in my head, plus the next book in my mermaid series - which will be called Ocean's Depths. Both of these will be released some time next year.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

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