With Lynn Carthage
Tell me your story.
I always wanted to be a writer, because I loved books so much. I read everything I could get my hands on. My mom was a librarian and so I ended up spending a lot of time in our small town’s library (which was once a mansion! It was/is the coolest building) in Montpelier, Vermont: the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. The Arnaud Legacy series began with a nightmare. I woke up and jotted down notes for what eventually became the first book in the series, Haunted.
Tell me about your latest book.
Avenged released in February 2017, and it’s the final book in the trilogy. The three teen protagonists finally learn what their fate is, and what their pasts were. The book’s tagline is, “Before we can leave the past behind, we must atone for it.” My editor came up with that, and I love it. The series is threaded with history and a little bit of time travel, and in Avenged, the characters and readers learn the truth. It’s not necessary to have read the first two books, but it probably makes for a more satisfying read.
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
The first book was from a nightmare. The second book Betrayed, which in part deals with the French Revolution and the fate of many nobles in that time period (hint: guillotine), arose out of my strong interest in France, my travels there, and my reading about its history. I probably didn’t need to have visited Paris and Versailles to have written Betrayed, but I think it makes for a richer background. The final book Avenged came out of my interest in early England, paganism, Arthurianism, and other ancient stories.
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
I try to keep a notebook with handwritten notes to keep storylines straight. The chronology for some of this series was confusing for me, so I repeatedly referred back to my notes. I believe in rough outlining beforehand, and in fact my publisher Kensington required me to file outlines for Books 2 and 3 in advance of writing them. That one step is truly key, because then it feels like writing a book is simply amplifying the existing outline. It makes the task more manageable.
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
I don’t, really. I have young kids, so I’ve learned any spare moment that I have, I need to grab. I keep a tiny notebook in my purse; I’ve written scenes or snatches of dialogue on the back of envelopes, on the same piece of paper as our shopping list…. Time is always at a premium, so I don’t need a ritual or quirk to get into the mood—I have to make the mood happen whenever I can.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
That a deadline is everything to me. I can be a huge procrastinator, but as soon as a deadline looms, I get into high gear and make it happen.
What do you think makes a good story?
Integration of an exciting plot and a fascinating set of characters. That’s always my goal, anyway!
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
Oh wow. Hard question. There have been many books in my life that I’ve read over and over, but to narrow it to one? That’s just cruel. I’ll just say that I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the book Tom’s Midnight Garden, which I loved as a child and love as an adult. It contains so many beautiful images: the striking clock, Tom ice skating on the endless river, the idea of so much MAGIC being real and accessible every single night. I long for the return of that kind of belief.
What books are currently on your night stand?
I literally walked away from the computer to go look: my Kindle (with a bazillion books on it), Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White, the December 2014 issue of Poetry magazine, and my moleskin journal. Directly beneath the nightstand, too heavy to be upon it, is Parallel Lives, a nonfiction book about Lizzie Borden.
How do you organize your books?
Thematically if at all. Witchcraft books, books by friends, childhood books, my own books in a fun row…
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I’m going to invite four. Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, because I really think they should know each other. Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath because I want to listen to them deeply, hear all that they have to say, and talk them out of killing themselves.
Thank you for joining me on Of Quills & Vellum today, Lynn! It was a pleasure talking with you.