CC: Hi Joan, thank you so much for inviting me here today.
JH: Thanks for joining me. Let's just jump right in with the fun stuff. I read on your bio that you were writing stories before you reached double digits. Can you tell us what your first story was about?
CC: Oh goodness, that’s going back a few years. I’ve really got to delve into the memory banks for that one! [Laughs]. Ok, I’ve found it and removed the dust and cobwebs.
It was a fairy tale. A princess had unknowingly upset a wicked witch who started putting evil spells on people in the castle. The princess managed to escape and sought the help of a good fairy. She offered her life in return for the fairy reversing the spells and stopping the wicked witch. The fairy agreed, reversed the spells and imprisoned the witch where she could do no more damage. But she didn’t take the life of the princess on the basis that as she was willing to sacrifice herself for other people, she deserved to live.
JH:Awww, that is a really sweet story. Who would you say most influenced your writing style?
CC: When I first began writing, it was undoubtedly Hans Christian Andersen. It was reading his stories and those of The Brothers Grimm which fostered my love of fantasy.
Although I’ve always loved fantasy, as a teenager and young adult I decided to broaden my horizons and read books from other genres. It taught me there were other ways to tell stories, different elements to draw on and I believe I’ve taken a little something I learned from each of the authors.
My biggest influencers are the following. For world-building, it could be no one but the incomparable J R R Tolkien (although I do think he tended to over-describe in places). For emotion, I learnt a great deal from Virginia Andrews. For tale weaving or storytelling, I found Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon had a great deal to offer. Finally for suspense and unexpected twists, it would have to be Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
I’d like to think I’ve taken what I’ve learnt from each of those amazing authors and applied my own style to it.
JH:In your short story, A Rift in Thyme, (love the play on words) the topic is a muse. Do you have a muse? If so can you describe him or her for us?
CC: Yes, I do have a Muse and part of A Rift in Thyme was actually based on true events.
My Muse is called Catherine (I’m not sure if she spells it with a C or K though) and she lived in the 16th century. She has an oval face, hazel eyes, pale lips and is quite pretty. Her hair is dark brown and hangs in ringlet-type curls down to her knees. She wears a long jade green velvet dress typical of the times and an unusual amulet hangs around her neck.
She was an herbalist and healer. It’s not clear who accused her of witchcraft in her village, but she was ambushed in the woods one day when she was picking herbs and was murdered, driven through by a sword.
I’m told she was drawn to me by my inner strength, purity of spirit, willingness to help others, my writing ability and imagination.
JH:I know that you are a writer of fantasy. Is there another genre that you would like to try? If you did write in another genre, would you continue to use Carlie Cullen or would you use a different pen name?
CC: I’m sometimes drawn toward horror (I read quite a few horror books in my teenage years), but it’s more the paranormal-type horror I liked not the slasher-horror. The idea of mindless violence for the sake of it doesn’t appeal at all. The paranormal has always held a fascination for me so, at some point I might try writing a paranormal horror. I’m also quite fascinated by Steampunk, which is something else I’d be interested in exploring.
I don’t think I would write under a pen name if I published a book in a different genre. I believe by keeping my own name, it would show my versatility as a writer.
JH:As a writer I find there are characters I love and characters that I am not so fond of. Is there a character in Heart Search: Lost you found you were not so fond of?
CC: Actually, yes. Although she was fun to write and I enjoyed every minute of creating her, I didn’t like Dayna. She was such a bitch, who took great delight in bullying a weaker member of her coven, and showed no remorse for it. When she was severely chastised for her actions she blamed her victim for the trouble she was in and was completely in denial, unable or unwilling to accept she’d brought it all down on her own head.
JH:You are both a writer and an editor. Is there anything that you have learned through your time as editor that has helped you in your own writing?
CC: Absolutely. It’s taught me to watch for duplications of words in the same sentences or close together in paragraphs. Also the over-use of the word ‘that’ is something I’ve become extremely aware of; if I find myself typing it, I stop immediately (or as soon as I finished the sentence) and self-edit, even though I know I shouldn’t. Another thing it’s taught me is to look at how I begin sentences and not having two or three consecutive sentences beginning with the same word.
There’s also been a down side to being an editor as well as a writer, although I’m over it now.
After I’d done a particularly long edit and went back to my own work, I found I was self-editing almost every sentence I wrote and as a result my writing didn’t flow as well as normal – I couldn’t get myself back to the ‘stream of consciousness’ writing where I allowed the story to write itself. I’ve learned a valuable lesson there and besides, when I told my editor, Maria, what was happening, I got quite a telling off for trying to do her job. She reminded me who the editor was where my work was concerned and encouraged me to just allow the words to flow and let her worry about the editing. Maria told me it was my job to tell the story and hers to do the polishing.
JH:Has there ever been an idea for a book, short story or movie that you have watched or read and thought, “Dang, why didn’t I think of that?” If so, what was it?
CC: Yes and no. There was one movie I watched (and ending up buying) where I thought “I could have written that!” ’The Craft’ was about four teenagers experimenting with witchcraft. One of them was a natural witch, a gift she’d inherited from her mother while the other three were powerless in comparison. Once they joined together, things began to happen. One girl went power crazy and allowed it to go to her head, eventually turning against the girl with the real power. Unsurprisingly the natural witch won the battle in the end and the power crazy girl ended up in a straightjacket.
As witchcraft is another area which fascinates me, and I have some witchy books planned for the future, The Craft was definitely something I could see myself writing, but I never actually thought, “Dang, why didn’t I think of that?”
Thanks so much for the great interview, Joan – I really enjoyed myself!
Once again I would like to thank Carlie for taking the time out of her schedule to share her thoughts with us. Best of luck on the new book!
Carlie is having a give away! Go to the address below and enter for your chance to win.
Carlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing. She has been an administrator and marketer all her working life and is also a professional teacher of Ballroom and Latin American dancing.
Carlie has always written in some form or another, but Heart Search: Lost is her first novel. This is being launched 8th October 2012 through Myrddin Publishing Group and work has started on book two: Heart Search: Found. She writes mainly in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for YA, New Adult and Adult.
She is also a professional editor and holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. Their first anthology was published September 2012.
Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.