Sep 30, 2011
Author Interview: C. M. Keller
CMK: I’m a rich and famous writer who lives in a castle in Spain. Just kidding. I live in a 1940s bungalow that’s not quite big enough for me, my husband, our four kids, and assorted pets, including a black Lab named Jezebel.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
CMK: This is a hard question! It’s like trying to pick a favorite star in the sky.
I love Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games—I’d like to be the kind of woman who can fish, shoot, and exchange my life for the life of someone I love. I adore Gabriel Allon in Daniel Silva’s spy thrillers—an art restorer who can drop a bad guy with one bullet. I love Anne Elliot in Persuasion—one of the best examples of character growth bar none. (Though she could use a little of Lizzie’s wit.) I love...I’d better stop now because I could go on for paragraphs.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
CMK: Opal Koboi from the Artemis Fowl series. You’ve got to love someone who says, “Don’t look at me, it’s bad for my skin,” or “World domination. You make it sound so unattainable” or “Peace be inside me, tolerance all around me, forgiveness in my path. Now, Mervall, show me where the filthy human is, so that I may feed him his organs.”
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
CMK: When I was 12 years old, I dragged a typewriter up into the attic. The moment I saw my words printed on a page, I was hooked. Though the emotional charge may have also come from the lightning bolt that struck a tree next to the window where I was writing.
ABK: According to your blog, your daughter can be credited with giving you that final shove to self publish this title. Was it a huge push? Or do you think you would have self pubbed it without her involvement, just at a later date?
CMK: We could say she gave me a shove, but it felt more like a kick in the hiney. She nagged and cajoled me. Finally, I agreed that if the book was still unpublished by a certain date, I’d e-publish. I probably would have self-pubbed on my own later, but without her computer expertise I might have given up.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
CMK: Writing is like an addiction. In a first draft, when the story flows through your mind and onto the page, the rush is amazing. But first drafts are miserable if you fall into a plot hole and have to dig your way out. Editing is great when you find the perfect word—Mark Twain called it “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” But when you rework the same sentence for twenty minutes without making headway—it’s slow torture.
ABK: Your novel has a large portion of it that takes place in Bodiam castle. Have you been there yourself? Or was your experience with it entirely from internet/library research?
CMK: I had a castle in my head when I started the book. Then I realized Bodiam Castle was almost exactly what I saw in my head, even down to the legend of the woman in red who haunts the castle. That was amazing! I think it must be that ghost who was my muse for Screwing Up Time.
Oops, I didn’t answer your question. No, I haven’t been to the castle. Originally, I bought books about Bodiam. But then, I found all the pictures people posted online of their vacation trips to Bodiam Castle. They were invaluable—I even discovered some errors in the books that I’d bought, which led to rewriting.
ABK: How close are you to finishing the sequel? Can you tell us anything about it?
CMK: I’m finishing the first draft—I’m writing the climax. There’s so much I’d like to tell you, but I don’t want to spoil the book. I will tell you that most of the major characters come back, an ancient “waterslide” becomes a getaway vehicle, and Mark plays Settlers of Catan with a king.
ABK: Another novel you’re shopping is lovingly called the Platypus. How did it get that nickname?
CMK: My novels have a lot of aspects of multiple genres. (Screwing Up Time has been called every from action adventure to romantic comedy.) My other novel is the same. Although it’s literary fiction, it has aspects of historical fiction, thrillers, and romance. And the platypus with its mismatched otter fur and duck bill reminds me of my writing. Besides, you can’t help loving a platypus—they even have poisoned spurs. How cool is that?!
ABK: What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
CMK: Right now I’m reading a George R. R. Martin novel. As much as I love reading within the genres I write, I read a lot outside of my genres—I try to glean what it is that makes the novels “work” and learn from it. For example, with the Martin novels, what keeps me reading it, even though I’m not big on fantasy, is the characterizations and the way he humanizes even rotten characters. Maybe it’s reading so many genres that makes my own writing difficult to categorize.
Thanks so much, Amy, for inviting me to do this interview—it was a lot of fun!
If you missed it, check out my review of her novel Screwing Up Time and go get your ecopy
And check out her blog A Merry Heart