Sep 30, 2011

Author Interview: C. M. Keller

ABK:  Tell us a little about yourself to start off.

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ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)?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 Finally, I agreed that if the book was still unpublished by a certain date, I’d e-publish.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

Sep 15, 2011

Why I hate Romeo & Juliet

One of Shakespeare’s most known tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is thrust upon us in our high school composition classes and then mercilessly shoved down our throats.
Romeo and Juliet is not a romantic love story. It’s a story about two insipid children who married young and without their parent’s consent without knowing each other and died because they were too stupid to step back and think for half a second.
Romeo is an inconstant fool. He begins the play lovesick over Rosaline and within an act is mooning over Juliet.
Juliet isn’t much better. She meets a boy at a party and is suddenly head over heels for him and vowing her love on a balcony (yes, you know the one).
So, a fickle 15 year old boy and a cripplingly naïve 13 year old girl agree to get married in secret, having known each other all of six hours. They’re young, I know, but their entire situation could have been handled much better from the get go.
At thirteen I probably wanted to marry Mike Ringor (I had a horrible crush) but I’m pretty sure that, even if we were in a time and place where some friar was willing to marry us, I would have at least waited until I’d known him a week. And no offense, Mike, but that would have just been a plain ol’ bad idea.
And then you have a case of tight britches and hot tempers with the whole Tybalt challenges Romeo, Romeo refuses, Mercutio fights instead and is mortally wounded, Romeo slays Tybalt out of grief and guilt… Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt EVERYONE JUST DEFIED THE PRINCE!!!
Thusly Romeo is exiled, but spends the night and consummates his marriage with Juliet… and then Capulet goes off the deep end, telling Juliet she WILL marry Paris or else be drowned.  Which, come on… dude started the play saying she was too young to marry and then, when she seems grief stricken he forces her to get married? I’m not sure how you read that… but daddy might have some isues of his own.
So Juliet goes to the Friar for help and like any good man of the faith, he comes up with some grandiose plan that in no way involves being honest and instead gives her a “drug”  that puts her in a coma for 42 hours.  I recognize the fact that daddy Capulet probably would have drown her if she came out and told him – “hey, I can’t marry Paris because... well, you remember that Romeo guy? Yea….” But she went to an adult – this is what children are supposed to do when they are faced with a problem they cannot handle themselves – and somehow the friar manages to be just as childish in his handling of the situation as the kids are.
And of course we all know what happened then… Romeo doesn’t get the message in time, he goes to the crypt with his draught of poison, kills Paris, poisons himself, only to have Juliet wake seconds later to find him dead and kill herself… and THEN the families reconcile. I don’t know about you, but having the secondary characters learn something from the deaths of two completely naïve children is not what I call a satisfying ending. Stories can have morals yes, but I see no real love in this story.
The Prince’s ending words are the only part of this that rings true: For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Let’s face it, this story was doomed before the bard ever put his quill to parchment.

Next week, I'll talk about the Shakespeare Tragedy I love.