Interview with Courtney Carola

Posted on October 2, 2013

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Please enjoy this amazing interview tonight with the wonderful indie author Courtney Carola!
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Do you write under any other names? Nope! As of right now it’s just Courtney Carola 🙂
What are you currently working on? My second novel, “Hey Lady” which is the sequel to my first novel, “Where We Belong”
How many (if any) books do you have published and what are their titles? Just one – “Where We Belong” 🙂 I self-published it in April.
What inspired you to write your first book? Well it’s kind of a long story haha… I got the idea in the summer of 2012; in November there’s this thing called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which is basically a contest to see if you can write a 50,000 word novel throughout the month of November. This was my second year competing in it and I wanted a good idea that I could write. At the time (summer), all of my friends were talking about this movie – Little Birds – and while I hadn’t seen the movie, I knew it was about two girls who, in a sense, run away from home. And I really liked the idea, so I thought, “hey, I’m gonna write something about two girls running away,” but the idea of running away turned into simply going on a road trip, something cliched but not too cliched – which was perfect for me. After that the ideas just kept coming to me and I spent literally an entire night/half of the next morning just mapping out the entire story from start to finish, and when I sent the idea to my best friend, she fell in love with it. I think at the time I wasn’t even sure if I was going to publish it but a few months after I finished writing it, I decided, I’m going to do it! And it just snowballed from there 🙂
Do you have a specific writing style or one that you prefer? I tend to write past tense, third person. I know a lot of people write in the present tense but past tense just works for me because I always end up switching tenses halfway through a story aha. I’m always working on details, as I’m a very dialogue-y person, so I need to remember, “go back and add some details in Courtney!”. Also while writing in first person is fun, I like how third person isn’t as objective to a single character.
How did you come up with the title of your book(s)? At the time I got the idea, I was obsessed with this song, “Where We Belong” by Thriving Ivory. It’s a really great song and the lyrics, in a way, really propelled the message of my book, so I knew that it was the one. And fun fact: the sequel, “Hey Lady” is also the title of a Thriving Ivory song 🙂
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp? In “Where We Belong” the main message is that life is short and life doesn’t always have a happy ending – it’s a bit of a harsh message, but it’s true. You never know what day could be your last, and I hope that my book reminds people to just cherish the people in your life and to take risks. Another message (and possibly my favorite quote in the book) is that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or where you are in life, whenever you’re with people you love, you’re where you belong.
How much of the book is realistic/true? The plot and characters and all that stuff is completely fictional – which is funny because for some reason, a lot of people thought it was based on a true story haha. But the character’s personalities are based off of people I know in real life to some extent. For example, the relationship between Delilah and Francesca, the two main characters of my novel who happen to be best friends, was inspired by my relationship with my best friend, and whenever I wrote about them together, I thought of my best friend and how the two of us would be in said situation.
Are the experiences in your writing based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Usually whenever I write, I try to put a little bit of my life into a story, but not completely, as the stories I write are fiction. But certain emotions or situations that I know I can portray accurately, I might throw them into a story. If not, then I imagine how I would feel or react in a specific situation and that helps me too. Writing is always a personal experience for me.
What books have most influenced your life most? I really like books that make me think or feel, and that’s what I try to do when I write – I want the reader to feel something. Also, I like books that are kind of sad or angsty; I don’t know why but it just appeals to me and that’s why I tend to write sometimes… “Th1rteen R3asons Why” by Jay Asher is one of my all-time favorite books because of that reason; whenever I read it, it’s like a whirlwind of emotions but it’s not overwhelming in a sense, and its got the angst factor added to it.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a “mentor”? It’s definitely a tie between John Green and J.K. Rowling, but for different reasons. John Green because he’s just a fabulous writer, and I tend to fall in love with anything he writes – he’s just got a way with words, and he’s someone I really look up to. And J.K. Rowling because, while we don’t write the same genre of books, she’s a person I really look up to because she never gave up. She came from such hard times and her book was rejected numerous times, and even though she could’ve given up, she never did. Now look at her 🙂 She’s one of my role models and whenever I think about giving up, I remember that she never did and I keep on going.
What book are you reading now? “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and it’s FABULOUS! I’m halfway through it at the moment 🙂
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. My best friend, Zaneta. She’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic haha. I send her literally everything I write, and she’s always helping me improve as a writer and she always keeps me going when I feel like I can’t do it. She’s supported me since day one, and I couldn’t be more thankful for her.
Do you see writing as a career or a hobby? Career definitely. I’ve known since I was little that I want to be an author.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? The content, I’m happy with, so I guess the publishing process haha. I kind of want to clean up how the interior looks.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? Ever since I was little, honestly. I remember at my babysitter’s house, I would write with crayons and even though I was too young to spell, I recall her saying that there’s some words in this, haha. Also, I used to go to my mom’s job and type stories on the typewriter in her office. Writing’s always been a part of my life.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? Weeeeeell, haha. Like I said, I’m working on the sequel to “Where We Belong” – it’s going to be titled “Hey Lady”, and so far I only have the first draft of the prologue written. So be forewarned that this is subject to change but for now, enjoy a snippet of the prologue for “Hey Lady” 🙂 *warning: spoilers for “Where We Belong”

Dear Francesca,

It’s been three years since you’ve died… three long years, but it still feels so fresh to me. It’s like you were just with me a moment ago, and now you’re just gone. I miss you more and more with each day’s passing, and even though I’m doing better dealing with you being gone now, I still wish I could turn back time to when you were alive.

I know you’re up in Heaven watching down on me, but I wish you were here with me, because things have been a little… out of control lately. Okay, maybe that’s a tad dramatic of a description but things really have been kind of crazy.

For starters, I’m in college. I go to a local community college – scratch that, not our local; I moved out of San Diego, and now I live with Drew, Paul, and Scott in their apartment in Los Angeles. I still don’t really know how that happened, and needless to say, my parents were thrilled about me moving in with my boyfriend and his two friends, but this was something I really wanted to do – almost needed to do. Home hasn’t been the same since you left, and sometimes it really hurts to be there and feel so alone.

And after all, I am twenty. It’s not like they can keep me at home forever.

But anyway, I’m in college now. My third year to be exact, and like I said before, I go to a community college. I major in English, which is fun; I mean, I take a lot of writing and literature classes, and you know that’s my area of expertise. I should be graduating this year but I’m not sure what’s going to happen next though. I mean, obviously I want to go to a university but I just don’t know if it’s going to happen anytime soon.

Money’s kind of tight around here. I’m already working two jobs, and for the most part, I really like them. I bartend on weekends and during the week I’m a waitress part time. Sure, it’s tough with all my homework and everything, but I’ve been managing. And the pay’s pretty good; I basically live for tips so I’m eternally grateful to any and everyone who decides to help out a broke college student. I still want to write and I plan on making my living as an author, but that dream has kind of been put on hold for now. Mostly because I have a little too much on my plate already, what with school and working two jobs – I literally barely have a social life. And nevermind the fact that my first novel isn’t finished yet, even though I’ve pretty much been working on it for almost three years (now I understand why John Green only has, like, five books published – not including “Let It Snow”). So as of right now, waiting on people is funding me and writing for people is taking the backseat. For now.

I took out student loans to pay for college, and for the most part, almost all of my money is being saved to pay off those loans – ugh. But I also help the guys pay rent and bills, even though they insist I don’t have to, I insisted to help out a little bit. They were kind enough to let me move in after all. But I really hope one day soon, Drew and I can get our own place. He wants to too, and he’s been saving almost all of his money from work for our own house, or apartment, or just something we can call our own. We need it; we’re ready for that next step in our relationship. We’ve been together over three years now, and after you died, he was really there for me. He’s great, and I love him so much. But no matter how much I love him, the kid still drives me crazy.

I really want him to get a real job – okay, not a “real” job, but a better one, a stable one. Stripping worked for him when he was younger, but he can’t do it forever. We fight about this a lot, and I think deep down, he knows that I’m right but he’s too damn stubborn to admit it. He says that stripping is the only thing he’s good at – which is a lie – and he doesn’t think he can maintain a “real” job – also a lie. I wish he believed in himself the way I did.

But fighting isn’t the only reason things have been tense between us; we both work crazy hours, especially during the weekends, so we don’t see each other as often as we’d like to. I feel like we’re going a little distant, and it sucks. Even when we’re in the same room, it’s like we’re miles apart. We both want to make it work though, but I don’t really know what to do.

On top of all of that, I think I’m getting sick –  just my luck, right? It’s probably nothing serious or anything, but every morning for the past few days, I’ve been waking up kind of nauseous, and I’m always so tired, more than usual. It kind of came on out of nowhere, which was weird. But I don’t think it’s anything to be too concerned about…

I don’t know, Frankie, I really don’t. And I know that sounds vague as hell but it’s just how I feel lately – one big “I don’t know,”

I know you can’t read this letter, but writing to you helps me. It makes me wonder what advice you’d give me if I needed it, what you’d say to me. It makes me feel like you’re still here with me. I really wish you were here, Frankie. It’s times like these when I really need my best friend. Even though you’re always in my heart, it doesn’t make me miss you any less. I hope that wherever you are, you’re at peace. I hope you think of me sometimes, because I think of you all of the time.

That’s all I have time to write for now. If anything else comes up, you’ll be the first to know.

Love always, Delilah

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Honestly, a few things make writing really challenging. There’s staying inspired for one, or holding onto inspiration long enough to finish a story. Also, it’s the idea that maybe people don’t really care about what you’re writing. I got my start seriously writing via fanfiction, so I would write stories and post them online, and when you do that, feedback is everything. And sometimes, I would get no feedback and it was really discouraging to think that someone either didn’t like my story enough to even say, “this was crap” or to think that someone just didn’t care about what I had written. That was always really hard for me, because all feedback, even negative, is appreciated, but zero feedback is just hard to deal with. Me personally, I would think, “oh gosh, this is so terrible that no one even wants to tell me how terrible it is” haha. It’s not something you get over either because like I said, feedback is everything – even negative feedback,
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? I know I’ve said his name a few times, but I just really like John Green because he’s just so real in his writing. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything or beat around the bush – he talks about real things and real emotions. He doesn’t set out to just make everything seem like it’s perfect, because nothing’s perfect in life.
Who designed the covers of you books? I self-published through a website called CreateSpace, so they had templates for me to choose from to design my cover, but ultimately, I did it myself. Even the photo I used on the cover was taken by me!
What was the hardest part of writing your any of your works? Writing in a guy’s perspective – THAT’s always a challenge since I’m not a guy haha. I don’t know how their brains work really… that’s probably why I’m single ha.
Do you have any advice for other writers? Find something or someone that inspires you, and don’t let it go. As a writer, inspiration is everything and you don’t want to lose it. Also, have someone you’re comfortable with that you can share ideas and snippets with, because a great support system will get you far. And finally, as if I wasn’t corny enough, just believe in yourself because you can do it 🙂
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Thank you. This is going to sound so cheesy, but thank you for reading my books, it means a lot to me and your support is really helping my dreams come true. I love you lots for that ❤
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your stories to to life? For “Where We Belong” I had to write about a lot of things I wasn’t personally experienced with… cancer, California, surfing, strippers. But research is always fun for me, so I did a LOT of research while writing this one and I think that aided in me bringing everything to life. I hate when people say “write what you know” because if I did, I wouldn’t be writing about… well anything worth reading haha.
What character from your writing is your favorite and why? Delilah from ‘Where We Belong” is my girl haha. She’s really sarcastic and witty – which was fun to write, and (like me) has a love for writing, and she’s very selfless too. I love all my characters to death but she’s definitely someone I have a soft spot for 🙂
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