This post was originally published in 2015 on Zoe Ambler’s blog.
10 Questions, Zoe style…
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, Zoe! Thanks so much for inviting us to share your blog space today.
We’re Helen and Lorri Carpenter, a Florida-based mother/daughter duo. We write together as HL Carpenter. We work in our studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue. In addition to being multi-generational writers, we’re also multi-genre writers. We like variety!
2. What is your writing process?
Our writing process—hmm. Have you ever read the poem The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson? That describes our writing process beautifully.
In less lyrical terms, typically a phrase from a newspaper article or a line from a poem or an interesting image starts our imagination train. From there, we chug along through what we call the “steam-building” stage, where we think about what would happen if…
Then we fuel up by preparing a character sheet, followed by a summary of each chapter that provides a general guide for the journey.
When the summary is finished, we take off with the writing. We pass the story back and forth, gathering momentum, until we reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
Once a book is done, we set it aside for a cooling-off period, then we revise, revise, revise.
Oh, and if you haven’t read the poem, here it is (it’s in the public domain):
The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties, by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare
To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill
And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop–docile and omnipotent–
At its own stable door.
3. What do you read for pleasure?
We read a lot of fiction of all types. We read poetry too, as you may have noticed. We also read instruction manuals, which seem like fiction to us because they seldom match the actual process required to assemble the item purchased. And sometimes we read the dictionary for fun, though mostly we do that when we’re trying to cheat at Scrabble. 🙂 We’re big fans of words.
4. What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The possibilities at the beginning of each story and the challenge of bringing those possibilities to light.
As an example, our satirical short story, The Demise of Fyne Literature, started out as a writing challenge from graphic artist Kelly Shorten. Kelly found a photo she loved so much that she sponsored a contest. We were intrigued with both the possibilities and the challenge, and we were delighted to win the contest and have our story published.
This is the photo that inspired Kelly and us.
Your imagination is jumping up and down now too, right?
5. What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sitting down and writing?
The strength is easy to answer—having a partner. Knowing someone is waiting for the next story installment is great incentive, as is the fact that there’s no worry about getting stuck. When either of us reaches a stopping point, we pass the work to the other. When it comes back, the next scene provides a springboard to move on.
The weakness is that we’re fairly slow writers. We’re turtles in a hare-hurry world.
6. Do you have any strange writing habits?
The only one we can think of is that we don’t actually sit down to write. We both work standing up. But that’s not strange. Is it? Say no.
7. What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing/blogging process?
Having to let go of a story. There’s always one more sentence that could be worded better or a scene that could be described differently or an epiphany that could be expressed more clearly or…well, you get the idea.
We’re fighting that tendency right now, with a cozy mystery we finished at the end of last year, A Cause for Murder. We’ve been through edits, we have the cover, we’re ready to publish…, and we just discovered one more change we want to make. We’re determined to get the book out this month. Our hero, Emma Twiggs, deserves her day in the Amazon sunshine!
8. Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
Bed makers, definitely. Life’s pleasures start with attending the details.
9. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Mars. We’re ready to help colonize a new planet.
10. Choose: Vampires, Werewolves, Demons or Zombies?
We always want to be the cavalry-to-the-rescue. Can we be demons-gone-good?
How prepared are you for the Zombie Apocalypse I’ve ordered?
Locked and loaded, with a cupboard full of canned spaghetti.
***** MEET THE AUTHOR *****
HL Carpenter is a Florida-based mother/daughter duo who writes family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit Carpenter Country at hlcarpenter.com.
Fiction by HL Carpenter:
Jack and The Fountain of Youth. Some people say the Fountain of Youth is a myth. Jack Ponsi Dileonardo Thomas knows better.
The SkyHorse. Fourteen year old Tovi thinks finding a flying horse is fabulous luck–until a mysterious stranger says finders aren’t always keepers.
Dream Stealer. Is stealing a dream better than losing your own?
Walled In. When her father is accused of fraud, seventeen year old Vandy Spencer discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception.
Pirate Summer. When her brother disappears, Josey is sure she knows where he’s gone. And the only way to bring him home is to travel two hundred years into the past with a boy she can’t trust.
A Cause for Murder. Someone at Happy Haven is a killer. Septuagenarian sleuth Emma Twiggs navigates madcap mayhem, multiple mysteries, and murderous motives to discover who has a cause for murder.