Monday, February 29, 2016

An Interview with Deborah O'Carroll

Today I'm delighted to be interviewing fellow author and blogger Deborah O'Carroll!

Deborah O'Carroll is a whimsical young writer who loves fantasy, fairytales, anything by J. R. R. Tolkien or Diana Wynne Jones, Celtic music, chocolate, and lists. As an avid lover of words, her favorite pastimes are reading others' tales (and reviewing or proofreading them), penning her own, blogging, and other wordy pursuits. You can usually find her typing away, curled up reading a good book, or endlessly rearranging her “library.” She writes mostly fantasy of different types, has finished three novels, a novella, and several short stories, and is currently exploring the road toward publication (and a long and winding road it is...).

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1. (Heidi) Some differences and similarities you see between the three major forms of storytelling—literature, music, and film? 
(Deborah) Hmm... Well, film is extremely visual, it's all what you see (and hear), right there, and doesn't leave much to the imagination, whereas literature can delve into a lot of things you can't show exactly, like actual thoughts... And music you hear it, or play it, and it makes you feel, somehow... and it's kind of a mix between both because it does leave a lot to the imagination, but it's also like film in that you hear it. They're all similar in that they tell a story and immerse you in it, but in totally different ways. If you tried to tell the same story in each of the three modes, it would come out totally different, and different people likely lean toward different ones, depending. I think of film as seeing, music as feeling, and literature as imagining. 

2. How have you seen those three mesh together in your own creative process? 
They all tend to get my brain working on ideas that eventually end up in the stories I write. Books that I love make me realize things that I enjoy and would therefore enjoy writing—like when I discovered I like fairytale retellings, and certain character archetypes, and that sort of thing. I don't know if it counts as being related to film, but sometimes having a model of a face for a character can help as inspiration, so sometimes seeing a movie with that actor can help with thinking of facial expressions etc. Music is extremely inspiring for my writing process, whether for setting a mood or inspiring certain individual scenes, and I often listen to music while I write. 

3. When and how did you first begin writing? 
Pretty much since I could hold a pencil? I've been writing since I was a wee young thing, but got serious about it nearly a decade ago (okay, I was still a wee young thing, but slightly older...). As an avid reader and lover of stories from a very young age, beginning to tell stories of my own was a natural progression, and encouraged due to my homeschooling background. I dabbled with a few little tales but they fell by the wayside... 

Then a random young woman and I fell to talking about stories one time (I think I was like ten or something... I sadly remember nothing about her and don't know who she was), and she said she had once started a story about fairies and was sorry she never finished it; so she told me to go pull out the story I'd started, to not give up, and no matter what, to finish it. So with that encouragement, I started it up again. 

A couple years later, when I was at Barnes & Noble, surrounded by real books and wrestling with a pencil and printed pages of the humble few chapters I had written, trying to mark all the things to change, I decided to restart it and that I was going to finish it and be a writer. So I did, and I am. It took me a year and a half, but I finished that novel, and a few years/manuscripts later, I'm utterly enchanted by the world of writing and wouldn't leave it for anything. 

4. What are you currently working on? 
In varying stages (first draft, edits, plotting, reworking, etc.), I'm currently working on: a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses; a Contemporary Fantasy adventure sequel; a book that defies description but I'm currently calling a whimsical world-hopping novel, titled The Other Half of Everything (it's my preciousss right now. *vague Gollum sounds from the background*); and sporadically attempting to rework an entire Epic Fantasy series, which I've had in the works since that first story that I finished. There are many other projects on the back-burner (including a particularly scrumptious Steampunk-fantasy retelling of The Little Mermaid that I keep trying not to start because it's not quite developed enough), but those are the main ones vying for my attention at the moment. The unfortunate consequence of this is that I'm not focused on JUST ONE... which means I'm rather stuck at the moment and need to pick one project to focus on. 

5. Particular author/s who have influenced you? 
Lloyd Alexander. Diana Wynne Jones. J. R. R. Tolkien. Mirriam Neal. George MacDonald. C. S. Lewis. 

6. Is there a “non-writing” activity that shapes your writing? 
Either nothing or everything. Mostly reading, admittedly... but many things that happen in life tend to inform or impact my writing in some way. There's no better “research” than life and great books! 

7. Your opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of digital books? 
Oh boy, this could be a whole post of its own... There are actually a whole lot of disadvantages and advantages both. I personally lean toward physical books, but here are just a few of my thoughts on each side: 

Disadvantages of digital books: They're not REAL. You can't actually HOLD them, or put them on your shelf, or smell them, or pile them in stacks, or rearrange them. If you decide you don't want your ebook anymore, you can't give it away to someone! There's a greater risk of pirating. They can be deleted, which is freaky in itself. They can be edited easier, which means there can be endless editions/changes by the author, which means they're not solid—they can change; which disturbs me, because it gets rid of the finalness of a printed book. It feels like almost a waste of money when one does buy an ebook, since it's just... an e-file. You can lose your place in the book easier when you're reading it. I tend to forget ebooks I've read much easier than physical books. You don't have to turn on real books. Ebooks are not as accessible or portable as real books (I know, people have e-readers. But those have to be charged and things too. It's not as simple). They have no character. 

Advantages of digital books: You can search for things. You can copy-paste lovely quotes instead of typing them up. You can highlight sections or make notes, without committing the great book-crime of mauling a book by writing in it! They are a great way for review/ARC readers to read the books without it costing the author/publisher. They can be cheaper to buy if they're sold for less because there's no printing cost, so the reader can directly benefit (they can also be offered free for a time which can bring in more readers). It can be handy that they don't take up actual square footage when you're running out of shelf space... (When they find me next week buried under the books that have taken over my room, I may be thinking about that last advantage...) 

8. Do you ever do graphic design to help with your writing? 
Yes! Making up mock “covers” and banners and things for my different tales can be extremely motivational and inspiring! (Or at least, that's what I tell myself to convince myself it's not just procrastinating. ;)) 

9. Do you outline? If so, in a general way or very detailed? 
It depends. I usually outline, at least roughly, though I have at times just winged it. Both of them are entirely different modes of writing, and I enjoy different things about both. But mostly I'm an outliner, and while it isn't always extremely detailed, at times it can be, and I do tend to do better when I have the story laid out... even if it changes along the way, as it often does! 

10. Do you work on multiple projects at once? 
Unfortunately, I do. I have too many ideas to focus on only one at a time, which means that I don't seem to make as much headway because my brain is always scattered between a handful of different tales. But I also kind of love it... There are so many stories to be told! The plotbunnies multiply in droves in my neck of the woods, apparently... 

11. Do you edit as you write? 
Yes, always. The one exception is during NaNoWriMo, when I do not allow myself to edit – that time is only for writing, because it's difficult enough to write 50,000 words in a month without having to edit them! But other than November, I always do some editing as I write... It's just the way I'm wired. I like to keep things somewhat tidy as I go along. 

12. Certain themes you see surfacing and resurfacing in your work? 
I haven't a clue. I'm not very good at analyzing my own works. (Perhaps just generic “good vs. evil,” love, friendship, and characters' abilities to change and stuff. Maybe?) I should ask my readers this question... 

13. A particular aspect of writing you struggle with or a challenge you’ve overcome? 
I struggle with fear. It's normally disguised in various lesser forms, but it's usually fear at the base. Fear of starting a story, fear of someone not liking what I write, fear of getting it wrong, fear of not knowing what to write next, fear of committing words to a page because what if they're not perfect? My main struggle with writing is the actually-sitting-down-and-writing part, and I think it mostly boils down to being afraid. (Well, that and a bad case of perfectionist-procrastination. But both of those things are kind of related to fear, so...) I'm working on wrestling with this one. If I could overcome it that would be a great leap. 

14. How do you deal with feedback—particularly negative feedback? 
Feedback of a good sort makes me glow inside and encourages me to press onward even in the darkness. How do I deal with negative feedback? I don't. XD No, actually I don't have a lot of experience with dealing with negative feedback... I'm not very good at it, let's put it that way. Negative feedback depresses me and confirms inner doubts, and in general makes me shut down, even when I know I should distance myself better... I haven't apparently mastered the art of dealing with feedback very well. 

15. One thing you’ve learned from other writers? 
That it's okay to have your own process and figure things out yourself, because everyone does things differently. So as far as advice and others' processes go, take what works for you and don't be afraid to experiment and try new things! 

16. A helpful nonfiction book or website? 
“Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynn Truss is a helpful and funny book on punctuation and grammar, etc., which I highly recommend to any writer. 

17. What do you consider one of the single most important things to remember (i.e. an attitude or technique)? 
I think we need to remember our love and enjoyment of the stories we have to tell. We writers can sometimes take ourselves too seriously, I think, and get too focused on the “craft” and trying to do it all just exactly right... or trying to hit a deadline or a particular wordcount. Sometimes the love and sheer thrill and excitement of creating stories (or as Tolkien would say, “subcreating”) can get lost behind the dusty drabness of “I should be...” (At least for me.) So I think it's important to rediscover and cling to the reasons why we write—whatever that is for you. 

18. A word of encouragement for fellow writers? 
Well... mostly my answer to number 17 above... But also, keep writing. Don't stop. I know you've heard it before, but as that lady told me once, don't give up. Words are powerful, and stories matter. You're the only one who can write the tales you have to tell—so tell them. Keep writing!

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Note from Heidi: Thank you so much for sharing, Deborah! :)
And everyone, be sure to check out Deborah's blog at: The Road of a Writer.


  1. Thanks so much for having me, Heidi! This was so much fun. :)

    1. Awww... You're so welcome, Deborah!! I was so happy to have you. :)

  2. Lovely interview!

    "I think of film as seeing, music as feeling, and literature as imagining." <-- that, everything about that is just perfect.

    Loved hearing about how you got started writing and learning a bit more about your writing process. I, too, sometimes struggle with the whole "sit down and just write" hurdle.

    I used "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" as one of the textbooks for an English class I taught, I thought it was fun... not so sure my students appreciated the humor... I guess you have to be kind of nerdy to enjoy that... hehe. Ahem.

    Good reminder there at the end to remember the love and enjoyment of telling stories, and not getting so hung up on the "craft" of it... though that is important, as well, beautifully told stories can be... well, beautiful. But only if it's a good story to begin with... that is the most important part.

    1. Thank you!

      Glad you agree!

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

      Well, knowing you struggle with it but still turn out loverly books every so often is encouraging. ;)

      That's awesome/hilarious. XD I guess I'm one of the nerdy, then!

      Indeed! Craft is good but the story comes first. :)

  3. Lovely interview!! I especially like the bit about not giving up - it encourages me to keep pressing on with my story!! Bit by bit :) Thank you!

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and found it encouraging. :) Keep going on your writing! Bit by bit is much what I'm doing these days. We'll get there, someday! You're welcome, and thank YOU for reading and commenting! ^_^

  4. This was such a fun interview!

    "I think of film as seeing, music as feeling, and literature as imagining." <-- THIS THIS THIS. So beautifully put! And very true.

    I always love hearing about the story of the lady who encouraged you to write. It really makes you think. Just one tiny gesture you make can completely change the life of someone.

    I agree on basically ALL your points of digital books. They're convenient but...I sure do like physical books better.

    You're so right about how it's okay to have your own process. We all write differently, and that's good! There's no set way we "supposed" to write. It's all what works for us.

    Basically everything you said in #17 and 18. So true and so encouraging! Words I need to hear often.

    1. I'm glad found it fun/interesting!

      Yes, we really can affect people around us... o.o I like telling that story. ;)

      Exactly! Convenience is not the same as a FRIENDSHIP, which is more what physical books are. :) (Okay, mayyybe I'm carrying it a little too far. XD)

      I'm glad it was encouraging. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. I really love "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" :-) And I'm like that too with having lots of projects underway at once. I'm trying to decide right now which of two novels I want to start next, and I'm kind of thinking I'll just start them both. While also still revising my last novel and a short story, and doing research for another short story. Go where the writing energy leads!!!

    1. Yay, another fan! It's my favorite fairy tale, and I keep being surprised (pleasantly) to run into so many other fans of it! :D

      Glad I'm not alone. Starting both sounds like a great idea! Best of luck on all of your projects! :) Going where the writing energy leads is a great reminder -- I should follow that too, thanks! :)


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