It was a long road to publication for Jacqueline Carey. But her perseverance has paid off, and she’s now the proud author of a long list of fantasy novels, several of which have won a variety of awards.
In advance to Carey’s book signing at this Saturday, July 30, the author spoke with Campbell Patch about her love of reading, her writing career and the writing process.
Campbell Patch: What types of books did you enjoy reading as a child and teen?
Jacqueline Carey: Everything I could get my hands on. I started on The Bobbsey Twins and graduated to Nancy Drew. I read all the books horse-crazy girls read: Black Beauty, Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, all of Marguerite Henry’s books. C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia introduced me to fantasy, and Mary Renault’s novels set in ancient Greece instilled a love of historical fiction in me. In my teens, I continued reading fantasy with authors like Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey, but I’d give myself the chills with Stephen King, too.
Patch: How did your writing career begin?
Carey: After finishing a draft of my first novel, I got a full-time job as an office manager at a local college. I held that job for over ten years while I wrote a handful of short stories and a couple more of what we call ‘practice novels.’ My first professional job came when I got a commission to write a coffee-table book on angels, a work-for-hire piece that essentially paid me to do the research that went into developing the theological setting of Kushiel’s Dart, the breakthrough book that became my debut novel. It was the first book where I took real creative risks and let my true literary voice loose, and almost ten years to the day after I’d begun working at the college, I finally acquired an agent. Several nerve-wracking months later, he called to tell me it had sold at auction. That was a very, very good day.
Patch: What do you enjoy most about writing fantasy?
Carey: I love the freedom it affords me. Fantasy does have to maintain a certain internal logic and consistency for the plot, characters and setting to have integrity, but beyond that, the possibilities are endless, limited only by your own imagination. Writing alternate historical fantasy, I get to do all kinds of research without having to worry about footnotes! And truth be told, it’s just an awful lot of fun to write.
Patch: Does your degree in Psychology help you with your writing, and if so, how?
Carey: With my 25th college reunion looming on the horizon, I have to confess that my knowledge of the field is far from current! But I’m sure that my early grounding in the discipline gives me insight into psychological dynamics that helps me to create complex, well-rounded characters, which gives the work greater emotional resonance.
Patch: How does your background in the visual arts help you in your writing?
Carey: I’m a very visual writer, so the more I have to draw on, the stronger my imagery is. The first major exhibition I worked on at the art center was on the tradition of the Día de los Muertos in Mexico. Back in 1990, it was my first exposure to that imagery with all its sugar skulls, chrysanthemums and the delicate paper lacework of papel picado; the juxtaposition of the macabre and ephemeral beauty. Years later, that very much informed some of the descriptive passages in the Terra Nova sequence of Naamah’s Blessing.
Patch: Have you always focused on fantasy, or have you written in other genres? Any plans to write stories other than fantasy?
Carey: My novel Santa Olivia is more of a near-future dystopia, and a couple of my ‘practice novels’ were in different genres, but for the most part, I’ve been focused on fantasy. Some day, I’m sure I’ll want to challenge myself with something completely different, but at this point in time, I can’t say what that might be.
Patch: Do you have a favorite book you’ve written, and/or any favorite characters?
Carey: It’s a tough question, because of course I love them all. But if I were forced to choose, I’d have to say Kushiel’s Dart, because it was such a creative breakthrough for me, and its protagonist Phèdre nó Delaunay, because the idea of making a masochistic courtesan-spy the heroine of an epic fantasy novel was so unnerving, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I’ll always be grateful to the Muses for that one.
If you go:
What: Author Appearance
Who: Jacqueline Carey
Where: Barnes & Noble in the Pruneyard
When: Saturday, July 30, 6:00 p.m.