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Interview: Mary Carter, Author of My Sister’s Voice

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I am thrilled to share an interview with author Mary Cater, whose latest release, My Sister's Voice, hits stores May 25th.  This is a not-to-be-missed novel filled with heart and compassion and is sure to wrap itself around many reader's minds.  To begin, I want to share just a bit about the woman behind the mesmerizing words.

Mary Carter is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is also a part of the Rochester Institute of Technology.  As a freelance writer and novelist, Ms. Carter has four previous releases: She’ll Take It, Accidentally Engaged, Sunnyside Blues, The Honeymoon House, which is included within the best selling anthology Almost Home.  Currently at work on a new novel, The Pub Across the Pond, the story of an American woman who swears off all Irish men, only to learn she’s won a pub in Ireland, Ms. Carter is planning a trip to the beautiful lands of Ireland to do a bit of research (as well as absorb the sites).  

Please be sure to check out Ms. Carter's memorable works, if you haven't already!

First of all, could you tell us a bit about My Sister’s Voice? What is the story about, who are the characters, etc.
Mary Carter
It is a story about twin girls, one hearing, and one Deaf, who are raised apart and are stunned to learn of each other’s existence when they are 28-years-old. Lacey is a proudly, deaf up-and-coming artist. Monica is a successful author, and (suicidal) motivational speaker. Monica wants to be instant best friends, but Lacey, upon finding out her biological parents raised Monica while sending her to a group home, wants nothing but answers. It is a story of sisterhood, twinship, secrets, and confrontations. It encompasses both the world of the hearing and that of the deaf.

What do you want readers to take away from reading My Sister’s Voice?

It would be great if readers come away with an understanding that there are successful Deaf individuals out there in the world, who are happy with their identity in the Deaf Culture, and that they don’t want to be hearing, or “fixed”. Other than that, I just want readers to feel for Lacey and Monica, and root for them along the way.

What was the most fun about writing My Sister’s Voice?

It was fun to write a strong deaf character. I loved living in Lacey’s world as an artist. It was fun to write about Monica’s father. It was fun to write about twins.

What was the hardest part about writing My Sister’s Voice?

Knowing when it was over and when to let go.

What kind of research did you do for My Sister’s Voice?

I visited Philadelphia and did some research there. I researched air guns. I researched twins raised apart and reunited as adults. I researched childhood development.

Could you please tell us about your writing process?

I start with an outline and notes, and character sketches, and daydreaming. I try to work my way through a first draft without starting over, although sometimes I can’t help myself and I do re-read what I’ve written. I write multiple drafts, sometimes as much as ten. I’m constantly reading books on writing along the way to better myself as a writer.

Do you ever put yourself within your characters?

It’s a natural thing to do, and I think happens more on a subconscious level. I think through the character, I want to feel what they are feeling, I want to write from the essence of who they are, and what they are fighting for. But separating author from character is like the chicken and the egg debate, is it not?

Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc

I have to always shake things up in order to keep going. Sometimes I will go to a coffee shop and write. Sometimes I will type directly onto the computer, then I will print out what I’ve written and go over it, sometimes I will write with pen and paper. I try to make myself write every day while I’m working on a book, or at least touch base with it. Once I get to the point where I’m thinking about the characters while doing other things, I know I’m in.

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

It starts by jotting down what you are thinking about, capturing bits and pieces until it comes together as a character or characters who have some kind of problem, some kind of drive, something they have to do, or have, or be. It comes from my imagination, and is fueled either by things in my life, or stories I hear, or read, or see, or dream.

How did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Was there any authors or books that made you think "Wow, that's what I want to do – craft stories of my own for others to read"?

I think I was born to do this. I wrote my first short story when I was four-years-old and it was just something I did on my own, because I wanted to. I come from a line of readers, of book lovers, of librarians. I always read, and I always wrote. I just assumed everyone did. Before I wrote my first novel I was an actress and I wrote plays. Before that I wrote essays and poems constantly. Finally, I decided to write a novel, and now here I am, working on my fifth.

How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!

I just daydream and I always know on a gut level when I land on the right one.

Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what were some of your favorite books?

Absolutely. As a child my favorites were: Sam Bangs and Moonshine, The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, Chronicles of Narnia, Nancy Drew, The Bobsey Twins, The Boxcar Children, etc. I read all the time.

If you had to summarize your life and give it a book title, what would that title be?

Oh, God. (Hey, that works!)

What are you working on right now? Could you give us a taste/teaser (aka excerpt) from your current WIP?

I’m working on a novel called, The Pub Across the Pond. It’s about an American woman who swears off all Irish men only to find she’s won a pub in Ireland. Unfortunately, I’m on the first draft and even my editor doesn’t get to read it until I’ve done several drafts. Sorry!

What are you reading right now?

Let’s Go Ireland! It’s from 2001 but it’s still helpful. I will be taking my first trip to Ireland in July. I’m beyond excited. I recently finished the memoir, The Glass Castle, and two books on writing: From Where You Dream, and The Art of War for Writers.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Alice Hoffman, Ayn Rand. Tolystoy, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Herman Hesse, Jack Finney, Wally Lamb. In women’s fiction I like Lisa Jewell, and Anna Maxted, and Miriam Keyes, and Jane Green. If I want a thriller I will read Dean Koontz or Stephen King, or Lee Child or Sue Grafton. I also take chances on new authors, I love prowling bookstores and picking up books, reading the back, flipping through the pages. I followed a lot of the books on Oprah’s list for awhile. My recent favorites: Water for Elephants, City of Thieves, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I think Herman Hesse. I loved his nonfiction book My Essays. He has one passage where a flippant comment from an acquaintance bothers him so much that he drafts this huge response to the man in his head while waiting for the bus, and then goes on to write a letter detailing the nuances of that comment and his reaction to it. I have a kinship with someone who thinks like that, goes away and ruminates on something someone else has thrown out and probably forgotten. The other essays in his collection are great too, haunting and personal, and touching.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

Let’s see. I’m averaging a novel a year, plus the past two years I have also completed two novellas as well. So I would definitely like to have another five books and a handful of novellas completed within five years. I would love to have one of my books made into a movie. And on a personal level, I want to travel. This year Ireland, next year Italy.

Is there anything that you would like to add? That you would like readers to know about you or your writing?

I believe writing is a craft and that anyone who wants to write a novel, can and should. I am always reading books on writing, always trying to improve, always striving to learn the craft. I still get excited when I read a good book, and it’s my goal to reach higher with each novel I write.

Where can readers get in touch with you? Twitter, Blog, Facebook, etc?

I have a website, marycarterbooks.com. And I have a Facebook Fan Page.

I opened a Twitter account, but I have to face facts—I’m just not a Twitter kind of girl. Maybe someday. But really? People want to know I went to the post office and then the discount store, and then the deli where I bought lemons? I don’t even want to know that.

Finally, do you have a favorite excerpt from My Sister’s Voice? Could you share that with us, please?

(Lacey is in her art studio. She has just learned, by way of a letter that she has an identical twin sister. She has also been given half of a toy horse that belonged to her as a child.)

Lacey was half way to drunk when she finally dug into the envelope and pulled out the toy. It was a small, plastic, blue horse. Well, half of one anyway. The back half. It looked as if it had been sawed down the middle. It was littered with tooth marks. Just holding the sawed-off horse was making her hands shake, or maybe it was the alcohol. She would have to tell Mike he was right, this was the good stuff. She took another swig. At first it burned, then it was silk sliding down her throat. The room was spinning. Rookie curled up on the Lazy-Boy with one eye tucked into her paw, the other staring up at her reproachfully.

Taking the horse and the bottle of scotch with her, Lacey got up and wobbled across the expanse to her section. She needed the comfort of her easels. She needed to smell, and touch her paints, see her brushes tipped upside down in their assigned cups, a yellow plastic one for acrylics, an old jam jar for her oil brushes, and a regular drinking glass for her water color brushes.

But it was really the stack of paintings against the back wall she was after. She banged her hip on her table and sloshed a bit of the scotch. The containers wiggled, the brushes shimmied. She slammed the bottle of scotch down on the table and giggled. She headed for her paintings, the ones she’d never shown anyone, not even Alan. She put the toy horse in her mouth, dropped to her knees and yanked off the tarp that hid them.

There were at least a hundred of them in different poses and sizes. In some he filled the whole canvas, in others, his face was as tiny as the toy she held in her mouth. The colors in the background varied, but he was always painted with a tinge of blue, be it eyes, hooves, even blue nostrils on one. And it was always just his head, and the front half of his body—did she ever realize that? A hundred painted horses and not one with hind legs, a rear end, or a tail? She’d been painting him ever since she picked up a brush at the age of five. She’d always thought painting the front half of the horse was an artistic choice. She’d been wrong. All this time. She wasn’t just expressing herself as an artist. She’d been trying to tell herself something. All these years. She’d been painting a message to herself. All these years. She’d been painting her other half.

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