Carla writes, gardens, and spends time in nature. She loves details. If you tell her you went for a walk, you’d better be ready to include a weather report, a description of any cars that may have passed, a tally of animals seen (by category), and observations regarding broken pavement, flowers, and mail carriers. Then, upon sharing the story, you need to make yourself available to field a dozen or so questions.
Her thirst for details drives the character development in the Lily Barlow series. She likes writing relatable characters with normal human flaws, and she likes to make it funny.
I chose Carla as one of my Sunday Share Day winners. I purchased, read and reviewed her book; Lily Barlow, The Mystery of Jane Dough. I love mystery novels and can be very critical to sleuthing stories written by lesser known authors. It's difficult to find a story that can hold its own among my favorites of Sir Author Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton and Carolyn Keene. Lily Barlow has made my list and found a space on my bookshelf. Oh yes, right next to those fore-mentioned greats. It kept my attention from the beginning and even had me chuckling with its humor. Overall it was a delight to read and I am looking forward to the next one.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla recently and getting a peek into her world.
When did the idea of Lily Barlow first come to you?
Lily’s character came to me when I was in college…so…almost 30 years ago. The rest of the story coalesced once I identified the small town setting—Marshall, Virginia—about seven years ago.
What books have inspired you as a writer?
I was really inspired by Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. In fact, I pay homage to Janet in my books—Lily is a devotee of the series and often wonders what Stephanie would do in a certain situation.
What did you do for research for Lily Barlow?
I was a fan of the Doe Network before I started writing the series, but it plays an integral part in the story. I got to spend time poring over the website (in the name of research). Can’t beat that, can ya?
Sounds great! Can you share your favorite scene from your book?
So far, there are two books in the Lily Barlow series, and I like a lot of the scenes for different reasons. In LB1, I love a scene where Lily is sitting in Miss Delphine’s kitchen, and they’re eating peanut butter sandwiches, talking about strawberry jelly. That scene came to life for me. Miss Delphine makes another great reference to murder. Lily wrestles with that but is mesmerized by the color of the jelly. It was just a really fun scene to write. And it was born from a personal experience. When I was at NC State, a friend’s grandmother canned strawberry jelly one spring, and I fell in love with it.
What do you think, as a writer/author, is the most important thing to practice?
As a writer, the most important thing is to practice. When I started writing LB1, I was lucky to write 250 words in a day. But 84,000 words later, when I started writing LB2, I could pretty consistently
write 1,000 words in a day. Plus, when you’re writing that many words, you just become a better writer. I’m the first person to shout how great LB1 is, but I’m also the first to admit that LB2 is even better.
Now, as an author, I think it’s important to practice connecting with readers in order to build your community. In my vocabulary, I went from being a writer to becoming an author. At this point, I’m responsible for promoting my work. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, and that’s time away from writing book 3 in the series. But my community of readers and friends is how I get the word out about my books. Connecting with them is so important. It’s how I thank them for supporting me and my work. And my tip for people starting out—begin building your community as soon as you begin writing your book.
What is your writing process? Planner or pantser?
I write by the seat of my pants. Always have. I have a huge amount of respect for the plotters, who meticulously plan out their story line, but I find that kind of structure is like a too-tight turtle neck. I can’t breath.
What is something you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
I’ll reference the part about building a community while you’re writing your book. I didn’t do that. Then, when the book was released, I basically had my own circle of personal friends as the cheering
section. I needed other actual readers in the group, people who didn’t work with me or know my dad or groom my dog. And it’s a challenge to find those people before you have a book to share with them, but it can be done. I wish I’d had a better understanding of that when I started.
What do you see for Lily Barlow in the future?
Originally, I imagined the series going on for 20 or more books. Now, though I’m not sure. I’d like to get to seven and take the temperature at that point. If readers are still loving it, and I still have a funny phrase left in me, I’ll keep going.
Do you have other stories you are working on?
No, all my energy goes into Lily right now. I can barely get a blog entry done.
The book covers are amazing. How did the design get created?
The skulls are really special to me. I needed them to do two things—suggest that a murder had taken place but still capture the playfulness of the story and characters. I’m lucky to have a great artist on my team. He listened to what I was thinking and captured it perfectly.
Thank you so much for talking with me!
Thank you for the opportunity to share with your viewers.
Thanks to everyone for reading, and please, leave a comment or review!