SIX MINUTES WITH CARTER ROY:
Joining LitPick’s Six Minutes with an Author is Carter Roy! Carter has edited hundreds of books for major publishers, and written award-winning short-stories for adult readers that appeared in a half-dozen journals and anthologies. His new Blood Guard series is the first time he has written for a young audience. The second book in the exciting sequence, The Glass Gauntlet, is out today! Carter lives with his wife in New York, where he continues writing the Blood Guard series and works as an editor for a company called The Inkhouse.
How did you get started writing?
It started with a crime.
No, seriously. The shameful truth is my first published piece of fiction was plagiarized. Yes, my tale, “The Night My Pillow Talked to Me,” which was published in an elementary school anthology when I was in first grade, did not originate with me. It was a story my brother Ken had concocted. He was five grades ahead of me and a much better storyteller, and I felt no shame as I basically transcribed his story from memory. (The accompanying illustration, however, of a smiling pillow on a bed saying, “Hello!” was mine alone.)
After that, though, I was lucky enough to be part of a school program that encouraged creative work. The friendly librarian who ran the program, Mr. Thomas Huse, gave us all opportunities to write stories, draft and act in plays, and even shoot films. He developed my interest in storytelling, and I owe everything to him.
Who influenced you?
Mr. Huse was my first influence, as I discussed above, but he was more of an encouragement than writerly influence, so let me talk about books.
Like a lot of boys who are precocious readers, I was a fan of science fiction and fantasy—I loved books like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, as well as the juvenile genre adventures written by Robert Silverberg and Robert Heinlein. I was also crazy about the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs—I must have read fifty of them in the space of a year. And C.B. Colby wrote a book of tales called Strangely Enough that I checked out and read so often that I practically memorized it.
Of course, younger readers are influenced by everything they read, and I imagine that every book that was dumped into the Cuisinart of my head—Henry Huggins, Half Magic, The Great Gatsby, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—influenced me and is somehow in the DNA of my own work.
Do you have a favorite character?
In my Blood Guard series, my favorite character is, by far, Jack Dawkins. He’s incredibly old (small spoiler), but also an eternally snarky teenager. As a result, he is able to speak with a greater vocabulary and sangfroid than an actual teen would. But he also has moments of real goofiness that are rooted in being younger.
I think he comes across as witty, but who can say? Certainly I amuse myself while coming up with his lines of dialogue, and even now read lines that make me snort with laughter. But then, I’m pretty easily amused.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
The most common advice given is that in order to write, one has to actually put in the time doing it: butt in chair, eyes on screen, fingers on keyboard, for hours at a time, day in and day out.
This is good advice and true, as far as it goes. No one who doesn’t put in long hours writing and revising and revising and revising publishes a novel. Drafting a book is a slow process, and one with such a delayed payoff (it takes years for a book to come out), that sometimes a voice in your head insists you’re wasting time at the keyboard, deluding yourself about anyone else’s interest in reading your work.
It is direly important that you ignore that inner voice. It is not to be trusted. It can chime in during the editing phase, when you’ll be fortified enough by having completed an entire book that you’ll be able to listen to that voice without it destroying you.
So much for the common advice. But my advice would be to read—to read often, to read widely, to always be reading, and to read with an omnivorous hunger. Read in your genre, read outside of your genre, read difficult, language-driven books that will push your understanding of how words work. Read poetry if you write prose, and prose if you write poetry. Read plays and screenplays and anything that is out of your comfort zone. Because that’s why you are writing in the first place: You were a reader, and you loved how story and language worked on you, and that wide river of literature will nurture your work as it has all the other books that have come before.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I am very lucky in that I am able to work in all sorts of places. Sometimes I write at the dining room table (close to food), and sometimes in a recliner in our living room (there is a lot to recommend putting one’s feet up while working). Other times I write at coffee shops or at a rented desk at the shared offices of MakeShift Brooklyn or the Brooklyn Writers Space. None of these are a “favorite” place, and all of them are. So long as I have a working laptop and a story I’m interested in, I’m good to go.
What else would you like to tell us?
It sounds pat to say that I write the books I longed to read as a kid, but that’s the honest truth of it. The audience I most write to is the one I was back when I was twelve. I don’t want that kid to put my stories down.
Which is why it is such an honor, so deeply satisfying that The Blood Guard recently won the Northern Ireland Book Award (http://www.nibookaward.org.uk/2014-15/index.php), as well as made the shortlist nominations for Utah’s Beehive Book Award, the Iowa Children’s Choice Award, and Maine’s Student Book Award. Each of these awards is chosen by the readers themselves, by those kids who love novels and stories and the thrill of cracking open a new book in the hope of finding anew that thrill that comes when we read a story that delights us.
To me, that these readers respond to The Blood Guard means that I’ve been true to that twelve-year-old reader who long ago started me down this path. There’s no way to be sure, but I like to imagine that with a bit of time travel, it would be my own stories that Mr. Huse would press into my hands back then, saying, “You’re going to like this one.”
Thanks for joining us, Carter! We’re sure that young readers will love the fantasy adventure of The Blood Guard series! Make sure to pick The Glass Gauntlet, the second book, which comes out today!