Interview with Margaret L Carter

mcarterweb2Tell us about your publishing journey…

Reading DRACULA at the age of twelve changed my life. Because of that novel, I became fascinated with horror, fantasy, and “soft” science fiction, but especially vampires. At thirteen, not finding enough of the stories I wanted to read in the local library, I decided to write them. I particularly wanted fiction sympathetic to the “monster.” My first story involved a love affair between a man and a ghost. Soon afterward, I wrote a thirty-something-page (single-spaced) story from the viewpoint of a man inadvertently changing into a vampire. I wanted to read and write “good guy vampire” and paranormal romance fiction before the subgenre was invented. At the age of twenty-two, I sold my first book, a vampire anthology called CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, to Fawcett. At that time, I knew almost nothing about publishing except that you had to enclose a SASE. I thought the world needed a vampire anthology taking a historical overview of the field, so I assembled a proposal for one. Fawcett had held the submission for about a year without a word when I finally sent a follow-up query (in the form of a funny “why haven’t you written?” greeting card—as I said, I knew almost nothing). They replied with a publishing offer. I was just very lucky that anthologies were easy to sell back then. Two years later, they also published a second anthology from me, DEMON LOVERS AND STRANGE SEDUCTIONS. (Neither one earned out its advance.) My first professional fiction sale consisted of a short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s anthology FREE AMAZONS OF DARKOVER. That sale involved a bit of luck, too. The call for submissions got to me long after it was mailed, because the Post Office misplaced it. It did arrive, however, just in time for me to scramble to get a story written and sent. Naturally, I was thrilled when Bradley accepted it. In later years, she bought numerous stories from me for her Darkover and Sword and Sorceress anthologies. My first nonfiction book, SHADOW OF A SHADE: A SURVEY OF VAMPIRISM IN LITERATURE, was published by a small press while I was in graduate school. The book was produced in unattractive offset printing, way overpriced, and poorly distributed. Still, I’m rather proud to have written the first historical survey of the development of vampire fiction that I know of, even though my work was pretty amateurish at that point. After earning my PhD in English, I was invited to submit my dissertation to UMI Research Press (a short-lived book publishing division of University Microfilms), and they accepted it for book publication. They also published an anthology of essays, DRACULA: THE VAMPIRE AND THE CRITICS, and THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE: A CRITICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY. Also during that period, I had an agent for a while, but no book sales resulted. Around the same time as the vampire bibliography came out, a new horror small press, Design Image Group, started up, and I sent them a werewolf novel. Coincidentally, the head of that press happened to have edited a vampire fanzine in which I’d had a story or two—so he was glad to get a submission from me. I think Providence had a hand in my career at many points! Design Image accepted my werewolf novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST (which is now with e-publisher Amber Quill Press), and, after much editing, put it out as a beautiful trade paperback, which got a decent review in LOCUS. Probably all these publishing credits helped in selling my first vampire novel, DARK CHANGELING, to e-publisher Hard Shell Word Factory. Thanks to e-books, I’ve had the opportunity to get published in horror, fantasy, paranormal romance, and erotic paranormal romance at all lengths. Since my natural lengths seem to be novella and category, the flexibility of e-publishing has been a great boon, and my e-publishers have been very good to me.

What do you love about being an author?

Seeing a book or story transmuted from an untidy cluster of words into the finished product, contemplating the final e-book file and/or printed volume, and enjoying the reactions of readers and reviewers. Unlike some lucky writers, I don’t enjoy the process of writing the first draft—though I do have fun outlining—so one of my greatest pleasures as an author is the satisfaction of thinking, “I actually finished another one.”

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

The four Pevensie children soon after the end of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, when they would have fresh memories of their years as kings and queens in Narnia. I’d love to hear them reminisce about a generally peaceful era in Narnian history and perhaps narrate some untold adventures similar to THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Being English, they probably like hearty, meat-heavy meals, so I would take them to dinner at one of the upscale steak restaurants near our home. Or maybe the Irish restaurant downtown, since C. S. Lewis was Irish and that kind of cuisine also tends toward substantial meat-and-potatoes themes.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?PassionBlood

While I don’t have much awareness of movie actors in general, I could visualize Claude Darvell, the vampire hero in my novella “Tall, Dark and Deadly” and a major character in my novel CHILD OF TWILIGHT, played by a young Christopher Lee, because that’s the image Claude was originally based on.

Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?

Sexy leads, for sure! I see no reason why becoming a vampire should change an individual’s personality or make him/her incapable of living an ethical life. And I love ravishingly romantic vampires such as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Count Saint-Germain and Dracula as played by Frank Langella.

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

The late nineteenth century, if I could keep the same social position—wife of a high-ranking officer in the Navy (or, at present, a retired officer). The late Victorian era has always been my favorite period, but that century would not be a good time to be a poor or working-class woman. I love that time because so much of the classic fiction I’m fond of was published then, e.g. DRACULA, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, the Sherlock Holmes series.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

“Don’t wish your life away.” Actually, my grandmother frequently told me this when I was a little kid (saying things like, “I wish it was Christmas already”); I’m only now beginning to learn to apply it.

If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

I think it would be fun to be a were-cat. Cats don’t have to do anything but eat, sleep, and get petted. Also, I’ve always been more of a night person than a morning person.

Where do you write best?

On the computer in our home office, beside a window looking onto the back yard. Actually, that’s the only place I write.

LegacyMagicWhat was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

DREAMWALKER, by C. S. Friedman. The sixteen-year-old heroine has strange, surrealistic dreams, which she tells to her thirteen-year-old brother, who incorporates them into his online roleplaying games. She also uses motifs from the dreams in her art, and when her works are put on display at school, a mysterious woman shows up wanting to buy them. Early in the novel, the heroine and her divorced mother get DNA testing to appease her pathologically suspicious father; the test result shows that she can’t be the child of her parents, which her mother insists is impossible. Soon afterward, their house burns down, and the heroine’s brother is kidnapped at the same time. The heroine has gotten in touch with two other “DNA orphans,” who help her travel through a portal to an alternate Earth in search of her brother. Amazingly, Friedman pulls all these elements together into an enthralling story. It’s fascinating the way everything turns out to be connected—the heroine’s true origin, her “dreamwalking” gift, the sinister Guilds that rule the other Earth (one of many parallel worlds), and the gray aliens they deal with. I especially like this novel because the changeling myth is one of my favorite motifs.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

I would enjoy writing mysteries if I had the gift for constructing a detective plot with cleverly embedded clues, because some of my favorite authors are cozy mystery writers (Dorothy Sayers, Susan Conant, Sharyn McCrumb).

Where can fans find you online?

Please explore love among the monsters at my website, Carter’s Crypt:

My Facebook author page:

I post weekly to the Alien Romances blog:

Once a month, usually on the fifteenth, I post an entry on the VampChix and Bite Club blog about older, often neglected vampire fiction:

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