A big hello and welcome this fine Wednesday morning to Carol Anne Hunter – author of the recently published Project Me (Crooked Cat Publishing). This debut novel is already pulling in great reviews and I’ve got it on my kindle, ready to go! Carol Anne, take it away – tell us all about you, your book and what inspired you to write it…
Hello back atcha!
I’m an Edinburgh girl who has been divorced for twenty years and is her mum’s carer. I never had children of my own but have a great relationship with my step-daughter and her family, who live nearby. Seven years ago I jumped at the chance of early retirement from the Civil Service, my only worry being boredom. But it opened up a whole new life for me of writing and socialising and being a lady what does lunch, although I do have a wee part-time job in my local golf club behind the bar. Imagine, no budgets, deadlines or targets or focus groups – bliss!
And your latest news…?
Project Me launched on 9 September and so far people have been kind enough to post good reviews. I’m hosting a ‘Come and Meet The Author’ event at Dalkeith Library on 25th November as part of Book Week Scotland, and Midlothian Libraries are in the process of organizing a library tour for me. I was a guest on the Geoff Ruderham show on Black Diamond radio this week and will be on the afternoon show next week, too. It’s all down to chancing my arm and giving them a call. See? Having a brass neck works!
I wrote my first ‘book’ aged ten for a family member who had dyslexia, which wasn’t recognized back then. Well, it was more of a pamphlet. It didn’t help at all but that was my first attempt. From childhood I’ve written comedy poems tailored to a specific person or event but I always thought of it as quirk. I didn’t take my writing seriously until I joined a creative writing class at Edinburgh University in 2010.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not until after Project Me launched when someone asked what I did for a living. I said I worked part-time at the golf club then had to add the addendum that actually, I’d just had my first book published and they said, ‘Oooh, you’re a novelist.’ Who, me? Boy, was that a shock.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote six short stories based on silly events in my life and blew them out of all proportion for comic effect. Then I realized I could weave them together into a bigger story with a main character. And so the process began. Four of the stories were cut during the edits but I’m not saying which two remained in the storyline, I’ll leave that to the imagination of the reader. Regarding writing style, I love word-play and imagery and I hope that comes over in my writing. If I hear someone use an expression or phrase that tickles me, I write it down. I don’t always use them but they keep my mind running on the right track.
Project Me – it’s a great title, how did you come up with it?
Someone asked what the book was about and I told them it was a fifty-year old woman’s attempt to change her life in stages, almost a middle-aged ‘project me’. As soon as the words were out, I knew I’d found my title. A lot of the individual events are based on events myself or my friends have gone through. I’ve ‘cartooned’ them, if you like, to make them funny, or sad, or poignant.
So the moral of the story is?
You can re-invent yourself at any age; you just need to be brave enough to go for it.
I like it! What books have most influenced your life most?
There are so many. I love everything by William McIllvanney. His prose is almost poetic, his characterisations razor-sharp and he’s my personal Master of the Metaphor. ‘Swing Hammer Swing’ by Jeff Torrington is an amazing account of Tam Clay’s last weekend in a Glasgow tenement before the bulldozers arrive; ‘Sitting Among the Eskimos’ by Maggie Graham is a gritty and very funny account of a mature student’s struggle to have her family accept what she’s doing. Those are just for starters.
And what books are you reading now?
I’m almost at the end of Independent Jenny by Sarah Louise Smith and about to start Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes.
Any new authors you want to tell us about?
I read ‘Falling Fast’ by Neil Broadfoot, and loved it. It was nominated for the Deanston Crime Novel of the Year at the Bloody Scotland crimewriting festival, no mean feat for a debut novel.
We know you like a project, so what have you got on the boil right now?
I’m part-way through writing a sequel to ‘Project Me’, working title ‘The Pia Protocol’. It’s a slow process because I’m also caring for my mum, who has dementia. I’ve had a lot of support though in my new venture. My publisher, Crooked Cat, has built an online community who share experiences, give great advice and help promote each other’s work. I also met a local DJ from Black Diamond FM when I was a guest on his show and he networked with colleagues from other stations to arrange for them to interview me on air, too. And Thomas Reagan from Midlothian Library Service is working away in the background, organizing events around Book Week Scotland for me. People have been amazingly kind.
Sometimes the writing flows, sometimes it doesn’t – what ‘writerly’ challenges have you encountered?
Achieving ‘flow’, that state when the words are fed to you from another source and you just need to keep writing until it’s done. It happened once just after my head hit the pillow and after putting the light on several times to make notes I gave in, got up and switched the computer on and wrote until 5am. The result became the opening chapter of Project Me. I have a habit of writing lots of individual scenes as they happen in my head, and then I have to figure out where they all go and adjust the storyline accordingly. It’s a bit like doing a jigsaw, you have to make sure the pieces fit! What I’ve learnt from completing a work of novel length is don’t waffle, get to the point. Also, don’t try to control the characters, let them have a life of their own. Ditto, the storyline.
And what would you say to writers just starting out?
Never give up. Keep reading, keep learning, and keep writing.
Good advice! Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Writing has taken over my life so no, not any more! I’ve had loads over the years – glass-painting, cake decorating, tarot reading, dressmaking – but I don’t have the time now.
If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’m not sure, but it would’ve been something rather than nothing. Boredom has always been my enemy.
Thanks Carol, it’s been great getting to know you! To find out more and/or order a copy of the book (available as a download and in paperback), just click on the links below.
Combined website/blog – www.carolannehunter.co.uk