Sunday, May 17, 2009

Writing Porch Author Q&A with Carola Dunn, author of 'Manna From Hades'

Author Carola Dunn was born and raised in England, where all her books are set - although she lives in Oregon.

When her son was young her part-time and temp jobs ranged from childcare and market research to construction, building design and proof reading and writing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology.

"Thirty years ago I wrote my first book, and I've been at it ever since," she said.

Her latest book - her 50th - is Manna From Hades, the first of a new mystery series set in Cornwall in the 1960s. An IMBA bestseller, its main character is Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her 60s who has done global work for an international charity. Now she's retired to Cornwall, bought a cottage in a fishing village, and turned the ground floor into a charity shop.

In Manna, she finds the body of a scruffy youth hidden in the back of the stockroom. Other major characters are her niece, Megan Pencarrow, a police detective, and Megan's irrascible superior, DI Scumble; the vicar's wife, Jocelyn Stearns, kind, charitable, efficient, but bossy; and Eleanor's next-door neighbour, an artist, Nick Gresham.

How did you get your start in writing?

After several years of part-time and temporary jobs, I was faced with the prospect of looking for a "proper" job with career prospects. My reaction was to sit down at the kitchen table with a pile of lined paper and a ballpoint and write a Regency. Having to my amazement, completed it, I typed it and shopped it around, and was lucky enough to sell it. I wrote 32 Regencies in all, though now I'm only doing mysteries. I've written 18 books in my Daisy Dalrymple series set in England in the 1920s. The next, Sheer Folly, will be out from St Martin's in September.

What does your writing routine look like?

Writing is my job. It pays all my bills. I work 6 days a week (Sunday is laundry and gardening day), about 6 hours a day at the computer. But it's really a 7/24 job as you can't turn off your brain and stop plotting. Ideas come at 2 in the morning, or when walking by the river, or at the grocery store...

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.

The writers I like make you care about their characters, not just about what's going to happen next. I read a lot and can't even begin to start making a list, but two I return to over and over again for sheer pleasure are Jane Austen and JRR Tolkien.

What are you working on next?

I'm presently in the middle of the second in the Cornish mystery series, tentatively titled A Colourful Death.

What made you decide to write this book?
Well, to be practical, I have a contract for a second Cornish mystery ;-) As Eleanor is very good friends with the artist next door, Nick Gresham, I decided to put him in the spotlight with the death of a fellow artist.

What challenges did you face with this book?

I know next to nothing about art--I'm one of those "I know what I like" ignoramuses. Luckily, like Eleanor, I have a good friend who is an artist and can point me in the right direction.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?

One of my favourite quotations is from Somerset Maugham, the famous British novelist, who said something like this: There are three rules for writing a novel. The trouble is, no one knows what they are. In other words, don't take lists of rules too seriously. One other bit of wisdom: Becoming a published author takes three qualities, Talent, Luck and Persistence. You can get away with just two of the three. The only one you control is Persistence.

Favorite Links:

EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

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