Hi Carrie! Can you please tell us about yourself?
I’m a full time author and a mom to three teenagers, so I pretty much exist on a diet of caffeine and anxiety. We’ve just moved from one side of the United States to the other, so I’m living in box city right now, but I’m really happy to be closer to family again. But my new place has a library, so I’m so psyched! I love books, which you really ought to when you’re an author, don’t you think?
We have to ask about your previous work as an autopsy coordinator. How did you find yourself in this role? What was it like?
I lucked into that job, and it was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. I did a master’s program in statistics, and I’d also volunteered as a crisis counselor with our local mental health facility. So when I was looking for a job, I saw this autopsy position advertised, and one of the duties was to keep all of the autopsy stats. I knew I had an iron stomach for that kind of thing—my husband was a med student at the time. So my weird combination of skills made me a pretty good fit. The job turned out to be a lot of logistical organization, since I coordinated autopsies for suspected cases of communicable disease. I volunteered to watch a few, and now I get to criticize when TV shows get autopsy details wrong, which makes me feel oddly cool.
What is your latest book about?
My new book is called Witches Unleashed, and it’s a book about Marvel’s Ghost Rider, who has let Lucifer out of Hell. He’s got to track him down with the help of the witches: Jennifer Kale, Satana Hellstrom, and Topaz. But each of them are plagued by their own personal demons, and they have to set that all aside in order to work together and defeat Lucifer.
How has the experience been writing for Marvel?
I still can’t believe my luck, to be honest. I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a kid, and I never dreamed that I’d get a chance to write these characters and contribute to the lore that meant so much to me. But there’s also a certain amount of pressure that comes with writing in a licensed property like this, and especially one that’s so beloved. I don’t want to be the person who mucks it up, you know?
How does that compare to writing your own novels?
Plotting each of them comes with its own unique challenges. Plotting a Marvel book can be tough because I like to tie my books in tight with the comics. You don’t have to read them in order to understand what’s happening, but if you do, I want my book to fit in as seamlessly as possible, and maybe give you a few easter eggs to find in the process. So there’s a lot of back and forth with the source material as I’m plotting. Whereas when I write my own stuff, you’ve got such a blank slate, which can be a blessing and a curse. I’m not going to contradict established canon, but I also don’t have that to draw from when I’m stuck on how to get from point A to B.
Which was the hardest book for you to write? Which was the easiest?
The hardest book I’ve ever had to write was my first X-Men book, Liberty and Justice for All. I was just starting to write it when we went into Covid lockdown, and the resulting chaos put me far behind. I really need quiet in order to focus, and everyone was home. Plus, I was a little nervous about stepping into the Marvel world for the first time. What if I couldn’t cut it? So I ended up getting in my car and parking in the empty school lot just so I could be safely alone and finally start the book. Once I got those first few pages, it got much easier.
The easiest book I’ve ever written was probably my first one, Bad Taste in Boys, which is a zombie comedy. It was easy because I was so naïve! I thought that once I finally sold something, it would be smooth sailing from there. I didn’t realize how much I had to learn about this craft, and still do to this day.
What factors do you take into account when accepting contracts with small presses?
I really enjoy small press work. I think that regardless of the type of contract you’re signing, it’s important to evaluate your expectations and how well the offer lines up with them. How much support will they offer you, and can you step in to fill in any gaps? Do you want to do that? Do you need a lot of handholding, and do they offer that? I think that understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is essential to determining whether any contract is the right fit for you or not. Ideally, you want a publisher that’s strong in the things you don’t know how to or don’t want to do.
Can you describe to us the feeling of your first acceptance (what was it for?)?
My first paid job was for a tabletop RPG, but my first submission and acceptance was for a poetry anthology back when I was in college. I was so proud, and my mom had a copy on her coffee table for ages. I remember thinking that submissions were easy, because it was the first poem I’d submitted, and I just lucked into a spot. So I expected it would be like that forever.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. When I speak at schools, I show them all of my rejection letters (redacted, of course). I taped them all together, and when I stretch them out, it goes almost all the way around most classrooms.
Have you got any tips for aspiring authors?
Just remember that it only takes one yes. You can get a billion rejections (and obviously I did), but keep developing your craft and keep on trying. You won’t get the one yes that will open the door for you if you don’t, and you’ll always wonder what would have happened if you’d kept trying.
What is next for you?
I actually just finished drafting an Avengers book, so Shadow Avengers will be out in the spring! I’m waiting for edits on that, working on a couple of short stories for anthologies, and trying to figure out what book to dive into next. Also, I really need to unpack some of those boxes.
Do you have anything you want to plug?
If you’re a Marvel fan, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Witches Unleashed! And if not, my most recent original is called Elder God Dance Squad. It’s a campy horror book about the Lovecraftian creatures crawling up from beneath an American high school, and the dance squad that must save the world. It’s like Bring It On meets Stranger Things, and I love it so much.
Thank you for your time!