This week, Writing Wicket interviews Barbara Carter (Langille), artist and author. She was born in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and grew up and lived outside the town of Mahone Bay until moving to the Halifax area in 2002.
I asked Barbara:
Q: Do you try more to be original or delivered to readers what they want?
I try to be original and also deliver a story to readers. I don’t want to follow a set formula or do as others have done or fit into what is popular at the moment. I’ve always been original when it comes to my visual artwork and I want to try to do the same as a writer.
Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Like in the opening lines of the old TV Star Trek show, I’m talking ‘60s: to boldly go where no man has gone before.
My goal is to keep the reader interested and engaged in the story while taking them to places they may never have personally gone.
Sometimes it could get a bit uncomfortable for some.
Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Well, since I write nonfiction I feel that what I owe the real people in my life is a name change.
I try to reveal as little as possible about them, only including them where it’s necessary in the telling of my story.
Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
The only unpublished and half-finished writings are those I’m currently working on.
My first book took sixteen years before it came together. Sometimes I thought it never would.
Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
The most unethical practices in the publishing industry is in the so-called vanity area, with new authors not researching and learning enough about how the publishing industry works. Authors handing over lots of money to a publisher who has no incentive in what happens after the book is printed and paid for by the author.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve several writing projects on the go. Some days it depends on my mood and where inspiration strikes. Most of the fourth memoir is written, and I’m working on the first draft of another memoir. I’m also planning to write personal essays. Also want to try my hand at writing a play and a screenplay.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be?
As a child I wanted to be a teacher, thinking at the time my only options were nurse, secretary, and teacher.
In my teens I wanted to be an artist or a writer. For some reason I felt I couldn’t be both.
I guess I’ve always been connected to what I wanted to be. I’ve fulfilled them all. For many years I instructed art classes and more recently writing workshops.
Q: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
If spirituality is what connects you to a sense of a deeper connection to yourself and others, then yes, I view it as a spiritual practice.
Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Since I write non-fiction, from what I’ve experienced, my male characters are based on the actions of the men I’ve encountered.
I like thinking of them not as some kind of alien enemy, but as vulnerable and as human and sometimes as scared as us women.
I gained much more appreciation and understanding of males by raising a son.
Q: What do you like least about writing?
That it takes so long to do!
Other than that I really do enjoy it all, from the first draft, rewriting, editing. All of it..
Q: What your favourite part about writing?
My favourite part of writing is after the first draft when I’m starting to flesh the story out. Balancing showing and telling. The first draft is very draining for me.
I find revisions and edits more relaxing and fun.
Q: How many hours a day do you write?
Because of my chronic pain condition I cannot work long hours.
Everything I do in life is done in small chunks. Pacing myself from one activity to another. Balancing my life as best I can. Fatigue a constant companion.
I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for dictating.
One hour or two at the most is a good day of writing for me.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
What I hope to accomplish with my writing is to be able to touch readers in a way that makes them feel less alone. To connect with others.
Also to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren.
That no one else tell my story as a white-washed fairy tale; I want it raw and real.
So many people leave this world and we never really know who they were.
I want to leave behind who I was.
Q: What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I spend quite a bit of time writing about my early years, teen and young adult.
Learning from those past experiences, seeing them with new eyes.
Exploring what shapes us into the people we become.
Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?
I’ve taken out several chapters. Parts that weren’t strong enough or important enough in the story. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to leave in, what to take out. It’s a balancing act.
If it bothers me to cut parts out, I stick the writing in another folder where maybe someday it can work in another story. That makes it much easier to cut.
Q: What motivates you (in writing or otherwise)?
What motivates me is believing my writing has a purpose.
That my stories can offer hope to someone else.
To inspire others to be themselves, not to worry what others think, to be follow your dreams, believe in yourself.
Q: Are you ever upset when you finish the story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?
Well, since most of my characters are nonfiction, I can only be upset with what they’ve done in real life. Some left much too soon. Some could have said so much more.
Q: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
One book that stands out in that regard is: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson.
In that book she says… “I wrote a story I could live with. The other one was too painful. I could not survive it.”
Some may need that escape into a world easier than the one they know. I get that.
Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your Mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I think I would stick with a bird image. I use a lot of bird imagery in my artwork. Dah! The covers on my memories all feature bird images.
A bird can glide above it all, look down, land if it wants, and simply fly away again.
Q: What books have you published?
Floating in Saltwater: a young girl’s search for answers
Balancing Act: memoir of a teenage breakdown
Loose Gravel: memoir of running from grief
SAD Girl, BAD Girl, and I (a collection of poems & art)
Check out Barbara on social media:
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.