Interview with Carla Herrera

Carla is a fascinating writer I was lucky to discover through Smashwords, where she has published a novel and a book of short stories, so far. Today we did reciprocal interviews. You can find mine on her blog, and hers right here:
1) My favorite story of yours so far is ‘Stairs’ in ‘Day Gazing‘. Like all great short stories, it reveals character through action and atmosphere. Please tell me more about it. I’d like to know how and why you wrote it and what your thoughts about it are now.
That story came from a dream. A very strange dream. I woke and found myself in a car. I was the character you read about there. She/me felt hopeless. She was a recovering addict (I’ve never done drugs btw). and a recovering anorexic and her daughter Amber had been taken from her. She had just gotten Amber back and was supposed to pick her up from school.
Many of my stories have been taken from dreams I’ve experienced. Probably because of my need to express some of the strangeness.
When I read the story now, I feel like that character is someone out there. I’ve experienced part of who she is and hope I never have to re-visit that again. I know this: whoever I was dreaming about had a much rougher time than I’ve ever had and I hope she’s okay.
2) What is your favorite story in ‘Day Gazing’, and, if different, what is your favorite story of all you’ve written?
The Declination. It was written during my morning writing. It was very short, simple, just came to me. I like the scene of the three characters sitting and talking to each other while experiencing all these changes.
The Wrist in Splint is probably my favorite of all time. It’s an essay I wrote after an accident in Iowa City. I read it now and the language feels much different than what I write today.
I think I was a better writer then. Or maybe I took more time thinking about each sentence, because it feels as if the language is more flowery. Eloquent at times.
3) I thought the scenario in ‘Pink Eye’ was quite prescient and possible. Have you considered re-shaping it as a screenplay or teleplay? Have you written anything for performance, whether theater, television or film?
No I haven’t. I don’t have those skills. I love writing, but it’s difficult for me at times, because I want the story to be perfect. All of my energy goes into making the story the best it can be, so stretching and making it into a play isn’t something I’m interested in. If someone else wanted to take one of my stories and do that, I’m not opposed to the idea. I just want to focus on the story though, not the formatting.
4) How long have you been writing, and what does writing mean to you? Is it mainly a hobby, a business or both?
That’s a good question. I’ve been writing since my teens. I was playing around with it in the late 1970s, after I read some feminist books. I wrote several non-fiction essays/journal pieces. I started writing fiction in my late twenties, but put it down to work on the non-fiction because it seemed like an easier market to break into. I’ve written for alternative publication and several weeklies. I picked the fiction back up again in 2007 (after my father died) to express what I felt the non-fiction couldn’t.
Writing means life to me. It’s hope for the future. My children are grown and have their own lives, so I can do what I want. I hope to make a living from it one day, but that’s not happening yet. I wouldn’t call it hobby, because I’ve made it a priority in my life. I write full-time.
5) What region do you live in? Have you always lived in that area? What have been the most important locations in your life so far?
I live in Northwest Arkansas. On the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. I’m a California native and was raised in Clearlake Highlands (now called the city of Clearlake) and lived about twenty-five years in Stockton.
Most important locations: Clearlake, because I refer to it as my father’s lake. He found it during the late 1940s and fell in love with it. That side of my family ended up buying quite a bit of property there. He went back to the Bay Area for awhile, but always ended up back at the lake.
Louisiana, because of the people. They were so warm and friendly. I lived in Leesville and Shreveport for awhile and then later visited New Orleans and it left an impression on me. The language, the food, the warmth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth, because I hate the big city. It’s left me with an impression of city life that I use in my writing.
Iowa City, because of the intellectual growth I experienced. Though I was only there for a year, I really had to reach to keep up in my studies and my writing. A very good experience, though scary for someone who doubted herself so much.
6) When you write a story, do you usually begin with a character or set of characters, or with a plot? Do you usually know the ending before you start writing?
Every story is different for me. I knew everything about Pink Eye before I began writing, because the story came to me in a dream. I wrote it out and had to tweak it, working on the scenes, but it was not a lot of work.
Usually my stories are spontaneous. They begin with morning writings and flow from that. The only stories that I’ve used plot in are MentaChip and Two.
I rarely know the ending when I begin writing. Sometimes it will come when I’m in the middle of a piece and I’ll write it out quickly and then tweak it when I get to that point.
7) Are you an organized sort of writer? What are your writing habits?
I used to be more organized than I am today. I have certain habits. I like to wake up, get my coffee and look through what I need to get done for the day.
I have to work with words for about ten or fifteen minutes before I actually start writing. Or read something. I can’t just immediately start writing unless it’s something I’m frantic to get out (as in waking from a dream).
After word work, I dawdle. I think about writing more than I write and I do it in spurts. I’ll spend a couple hours in the morning, then another few hours during the day in the process of working out, tweaking and writing the story. Another couple hours in the evening.
8) Could you list five books and/or authors who have been indispensable to you?
Watership Down, The Son of Tarzan, The Stand, Ender’s Game/Shadow, 1984…
Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Orson Scott Card, Richard Adams, E.G. Burroughs.
9) What is the next book you plan to publish and when? I’m ready to read it!
The next story I publish will be an untitled story I’m currently working on. It’s not as long as a novel, because it’s under 15k words, but it’s a long, short story.
I should be finished with the story, editing, etc. within the next two weeks and I’ll load it up on Smashwords.
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