So imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I gave an open call for authors to be interviewed on my blog and Carson Craig popped up. He was a member of one of my writing circles on G+ but we’d never met before, so of course I was curious about him. I looked him up, saw what he had gong on, and was really impressed with how well-informed, organized and motivated he was about writing as well as about helping others along their writing paths. I am extremely pleased to introduce Carson Craig as my interviewee today. Please read on and take the time to get to know this young author.
1- Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
My name is Carson Craig. Apart from trying to publish my novel (Titan Project), I am studying mechanical engineering and staying involved in the entrepreneurial community in Lexington, Ky.
I built a website to network with other authors and readers. I offer writing, marketing and blogging tips. I also have some information on the steampunk genre and my novel.
2- Where does writing fit into your life and why are you drawn to it? How did you get your start and what keeps you motivated/inspired? Do you have other creative talents?
I believe I am drawn to writing because I am constantly dreaming of new stories, characters and settings. I have always had a fascination with space travel, which led me science fiction stories. As I continued to read on such subject, I started to believe I could write my own books. This belief followed me all the way to college, where I finally sat down and forced myself to write my first novel.
With being a mechanical engineering student, most of my days are filled with numbers, theories and equations. I use writing as a means of getting away and branching out.
My other talents include playing several instruments (trombone, tuba, guitar, trumpet) and I am a bit of an artist when it comes to drawing.
3- What forms of writing (short stories, poetry, novels, etc.) and genres do you prefer and why?
I primarily read novels and short stories. Nothing against poetry, but I’ve just never been a fan. If it is a short story, the writer has to do an amazing job of gaining my interest fast, keeping me entertained, and developing the characters in a short amount of time with an enjoyable plot. Because this is usually harder to accomplish with short stories, I find myself reading more novels.
When it comes to novels, I try to become involved in a series. I know that I will become more attached to the character and guarantee myself a longer reading selection (instead of constantly having to look for new material to read). If I find an author I enjoy, I like to keep reading their work.
As far as genres go, I prefer science fiction, and a little bit of fantasy. The works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne have attracted me to the subgenre of steampunk, of which I am a huge fan. I read nonfiction as well, usually on entrepreneurship and building a better lifestyle.
4- As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What is it that makes you want to stop turning pages?
I believe a good story consists of well-developed characters with unique personalities, alternating periods of action and relaxation, a strong plot and amazing dialogue. On an additional note, I do not like stories that are not believable. I mean this in the sense that they violate the laws of their own universe. I’m willing to accept unrealistic settings, characters, creatures, plots, etc. as long as the writer has built it out thoroughly. If magic and dragons exist, I will go along with it, as long as the story does not break the rules set forth for the world it is built around.
I want to stop turning pages when the writer fails to keep me involved in the world to the point that I realize I am just reading words on paper. If they describe a setting, the imagery needs to be relevant to the theme and plot. If there is dialogue, it needs to be fluid, not forced to drive the plot in a certain direction. If each character does not have their own motives and personality, I begin to not care for them. Once a writer has all of these built out, I would recommend an opening chapter that ends on a cliff hanger. This is where I decide to take it to the front desk and purchase the book or place it back on the shelf. I would also recommend mini-cliffhangers at the end of the chapters to keep me going one more than I planned on reading.
5- As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are one or two things you have learned to never do in your writing?
I believe the most crucial part of the story is getting your reader to feel what the character feels. Research has shown that certain areas of the brain light up when we read. These areas are an indication that when we read, we are often placing ourselves in the characters shoes. If this is the case, you want to make sure your writing is convincing enough to put the readers in the characters shoes, and that they are experiencing the correct feelings. Even with action scenes, it is often more important to convey what the character feels and experiences rather than describing the action.
As a writer and engineer, I believe my strengths lie in my ability to pay attention to detail, plan things out, and weave the plot together in intricate ways. This is still a learning process and I am slowly building on these aspects, but my talents have always been in this area. I envision scenes of my novel as if they are movie trailers, trying to figure out how to best convey the event.
On the other side, my weaknesses reside in my grammar. When editing my first drafts, I often find myself abusing adverbs, struggling to convey the correct thought, or making the sentence far more complex than what it needs to be by stringing in extra words. Charles Dickens got paid by the word, so that is acceptable, but as for me, I want my story to be as fluid and easy for the reader to follow as possible.
I believe one of the biggest things I have learned to never do in writing is make a boring first chapter. If you have readers sample your work, they are going to judge your book on the beginning. If the first chapter is boring, they’ll put your book down and move on. Along with not making a boring intro, make sure to avoid clichés or an overly used introduction. I made this mistake on my novel by opening my story with a storm. I described the weather and setting, but who cares? After looking at it, I realized the reader is willing to listen to me describe this in the next paragraph or so, but they want and enticing first paragraph. I’ve found using a bit of mystery in the first chapter works best. Make the reader want to learn more about the character you are introducing and stick with him/her the rest of the chapter. Again, it doesn’t hurt to end on a cliff hanger and draw them in to chapter 2.
6- How often do you write? Do you hold to the idea that a writer must write every single day?
When I was writing my novel, I pushed to write at least 2000 words a day and gave myself the weekends off. The last thing you want to do as a writer or blogger is burn yourself out. I believe that a writer needs to determine a comfortable level of writing. If you want to write a novel, set a deadline, but then also set smaller tasks to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. I set the goal of 2000 words per day, but you can easily tell yourself you want 2 chapters done every week, or 10,000 words down every week. Do whatever works, but give yourself a goal and deadline to work towards.
7- Can you tell us about your writing projects? Which work(s) are you the most proud of?
My current novel, which is undergoing editing, is based on steampunk. If you are not familiar with the genre, think of Jules Verne. It’s basically science fiction based around the Victorian era – WW1. I often refer to this novel as steampunk in space, because very few stories are based around this premise (primarily because it is hard to rationalize space travel for a society based on steam technology). The current working title is Steam Age: Titan Project, which is supposed to be the first installment of a trilogy. If readers are interested, they can check out the first few chapters and synopsis at: http://www.carsoncraig.com/novel .
8- What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
I believe the most difficult aspect of writing is finding motivation. It becomes even harder when you start to realize you are investing a great amount of time in producing something no one may ever read. Because of this, I highly recommend that every author should start building a platform today (I use WordPress to host my website and I have created profiles on the major social media platforms).
If you can start gaining a following ahead of time, your motivation tends to build and it makes it easier to finish the story. I believe it all comes down to discipline and setting goals for your writing.
9- Who are your favourite writers and why?
I would have to say my favorite authors are science fiction authors- Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, etc.
The reason I love their writing is because they dream. I’m not saying other authors don’t. Many technologies that exist today, or are being developed, are often based off science fiction. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne was a ridiculous story, but close to a century later, we had men walking on the moon. Science fiction authors dream up new technologies that impact young readers. They strive to see these technologies to come to life, and often times, given enough funding and planning, end up being developed.
10- What advice would you give to new writers?
For new writers, I would advise them to first setup a schedule for their writing. Discipline is key in this industry. If they hope to finish a full-length novel, they need to stay motivated and meet deadlines.
I would also recommend them to start reaching out to readers and other authors even before they have the book finished. Having a website and consistently posting to a blog are two big factors in deciding whether you have a chance of success or not. This is not always the case, but from what other successful authors have told me, this is the best way to go.
11- How can readers get into contact with you?
I am always happy to answer questions and communicate with readers and other authors. You can contact and follow me through the following addresses:
Novel Teaser and Outline: http://www.carsoncraig.com/novel
Novel Facebook Page : http://facebook.com/steamagetitanproject
I also release weekly email newsletters and blog updates via email, which readers can sign up for on my blog. There is a contact form on my website if readers would prefer to reach me that way.
Carson, thank you so much for your insightful and honest answers. There is a lot to be gained from what you have shared, for both the new and experienced writer. Readers, please visit Carson via one of his contact links. You’ll meet a very approachable and informed young man and discover lots of other great information on his website.
Have a great week, everyone!