Hello everyone! Welcome to this week’s guest interview. Today, I would like to introduce Carla Sarett who has several short stories to her name and who also writes a genre that is a million miles away from fantasy, or is it? …
Hello Carla, please tell us a little about yourself and your genre.
I’m a Ph.D. who has worked in academia, TV, film and market research before falling in love with writing fiction. I think most fiction writers are bookworms and I’m no exception. I was raised on a diet of the classics– and later, devoured the comic writers (especially P.G. Wodehouse) as well as wonderful women writers like Allegra Goodman, Nancy Lemann, Muriel Spark, Laurie Colwin, and Barbara Pym.. On the personal side, I’m happily married (to an academic) and live on the Main Line of Philadelphia.
I’m not a genre writer but I often write about romantic relationships. I like the charm of old Hollywood romances– wit, sparkle, sophisticated dialogue, strong heroines. But I want to write about contemporary women dealing with today’s world. I’ll leave the other centuries to other writers. The present is what fascinates me.
Of all the genres to choose, why is Romance your favorite subject to write about?
It’s a universal topic. Everyone dreams about falling in love. Sometimes love is funny, sometimes moving, sometimes lyrical or tragic– you can have a romantic storyline anywhere, can’t you? There’s a myriad of takes on the same situation. There’s no romance police. I can write about relationships that go wrong as well as right. I can explore dreams that don’t come true, as well as those that do. I toy with other genres, too: paranormal, metaphysical, even some light sci-fi comedy, as long as they come to back to today’s women.
Now I believe that you self-published both your books? What helped you decide to make that big step?
Most of the short stories in Nine Romantic Stories, and all of in Crazy Lovebirds had been published in literary magazines. So, they’d been published in the traditional way in magazines and anthologies. They were edited by eyes more critical than mine, which spared me that step.
The plus of self-publishing is that it offers more options in terms of length– I’ve written about this in Carla Sarett’s Blog. I prefer shorter books — and I prefer short story collections that “fit together.” I didn’t want to mix romantic tales, with stories that were far apart in terms of topic I felt readers wouldn’t like that– but of course, in print, I’d need a longer book. So that was my basic logic.
Tell us a little about Crazy Lovebirds.
I wanted to produce a short, entertaining sampler — so I put together five of my funniest flash fiction pieces in Crazy Lovebirds: Five Super-Short Stories. These stories appeared in literary or humor magazines and they’re all 1000 words or under — breezy, fast, funny. They offer my spin on love, dating, and family: a wife re-making her spouse; a blind date gone berserk; and the world’s worst wedding proposal. Although the stories are comedy, they have lessons about life and relationships, especially the story that I wrote about my own father, Dad Takes Flight. You might call them morality tales in disguise.
Briefly describe the other book/books that you have written.
Nine Romantic Stories has — you guessed it — nine stories that readers have described it as “gorgeously eccentric.” It definitely falls in the literary fiction camp. It’s romance-deconstructed, turned on its head– with vivid characters that, I hope, readers will recognize. It’s not about happy endings– sometimes love is what lingers afterwards, as when a physicist and violinist are bound together by the memory of a dead boy. I tried to make the book a balance of light and dark, happy and sad, first dates and failed marriages. One of my favorites, In Rittenhouse Square, is a story told in reverse, about a couple who plan to meet, but do not — it’s hopelessly romantic, I think.
What is the best thing you find about writing?
Dialogue, definitely. I adore writing dialogue. I could do it all day and all night. I love making up scenes in my head and acting out all the roles. I love to introduce new characters, just to hear what they’re going to say. It’s probably a residue from my childhood love of acting that I think in terms of the scene — how to make it as dramatic as possible. I like bringing the character to life so I can hear him or her talking. Plus, when I write, I feel totally free — it’s the only time in life that I can bend situations to my will.
How do you begin to form your stories?
There’s always a kernel of something “true” in each of the stories, no matter how fantastic they get everyday life inspires the stories — a snatch of a conversation, a story that a friend tells me, something that I read in the newspaper, some fragment I recall– there’s always a story to tell, one that lights and enlightens, one that enchants, one that lingers in the mind. And I do use writing prompts from literary magazines, definitely, although where I take them is another matter.
Do some of your stores have love scenes in them? If yes, how do you find the passion? Is part of it written from your own secret desires or do you simply guess what the reader wants?
I’m not interested in steamy sex scenes as a reader, so I shy away from them. To me, sex isn’t all that interesting as a literary topic– and it’s sort of unromantic. Some writers have better luck with that than others– I think Dianne Johnson does a good job with sex scenes. I’m turned on by the language of love and dance of courtship — that first recognition, that flash of insight, that’s what makes it romantic.
Do you draw your inspiration from your own actual life experiences?
Sometimes is probably the best answer. In some stories, my personal history figures prominently. My mother pops up in a lot of my stories, sometimes as a mother, and other times as a figure off to the side (she is Mrs. Gold in A Strange Courtship, in Nine Romantic Stories.) In Skinny Girl which is one of my funniest, I used my own weird experiments with diets (like the grapefruit diet or yes, the Fig Newton diet) in the story. At the conclusion of A Normal Life , I included a story about my own grandmother– and the quotes that I use in that story (from Robert Frost and Philip Larkin) are favorites of mine.
Do you have another books or project in the pipeline? If so, can you give us a little inside scoop?
I am having a ball working on a romantic comedy about the heroine whom I introduced in Career Girl (which appears in Love Hurts!), Skinny Girl, and Bonny Lass. She’s a woebegone heroine, Annie Hall-style. She’s at that transitional stage after college — floundering, unsteady yet smart, insecure but still a force to contend with. She’s neurotic about lots of things that women get neurotic about — dieting, makeup, you name it. Of course, she falls in love– or else why write a romantic comedy?
I’m also working a series of memoir pieces about my grandparents, which takes me both to Israel (where my father grew up) and to the Holocaust as well. So that’s a highly personal project. I have a piece forthcoming in Blue Lyra Review about my mother’s father, which I am very proud of.
What valuable piece of advice would you give any new writers out there who are just starting out?
Don’t worry about agents or publishers. Don’t chase trends in the market. Write what you love to write, write for the joy of it– but edit slowly and with a careful eye.
Carla, I really appreciate how you have given us all a wonderful insight into your written world. Thank you for popping along today and I would also like to wish you the very best of luck with all of your books in the future.
Links to Books:
Crazy Lovebirds: Five Super-Short Stories
Nine Romantic Stories (Kindle Edition)
Nine Romantic Stories (all digital formats)
Carla Sarett’s Blog