Recently I was lucky enough to interview Edward Carpenter, author of 'Happily ever after', 'Seven lives to repay our country' and 'Lethargica'. If you haven't done so already I suggest you read his very thought provoking books. Please welcome him to the page. ~Jane
Q:- Happily Ever after is a funny fairy tale, very different to the other stories I have read of yours. How easy/difficult do you find it to write humour?
E.H.C:- Great question. Believe it or not, I actually do have a sense of humor, and it ranges from sarcastic to a bit dry. Very much influenced by the cast of Monty Python, I’m afraid. I enjoy writing with a humorous angle, and I have a couple of works in progress that allow me to explore this.
Q:- Random Question:- (I’m asking 10 authors this question to see how many say yes) If I asked you to include the phrase ‘A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.’ Somewhere in your next book, would you?
E.H.C:- Oh, I do love a good challenge. I’m pretty sure that I can fit it in somewhere in one of my soon-to-be-released stories. So, as my friend Yohana would say, “Challenge accepted!”
Jane:- I will be looking out for it :)
Q:- Seven lives and Lethargica both contain a war element in the story. Why is this subject so close to your heart?
E.H.C:- Well, I’ve been in the military since I was seventeen. Started out very idealistic, and have come to see war and the military profession for much more of what it really is, but I can still remember when I saw it through a much more romantic and nationalistic lens. I haven’t deliberately set out to write war stories, but I guess that it is true, to an extent at least, that we write what we know.
Q:- So far I have only seen short stories written by you. Do you think you will ever write a full length novel?
E.H.C:- Oh, I hope to write a few! My first full-length novel is in progress; a look at the darker side of the Regency through the eyes of the perfidious Mister Wickham, and I am considering releasing it as a serial on the Internet, one chapter a week for approximately 6 months before issuing the complete novel in hard-copy and e-book formats. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and those of your readers. The serial novel was quite the thing back in Dickens’ day – is it a good fit for the modern reader? Beyond that, I have a great idea for another novel, but it’ll be a while before that one comes out.
Q:- Your work always feels realistic and true to life (with the exception of ‘Happily ever after’!) How much time do you spend researching for your books?
E.H.C:- Actually, a good bit of my time is spent doing research, which is one of the interesting part of writing historical fiction – learning things you didn’t know as you pursue the idea for a story. A great example is my current project, which arose spontaneously from something I saw in Hanoi on a recent trip to Vietnam – to tell a story about a plane, a missile, a bullet, and a handful of people whose lives are touched in various ways by those objects, I’ve had to do extensive research into the B-52D strategic bomber and the SA-2 missile, and learned all kinds of interesting, little-known facts to make the story come alive. I will generally write the majority of a story fairly quickly, over a few days, and as I write, I’ll put xxx’s for things I don’t know. Then I’ll start my historical research, filling in the blanks. If I learn something new, I may have to rewrite and take the story in a slightly different direction. Research is easily 50 percent of the time in writing a story. Then, for me, as an independent author, there’s editing, cover art, making book trailers, and promotion. The last has proven to be the most time consuming and least fun – though I have to say, this interview has been very pleasant!
Quick Fire Questions:-
a) Football or Baseball? – Neither! I’m a rugby player and fan!
b) Action film or Horror film? – Action!
c) E-mail or Letter? – Either? I love old-fashioned letters, but hardly ever get them (or write them) these days.
d) Car or Motorcycle? – Motorcycle. Black 2006 Ninja 636...
e) I-pod or vinyl? - Neither. Can’t stand the I-Franchise, and haven’t owned a record player in years. Sansa MP3 player.
Q:- Publishing is not an easy business. What have your experiences been since entering this cut throat world?
E.H.C:- So far, my experiences have been good, overall. There doesn’t seem to be a great “how-to” guide, so I’m writing one as I go along and trying to share what I learn through my blog in the meantime. I think that this is a great time to be a writer, but I think that everyone would do well to recognize Amazon, for example, as what it is – a temporary phenomenon. I think we as a community need to realize that it’s quite possible that the royalty-based payment system that has been the standard for the 19th and 20th century didn’t exist before that, and people still wrote and published, but usually with the patronage of the aristocracy. Intellectual property is going to become harder and harder to protect – at some point, we may want to look at a way that an author can make a living wage by writing good material, but get paid through some other vehicle than royalties, and that our stories will then be released free over the internet. I’m testing the concept in the months to come with a Kickstarter project. I’ll keep you posted!
Q:- Moral Dilemma:- You are leading 100 people in a survivalist situation, when suddenly your lives are in danger and you must choose between two courses of action. One would cause 10 of the people to die and everyone else would live, the other would have a 70% chance of saving everyone but were it to fail then everyone would die. Which would you choose and why?
E.H.C:- Sorry, I am like James T. Kirk – not in that I seduce a different beautiful alien girl every week (I wish!) but in that I don’t believe in the Kobayashi Maru (a no-win situation) - good question though, and funny you should ask, since as a military officer, it’s incumbent in my profession to send men into situations knowing that statistically speaking, a certain percentage will never return.
Q:- What plans do you have in the pipeline?
E.H.C:- Oh, so much. If you liked Happily Ever After, you’re probably going to enjoy Charming. Yup, everyone’s favorite supporting male character is about to get his own story. If you want a free short-short story, check out Emily Dickinson in Hanoi on my blog. The Perfidious Mister Wickham is coming, one way or another, and there’ll be a short story in that storyline, A Matter of Honor. Then we have some Yugoslav artillerymen, George Washington in a slightly skewed version of Revolutionary America, a Welsh mouse on an Indonesian island, a story of life and death in Vietnam, and a bit of good-natured meddling by Merlin to subtly alter the course of British history. And that’s just the fiction. I need to finish the reverse translation and editing of a book I wrote on in Indonesian on naval strategy, finish a language learning book for Indonesian, and finish my how-to guide to publishing short stories as e-books. So, it’s going to be a busy year.
Q:- ‘Seven lives’ is about nameless Japanese soldiers facing their death in WWII. What made you decide to write from their perspective rather than from the view of American soldiers?
E.H.C:- Well, I was living in Japan at the time, studying the language, and doing some professional reading about the Pacific War. Obviously I’m a U.S. Marine, so we were on the other side of that battle. But I was touched by the hopeless nature of the situation, and drawn to the parallels to a Japanese anime series I was watching at the time – Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s a familiar story – boy meets robot, boy plus robot save the world, get the girl, except... Nope. It doesn’t end that way. It ends up being a story about what you do when there’s no way out. So, in fact, Seven Lives... became a bit of a homage – all the character names in my story are taken from Evangelion, and a couple of the recurrent phrases. The structure of the language, the way Shinji and Kawaru talk – well, that’s closer to an English transliteration of Japanese than to proper English – much as if it was the sub-titling in an anime film. Finally, using General Saito’s speech to section the fictional material – it just seemed right. I really couldn’t have written the same story from a U.S. perspective.
Q:- What has writing made you learn about yourself?
E.H.C:- Another great question – hadn’t actually given that much thought. I might have to take a pass on this one – for me, I’m afraid writing has not been a journey of self-discovery, at least to date. Stories just occur to me, and I tell them.
Q:- Have you read anything recently and thought ‘Damn why didn’t I think of that’?
E.H.C:- Fifty Shades of Grey? “Why didn’t I think of re-writing fan-fiction as a pseudo-BDSM novel where the Dominant protagonist basically throws his entire sexual identity away to be with a woman who, like most virgins, is multi-orgasmic, lacks a gag reflex, and although she fits perfectly into all her hot roommate’s clothes, somehow has esteem issues?” Ha-ha. Nope. Although I definitely do get inspired by other authors. Lately, I’d say Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and Neal Stephenson top the list. But really, there are too many to list. Sort of channeling a combination of Jane Austen and George McDonald Fraser at the moment.
Jane:- You’ve read Fifty?? *sighs*!
Q:- How did you decide on your books Titles?
E.H.C:- Seven Lives to Repay Our Country and Lethargica basically wrote their own titles – the first comes from an excerpt of General Saito’s final speech to his troops, and the second, well, the word reminded me of Ars Poetica... It was the only possible title. Happily Ever After, I maybe should have thought harder about, and looked at how many other (lesser) works already had a similar title. But c’est la vie! Most of my titles are that way – I often have the title in my mind before I write the story. Not always, though!
Q:- What is the most embarrassing moment of your life?
E.H.C:- Ha, not sure. I don’t really get embarrassed too easily.
Jane:- I wish I didn’t, I get embarrassed walking into a room!!
Where to find Edward and his work:-
Happily Ever After
Seven Lives To Repay Our Country
Where to find Edward and his work:-
Happily Ever After
Seven Lives To Repay Our Country