Jen – I am grateful to be able to talk with you! You have such an amazing collection of work published! How hard was it to get started in writing? I know some authors have been writing since they were little while others discover it later in life. Is this something you have done on and off in your life or just something you found yourself doing one day?
Carissa – Getting started was the easiest part– I’ve always loved books and journaling, but the decision to write a full-length novel came to me on a whim out of sheer boredom in my late twenties.
It was keeping the momentum going, and finishing the project, that was so difficult for me. I had no idea that writing a book could be so hard! It took me more than a year to finish my first book. Once I received my first publishing contract, I felt a boost of confidence that kept me going…writing is always tough, but it’s gotten easier over the years now that I know I have readers who are eager to enjoy my stories.
Jen – Goodreads says that you never really considered yourself a writer until recently. Do you consider yourself one now or just lucky? I have a few friends that are published and they still think it was a fluke. People see the outside and the finished product. They don’t see the blood, sweat and tears it can take to just get the words out!
Carissa – I consider myself a writer now, but I felt like an imposter at first. I’ve always loved books and never considered writing my own stories…but now that I do, it just feels RIGHT. I love that I get to spend most of my days reading and writing—it’s a dream job! If luck is defined as “factors outside of one’s control”, then yes—I do think there is an element of luck in publishing. For example, you could write an incredible book…but if that genre isn’t selling right then, or if the editors already bought a similar project…well. Your book might never see the light of day. You can’t control the market, so all you can do is focus on yourself and your stories.
I think the real keys to success in publishing are stubbornness, patience, passion, and the willingness to accept feedback. You have to be stubborn and patient in the business because you will hear a lot of “No”s before you get that “Yes”. You have to keep going no matter how many times you’re told no…and the publishing process is incredibly slow, so buckle up and get ready to wait some.
And when one book doesn’t sell, write another. And another. And another. Keep going until others have no choice but to finally sit up and pay attention.
Also, if you get criticism or feedback, USE IT! There’s always room for improvement, and there’s no such thing as the perfect book…readers are fickle creatures; we don’t like everything we read, and it’s ok if some people don’t like my books… One of my goals this year is to shake off that “imposter syndrome” and give myself more credit—I’ve worked really hard to get where I am in my writing career. And I hope I can keep pushing harder and getting better and growing my confidence.
Jen – If you weren’t an author what would you be (even if you had no qualifications to do it)?
Carissa – Before I wrote, I worked in social work and corrections. I enjoyed it but the burn-out…yeah, the burn-out…it’s draining. If I wasn’t a writer, I think I would do something else…but still something related to books—like working in a bookshop or becoming a librarian.
Jen – What do you want people to remember about you?
Carissa – I want people to remember that I am a reader first, and my number one goal is to create stories that keep them turning pages into the night…and also: I adore my readers. I want them to know how much they mean to me and how excited I get when I know they are reading my work!
Jen – Do you have any favorite books? Have they helped you with your writing?
Carissa – Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite book because it changes all the time! My favorite genre is psychological thriller, but I’ll read anything that looks good. I recently finished The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. All three were fantastic! Reading is part of my job and I DEFINITELY think I’ve been influenced by all of the books I’ve read. Especially other female thriller writers—their books inspire and excite me! Books are tools—every single one I read improves my craft in one way or another, even the ones I don’t like… I truly believe that.
Jen – What is the scariest thing you’ve written (even if it never got published)?
Carissa – The scariest thing I’ve ever written…hmmm. I’m not sure. All of my books scare me ma little—if my own heart isn’t pounding a little during a scary scene, I know I need to turn up the heat! My Sister Is Missing might be the one that scared me the most…writing some of those scenes left me feeling rattled.
Jen – I was able to meet a few of my writing heroes over the years. Have you been able to meet any of yours?
Carissa – I live in a small town in Indiana, so I haven’t had many opportunities to meet other authors. I would like to change that though! I did, however, meet Chuck Palhniuk once in Louisville, Kentucky. I waited in line for hours to meet him, and when I got up there, I just blanked out completely. I honestly have no idea what I even said to him. So embarrassing!
Jen – Carissa thank you so very much for your time! I really enjoyed talking with you!
Carissa – Thanks for the questions! I hope I didn’t ramble too much!
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