#fridayreads Anupya Pamidimukkala Interviews YA author Carrie Mac
As part of the eWriter in Residency series of #fridayreads interviews, fab teen writer and TPL's own Youth Advisory Group member Anupya Pamidimukkala interviewed Vancouver author Carrie Mac about writing inspirations, formative books, and what drives her creativity.
Carrie Mac is the award-winning Vancouver-based author of eleven novels for teenagers, including the breathlessly paced fantasy Droughtlanders (the opening novel of her Triskelia series), high-interest low-literacy novels for Orca Books, and most recently The Opposite of Tidy. She lives with her partner and kids in East Van. You can connect with her on twitter: @carriemacwrites, or drop by her website: carriemac.com
Anupya: Was there a formative book of your childhood, teenagehood and adulthood? What is it and why do you think you connected with it?
Carrie: This is always a tricky question, and definitely don’t hold me to the answer, because it’s never the same and there is no one book. I have a long, glittery train made up of beloved books that I’ve read, and it’s always trailing behind me. I just need to look back and choose the ones that sparkle the most. I can honestly say that I’ve never been able to narrow it down to one. Never.
Childhood: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I saw myself in the main character, and went so far as to crafting my own spy belt and monitoring my own set of locals on a regular ‘spy route.’ Also, there was so much at stake when her friends read what she wrote about them. It put her friendships at risk, and the fallout was immense. I realized then what kind of power words carry, and how they can be used to sharpen your own identity and injure others.
Teenagehood: The books of Anne Cameron, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro. Those are the writers who introduced me to so many women and girls, and wrote such compelling stories about them, and let me into the lives of their characters so that I could snoop and spy and collect all the shiny bits.
Stephen King taught me that being terrified is exhilarating and to trust the writer to bring me through the terror to a compelling and satisfying end, without it being pat. Robertson Davies deftly created characters and place and relationships, and worked them into such rich tapestries. When I read anything by him, I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a profoundly gifted storyteller. Perhaps the writer who most influence me as a teenager? Raymond Carver. He showed me that the lives of working class people (my people) are filled with stories worth writing about too, and that you don’t need to go on and on and on and on to relate human emotions when you can nail it down so adroitly with less. I truly, truly wish that he hadn’t died at 50, when he still had so much to write.
Adulthood: Over the years I've looked forward to new work by Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters, Anne Enright, Shani Mootoo, Khaled Hosseini, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jonathan Safran Froer, and José Saramago among others. And I’m always excited to be introduced to a writer whose work I’m not familiar with. But I can’t narrow it down to any small number. That part of the train is vast and so shiny, sometimes I need to wear sunglasses to look at it. So many books. So many writers. So many characters. So many stories. Thank goodness for the abundance . . . although sometimes it’s hard to find the really good stuff.
Anupya: Were the characters in The Opposite of Tidy inspired by real-life people? What gave you the idea to write The Opposite of Tidy?
Carrie: I’m a magpie when it comes to characters. I shamelessly steal all the shiny bits from real people and real happenings and real perils, and then I use them to build my characters and stories. The characters from The Opposite of Tidy are all very fictional, even though I can see where I’ve woven in bits from real-life observations. The story came from being in a hoarded house as a paramedic. I’d climbed over the detritus with my partner and we were doing CPR on a mostly-dead man while the firefighters worked on a way to extricate him. I saw several hoarded houses when I was a paramedic. I am fascinated by hoarded homes and the people who live in them, especially because I am fastidious when it comes to my own home, and am very much a minimalist.
Anupya: What was the most difficult scene to write in The Opposite of Tidy?