Saturday, September 5, 2015

Talking with author Patricia Correll

Please welcome author Patricia Correll as we talk about their latest book, Late Summer, Early Spring.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 
I've 36 years old and have been telling stories for as long as I can remember (and before I can remember, according to my parents!). It used to be My Little Pony stories- the original ones, not the odd-looking new versions- but since then I've graduated to speculative fiction, the unholy trinity of science fiction, horror and fantasy (though I concentrate mostly on fantasy and horror). It wasn't until I was in college that I realized I could try to publish my work, and began submitting pieces in earnest. I've had many short stories published in journals as varied as The Absent Willow Review to The Lovecraft Ezine, have been in a handful of anthologies. Late Summer, Early Spring is my first book that is all mine, though!

What is your book(s) about? 
Late Summer, Early Spring began as a retelling of a Japanese folktale called "The Vampire Cat". As I worked on it, I saw that including a romantic relationship would add another layer to the story, so I ran with it.

The two novellas in this book tell a tale of love, loss, longing and devotion to duty. It's about vengeance and the toll that a thirst for revenge takes on a person.

What are you currently working on? 
My second child was born last September, so this year my writing time has been more fragmented than usual. That might be why I've been on a short story kick all year; I've completed five and hope to have a total of seven finished by the end of the year. I'm normally a very slow writer so this is unusual for me! At the moment I am working on a short follow-up story to Late Summer, Early Spring. I am also revising a Victorian-style Christmas ghost story- a tradition I love.

What do you do when you’re not writing? 
I am a stay-at-home mother to two young children, so my days consist mostly of feeding people, the library, the park, and making sure everyone gets where they need to be.  I also work special events and cover shifts at my former full-time job. I've been a bookseller with the same independent company for almost 14 years; even after the kids were born I loved it so much I couldn't bear to quit completely. They were kind enough to let me pop in and out as I was needed- though these days I always feel a little left behind, as I can't keep my finger on the pulse of the publishing industry every day like I used to.

Is there anything you would tell aspiring writers? 
You can sit around and wish upon a star, but if you do that then the people who work hard toward their goal are going to pass you up. Writing isn't some holy experience where you sit in silence for hours and the Muse comes with awesome ideas that will pour forth from your pen. And writing isn't about how much talent you have. Talent might help a little, but if you want to write don't worry about how talented you are. If you want to write, then write. And write, and write, and write. Keeping working at it and eventually you'll end up with something you like. And read too- even the greatest writers are always learning.

How often does your muse distract you from day to day minutiae? 
I rarely have a block of time to sit down and write, so I sneak it in between daily tasks. I keep a story or two sunning in the back of my mind at all times, so it's fairly simple to dip my pen in and pluck out some scene I can put down in fifteen minutes. It's also nice to have something to distract me from the boring parts of my day!

Writer’s block—real or hype? 
I've had situations where I was stuck on a story; usually putting it away for a couple days is enough to restart the process, but I have a handful of pieces that started off promising and have never been finished. I keep them around because maybe someday...

Even if I have to drop a piece, I always have something else to work on. I've never had trouble coming up with ideas- my problem is not having enough time to work on them all! I listen to the radio, read the news, and eavesdrop on conversations in public (sssshhhh!). The world is full of stories. A few days ago I listened to a radio interview with the great-great grandson of H.H. Holmes. According to him, none of his relatives knew about their ancestor until one day his grandfather announced over a family dinner that they were descended from one of America's most notorious serial killers. Now there's a story!

Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?
E.L. Doctorow said of novel writing, "It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." I'm humbled to know that such a great author apparently wrote the same way I do- with a vague idea of the story arc, but discovering the events of the tale along the way. I have tried to write outlines, and every one failed miserably. But I rarely get stuck. I write character-driven fiction, so when I can't see where we're headed I sit my characters down and ask them what they'll do next.

What advantages or challenges does a writer in your genre face in today’s fiction market? 
The rise of the Internet gives specfic writers both new opportunities and new challenges. Small presses have flourished, as well as avenues to self-publish. These small presses are often willing to take risks on new authors or on works that large publishers might not see as commercially viable. At the same time, the market has burgeoned in recent years, which can make it hard for individual writers to make themselves seen. Self-promotion is a skill we've all had to learn, and wonderful blogs like this are a huge help in reaching potential readers. Thank you for this opportunity!

DSP Publications

Hour of the Lotus

General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. Iwata's current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general's unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When they discover the true cause of the illness, they will have to battle an ancient spirit and survive.

 Fox Hunter

Lord General Iwata Sho sets out in search of the mysterious Fox Hunter. When he finds his former lover, Hiroshi, he discovers a changed man, scarred inside and out and consumed by vengeance. Together with Narita’s grown son Daigo, Iwata and Hiroshi pursue the malicious spirit as it leaves bloodshed in its wake. Iwata worries about what will become of Hiroshi when the fox is defeated—if Hiroshi’s revenge doesn’t kill him first.

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Hiroshi chewed his lower lip, thinking. “The prince has grown steadily weaker since he took sick, hasn’t he? Would you say he’s grown weaker every day?”
Iwata nodded. Then Hiroshi’s meaning struck him. “You think it’s… draining him?

His strength?”

“His life.”

“I’m a soldier, not a priest. I don’t deal with the spirits.” Iwata clenched his fist in frustration. “An assassin I could fight. But this? If I could find the cat—”

“Do you remember what it looked like?”

Iwata reached into his memory. Every detail of the previous night was there… except the cat. He recalled only a shadow, a shadow with mocking, gold-flecked green eyes. “No.”

“We need a priest.” Hiroshi sipped his tea.

“Lady Mari.” Iwata shifted his weight. The stitches in his leg pulled at his skin. “She’s remained devout. It wouldn’t be strange for her to be seen talking with a priest. She visits the shrines often.”

“I didn’t know she was a shrine maiden.”

“A long time ago.” Iwata and Lady Mari had never been friends; the prince and his regiment spent far too little time in town for them to have become familiar. But she was grave and dignified, and she ran Prince Narita’s household with a steady hand. Iwata respected her.

They lapsed into silence. Hiroshi drank his tea, though in the summer heat it brought beads of sweat to his face.

“I think we should look at Momo’s rooms,” he said suddenly. “Maybe we’ll find a clue there to tell us where she is.”

“No men are allowed in the consorts’ wing except the prince. Do you propose we dress as serving girls and sneak in?”

“You’d make an ugly woman. But then, so would I.” Hiroshi smiled. Iwata suspected that wasn’t true; with his delicate features, Hiroshi would have made a striking woman, scar or not. “Perhaps Lady Mari will arrange something if I ask her.”

Iwata rubbed his temple. Pain and fatigue blurred the edges of his vision.

“Perhaps. We should go see her now.”

“Sho, no. You have to rest.” Hiroshi was on his feet in a heartbeat. He stepped over the table and put his hands on Iwata’s shoulders. “You’ve been up all night, and you’re wounded as well. The prince is safe during the day. Get some sleep before you go back.”

“When I return from Lady Mari, I will. I’ll be keeping watch tonight too.”

Hiroshi’s grip on Iwata’s shoulders tightened. “Again? What if the cat comes back?”
“I have another leg.”

Hiroshi frowned, anger waking in his dark eyes. He mastered it quickly. “Let me help you change clothes, then. You can’t go before the prince’s wife looking like you just left a slaughterhouse.”

The ride to the inn had set the dagger wound to bleeding again. With a gentleness that belied his ferocity as a fighter, Hiroshi cleaned around the stitches. If Iwata stiffened, he paused to rinse the cloth until the pain had eased and Iwata relaxed. He tied a fresh bandage tightly and went to fetch a clean kimono from Iwata’s trunk. Iwata closed his eyes as the sharper pain ebbed, disappearing into the dull ache that had invaded his entire body.

He woke with a start. He was still sitting up, but leaning slightly backward. Something was propping him up. He looked down. Hiroshi’s fingers were laced together across his chest, keeping him from slumping forward. Iwata had dozed off sitting up, and Hiroshi had knelt behind him, holding him to save him from falling over like a fool. Iwata squinted at the window; the sunlight had brightened considerably. “How long did I sleep?”

“A few minutes.” Hiroshi rested his chin on Iwata’s shoulder. “I was going to wake you if you slept any longer.”

He was lying. The change in light said he’d been asleep for at least an hour, probably more. He struggled to his feet, breaking Hiroshi’s embrace. Iwata turned on him, angry words ready on his lips. Hiroshi rose slowly, like an old man, flexing his stiff arms. Iwata swallowed his anger.

“Come,” he said, holding out a hand to help Hiroshi up. “It’s time we were off to the palace.”

About the Author

Patricia Correll believes that all humans are natural storytellers. She’s been telling tales since she could string words together, but in the last thirty years or so has graduated from My Little Pony stories to the unholy trinity of fantasy, SF, and horror.

She lives with her husband, their sons, and a fifteen-pound calico cat. When she’s not writing, she spends her time being a stay-at-home mom, occasionally working at a bookstore, and trying to make her cat lose weight (which is almost impossible to do). She also eats lots of ice cream, pretends to be a gardener, and possesses staggering amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise.

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