Exclusive Interview with
Conor H. Carton
When did you start writing?
I have been a reader since I can remember. I have been dreaming stories for as long. I started to write some of them when I was in my teens, they were fablously terrible. I always had a sort of desire to be a writer, it did not really develop until about twenty years ago.
What makes writing your passion?
I love to fall into a story, to be utterly engaged in it. I was thinking about a story that I would like to read that I was not finding. I decided that I was going to have to write it myself and as I did so I found that I was really enjoying the process of writing.
How long have you been writing?
I was laid off from a job about twenty years ago and decided to use the down time to write a story that I had been brewing for a while. I did so and sent it to a publisher who promptly returned it me me without a comment. Life took some turns and required a lot of active attention after that, I still had the story nagging at me. Finally six years ago I solved the stiry knot that had been blocking me and I started writing seriously.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Amazement, gratitute and deep pleasure. I had decided that I was going to try and get Botle Born Blues published, I have no interest in sekf publishing. I submitted to publishers and agents, and got the routine non anserws or declines. By an extraordinary stroke of luck I was introduced to Next Chapter who have published the bok. It was amazing to see something I had only in my head or computer for so long be out in public. BTW- The second part of Spoils of War, The Thousand Year Fall is due out soon.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I want my readers to be engaged. I believe to do that there has to be a deep connection between the cast and the context. The characters have to have a problem so solve, the problem has to be serious enough to be engaging for the reader, something significant should be at stake.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Nothing really. I like the process and consider myself very lucky that I can do this work. I have moved from dreaming to doing anf drom doing to delivering, it has been a long road with nothing pushing me except myself. The satisfaction is enormous.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I frequently encounter a story knot that stops me from progressing. I am not a planning writer, I start and continue, the story unfolds in the weriting. I usually have a start and an end and need to move from one to the other. When I get to a point where the writing sems false, it just does not follow then I stop, erease everything up to the point where it stopped working and start again. When this fails I sit and stare at the story and thry to imagine my way forward. Mostly I then have ideas for the otherside of the blockade which are nice but not useful. Finally I walk. This is my best engine for getting ideas. I will get an idea that is great in motion and dies on the page. More walking follows and then finally I will find a line that frees up the story and I continue.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I write for myself. I want to create these stories and I want to share them. It is a huge ego that I think other people will be interested in them, I still do. The pleasure of unfolding a story, having it emerge is never ending. For any new writer, and I am at the vert start of what I plan to be a career , is to be honest with yourself about what success means. If you are writing for money then there is a massive chance that you will never be successful. Write for yourself, if you are lucky there are others who will be engaged as well. Everything else is a bonus.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
I have often thought about this. I look back at the choices I made and have no idea how I came to make them. Most of the time I was responding not planning. I am not sure how I could cut through the confusion to get myself to think differently. I really would like to tell my teenage self that I would become happy.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read reviews, I am always hoping to see something that I did not think of. Each reader brings themselves to a story and they will see a different story from everyone else. Getting a glimse of that different stiry is very exciting. It opens up possibilities that I had not seen before, other paths that could be taken. A bad review is never a critical one, I have read a lot of stories I did not connect with and a few I actively disliked. A bad review is one that does not express an honest response to the story. I regret those as a missed opportunity.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I am delighted. A good review means I have mae a connection with a reader, done what I hope to do, engaged them and gave them value in return for thieeiincredibly valuable time and attention.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I constantly translate parts of my life into my stories, I never incorporate them directly. A wonderful thing about fiction is that I get to shape and edit, have the response right at the moment and not much later when I thought of it. A reader deserves the best version.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Shakbout, the narrator of the Sopils of War series, sometimes fells a bit like me. This is partly a result of first person narration, I am writing as Shakbout and that means that we are very close to each other. In writing Shakbout emerged and eveolved into a wholly seperate being, he has found his own voice and independance.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The story is always the most important part, readers are buying the story. A cover is a vital part of the delicate process of someone buying and reading the story. When I browse I am initally attracted by titles and covers, they make me pause long enough to give some attention to the story.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I am a writer at the ourset of a career, one book published, second one due out soon,third in a queue to be edited, fourth (new triology) under construction. I have readers and have not really connected with them yet or have developed ways to connect with them. I am deeply concious as a writer I have a unspoken contract with my readers. I am declaring a set of related books, Spoils of War is a triology, the first book is published. There are a lot of times when the rest of a sewries has not ben delivered. I am in the process of proving that I can and will deliver on the prpmise contained in the Part 1 statement. As I do so I will be looking to connect directly with my readers. Writing is the primary way I aim to do it, deliver stories that they are engeged by, chatting would be fun.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
If I am recognised in public it is because I have been mistaken by someone else. If someone has readd and enjoyed the story it is wonderful. Creating something that connects with someone else who has no other connection with you is extraordinary.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Right now the list includes, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Arthur Conan Doyle,George Herriman, Robert E. Howard, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö,Robert van Gulik,. Tomorrow the list would be longer as I would have more time to think. All of written stories that I have falled headlong into, they have had the confidence to capture me as a reader.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
My dream is to be a professional writer, sell enough books so that my publisher wants to keep working with me and make enough money to feel that it is more than simply a great hobby. I never see myself as becomg a big name writer, my expectation is to be a niche with a steady audience who want to read my stories.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No. When I finish a book and decide that it has been completed it is an exact summary of the times and conditions that surrounded writing it. It has become a historical artifact for me. If I want to make a change I will do so in the story I am writing now. Going back takes time and energy from going forward and there is awlways a new story that needs to be writted, far more important than trying to change the past.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Living my own life is a ful time job and I have decades of experience to draw on for that. Taking on anothe life would just flatten me. I do not envy anyone their success, they have earned it and good luck to them.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
What an astonishing way to pass your time, sling barbs at strangers in the hope they will notice you. Do you fel you exist only when other people notoce you? That is a very narrow life to lead.
What would you say to your readers?
THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. I would still ge a wrier if no one ever read a word, I write in the hope that others will read my stories. THANK YOU for giving me the invaluable gift of your time and attention.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I am living in the United Arab Emirates where I work. I have been married to the same woman for decades now and consider that by far the best decision I have ever made. I have a daughter who put her tiny fist around my heart the first time I held her and she hold it still.
What is your day job if you have one?
I am a vocational education teacher, I teach Supply Chain Management. It is wonderful work, I love SCM greatly, had a long career in it before finding myself teaching here in the UAE. Getting to help others join this amazing industry, share my delight in it with others is wildly satisfying.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I read comics, history and crime fiction. I watvch true crime shows on TV and I write. I walk a lot to keep healthy and to give my brain space to brew new ideas for stories.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I had a deeply confused childhood, I struggled to understand how humans behaved and how I was supposed to respond to them. I have not solved this much to date, my wife remains my shield and guide.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I cannot remember not reading. I read about outlaws and pirates, dective children and adventerous children. I read history and mystery, science fiction and crime. I found that I had stories in my head that I wanted to explore. Finally I was unemployed and needed to be positively using the time so I started writing.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Part 2 of Spoils of War- The Thousand Year Fall is due to be published for the Christmas season. The third Part , Ladder to The Sun has been completed awaiting editing. I am constructing a new trilogy about Guy of Gisbourse Outlaw Hunnter which has emerged from my lifelong love of Robin Hood, it moves in a very different direction I should say. I am brewing a trilogy called Flight of the Absurd Cow which is about what happens when a long term effort to control the knowledge about the past starts to unravel.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
A better balance between the work of learning and the joy of discovering. WE siuffer fom perodic fits about how we are not educating works for markets and industries instead of developing children to have the tools to live successful lives whatever that means for them.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. Understand humans
2. Be a better teacher
3. Have enough healthy years to write every story I want to and to die quickly and with the knowledge that my family knows I love them and that they are going to be safe and happy.
What is your favorite music?
This is tough. I listen to music all the time (perhaps I should say I have music on all the time). The music that thas stopped me and made me pay attention in no particular order: Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, David Gray, Simply red, Cat Stevens, Dermot Kenedy, Chris Stapleton, Van Morrison, and a buch of otheres wgere I can see album covers, hear songs and utterly cannot put a name to them.
Share a secret with us 🙂
I cannot watch Billion Dollar Baby because I start to cry and and in such a state before the the critical event that I know is coming up that I fail to be able to finish the film.