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I Citizen has a Q&A with author Scott Dominic Carpenter.
With our ongoing interview series finding the ins and outs of creative minds we have a new interview with the author of This Jealous Earth. It's always interesting to find out how unique minds function and this interview sheds a little light on a new author.
I’m drawn to books that show interesting characters grappling with crucial questions. It’s rare that I find myself reading books that are closely tied to one particular genre (mystery, romance, sci-fi, etc.), but I do enjoy stories that draw on many genre elements. And even in the darkest of narratives, I appreciate the occasional flicker of humor. This blend of textures will be evident to anyone who picks up my new collection, This Jealous Earth.
Did you write as a child?
Happily, most of those scribblings have not survived. I remember with some fondness an enormous short story I wrote for a national contest. The contest was for adults, and I was in sixth grade, but that didn’t stop me from unspooling a long, gangly tale of science fiction, dealing principally with extra-terrestrial exploration. Strangely, the piece didn’t even receive so much as an honorable mention. In seventh grade I penned a one-act play based on the adventures of Sir Francis Drake, aided by his trusty sidekick, Sir John Hawkins. That was my first and last period piece. As I recall, it generated raucous applause in our classroom, which was all the encouragement I needed.
What do you feel are your earliest influences on your writing?
I spent a period of my adolescence infatuated with Edgar Allen Poe, which led to the production of embarrassingly gruesome imitations of The Master. In high school I went through a Steinbeck craze, reading nearly every word the guy had published. I did mostly languages at college, where I lapped up nineteenth-century literature—mostly French and German.
What do you think are your most recent influences on your writing?
There are so many fine writers out there. Ones I’ve admired particularly include: David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet), Paul Auster (New York Trilogy, The Book of Illusions); Ann Patchett (Bel Canto). Although I don’t like everything that Arthur Phillips has done, his recent Tragedy of Arthur is an absolute gem. I’ve learned a lot from these writers.
What I prefer is… whatever I’m currently writing. I have a novel (Theory of Remainders) coming out in May (2013), and I currently have two new stories as well as another novel in the works. I have also developed a great fondness for the hyper-short: flash fiction. Flash pieces—usually 500 to 1000 words—require a concentration of force, and when they work right, the result can be explosive.
Do you find the writing community online to be helpful?
I find online resources in general to be invaluable. (It’s hard to imagine how anyone managed to write a novel before they had the Internet at their disposal.) However, I keep my involvement in online communities limited. I participate some, but I also realize how easily the hours can slip by when I’m online. The most important thing is to have good, reliable readers—people who can be brutal enough to tell you when something needs work (or needs to be thrown away). A lot of this can be done online, although I prefer to take my lumps in person.
What would you most like to do, which you haven't already, that would help with your writing?
Tough question! How about a month-long apprenticeship with the writer of my choice? There are so many tiny elements of craft to be worked on, that it would be terrific to collaborate with an expert who may have different solutions to certain problems.
Any great lines you would love to have written?
So many! How about, “Let Heaven exist, though my own place be in Hell” (Borges). Or: “Philosophy is inclination dressed in a toga” (Arthur Phillips).
Do you have any blogs or websites that you think are great and want to share?
Of course there’s my own website, which is pretty awesome: www.sdcarpenter.com. My publisher, MG Press is well equipped, too: http://midwestgothic.com/mg-press/. My favorite blog (where I also occasionally post) publishes reviews of the current short fiction in the New Yorker magazine; it’s located at http://newyorkerstorycritiques.blogspot.fr/.