I got the opportunity to interview the author of the novel The Carver in order to get to know the man behind the pages and the inspiration. I want to thank Janelle Leonard, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator at Blaze Publishing for reaching out and allowing to get to know the author better!
What inspired you to create this storyline?
Some of the research I did in grad school tied back to the stories of Peter Pan and Pinocchio. I was fascinated not only by the similarities between the two characters, but by how much that research humanized them and their struggles. There was this moment where I realized these characters could be anybody, so I had lots of impractical questions that I started daydreaming about: What if these characters grew up? What if they had kids–what would those kids be like? What if one of these characters was your neighbor, or the lady on the subway, or your dad? It started there, and then I couldn’t stop it! It spiraled into The Carver. Thank you grad school!
Which messages do you want to send to your readers with this novel?
I want them to close the book feeling a sense of wonder about the world around them and a deeper appreciation for family in whatever way they choose to define that. To me, the bonds between Rosana, Enzo, and Pietro make up a sort of “chosen family,” even if they’re almost forced to take this journey together. Rosana never met her father, for example, so part of the fun is letting her form special bonds with these new characters who randomly show up in her life. Pietro sort of becomes like everybody’s surrogate uncle, and there are some brotherly moments between Enzo and Liam. For me, those bonds were the beauty of bringing these characters together.
What was your favourite chapter/scene to write? Why?
I loved writing the scene on top of the Empire State Building! It’s the first big turning point where several characters and storylines intertwine. When the main characters finally met, that’s when I knew I’d reached the point of no return in writing this story. It was also a blast to write the courtyard battle toward the end of the book!
What was the hardest chapter/scene to write? Why?
For some reason, I had trouble with the pages that come right after Enzo’s father disappears. I had to rewrite those quite a few times because I couldn’t get the pacing right or get Enzo to react with enough realism. It was a moment that pushed me because I had to let my mind slip into a darker place than I’m used to writing about.
Who is your favourite character in the novel?
Ahhh the dreaded question! Well, I’ll say that every character has good days and bad days. There are a few that really grew on me as the trilogy progressed, like Enzo and Rosana. But I’ve been very pleased to see that Pietro and Hansel have been fan favorites especially in the first book, because I have huge soft spots for them. Pietro because he’s probably the most like me, and Hansel because his plight is understandable. You’d also be right to hate him a little because of what he’s done to these characters, but you’d also be 100% correct to feel some love for him because if you were in his place, it’d be hard to imagine acting any differently.
What inspired the book cover?
It was important to me that the cover capture the meeting of two different worlds–the one we know and the one the fairytales are made of! New York and the Woodlands are the hubs of each world, and the mirror ties the whole thing together. The awesome thing is that my editor and I had the same ideas and were very much on the same page with the cover!What was one of the most surprising things you discovered while writing this book?I guess I was most surprised when I actually sat down and read the original stories before I got to work on this. Peter Pan was always one of my favorite characters, but the J.M. Barrie novel has some dark undertones I didn’t expect to find. It’s funny because people who know me well are often surprised by the darker scenes in The Carver. I’m normally kind of a goof, but the darkness of the original stories spilled into my writing. That’s what I wanted though–a story about light vs. dark that could be faithful to the source material while also putting my own spin on it.
Could you describe the most mundane details about your writing process: how many hours to do spend writing? Do you use paper for your drafts or a computer? How do you research for references?
The number of hours really vary from week to week! Because I also work full-time and it involves a heavy commitment to weekend and evening availability, I never really know how much free time I’m going to have from week to week so I set writing objectives as opposed to hour goals. On Sunday night, I might say, “I need to write 4-5K new words by next Sunday night,” or “I need to revise chapters 1-10 by next Wednesday,” or “I need to refine ALL of this character’s dialogue by this deadline.” I don’t tend to write drafts on paper often, but you should see the post-its galore on my desk and the notebooks I fill with idea webs, character notes, plot points, scribbles, etc! Those notebooks go everywhere with me. References usually start with Google, but I follow a trail as long as I need until I feel good about the credibility!
Does the book have any hidden secrets or meanings that are meant for few people to discover?
Hmmm, I didn’t write the book with any hidden meanings in mind–at least not intentionally! I’ll be curious to see if anybody finds something one day 😉 there are little Easter eggs here and there that mostly tie back to my own life or shout out to things I love. I had to mention Charlottesville and Arizona, for example, which are two places I’ve called home.
Which authors influenced you the most in your life?
Oooh, many!!! From childhood, J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I have this battered copy of The Hobbit I used to take everywhere when I was in elementary school. More recently though, I’ve developed a lot of love for Sabaa Tahir, V.E. Schwab, and Pierce Brown!
What is your favourite under-appreciated novel?
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, which I finished in a day. I say it’s underappreciated because I haven’t actually met anybody else who’s read it. I think of it as Forrest Gump for music lovers, which I suppose is a very specific niche in the market, but it’s beautifully written and I just happen to be a Forrest Gump/music lover! It almost has a bit of a fairytale vibe too, so it hits me in all the right places!