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~ This week is Carmen Caine, and I am so glad she was able to do this interview with me.
Me: Tell us about yourself
Carmen: I am and always have been a dreamer. :) I started writing when I was about 5 years old by entering a contest at the local library. I remember seeing the poster and wanting to win. It took me a good week to come up with my story: "I like the rain, I like the trees, I like the birds and I like the bees" ... Not exactly breaking new ground there, but I think they gave me second prize because I did it all myself, complete with illustrations. :) I've been writing ever since. Not sure why I spend my entire life on this planet pretending I'm someone else in a different place or century, but that's me in a nutshell. :)
Me: Tell us about your new book?
Carmen: I just finished "The Egg". It was my last book in the Glass Wall series. I wrote this series because it took me almost 45 years to figure out a few things, and I just had to write a story about someone discovering the same set of things in life, about what love really is, and how there really isn't a limit to it. When you love more than one person in your life ( brother, child, grandparent, friend, spouse or whatever ) they don't end up getting smaller and smaller pieces. The opposite happens - everything just grows. Love is the only thing I've come across like that...except maybe the common cold. :)
Me: When you write, does your real life spill over into your book at any time?
Carmen: Errr... unfortunately, I can't really hide anything. I really don't like people who know me very well to read ANY of my stories... because they see that I've actually shown so much of myself in each book that I write. People, places, observations... people would be surprised just how much truth there is in the Glass Wall ... I really didn't make very much up. :) And I know that sounds crazy...
Me: Do you think about a book of yours, being made into a movie, or not when writing?
Carmen: Well... it plays as a movie in my head. I'm actually just taking notes of what I see. :)
Me: When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
Carmen: Each of my characters mean something to me, so their names are really important. They usually begin with the same letter as the muse they are based upon. :)
Me: What made you want to write and also what made you want to write the genre you are writing?
Carmen: I was born writing, so I think it is just genetic. As for the genres I write, I've always felt like I'm from a different time. I love the middle ages, so I'll always write medieval books because it is just where I feel I belong. However, I love writing contemporary fantasy, too, because there are so many cool modern words I can't use in my medieval books that I'm just itching to put into sentences because they are so image-evoking. Like writing about someone's van looking "like she half-expected Scooby Doo to pop out at any second" ... I can't really see how I could get away with sticking that in one of my Scottish highlander books. :) I love words. Sometimes, I'll make up a whole scene just to use the word.
Me: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Carmen: JRR Tolkein. While I write Medieval Romances and Contemporary Fantasy, I have this Epic Fantasy book I have been working on for 30 years. I'm almost feeling skilled enough to attempt writing it now. Maybe in a few more books. I have this world in my head that I really want to get out exactly like I see it. So, I'm practicing my craft. :)
Me: Do you have any tips for our readers that might dream of writing?
Carmen: The best advice someone gave me was: Write like you talk and delete every extra word you can. I still follow those rules. :)
Me: Tell us anything you want?
Carmen: I'm an animal lover. I have two children, and one is heading off to college next month, so I've been adding more and more animals in my life the closer the kids get to leaving the nest. :) I'm up to 12 chickens, 3 goats, 1 llama, 3 cats, and one Doberman. They all have special places in my heart and they're all so very unique. My goats know how to pick the gate locks with their lips so they can go eat the chicken feed. One of my cats has a wicked sense of humor in that when he sees you walk through the house at night in the dark, he'll drop on your shoulders from above and dash away as you scream--I know he thinks its funny. My Dobie "Ajax" (who has the exact same personality as he does in the Glass Wall) opens the doors (pushing AND pulling) so there isn't a room he can't get into. He's the brightest animal I've ever encountered. So as you can see, I didn't really make much up in the Glass Wall ... I just used the people and situations around me. :)
The Kindling Heart
The Kindling Heart
Thurston Hall, England
Latter part of the 15th century
“Harlot! Whore!” Wat whistled through his teeth as he unbuckled his belt.
Sinking to her knees, Bree mentally retraced her steps. In the cold before dawn, she had drawn the water and made the porridge before joining the other peasants in the fields to pull onions. These were hardly the pastimes of a whore. She was cold, exhausted and hungry.
“I’ll not have a whore live under my roof!” Wat shouted.
She would never understand why her mother stayed with such a despicable man. Strings of greasy, grey hair plastered his balding scalp; years of grime and other things lived under his blackened nails. He had not bathed since spring. He reeked.
Wat studied her for the slightest hint of rebellion. His fingers twitched in anticipation.
Bowing her head, Bree forced herself to grovel even as she imagined herself screaming defiantly in his face. The man thrived on ale and anger, one feeding the other in an endless cycle of rage and cruelty. She doubted she would escape unscathed, but it was worth a try. She forced her eyes meekly to the floor, outwardly subservient, and waited for an explanation of what was amiss.
“Jenet!” Wat shouted, his beady eyes glinting in pleasure. “Come see what your whore of a daughter is wearing!”
It was the first hint.
A cursory inspection of her shoes, dress and hair revealed nothing. She frowned, slightly perplexed. Last week, her rotting skirt had torn on the brambles, but Wat saw a wicked desire to expose flesh. A month ago, a brown curl escaped its binding as Lord Huntley wandered the fields. It mattered naught that the man was ancient, half-blind and as simple-minded as a child. She was guilty of the worst sin: a brazen seduction of the castle lord. She had paid dearly for both incidents.
Wat gleefully popped his knuckles and smiled. It was a cruel, malicious smile.
“Yes, Wat?” Jenet’s tired voice filtered through the cottage doorway. She paused on the threshold. Though her face still held traces of beauty, years of oppression had taken their toll. Her hazel eyes were as lifeless as the limp hair on her shoulders.
“Look at your daughter!” Wat ordered, spittle flecking his beard. “This time, she has gone too far!”
Bree held her breath and lowered her eyes, lest they betray their emotion as her mother subjected her to a nervous inspection.
The silence lengthened.
Finally, Jenet hesitantly cleared her throat.
Wat exploded, “Can you not see? Only a harlot would adorn her hair to catch a man’s eye! She is a whore!”
Belatedly, Bree recalled the small bit of dried lavender tucked behind her ear. She loved the scent; it always reminded her of spring. She clenched her jaw, furious at herself. Why, oh why, had she not remembered to remove it? Why had she succumbed to the silly impulse in the first place? She could not afford such errors.
“Be rid of it, Bree,” Jenet said flatly, devoid of sympathy.
Obediently, she raised a hand to remove the offending sprig only to have it slapped away.
“That is not enough!” Wat roared. He clenched his belt, a sneer settling on his lips, “Why would you flaunt yourself so boldly? Why?”
Struggling to remain silent, Bree bit her tongue. Hard. She winced as the salty taste of blood spread in her mouth. Soon, her back would be bleeding as well. A cold anger gripped her heart and her jaw clenched. It was a minute gesture.
It was enough for Wat.
He gloated in satisfaction as Jenet shuffled heavily from the room. She never intervened. She simply left. Bree could never decide if it was to defuse the situation or her mother truly did not care.
Wat began to hum as the belt arced in the air.
“A man has the right to discipline his own wife,” Tormod MacLeod, Laird of Dunvegan bellowed to the gathered clansmen, “his God-given right!”
The subdued murmurs of assent following this statement transformed quickly into coughs as Ruan MacLeod strode into the castle’s main hall with a handful of men at his heel.
Tormod stood at the high table, chin raised, observing his younger half-brother moving purposefully in his direction from under partially closed lids.
The brothers shared nothing, save the unusual height of their sire. Ruan favored his mother, the daughter of a lesser Spanish noble. His dark hair was thick, shoulder length, bound by a strip of leather and his eyes darker still, alive with passion. He was lean, muscular and his movements were swift and virile.
Tormod was quite the opposite, boasting the large belly of a man more interested in his cups than anything else. His blue eyes watered continuously in his flaccid face, framed by thinning brown locks that clung to his scalp in wispy strings.
It was not in physical traits alone that the brothers differed. Their temperaments conflicted as well. Ruan was hot-blooded, obsessive and stubbornly loyal while his brother seemingly existed in a perpetual state of lethargy. Tormod excelled only in revenge and the ability to delay a decision as long as possible, particularly dangerous habits for the Laird of Dunvegan to cultivate.
The clansmen craned forward for a better view of the impending clash, the meal instantly forgotten.
“Wife?” Ruan’s deep, rich voice resounded as he stalked toward his brother’s high table, “She is a bairn and naught even ten!”
Tormod swallowed a little but sneered and said, “She was wed proper! Whether ye like it or no--”
“Proper? A bairn?” Ruan’s lip curled in a scathing smile as he surveyed the men clustered in the hall. “I should have had more than a handful riding with me to rescue a wee lass from the hell heaped upon her innocent head. Those gathered here this night are not worthy to bear the good name of MacLeod!”
Uneasiness descended upon the great chamber as a mixed chorus of “Ayes” greeted this statement, most coming from the men clustered behind Ruan but the loudest from a lithe young man at his side.
“Aye, we should not have been so few!” the youth stepped forward to face Tormod in a fearless anger already terrifying to see. A few years would truly make him a forbidding man.
Ewan, heir to the Earldom of Mull was a tall, strapping lad, fair of face and heart; the eldest son of the MacClean of Duart Castle, an ancient and powerful clan. His startling blonde hair fell loose over his shoulders, and he sported a sprig of heather twisted in his bonnet.
“May those that harmed a wee bairn rot in hell!” Ewan clenched his fist and spat.
Tormod cut him short with a scornful laugh and said, “Beware! Ye aren’t Earl of Mull yet, young cur!”
A murmur of displeasure rippled through the hall at that and Tormod tensed, checking his anger with difficulty. While the Earl of Mull was a man well loved, it appeared Ewan was even more so. Dropping his voice so only Ruan and Ewan could hear he jeered, “I doubt our illustrious Earl will be overly pleased when he discovers what Ruan has ensnared ye in this night.”
“It was my own choice--” Ewan began hotly.
“Aye? It was your own choice to ferret the MacDonald’s bride from his very bedchamber on her wedding night?” the Laird of Dunvegan enquired in a cold, cruel humor. “Your father will not be happy you’ve made Fearghus his enemy once again.”
For a brief instant, doubt clouded the young man’s face. Anger quickly replaced it. “How little ye know my father!” he retorted.
“Be at peace, Ewan,” Ruan said, giving the lad’s shoulder a comforting squeeze. Raising his voice, he added, “Be at peace. You’ve shown more loyalty this night than many a MacLeod!”