Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book-A-Week Challenge Interview with author Carmen Shirkey

Book-A-Week Challenge Interview is with Carmen Shirkey, author of "The List"

First, let me congratulate Carmen on being named the winner in the Romance category of the 2009 Indie Book Awards for "The List"! Woot!

And thank you for participating in our Book-A-Week Challenge and participating in the interview.

Post your comments and questions to Carmen and On with the Interview:

What motivated you to write this book? Your first book.

I’ve enjoyed the written word most of my life. Thank goodness for the verbal section on the SAT, or my University of Virginia dream would’ve been shattered. J So I always have ideas – for songs, for books, ect. I actually asked a screenwriter friend of mine if she’d be interested in THE LIST for a movie script. She told me that it was too happy for her (she likes to kill characters) so that I should write it myself. So I did – with the motivation of National Novel Writing Month ( in November. I wrote it in one month, and spent the next three years editing.

Are the experiences in the novel based on someone you know, or events in your life?

The book is definitely fiction. However, the old adage “write what you know” definitely helped. For example, there’s a breakup scene that is almost word for word one that I lived through.

One reviewer of the book said that she was almost sure that I had exaggerated the dating scenarios, and that they were a bit unbelievable. Sadly, all of them were dates I had.

And the friend character of Monica, she’s my best friend in real life. Her words are taken out of context, but she said almost everything I wrote. I couldn’t even change her name, because the character was so real.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Honestly, I don’t think about it. It’s like in high-school, where they would ask us in English class “Who’s the Christ figure in this book?” I almost always thought “Really? I don’t think they sat down and planned it out like that,” but maybe they did. I don’t. The words come to me when I sit in front of the computer, and they usually come out in a sarcastic, smart-ass way.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I would say that I think I’m closest in style to Janet Evanovich, but I don’t want to copy anyone. I want to be my own writer. I also admire Jim Butcher and his Dreden Files novels. The best writer on the planet is Joss Whedon (writer of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” show, “Firefly”, “Dollhouse”, “Toy Story”, etc.). He’s a genius, and if anyone ever even said my name in the same paragraph with him (or just on the same day), I could die happy.

What are your current projects?

Currently, I’m still trying to get people to read THE LIST. However, an agent recently suggested I take a walk on my dark side, so I’ve just started a new, more fantasy-like, darker, possible-romance. I’ve only got 3500 words so far, and I’m still developing the story, so I’m scared to lock myself in by giving you the details. I’d like some reviewer down the road to call it “Buffy meets Dresden meets a cute bunny” or something like that.

What makes your story unique?

Here’s the thing – I don’t think my story is unique. I find in talking with my readers that a lot of women – and men – have a list of qualifications for their husbands/boyfriends/dates/S.O.’s. I think that’s why it resonates with people. However, I’d like to think that the way I’ve TOLD the story is unique, with a sense of humor and a light-hearted flair.

How do you come up with your story ideas and your characters?

Nobody believes me when I answer this, so I don’t know why I continue to look like a crazy person, but I dream them. Honest. I keep a notepad and recorder by my bed so when an idea rumbles about in my sleepy brain, I can write them down and get back to sleep. Sometimes, I can’t read my handwriting the next day, but I’m SURE it was a great idea.

When do you find you are the most creative or write the most?

I’m most creative in the wee hours of the morning (or late hours of the night, depending on how you look at it.) Thus, the dreaming of ideas. However, my brain is constantly running, and if I can sit down in front of a computer and put my fingers on the keyboard, it’s pretty much a guarantee that something will pop up on the screen. Now, it may be crap, but it’s something.

Who came up with the book cover for THE LIST? Why?

I hired an illustrator to design the cover illustration. I had posted an ad and hired another illustrator, but this guy Danny, he applied anyway and sent me almost the image pulled right out of my head. So I paid him, too, and used his illustration. I wanted the girl to look like me (but skinnier), and be wrapped in her list so she was almost constrained by it (the moral of my story.) I used read for the title, because I saw a study that said red is a color that makes readers buy impulsively, and the blue gradient is there because blue is my favorite color, and makes the red “pop.” How’d I do? Do you like it?

Did you have a list?

I get asked this a lot, and the answer is yes. I had a list. My list was a lot longer when I was in my early 20s, had whittled down in my late 20s, and in my 30s, I realized that my list included a lot of things that were negotiable. So, I narrowed it down to the most important 10 things, and that’s when I found my favorite guy. J People also ask what was on my list, but a woman needs to keep some mystery going, don’t you think?

Summary of THE LIST

Candace Saunders is a single, 30-something with a 50-item list of the qualities she wants in a man. She meets two suitors – one earns lots of checks on her love itinerary, the other is the anti-list. As she falls for (which one?) she wonders, can perfect be put on paper?

Marketing Information:
Romantic Comedy
Purchased on:
Follow Carmen on Twitter: @carmenshirkey


Carmen Shirkey was born in Staunton, VA. She received her degree in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Virginia (she’s a crazy Wahoos fan) where she was also a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She then proceeded to become a gypsy – moving from city to city. Currently, she resides in VA, but who knows where she’ll turn up next. Her cat, Pooh Bear, would prefer to stay in one place so he can adequately mark his territory.

Aside from writing, Carmen’s passion is for travel. She once got a fortune cookie that told her that she would “step on the soil of many countries,” and she took it seriously. She hopes that enough people will buy her book so she can go on permanent vacation, instead of packing all her travel into two measly weeks each year. That’s the amount of vacation time she gets in her full-time gig as a Web editor.


Denise May 24, 2009 at 6:40 AM  


Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

Also, I dream my characters and some of the scenes as well, so I can relate. I don't do the notebook by the nightstand. I let the dream drive me nuts and then get up and type.


Carmen Shirkey May 24, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

There's a scene where Matt the Bartender rescues our heroine, Candace from her self-imposed bathroom prison, where she has gone to escape her latest horrific date.

There's also a good breakup scene in there. :)

I'm glad I'm not the only one who dreams these ideas and then gets driven crazy!

Autumn Storm May 24, 2009 at 12:59 PM  

This really sounds like a really cute humurous book I am gonna want to read. I can so relate to your list....Coming out of a 12 year nightmarous marriage I had a list of everything I didn't want.

Jacqueline Seewald May 24, 2009 at 1:10 PM  

This sounds like a very enjoyable book and obviously true to life.

Good luck with book promotion, the hardest part for all of us!

Jacqueline Seewald
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print

Ceri Hebert May 24, 2009 at 2:59 PM  

Terrific interview, ladies!

Carmen, I can relate with you on the NaNoWriMo experience. Are you planning on continuing to participate this year?

Ellen May 24, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

Hi Carmen!
Great to meet you :) Congrats on your success as an Indie Award winner! Wonderful interview as well. I personally live to travel, any favorite cities out there?

Carmen Shirkey May 24, 2009 at 9:41 PM  

Autumn: I think that most lists are a list of "nots" instead of "dos"

Jacqueline - yes, the promotion is hard. I'm always up for tips!

Ceri: I don't know if I'll participate this year. i have another project, I'm hoping to finishe BEFORE november. :)

Ellen: I love everywhere I go! Australia was probably my fave though. :)

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