Important questions first: what’s your writing day like? Any strange habits?
Let’s be clear from the outset: I don’t do hundreds of press-ups and drink copious quantities of scotch to “numb my twanging intellect”, Vonnegut-style. Writing’s a leisurely affair in my house. I wake up, eat a boiled egg, take a shower. I put on the scruffiest clothes I can find, like big fat jumpers and weird trousers with baggy knees, because it means I’m, well, it means I’m nothing special and that helps me sidle off into my mind cave. I just want to let the characters in the books take centre stage. Then I sit down and write. To anyone drab enough to watch what I’m doing, it probably looks like I’m scribbling stuff, staring out the window, typing a bit, then staring out the window again. Occasionally – and this is the riveting bit – I will let out a short, barely audible smirk if I think something I’ve thought of is amusing or interesting, which on second reading, it often isn’t.
By dinnertime I’m starving, so I grab a quick sandwich. It’s usually made badly because I find it hard to switch off when a story is going well. I eat it on the way back upstairs so I can carry on working. And round and round it goes, every day. Writing is a washing-up bowl filled with persistence punctuated by tiny, rare bubbles of inspiration. To make a good book you’ve got to somehow catch all those bubbles and prevent them from popping.
And, apart from your dirty dishes, where does that inspiration come from?
The unexpected. People’s hidden strengths and visible weaknesses. I’m inspired by the granddad who lifts his grandson onto tired shoulders to help the kid see; by the teacher who takes their students on a journey through life, not just an academic subject and by the child who runs for help when the bully she’s battled against collapses unconscious. I’m also fascinated by darker, malicious, manipulative, callous personalities: a mother choosing favourites; a man badmouthing his colleagues to win promotion or a woman saving herself by sacrificing a friend. Injustice is a big theme in my work and life, but so is the ability to laugh at difficult stuff so, for everything I write, I combine real-life experience, events that made or tried to break me, a good amount of humour and an unstoppable imagination.
What can readers expect from your books?
Hopefully, the chance to lose themselves in the worlds I construct, with the characters at their sides guiding them along. I want to offer them freedom, escape, cut them a bit of slack from their daily lives and give them a fresh perspective. In that sense I feel a bit like an architect, building fictional places, but it’s the readers who make a book. They’ll be the ones living inside what I make and they’ll feel all the emotions associated with it. Every book is about the reader, not the writer. Decent writers know when to relinquish control.
Give a flavour of the themes in your work.
Whether the overall result is comical, hard-hitting or a mix of both, I gravitate towards things like our deep desire to escape normality, the difference between fate and free will, the consequences of being a rebel, the dangers of ignorance, strange families and rocky relationships and the joy and pain of everyday life. I want to provoke opinion and right wrongs, so I write a lot about fear, control and manipulation; the darker elements of survival. A book that never challenges, never asks tough questions, never provokes opinion is a total waste of words. Any book that’s helped me see who I really am or understand more about the people around me tends to be the kind of book I remember in a lot of detail – so I try to write those kinds of books.
Have you always been a writer?
In some ways, it’s always been inside me, but every writer thinks that! I obtained a science degree before venturing into fiction, so I’m an experimenter at heart. I’m open to different ways of thinking. I could have followed the same path I do now, but with my scientist hat on, examining how the brain works, why we are the way we are, why we do the things we do – I’m fascinated by people and their choices, their motives, their insecurities (and, of course, my own) – but, ironically, I get much more freedom to experiment as a writer.
Which well-known writers influenced you?
To name just a few: Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh, Franz Kafka, Bret Easton Ellis, Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Lionel Shriver… I like the sharp, fearless observation of writers like Welsh, the cult originality of Bret Easton Ellis, the darkly humorous nightmarishness of Kafka and the psychological brilliance of mystery greats like Lehane. Stephen King is obviously a horror writer and I’m not, but I admire his laid-back attitude and the sheer readability of his books – he’s still the undisputed master of character building and I’m a big fan of him for that.
What’s next for you?
Currently, I’m working furiously to unleash my first full-length fiction project on the world: instalment one the Freak series, a rebellious, humorous alternative to the bog-standard British crime-thriller. I’m bringing to life the story of an Iranian nomad in a novella entitled For Every Grape, A Thousand Wasps and I’m writing a short story about a boy who discovers a dark, dangerous secret at the bottom of his father’s pond.
And what’s your tip on living a happy, healthy, mayhem-rich life?
You know, it’s oddly simple. It’s all about freedom, courage and confidence. Just do what you enjoy. Break the routine once in a while, surprise a few people. Too many interesting, creative people are stuck in jobs and relationships they don’t really like. Life is challenging at times and you can’t always get everything you want – that would be greedy – but if you remember that even the most ordinary people can do genuinely jaw-dropping things, you’ll start to discover ways of changing the stuff you’re not happy with and living your life more how you want to. Everybody deserves that chance.
To try one of Carla’s books, simply click on the cover you like or select from the blurbs. Enjoy the experience.
In From the Horse’s Mouth, mayhem ensues when banking drone Ridley Obelmäker turns the twisted tables on his loathsome colleagues and soul-sapping job.
Never More Than 24 Hours: Drug-addled loner, Fog, finds an unexpected way to purge old demons when he meets a charismatic new area social worker.
In Sex Media, teenage orphan and online sex performer, Opal, experiences violence, then attempts to take justice into her own hands.
Even the Young Can Be Warriors: a young girl trapped in a cold, grey house with her cold, miserable father decides between being fearful and becoming feared.
Natasha Haughton, a young business woman with everything to live for, wakes in an unfamiliar room in a cold, abandoned house with no explanation of how she got there, in This is Where You Join Me.