Interview with Carlie M.A. Cullen, Author of Heart Search: Lost

10 Oct


You’ve been seeing a lot of posts on my site recently for HEART SEARCH: LOST. It’s because I was invited to take part in a book release blog tour- my very first! Since publishing my first children’s book in January this year, I set off on re-kindling my true love of writing and have been working hard at the craft.

I’ve met many authors along the way, but every once in a blue you just click with someone. That’s what happened when I met Carlie Cullen, the beautiful gal in the photo above and my guest today, while participating in #BlogFlash2012.

I love Carlie’s writing style, and that is why I jumped on board this event to celebrate the release of her debut novel HEART SEARCH: LOST. I am very excited and feel privileged to be a part of aiding an extremely talented author garnish the accolades and success her talent deserves.

To prove the point, HEART SEARCH launched only two days ago and it’s already causing an Internet buzz. Folks are raving about it!

So without further ado, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce my friend and future best-selling author Carlie M.A. Cullen.

Heart Search, Carlie M A Cullen

Congratulations Carlie, you must be so excited! Grab your tea and let’s get on to some questions…

C.C.- Hi Donna, thanks for the invite and cup of tea. I’m so glad you didn’t make me coffee – I can’t stand the stuff! I’m really excited to be here with you today and I’m looking forward to answering your questions. Where do you want to start?

D.S.- Let’s start at the beginning Carlie. After popping about your blog, I noticed that you got your love of reading from stories by Han Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm- Can you please tell us what were some of your favorite tales? 

C.C.- I think my absolute favourite was The Little Match Girl, closely followed by The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling. I also liked The Emperor’s New Clothes.

D.S.- What is it about Fantasy that floats your boat? Was there an experience in your life that creating it helped you?

C.C.- I love fantasy because you can really let your imagination run riot and go to absolute extremes. There’s nothing forbidden and everything is possible, from worlds, creatures and magic systems to different times, past, present or future. Fantasy allows you to explore in a way few other genres allow.

Yes, there was an experience in my life where creating fantasy helped me – it was the death of my mother in 2004. I’d been her carer from the time she was diagnosed with terminal cancer until she passed away. Having lost my father five years earlier, also to cancer, I was having a hard time dealing with my grief while helping my daughter cope with hers. Writing fantasy during that period freed my mind and I was able to work through some of my grief through my writing. It was quite dark fantasy I wrote at that time yet it was also very cathartic.


D.S.- Could you tell new authors some basic steps to follow in finding an editor? Did you find one on your first try?

C.C.- First of all, I would ask writers you know for recommendations. No writer is going to recommend someone who did a crap job or they didn’t gel with.

Look on Twitter and see if any authors are recommending editors. 

Ideally you want an editor who specializes in your chosen genre. Most competent editors can edit any genre, but they nearly all have one particular favourite they excel in (although a lot won’t admit it) 

Have some dialogue with potential editors; find out what sort of services they offer and how much they charge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they work and also ask if there’s anything they want you to do before sending them your manuscript. Also you want to feel comfortable with your editor as you will be working quite closely with them, even if you’re separated by the Atlantic. The tone of their communications and how helpful they appear will give you a good indication as to whether you will gel with them. 

Finally, don’t just settle for the first one you come across even if you like them, get a couple of comparisons – just to make sure. 

Actually I did find my editor on the first try, although I followed my own advice! From the very first communication with Maria V A Johnson, my editor, I found her to be helpful, approachable and professional. She openly admitted her expertise lay in Fantasy and offered to do a chapter for free so I could see the quality of her work. She also offered a payment plan to help me budget for the cost. 

I also loved the way Maria works as she cuts out a great deal of down time making the process much quicker. She did a fantastic job with Heart Search and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her!


D.S.- Did you use BETA readers at all?

C.C.- Yes I did. I had an alpha reader too. My alpha reader went through it after the first round of editing which was the copy/line edit stage and before the developmental and structural stage. 

After the third round edits, I sent it to my first beta reader who, at the time, was senior editor for an Indie publishing company in the US. She made some structural suggestions, which my editor had already mentioned, and this meant a major restructuring of the first half of the novel. However, it did make the novel much stronger so I was very grateful. Of course this meant more editing for Maria. 

Once Maria and I felt we had got it to the stage where it was ready for publishing, I sent it to one more beta reader. A published author, she came up with a few minor things and raised a couple of questions. So that led to some final tweaks. 

I would definitely advise any author to have at least one beta reader before publishing.


D.S.- Would you please tell us more about your writing group ‘Writebulb’ and how the group is progressing in publishing its anthology to raise monies for a local hospice?

C.C.- Writebulb was founded in 2010 by four people who had taken part in NaNoWriMo. They decided there was a need for a supportive writing group in the area and were able to secure a room in the local library to host it. I joined after NaNo last year which is when I found out about it from our Municipal Liaison who was a founder member. He had to drop out of the group due to other commitments which left only one of the founders still in the group. She had to drop out earlier this year and I stepped in to take the reins. 

I’d like to think I’ve brought some real structure and organization to the group. We always begin with a writing challenge to get everyone’s creative juices flowing and it works well. We also do a Flash Fiction challenge every month; the members submit their work to the group via email for critique, which they find helpful. Recently, we’ve started a critique group which runs separately from the main meeting, but straight after it. This also gives people a chance to talk about problems they’re having with their work, i.e. writer’s block. The group is going from strength to strength and we are gaining many new members. I think we’re going to out-grow the room soon! 

The idea for the anthology was something I inherited when I took over, but nothing much had been done about it. I organized it; set deadlines for first drafts, arranged editors and proofreaders, and with the group jointly decided which local charity we wanted to benefit from the proceeds. Quite a few members of the group have written pieces for the anthology and there’s something for everyone, from poetry to autobiographical to historical and fictional pieces, with the common theme of our home county of Essex running through every item. When I approached Farleigh Hospice, they were ecstatic to learn what we were doing for them and supplied us with information and their logo. Apparently this is a first for them – no one had come up with the idea of raising funds via book sales before. 

The anthology has now been uploaded to CreateSpace and we are just waiting for the cover to have the final tweaks and then it will be published. I hope you won’t mind, but I’ve got to thank Nicole Antonia Carson for designing the cover for us. When we told her what it was for, she said she’d do it for free, so thank you, Nicole. The anthology, which is called ‘The Other Way Is Essex’ was published just before the end of September.


D.S.- What’s your favorite color Carlie?

C.C.- Oh, that’s an easy one – royal blue, like the colour in my avatar. But purple is a close second.


D.S.- You’re an editor as well as being an author, so what top tips would you give authors?

C.C.- I would always advise authors not to go straight to an editor as soon as they finish their first draft. Let it sit untouched for a couple of weeks and then read through it with fresh eyes. Look out for regularly repeated words – the most common of which is ‘THAT’ in my experience – and see where it can be removed or changed to ‘which’. You can always do a search of the document to find them, but if you’re not sure whether ‘that’ or ‘which’ should be used in a particular place, leave it for your editor to advise you on. 

Look out for sentences which don’t make sense or don’t read right and correct them. 

Run a spelling and grammar check, but remember there are quite a few words which if misspelt can also be a proper word and those sorts of mistakes won’t be recognized by a spell checker, i.e. FROM and FORM. 

Make sure your story flows; you need a beginning, middle and end. Now that might seem quite an obvious statement to make, but I’ve come across manuscripts which started with a middle and stayed there! 

Finally look very carefully at your first chapter, paying particular attention to the first couple of paragraphs – they need to be strong to hook readers early so they want to continue reading the rest of it. And check the ending of each chapter – have you left it so the reader wants to turn the page and read on? 

A good editor will pick up on all the things I’ve mentioned, but I think a writer needs to learn what sort of things they need to look out for and the only way to do it is hands-on. Ultimately their writing will improve as a result of it.


D.S.- Have you ever written, or plan to write, in any other genre?

C.C.- I’ve tinkered around with little bits and pieces in other genres, but I always come back to fantasy. Maybe at some point in the future I might try a Paranormal Horror (as I’m fascinated by the paranormal). I’m also tempted to try and write in one or more of the fantasy sub-genres. Steampunk particularly intrigues me since reading the Crown Phoenix series by Alison DeLuca (although the series is not complete yet and I can’t wait for book four to come out), so I may give that a try. However, it won’t be for quite a while yet – I have my next three books already planned.


D.S.- What are your feelings about Indie publishing?

C.C.- I think Indie publishing offers a great platform for authors who might not ordinarily get a chance at mainstream/traditional publishing. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find an agent and get a deal with a large publishing house, so the advent of e-readers and Indie publishing allows author’s voices to be heard. There are some great writers out there with fabulous books and I’m always on the lookout for recommendations. And besides, if it wasn’t for Indie publishing, Heart Search: Lost wouldn’t be out there right now for the whole world to see! 

However, there are a number of writers who think they can self-edit their books and just upload them to Kindle etc. They, generally, are the ones who give Indie publishing a bad name. I’ve come across e-books with so many mistakes I’ve ended up deleting them from my Kindle before I’ve finished reading them. Writers have to realize they need to go through the same processes as if they were being published by one of ‘the big six’. By not doing so, they will end up getting a bad name for themselves; their books won’t sell and mud sticks!!


D.S.- Random question: If you could be any animal, what would you be?

C.C.- Ooo, this is trickier to answer than most of your other questions, Donna. I’m torn between two and trying to decide between them is almost painful!

Can I be greedy and have two? Please? 

I love dolphins with a passion and was lucky enough to swim with some on vacation in Florida. I have pictures, jewelery, ornaments and even a wind chime with dolphins on so they would be one of my choices. 

The other would be a particular breed of dog – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. One of this breed was my first pet and I loved her to bits. This breed has a lovely temperament and is easy to train. When my first one died, my parents bought another two, then another two when they died. I ended up with the last two after losing my mum and they were a joy to have around. They were also living reminders of my parents. When they died, I couldn’t face getting replacements at that time, something which I later regretted. Cavaliers are generally quite spoiled in a way and as they are lap dogs they get lots of fuss. I think I could handle that quite easily. [Laughs] 


I’ve had a really good time – thank you again for inviting me, Donna. Now isn’t it time you put the kettle on again? :0) 


The water’s already boiling Carlie; thank you so much for popping in today. I love learning about authors and their backgrounds and I’m sure my readers will be interested in knowing more through your bio as well.

I’ve already got my copy of Heart Search on my Kindle and, after reading the excerpts on the Heart Search blog tour participants’ sites, I am chopping at the bit to read it!

Much, much success with your book Carlie!

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2 Responses to “Interview with Carlie M.A. Cullen, Author of Heart Search: Lost”

  1. fundinmental October 10, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    great interview guys. i swam with the dolphins in jamaica. it was an awesome experience. thanks

    • Donna L. Sadd October 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      Dolphins always played along side my boat in South Florida. Every once in a while, a bold one would let us stroke him/her. I did swim with stingrays in Nassau though. Thanks for popping in Sherry :0)

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