I want to welcome Margaret L. Carter. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
My fascination with vampires began when I read DRACULA at the age of twelve, and I started writing at age thirteen. From vampires and horror, I branched into reading all kinds of speculative fiction. Inevitably, I decided to major in English in hopes of getting paid for reading. I’m married to a retired Navy Captain, and in the course of our numerous moves, I earned degrees from the College of William and Mary, the University of Hawaii, and the University of California (Irvine). My dissertation, on the Gothic novel, included a chapter about DRACULA. I’ve had stories in various fantasy anthologies such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Sword and Sorceress” series. At book length, I was first published in literary criticism; after that, my first novels were SHADOW OF THE BEAST (from the viewpoint of a female werewolf coming to terms with her heritage) and DARK CHANGELING (from the viewpoint of a half-vampire coming to terms with his heritage—note the pattern?). My husband also writes fantasy. We’ve collaborated on a sword-and-sorcery trilogy, beginning with WILD SORCERESS, and a prequel, LEGACY OF MAGIC, was recently published. He’s the primary author on those books. We have four sons, eight grandchildren, and a couple of great-grandchildren, as well as two cats and a St. Bernard.
Tell us about your latest release.
In “Merry Twinness,” an erotic paranormal romance e-book short story with a Christmas setting, the heroine discovers that her lover has a secret he must reveal to her before he can formally propose marriage. It was inspired by the telepathic twin motif I’ve encountered in numerous SF stories.
“Bear Hugs,” an erotic shapeshifter paranormal romance e-book novella, has just been re-released in the trade paperback URSA MAJOR, paired with Lena Loneson’s “Alpha Mountie.”
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Hannibal Lecter. He’s incisively intelligent and cultured as well as, in a sense, utterly alien to normal humanity. (The prequel, HANNIBAL RISING, loses that last quality.) It’s impressive how, even though he’s manipulating Clarice Starling for his own purposes, he also proves himself to be a brilliant psychiatrist, who helps her work through the traumas of her past even while he’s in a maximum security cell (and, later, in the psychodrama he sets up at the end of HANNIBAL).
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Roger Darvell, protagonist of DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT. He’s the earliest fully developed vampire in my published works, so I have a special fondness for him. As a forty-year-old psychiatrist suffering from dark cravings and a very strange midlife crisis, he discovers he’s actually only half human, his mother having been a member of a naturally evolved vampire species. He embodies my favorite fictional theme, the character who discovers hidden truths about his own nature.
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
I started as a horror fan and writer, then expanded into fantasy. I’ve also published several books and articles about the supernatural in literature, mainly vampires. Now I write mostly paranormal romance. From the beginning of my interest in horror, what really fascinated me were relationships between human and nonhuman characters. I wanted to read fiction from the viewpoint of the “monster,” which was much harder to find in my early years. When paranormal romance became a separate market category, I recognized it as the genre I’d wanted to read and write all along. (In fact, the first complete story I ever wrote, as a teenager, involved love between a man and a ghost.)
4.) What are you working on now?
The next-generation sequel to FROM THE DARK PLACES, a horror novel with Lovecraftian elements and a romance subplot published by Amber Quill Press. I started planning the current novel-in-progress over thirty years ago, before I’d even completed the first book, but I never got around to writing that sequel until now. I decided it was about time. Oddly, I now have the opposite problem from the one I had when I first plotted this work. Back then, while writing the earliest draft of FROM THE DARK PLACES, which occurs at the same time it was originally written (the 1970s), I contemplated its sequel as a near-future story, set about twenty years after the first book. I had to imagine a plausible future that would eventually be made obsolete by real life, no matter how accurately I guessed what those two decades would be like. Now reality has overshot my sequel heroine’s twenty-first birthday by almost twenty years! So I decided to keep her the age she needs to be, yet set the story approximately in the present; a 1990s time frame would simply confuse readers. I’ll include a prefatory note stating that the time lapse has been fudged.
5.) What got you to start writing?
After reading DRACULA at the age of twelve and delving into all kinds of speculative fiction, I started writing at thirteen because the library didn’t have enough books of the kind I wanted to read, particularly horror. What I really wished for, as I mentioned above, were stories sympathetic to the “monsters.” I devoured all the ones I could find, but in the 1960s they didn’t have a thriving market the way they do now. An occasional gem buried in an anthology barely satisfied my longing. So I wrote my own.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
Mostly from other fiction that I admire. I yearn to create stories like the ones that especially enthrall me—but with my own slant.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
I worked for over twenty years as a legislative editor for the General Assembly of Maryland, proofreading material very different from horror and fantasy (although some ideas the legislators come up with can be rather horrifying).
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Aside from writing? Other than being a meticulous proofreader, the kind of person who can’t help wincing at all the errors in published works, I can’t say that I do.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
Not exactly advice, but support: When I had the privilege of briefly meeting Madeleine L’Engle, one of my idols, I told her I wanted to be a novelist. She said, “If you want to be a novelist, you are one.” The memory of that kind remark has encouraged me through the difficulties of pursuing publication.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
C. S. Lewis, who’s near the top of my list of favorite authors of all time. I’d love to hear him read scenes from whatever he’d be working on now, if he were still writing. Maybe the story of what happened to Susan, left alone in our world after THE LAST BATTLE? Also, I’d like to ask his opinion of many changes that have occurred since his death in 1963, such as space travel (he was dubious about humanity’s spreading its corruption to other planets) and female clergy in the Anglican church (in his lifetime, he was against that).
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
“God Only Knows (What I’d Do Without You)” by the Beach Boys; it was released shortly before my husband and I got married, and it encapsulates my feelings about our relationship. If I hadn’t married a future naval officer, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today! I might have spent my whole life in or near the city of my birth. And without his encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have worked up to a PhD in English, in which case my writing career would have been very different if it existed at all.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
Cat. Domestic cats have it made. Nothing to do all day but eat, sleep, and be petted, and unlike dogs, they’re not expected to cater to human commands.
Explore love among the monsters at Carter’s Crypt: http://www.margaretlcarter.com
At midnight on Christmas Eve, Nicole goes home with her lover, Cal, to spend the night at his house. Knowing he plans to give her an engagement ring, she hopes to find out why he hasn’t previously invited her to stay at his place longer than one night at a stretch. Before proposing, he confesses the truth he’s been hiding—a secret that may destroy their relationship or transform it.
Excerpt from “Merry Twinness”:
“Time for the special gift.” He plucked a tiny box wrapped in red foil from under the tree. “Wait,” he repeated when she reached for it. “Before you open this and answer the question that goes with it, I have something important to tell you. Or more like show you.”
His hesitant tone and the apprehension in his eyes chilled her. “So you do have a dire secret?” She didn’t quite succeed in keeping her voice light.
“I hope you won’t think it’s too dire. But it will come as a shock.” He set the box on the couch and clasped both of her hands in his. “Please don’t freak out.”
Footsteps muffled by the carpet sounded in the adjacent dining room. The door leading to it opened. A man stepped through, took three paces toward the fireplace and halted. Nicole blinked up at him, at first too stunned to process what she saw.
Except that he wore a University of Maryland sweatshirt instead of a pullover sweater with a white shirt and Christmas necktie, he looked identical to her lover. No, not quite—the mane that grew to just below his ears was less tousled than Cal’s but a bit shaggier, as if overdue for a barber visit. The clothes and hair, though, didn’t negate her first impression. She couldn’t doubt his identity.
She sprang to her feet. “You have a twin brother? And you never told me?”
“I don’t exactly have a twin. I am twins.”