Writer Wednesdays: Author Interview with Carissa Halton
Welcome to Writer Wednesdays!
Thanks for joining me on Writer Wednesdays! Today I am delighted to introduce you to our special guest author:
I have known Carissa for a few years now. She has been a wonderful support as I’ve released my fantasy series – The 8th Island Trilogy – and I am honored to call her a friend.
Carissa is a non-fiction author and as we’ve had mostly fiction authors here on Writer Wednesdays, I’m certain you’ll enjoy today’s interview for its different perspective.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was nine I decided I wanted to not just be a writer, but a child genius. So I spent the summer writing long hand on yellow legal paper the best story I could come up with (it read like a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland mash-up). About eight pages in, my opus ended with a fragment.
It was only after I finished university and started working at an inner city service agency that I realized I had this itch that could not be scratched any other way but writing. So I joined a writing group and began to develop my craft. The wisdom of age assures me I still have my best work to produce and that keeps me curiously moving forward.
Who were the authors that influenced you as a youth, and in what ways?
I read genre fiction almost exclusively. My friends waxed on about Bronte sisters and Dickens, but I was firmly in the Hardy Boys, Babysitters’ Club, Nancy Drew camp. I loved historical romances and read reams of paper backs with dis-functional relationships and fairy tale endings. As a writer I’ve gravitated to the counterpoint of these books, because as I’ve aged I’ve become more curious and interested in the stories that don’t always work out perfectly.
How did it feel when you got to hold your very first advanced copy of your book?
I was eating one of the best cinnamon buns in the city and I got the book and myself all very sticky with excitement. It was an oddly normal day, filled with much anxiety about how the book- of very personal essays- would be received by others. I mostly prayed it would not be ignored.
What was the inspiration behind your book?
When I moved into an inner city neighbourhood with a reputation for crime, people asked, “Why do you live there?” My answer was to write this series of poignant, funny, sad, make-you-mad stories that will introduce you to my neighbours. From cat rescuers to home sharers, murder victims to art evangelists, each one helped me discover the innate beauty in my complex community. Each one invites questions about the social and economic forces that are shaping and reshaping North American cities.
What was your publishing journey like?
Fraught with my own anxiety! My editor was very supportive of the book, but because it was a university publisher they required the same editorial process for non-academic books as academic. Meaning it required two positive peer reviews, then after I edited the copy to respond to these reviews, it went to a committee of academics to decide on publishing. Each committee member came from different backgrounds within the university, so creative non-fiction wasn’t exactly something they all loved or cared about. In the end it was published, and my publisher’s marketing team was super supportive. It took about three and a half years from my initial contact with the UAP’s editor to when it was launched.
What advice do you have for aspiring young novelists?
My published work has mostly been non- fiction, but I am currently writing a novel. It’s a daunting task to write something so long, that may never meet another reader besides myself and initial family readers. Working on content that I feel really interested in has helped me sustain the lengthy process as well as buoyed me when I’m discouraged. Oh, and my writing group is so important. They keep me accountable and humbleJ
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
To sense people’s top strengths and weakness on first greeting.
Where is your favorite travel destination?
My favorite thing about travelling is seeing different places and I rarely go back to the same place twice! Top destinations have been Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Greek Islands, Pender Island and the Crowsneset Pass.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite hobbies?
DIYing, thrift shopping, cooking, yoga, reading to my kids
“Ma’am, you sound like a very reasonable person. Can I advise you to just move?”
Carissa Halton and her young family move into a neighbourhood with a tough reputation. As they make their home in one of the oldest parts of the city, she reflects on the revitalization that is slowly changing the view from her little yellow house. While others worry about the area’s bad reputation, she heads out to meet her neighbours, and through them discovers the innate beauty of her community. Halton introduces us to a cast of diverse characters in her Alberta Avenue neighbourhood-including cat rescuers, tragic teens, art evangelists, and crime fighters-and invites us to consider the social and economic forces that shape and reshape our cities.