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Monday, April 23, 2018

Author Interview - Renee Carter Hall

Please welcome Renee Carter Hall to the Far Edge of Normal!

Renee Carter Hall works as a medical transcriptionist by day and as a writer all the time. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Podcastle, and she is also the author of two fantasy novels, By Sword and Star and Huntress, both of which have won C├│yotl Awards for anthropomorphic literature. Renee lives in West Virginia with her husband, their cat, and more books than she will ever have time to read. She can be found online at and on Twitter as @RCarterHall.

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?

In a nutshell, I write fantasy and sometimes science fiction for ages ranging from middle grade to adult, and I love adding in anthropomorphic animals or fantasy creatures as characters whenever I can. It's hard to really choose favorites among my stories, but I think Huntress is one of my best works, parts of which still kind of impress me and feel, in a good way, like they were written by someone else. I also have a soft spot for "The First Winter" (from Wishing Season) for its voice and tone, and my recent "Promises to Keep" for what I feel I was able to convey in a brief space.

Right now I'm making plans to spend the summer completing my next novel, The Second Life of Bartholomew T. Lion, a story about abandoned toys that's been on the back burner for far too long.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

I'm pretty boring as far as hobbies go, honestly; writing is the main thing I'm into other than my day job. I used to draw and paint but haven't done much in the way of visual art for a few years now. I do enjoy baking, though to be honest, I like recipes that start with a mix (Betty Crocker FTW!). 

As far as movies and TV, I never get tired of watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I love animated films, especially the hand-
drawn Disney classics like Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan. I don't get into a lot of TV series, but I was so happy last year when we got Internet speed fast enough for Netflix and I could finally watch Stranger Things, which was awesome and gave me a story to escape into when I really needed that escape. And for comfort viewing, I still go back to the shows I was into as a teen -- mostly Star Trek: The Next Generation (once a Trekker, always a Trekker) and Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to music, and do you want to share your playlist?

I'm almost always writing to music. Many of my short stories have wound up with theme songs, and there are other songs that still remind me of projects I've retired unfinished. Lately I tend to write with a Pandora station in the background (new age, ambient, or instrumental chill), and I've also been trying out to see if it helps me focus.

If I'm offline, I'm usually listening to Ultima Thule, an Australian podcast that provides roughly 90-minute blocks of "ambient and atmospheric music from across the ages and around the world," as they say in their opening. Being part of the Oregon Trail generation (analog childhood, digital adulthood), I can really appreciate how the Internet makes it so easy to find good writing music.

Nice links! I know I'll be checking those out.
"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?

I never felt like a real writer until I had a cat.  My original feline writing partner was Bijoux, our dilute calico who was part of our lives for almost 13 years until she passed away from lymphoma last December. Now I have a writing-partner-in-training, Kiki, another dilute calico (though that wasn't intentional). Right now we're still working on "stop biting my pen while I'm writing." That's fine for my Zebra Sarasas that cost a buck or two, but it ain't gonna fly when I take out the Waterman Rhapsody fountain pen! 

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

What organization suits a writer best will depend on their genre/type of writing and their individual goals, of course, but I can personally recommend Codex for speculative fiction writers and the Furry Writers' Guild for those who write anthropomorphic animal characters. Networking in both of those groups has led me to opportunities I likely wouldn't have had otherwise.

Advice boils down to: Keep reading, keep writing, keep learning. Do those three things and it's impossible not to improve over time. Read widely, in your genre and outside of it. Read the how-to books and the writing blogs -- one of my favorites is Janice Hardy's Fiction University -- but then put them aside and start writing, and be willing to trust your own instincts and intuition.

What writers inspired you to become an author?

My first stories were written and illustrated in crayon, so going back to the source means returning to the books I loved as a child and a teen. I loved the humor of Lois Lowry's books like Taking Care of Terrific and her Anastasia Krupnik series, and I was really into Ann M. Martin's Baby-Sitters Club books. Books like Bambi, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Ratha's Creature appealed to my love of animal characters, and I would definitely count those, along with Watership Down and the Redwall books, as influences for my own animal characters. I've also been a longtime reader of Stephen King's books, and if I look closely I can see his influence here and there in my writing style, too. 

Beyond just authors, though, I'm heavily influenced by storytellers from other media. I consider both Steven Spielberg's films and the work of Jim Henson as big influences, and I draw inspiration from both their personal and professional stories.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

I've recently found out that I've been selected as a participant in the 2018 Art & Words show this September in Fort Worth, Texas. I won't be able to be there in person, but two pieces of my flash fiction will be read at the show's opening -- one of which will have been written in response to a piece of visual art from the show. I love these kinds of cross-media collaborations, so I'm looking forward to being part of it.

Congrats! Sounds like a very cool event. 
Describe your ideal writing spot.

A rainy autumn day, just cold enough for a fire in the woodstove, with a cup of tea in a handmade mug, a sleeping cat to keep me company, and a story that's becoming as real to me as anything that ever truly happened.

That was fun. Good luck with your writing. Thanks for stopping by!

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