Ute Carbone and I hang out in the same writers’ space. When her first novel, Blueberry Truth, was published by Etopia Press in 2011, I remember remarking on the gorgeous cover and making a note to myself to read it. Two years later, I got off my backside and did so – and what a reward it was! Blueberry Truth is an exuberant, delightful story about Verbena (Beanie), her quartet of sisters and a damaged little girl called Blueberry who takes Beanie’s heart. Ute writes with a warmth and charm that bubble up through her storytelling and which make the reading experience truly effortless. It is a special skill, which I love as a reader and which, as a writer, makes me pretty envious.
Ute was kind enough to come and join me at Charlotte’s Web for a chat about her novels – there are many!
I’ve just finished reading Blueberry Truth, which I loved. Correct me if I am wrong, but it was your first published novel. Was it the first novel you wrote or do you have manuscripts under the bed?
Hi Charlotte, I’m tickled that you liked Blueberry! It was my first published novel, but actually the fourth I’d written. I’ve got a large pile of work under the bed. I’m slowly, but I hope surely, starting to dust off some of those manuscripts and put them out into the world. Of Blueberry’s predecessors, two of the three manuscripts are still tucked into the back of the closet, collecting dust. The other, a women’s fiction called Dancing in the White Room, is under contract and is scheduled for release in March of next year.
Dancing in the White Room is a gorgeous title. Do you always use colours in your titles?
Thanks Charlotte. No, not all of them have colors. Though now that you’ve mentioned it, maybe from now on… Actually, the title for this comes from a ski term. It’s a book set around skiing, the main character’s significant other is an extreme skier. For a long time, I didn’t know what to call it, it was ‘the ski story’ on my computer, and then I came across Dancing in the White Room, which is slang for skiing through powder snow so deep you can’t see anything but white. It was kismet. I knew I had found a title.
I love that image. For me, skiing is associated with fear – as is writing. Do you have any writing-related fears (that you are prepared to acknowledge?)
Who me, scared? She said while looking over her shoulder and biting her lip.
I’m a big ‘fraidy cat when it comes to writing. Facing a blank page is always scary. There’s a fear that the story won’t work out as I’d envisioned it–and honestly, it seldom does. And the fear that it won’t be as wonderful as it is when it’s just a kernel of an idea floating around in my head–and truly, it’s never as brilliant. Once I get past those fears and have managed to write the story, there’s the fear of sharing, a fear that I’ll be like those singers on the talent shows, the ones who can’t hold a note but think they can, who get up there and bravely sing off key while the rest of the world wonders why they ever thought they could sing.
I read somewhere that if you’re not at least a little scared when you write, then you might not be doing it right. I try and keep that in mind.
Face the fear and do it anyway is my motto too. Now, tell us about your other published novels.
It’s gotten to be a long list, Charlotte. I’ve been very lucky to have found some small publishers who like what I write. These past few years I’ve gotten to polish up some of those old manuscripts we talked about earlier and get them out into the world along with some newer works. So, let’s see. I’ve got three romantic comedies available through Champagne Books.
The P-Town Queen is a wild romp of a story about a shark researcher who has lost her grant money, gotten a divorce and is living with her retired fisherman father in Provincetown (P-Town) Massachusetts and a guy who is running from a mob boss hit by living under an alias and pretending to be gay (P-Town has a vibrant gay community).
Afterglow is chick lit with a bit of a twist. The main character is a kindergarten teacher in her fifties who finally asks her philandering husband of 30 years for a divorce. Through the course of the book, with the help of a slightly crazy best friend and a love affair with a much younger man, she gets back on her feet again and finally, once and for all, learns to stand up for herself.
Searching for Superman is the more traditionally romantic of the three, though it still has a lot of quirky characters. The lead is a young woman who is looking for the perfect man–a guy a lot like superman. She meets an ordinary guy dressed as superman for a kid’s birthday party and figures he’s not the real deal. But, of course, he’s just the right guy for her. The book is set in and around and old theater that teaters on the edge of being torn down.
Then I have a trilogy of short stories called The Lilac Hour available through Turquoise Morning Press. The stories are love stories and they are linked in that the main characters are women from three generations of the same family. I’m currently working on a historical novella series. The novellas all revolve around the same two characters– the daughter of a wealthy ship builder and a sea captain. The books are set in and around clipper ships in the 1850s. It’s a real departure for me to write, but I love being able to stretch my wings and try new things. The first two parts of the series, Sweet Lenora and To the Wind, are available through Champagne. The third part comes out next year, in April. Part four currently resides in my head and I’ll soon have to sit down and commit it to words.
And, if that weren’t enough, I have two books coming out next year. Dancing in the White Room, which I’d mentioned earlier, comes out with Turquoise Morning Press in March. It’s women’s fiction, with a strong female protagonist (I love strong female characters) and is set in Lake Placid, NY (not too awful far from where I grew up) The main character is a ski patrol woman who is living with an extreme skier who likes to take death defying risks. It’s a lot about whether or not this is a love worth keeping and at what price.
Confessions of the Sausage Queen is the craziest book I’ve written to date, with an ensemble cast of quirky characters who run willy nilly through the pages in an effort to save a small town’s biggest employer, the local sausage factory. It comes out with Champagne Books in July of next year.Then, of course, there are the manuscripts unfinished on my computer, the ideas still in my head, and three novels, several shorts and a few novellas still in the back of the supply closet. I’m going to have to live to a hundred to get to everything. Even then, I’ll probably still have a pen in my hand because I won’t be done.
Wow! You’re prolific. Five published books, two coming out next year and a series of novellas in the making! How do you combine life and writing? (Please don’t tell me you also have a full-time job …)
Not so much prolific as stubborn. I try to write at least a something everyday. For years, I wrote in little chunks of time, late at night after everyone was asleep, or while waiting for an appointment, and so on. I taught a writing workshop, so that kept me in good writing form. Currently, I don’t have a full time job and my kids are both grown, so I have more time to devote to writing. Balance has always been a problem, though. More recently, the challenge is carving out the time and space to write with all the other things that go along with being an author–doing edits, writing promotional pieces, and keeping up a blog and a website.
Well, while we’ve been talking I’ve downloaded and started reading The P-Town Queen, so you have a new fan. Thank you so much for the lovely chat.
Thank you, Charlotte. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I hope you enjoy The P-Town Queen.