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BellaOnline Interviews Carol Taylor 1/2012

Continuation of Interview with Carol Taylor

What Hope and Portia were going through affected me more deeply than what the other characters were experiencing. Were there any of their problems that affected you deeply?
Funny, their problems were my problems... I was sorting them out on the page, as I do with so many of my other issues. Hope’s father had just died and she was taking care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This is something I was definitely going through with my mom and trying to work out. Portia was dealing with issues that many of us experience: feeling powerless and trapped. I was going through all of this when I had all these new responsibilities. Writing about it allowed me to put it on paper and get it out of my head and even to work it out on the page. This is what I love about writing, this sense of introspection and problem solving. And although there are many correlations between my life and what goes onto the page, they are not direct correlations. It’s a look into my life, but not a direct reflection of what’s going on.

Do you know people who have experienced problems like theirs?
Absolutely. As I was dealing with being a caregiver and having your parent die, it became clear that many other people were doing so as well and no one was really talking about how hard it is and how unprepared you will always be when it happens.

Were the problems faced by any of the ladies hard for you to write about?
No, none of it was hard to write about because I never think I’m writing about myself. I’m just writing about things that I’m thinking about or curious about or have a connection to or feel need to be addressed. Then my characters take over and I can take a step back. There is a scene with Portia and her mother, Luz, and Luz’s boyfriend Rey that made me cry when I wrote it and makes me cry every time I read it. What is so emotional is that Luz becomes empowered and takes control, something she’s never done before. This affects me because when I was growing up I’d wish that my mother was more forceful and empowered, but I now understand that she was from a different generation and was handling her issues the only way she knew how.

The Ex Chronicles, in your words, is a story about 4 women living in New York and their relationships with each other and themselves. What about Portia? Why did you not consider her one of the main characters?
Portia is one of the four women, Hope, Bella, Precious and Portia are the four main characters. However, when I started writing the book, Portia wasn’t a “main” character. She “appeared” (as characters often do) to solve a problem with a “main” character, but she was so compelling that she stayed and became a very powerful character in the book.

Is Portia going to be in the next book?
Absolutely. Portia grows up in the next book, and Portia’s mom, Luz, has more of a foreground role. We’ll also see if Hope makes it down the altar, if Bella can control her addiction issues and if Precious can continue to navigate corporate America in Ex Chronicles 2.

What new doors has your writing opened up for you? Were there any opportunities that you had never considered before?
Honestly, writing as a career, had never occurred to me until I was successful at it. Editing opened up the doors for me and gave me the background and skills to be a successful, professional writer, who is creative but also commercial, which means my work is salable and finds a broad audience. Being good at writing isn’t enough these days; you have to know how to sell your work. So I’m lucky to know how to do that.

Do you ever become bored with what you are writing? If you do, how do you get past that point?
I never get bored writing for myself, again because I write about things that are relevant to me and to what’s going on in my life and in my world. I don’t work on projects that don’t interest me. For instance, I don’t do investigative pieces because I don’t enjoy the process of interviewing someone, so I stay away from that. But if this is, say a piece for a magazine and I’m not really connecting to the topic or haven’t found my approach to the article then I have to figure it out. When I do find the right approach then I get energized about the piece. Often it’s not what you’re writing but how you approach writing about it that makes all the difference. If what I’m working on starts to feel like “work” then I’m doing something wrong and need to reassess either the work or my approach to it

What do you look for when you buy a book?
As a book editor acquiring books for publication, I’d look for something I hadn’t seen before or a new approach to an old topic. I look for stellar writing, not necessarily the most literary writing, but the most affecting writing. I look for a story that speaks to me personally, but is also universal and is trying to work something out in clarifying our human relationships and our emotional connections. Or I look for amazing characters that are really well-drawn, and well-written, who “speak” to me in an authentic way and ring “true.” I look for these same things when I got to the bookstore to buy a book for myself.