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BellaOnline Interviews Carol Taylor 1/2012

Continuation of Interview with Carol Taylor by Lisa Binion.

Did you plan out the entire book before you wrote it? Or do you just write?
No I don’t plan out the entire book before I start writing, but I always have a finished outline of a beginning a middle and an end. For The Ex Chronicles I had the story idea, the concept (Sex and the City meets Waiting to Exhale) and an outline of the characters; but I always have a basic idea in my head for the finished book or story.

Unless I’m writing a magazine piece where I’m given the topic, I always have an idea that propels me to jot it down. So I have notebooks or copy with stories or story ideas. Then when I’m ready to write a story or a book, I take one of my ideas and create characters and an outline, and then I fill in that outline with chapters or sections. Then I fill in those chapters or sections with story, dialogue, drama and conflict, narration, scenery. Then when I’m finished writing, I go back and edit the book. This is important: when you’re writing, just write. Don’t try to edit yourself. When you’re done writing then edit your work. Then rewrite then re-edit. But never at the same time, it’s too distracting for one and because your writer self, is different than your editor self. Your writer self writes, and your editing self, edits. If you try to do both at the same time you’ll confuse yourself and lose your focus.

Do you have a set time that you write each day? Or do you wait to be inspired?
That depends on my deadlines. I usually have things that have to get done on a daily basis and things that have to get done on a weekly or monthly basis, such as book deadlines for my clients whom I am editing. So I am super-organized. But generally I am most energized in the morning. I wake up ,drink my coffee, go online to check out what’s going on, then I check my schedule and get to work on what needs to be done that day. With longer projects, such as line-editing a manuscript for a client, I have a set schedule of what needs to be done by what date so I know I’ll be finished by the deadline. This is imperative because I usually have about five or six projects going on at one time, easily stretching out over a six-month time frame. Being organized allows me to be in control of the various workloads and to successfully manage and multitask. This is where my background as a book editor is invaluable.

How long did it take you to complete this book?
Because I’m a professional writer and a book editor I usually write quickly. My Brown Sugar books were written basically a year from start to finish, then I finished and had published a book a year for 6 years. I scheduled The Ex Chronicles to be written in a year, but it took longer because my father passed away and my mother became very sick during the writing process and that threw me totally off schedule. Funny enough, it was my experiences taking care of my mother and getting over my father’s death that gave me the material, the structure, and the drive to finish the novel, because in it I deal with these issues, loss, love, death, dying, forgiveness, which are all universal. This not only allowed me to mine a deeper and far richer vein of emotions within the book, but it allowed me to work out my feelings about these issues while writing the book.

Did you have to do any research at all for this book?
Everything I write: stories, characters, locale, has some basis in fact; even my fiction. I write a lot about my own experiences, which are universal, dealing with death, love, relationships, insecurities, emotions, aspirations, my work with the people around me, and the places I’ve been to. I love to travel and have traveled extensively in America and around the world. I always jot down details from my travels and keep mementos so that when I write I have concrete details, not just memories to use. So I always have a wealth of material to draw from. But I do research, every writer should. The Ex Chronicles is set mostly in New York, where I live, but we do travel to London, Paris and Amsterdam, where I’ve traveled. Since I’ve been to all these places, I get the details right. This is what we call verisimilitude: getting the details right about cities, locales, people what they are wearing, the nuances of the language, and what’s going on at that time in that place.

How did you choose your characters' names?
Funny enough the names are secondary, what is most important to me is my characters’ ethnicity, which is what really makes them who they are. Having traveled so much I’m cosmopolitan, I have a lot of people around me who are also well traveled and are usually from other countries. I started traveling early in life, leaving Jamaica and coming to the States. Since my life features heavily in my writing, the characters in my work are a reflection of the people who are around me or who I’ve met in my travels. My characters are always multi-ethnic; they are Asian, biracial, white, Latino, black, West Indian, British, European, African, or some combination of all of those. After I’ve sorted out their ethnicities I move on to the names that match them, names that feel real and true. Sometimes, since many of my characters are based on people in my life and have some of the attributes of those people, I modify their real names for my characters' names.