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Fresh from her recent success in this year's Meager Puddle of Limelight Award for Best Short Story Title, Renee Carter Hall (aka poetigress poetigress) answers some searching questions about herself and her work (watch this space for a similar chinwag with joint winner, Deirdre Murphy).

"Norma" is a flash fiction piece--humor, as the title suggests. It was published online, but that particular magazine ceased publication not long after, so it's currently circulating right now as a potential reprint.

Which came first, the title or the idea?
The idea came first, but the title followed soon after. The initial spark came from my wondering whether Wal-Mart was open on a particular holiday, and then thinking after that, "Well, this is Wal-Mart; they'd probably be open at Armageddon." The immediate mental image that followed is pretty much the way the story opens: the four horsemen arrive, and there to meet them is Norma, a good-hearted but somewhat slow employee. 

How many times did you change the title before you settled on the one you use now?
From what I remember, it showed up pretty much as-is. 

As a reader, does a good title make a difference to you?
Yes, in the sense that it can catch my attention and make me want to find out more about the work.

What’s your preferred genre/wordcount?
Fantasy and science fiction, everything from children's stories to works for adults. Short stories tend to come most easily to me, but I'm trying to stretch myself and get more comfortable with longer works like novellas and novels, and shorter ones like flash fiction.

What’s your current WIP?
As always, I have several. :) One is a contemporary fantasy short story about a boy who nurses a wounded comic book hero back to health while dealing with his veteran father's post-traumatic stress disorder. Another is a far-future novella about a sentient raccoon who discovers a human artifact and begins having visions of Earth's human-dominated past. And another is the other title I had in the running, THE SECOND LIFE OF BARTHOLOMEW T. LION, a story set in the imagined afterlife of toys. 

Are you a pantser or an outliner?
Generally a pantser. I'll do very casual outlines for longer works, but anything for plotting that involves a diagram, a flow chart, a graph, special software, etc., makes my eyes glaze over. 

What are your long term goals as a writer?
I'd like to eventually publish a book for children, either mid-grade or YA. Of course, my dream would be to do this with one of the major publishers, but if that doesn't happen, I'll be happy with a smaller publisher. I also want to get more into selling my work directly to readers, while still publishing in traditional venues as much as I can.

Tell us about your very first sale.
I was either very lucky or very unlucky, depending on how you look at it. My very first fiction submission, a story called "PRINCESS ANGELINA AND THE DRAGON" was accepted to  Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. This was lucky because it gave me a great deal of encouragement--still does, to be honest. It was unlucky because starting off with that success meant more frustration later on when things weren't so easy. :) 

One of your poems was nominated for a Pushcart prize in 2001. Tell us a little about that experience.
That was "WASHINGTON SUITE," a poem of observations based on a trip to D.C., and it was nominated by The Paumanok Review, the literary journal that published it. I knew I had no hope of winning, of course, given the caliber and style of past winners, but I was honored by the editor's appreciation of the poem, which I still consider one of my best.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?
Find what works for you and do it, no matter what anybody says a "real" writer is supposed to do. 

What’s the worst?
Probably "write what you know"--because depending on how you interpret it, it's either very limiting or so vague as to be easily misunderstood by new writers.

What was the last story/novel you pitched/submitted?
That would be a story called "THE BEAR WITH THE CLOCKWORK HEART," a sort of "Velveteen Rabbit" meets "A.I.", about an awkward romance between a teenage girl and the intelligent toy she's grown up with. It's been rejected by a number of fine publications. :) (I'm also quite fond of that title, by the way.) 

What was the last story/novel you read?
I just finished Tigerheart by Peter David, an absolutely delightful novel based on Barrie's Peter Pan stories.

Do you belong to a writing/critique group? Why?/Why not?
Right now I don't. There aren't any in-person groups close enough to where I live to be convenient, and I haven't found the right online home yet. My husband remains my first reader, and I have a few writer friends I can count on for beta reads, but at the moment I'm mostly trusting my own instincts.

Where can readers find your work?
Most recently, I have a short story in the were-creature anthology Bewere the Night, just released from Prime Books. I've been in various anthologies, many of them focused on my favorite niche genre of anthropomorphic animals, and I have a couple of short stories featured on my website.

Where on the web can you be found?
My website: www.reneecarterhall.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/RCarterHall  

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you first started writing?
That everything--writing and publishing--takes longer than you think it will.

Who do you think would win in a fight, astronauts or cavemen?
I usually put my money on zombies, but since that's not an option, I'll go with cavemen. Not so much for their brute strength as for the smilodon they keep captive to release upon their enemies. I don't think astronauts could outrun a sabertooth tiger if they're wearing those bulky suits.

Renee Carter Hall works as a medical transcriptionist by day and as a writer, poet, and artist all the time. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of print and electronic publications, including The Summerset Review, New Fables, and the anthology Bewere the Night. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and her cat, both of whom serve diligently as beta readers. (If the cat falls asleep on the printout, it's good.) Readers can find her online at www.reneecarterhall.com.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
Nice interview. I love finding out how writers work. Never heard the term "pantser" before. I'm assuming that means "by the seat of your pants"?
May. 8th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
May. 9th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
There used to be a better term for writing without an outline -- something like "organic" or "intuitive" or... something like that -- but I've forgotten it, and "pantser" seems to have taken over. (Of course, when I was in school the term referred to someone who would sneak up behind you and try to pull your pants down, so it's something of an adjustment to hear it in a less humiliating sense.) :)
May. 10th, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure they still "pants" people in school. Writers now, I'm learning, pants themselves!
May. 8th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised that your Norma title won. I giggle every time I read it. I worked as a Wal-mart night stocker many years ago, and I think the Four Horsemen rode through a time or two.
May. 9th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
It's quite possible that the title is better than the story. :)

I admit I shop at Target whenever possible, but when I was in high school, after going to the movies and things on weekends we would sometimes wind up at the local Wal-Mart, for no real purpose besides the fact that it was about the only thing in our area that was open 24 hours, and it was sort of cool to be there when it was practically deserted. XD
May. 8th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
~is~ a great title...

I'm glad I didn't have to choose between the two...
May. 9th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)
I came this close to including it, too. :)
May. 9th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
There's always next year's contest ;)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed


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