Christine Carbo is the author of The Wild Inside, Mortal Fall and The Weight of Night (Atria Books/Simon and Schuster) and a recipient of the Womens’ National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award and a finalist for the High Plains Book Award. After earning a pilot’s license, pursuing various adventures in Norway, and working a brief stint as a flight attendant, she got an MA in English and linguistics and taught college-level courses. She still teaches, in a vastly different realm, as the owner of a Pilates studio. A Florida native, she and her family live in Whitefish, Montana. Find out more at ChristineCarbo.com.
What’s your favorite line from a book, TV show or movie that you wish you’d written?
A 2002 remake of a Norwegian film called Insomnia starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank is a psychological suspense detective story set in Alaska in the summer. At one point in the movie, when Al Pacino is losing his mind from the constant exposure to light and an inability to sleep, the woman who’s running the hotel he’s staying at tells him, “There’s two kinds of people in Alaska: those who are born here and those who come here to escape something.” Although we have more hours of night in the summer than Alaska, this quote reminded me of Montana and the kind of characters I write about – individuals who live among such a stark and beautiful landscape, some of them native and old hands at living a Montana lifestyle, and so many others trying to to escape and find some kind of peace in the wild.
Also, I’m going to cheat and add poetry/song lines, which is where most of my favorites exist. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has always made me think of the creative process and when he sings, “She tied you to her kitchen chair/She broke your throne and she cut your hair/And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah,” I always think of the muse – how an idea can strike you and it can be so frustrating and painful to get it down, to complete, but until you work through it and get to that “hallelujah,” you’re going to be tied to that kitchen chair for a long time. I love the line, love the image.
If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be and why? (feel free to time-travel on this one—it can be any author, living or dead)
That’s a difficult one because so many talented authors are hard to visualize working with anyone else because it’s simply their personalities and talent alone that seem to be what makes their work so great. But if the author was willing, I’d pick a writer who writes very different types of plotlines from what I do – someone like Stephen King or John Connelly. Not only would I learn so much about plotting, human nature and story-telling in general, but it would be interesting for me to see how I would handle plots that are outside my comfort zone. I tend to stick to realism; it would be interesting to be forced out of that mode.
Later, another friend who was there with us noticed me doing that and said, “You’re really bull-headed, aren’t you?” I was confused at first because I thought he was insulting me, but then he explained about how I just grabbed her and insisted on pushing forward. I think (I hope) he meant it in a good way, and part of that insistence to push forward has gotten me published. So, my advice is simply don’t give up, be willing to learn and make adjustments, but most of all, stick to your intuitions about what you think will work and is right for you.
And now I’m going to sound like I’m contradicting myself and say that at same time you’re being bullheaded, honor your insecurities. It’s those doubts and feelings of inferiority that keep you from thinking your work doesn’t need revising, that allow you to learn from those with more experience, that help you advance forward because deep down, you know you can always do better. The two together, although seemingly incongruent, can be a winning team if you’re bullheadedness guides you in knowing where to draw the line when it comes to the changes and pieces of advice you’re willing to follow.
Some writers have really structured methods of staying productive. Stephen King, for example, sets a daily word count goal for himself. What methods do you use to stay productive?
I’m still finding my way on this one. I don’t have an effective routine set up, and I find myself going from day to day trying to squeeze writing in around the edges. I still have another job that I work – I own a Pilates studio and teach a number of hours each week, so I have to find a way to fit it all in. I would like to find a more perfect science for how to do it, but so far, I’ve just shoved it in where I can. And, I do not have a daily word count. I’d just feel bad if I didn’t hit it. However, I might be being a little too bullheaded on this one and should follow the advice of the greats!
The zombie apocalypse has hit (as we all knew it would one day). Which TV or movie characters do you want as part of your crew? (no superheroes…that’s cheating)
Is it cheating to pick a character that’s already in a zombie series, like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead? If so, and I can’t choose him, I guess I’d go for Liam Neeson from Taken, or Matt Damon from The Bourne Series…. They’re like super heroes in the way they fight. But then, there’s Katniss, who can figure her way out of The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter, who can fight Voldemort, and Hermione, who has the brains. Oh, the choices!