I’ve conducted the third Interview this week for new Fall Fantasy Releases with author Virginia Carraway Stark, author of ‘Carnival Fun’
1) I’ve seen you write so many other genres: poetry, Horror, Sci-Fi. What is it about Fantasy that drew you to write ‘Carnival Fun’, and where would you place Fantasy in your list of genres you enjoy writing?
Since I was little I saw magic in everything. I would play games with the lady who I believed lived in the moon and offer her the soft pussy willows of spring. I believed that mosquito larvae in the ditches where I grew up were actually little water faery darting about. I would gather flowers together and make mud pies that I would then decorate and leave out for the spirits that I felt lived in the woods and marshes. To me, the world has always been about magic, both light and dark magic that I have seen in everything.
While I’ve never given up seeing faces in the whorls of the tree bark and hearing voices in the whispers of the wind, I have learned how to convincingly ‘adult’ when absolutely required. Fantasy is where my spirit tends to go in default mode.
Fantasy and horror are very close genres. I tend to use the phrase, ‘speculative fiction’ as the descriptor for most of my short stories and writings because it allows for all aspects of horror, fantasy, mystery, and the paranormal to be included. My slant of how I see the world comes through using the language of all these things, and that is why I chose what I call ‘Noir Fantasy’ for Carnival Fun.
2) What was the greatest challenge you faced in writing ‘Carnival Fun’?
My greatest challenge in writing Carnival Fun is not becoming Virna Grant. Carnival Fun started off with a dream that I had where I was Virna, really just an alternative name from ‘Virginia’ in all truthfulness. Having mentioned how Virna has a tendency to creep into my life as I was writing her, I should point out that there are many differences between us. Virna lacks all direction, she is passive and uses drugs and alcohol to make up for her loveless marriage and a life without meaning. She has everything handed to her in terms of wealth and opulence, but she is spiritually barren. She is both me in another life and myself as my own polar opposite.
She abuses prescription drugs and alcohol with abandon. When I started writing Carnival Fun I wasn’t on any medications. It was while I was finishing Carnival Fun that I was hit by a taxi and suddenly found myself on a cocktail of prescription medication of my own. I found when I did the play version of Carnival Fun and played Virna that it was even worse, her languidness seeps into me with insidious and unrelenting persistence.
The hardest part is that her darkness calls to me. She is a persuasive character, and her journey is as compelling as it is filled with things that go bump in the night.
3) When did you “come up with” the premise for this book, how long did it take you to write it, and how much time did you spend between writing the proverbial “The End” and feeling it was finally ready for publication?
I had my first dream about Carnival Fun in 2012. I wrote it out as a brief short story and read it at a writing group. The reaction to it throughout the group was so intense and my own desire to learn more about Virna’s world so strong that I developed it into a novel and a world of its own. It took nearly three years to write and edit. I discovered that the idea was one that gripped people, and many of my friends involved in acting requested to work on a play version of it. The play discusses another part of Virna’s life that isn’t addressed in Carnival Fun despite both the play and the novel sharing the same name.
It was as a result of the playing Virna that my face became the face of Virna, first on the banners and flyers for the play and later on as the cover for the novel of Carnival fun. (The mugs in particular with Virna on them were extremely popular.) I don’t feel that I’ll ever really be ready to publish Carnival Fun. It has so much of my ‘secret self’ in it; I feel like no matter when it comes out, I will always feel naked. Much like Virna, however, I am curious and brave, and must open every door no matter how much I fear what may be behind it.
4) Is there any genre/theme/subject content that you will never ever read or write?
I won’t write something that feels dishonest to me. I have a hard time writing pure fiction or mystery without a supernatural element to it, and find that the most challenging and constrictive on which to work. I try to be socially aware when I write, and aware that I have many forms of privilege, and if something I write touches on other cultures or experiences I will seek out beta readers who don’t share the same privilege I have. I have found (so far) that writing from other cultural perspectives with this sort of research and (hopefully) always respectful approach allows me to see the world through different eyes.
The only other thing I would avoid is any story with violence or sex that serves no purpose to a greater story. I also avoid stories that have no hope or joy in them. I doubt I would ever write a ‘Mad Max’ sort of story or universe; it’s just too bleak and there is enough despair in the world already.
5) Your favorite author, the person whose writing you admire the most and whose books you’ve always adored, contacts you and says they absolutely love what you’ve done with ‘Carnival Fun’. How do you respond?
I would tell him (It’s Stephen King, by the way) that I am really happy that I was able to give him back one story to enjoy for all the wonderful stories he’s given me and the world over the years.