Carrie Ryan is the New York Times bestselling author of two critically acclaimed novels set decades after the zombie apocalypse: The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte Press, 2009) and The Dead-Tossed Waves (Delacorte Press, 2010). The third in the trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places, will be released in Spring 2011. Her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, was chosen as a Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association, a Best of the Best Books by the Chicago Public Library and a finalist in the Borders Original Voices program.
Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Carrie is a graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Law. A former litigator, she now writes full time. She lives with her writer/lawyer husband, two fat cats and one large puppy in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are not at all prepared for the zombie apocalypse.
Q: With so many various writing conferences and cons nowadays, authors seem to have several options to fill their schedules. What is it about Romantic Times that made you add this event to your busy schedule?
A: I attended the RT Convention for the first time last year and absolutely loved it! I really like how the focus is on both writers and readers so there’s something for everyone. RT also draws so many authors that I get to see old friends while also having fangirl moments over some of my idols J And of course, it’s just plain fun with all the costume balls and events!
Q: As far as busy schedules go, do you find time to read for yourself? If so what are some of your current favorite books?
A: I was a reader long before I ever wanted to write and I still make sure to carve out time in the day to read. I find myself reading a lot of young adult, since that’s what I write, and there are so many exciting books out there right now! Of course I love the Hunger Games, I love everything Holly Black writes — I could go on and on! I used to be a huge regency romance fan but had drifted away until I read Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and now I can’t get enough of her books!
Q: So many adults are enjoying the YA genre now. Do you feel like your writing has messages for the targeted audience of young adults, or do you keep in mind the cross-over audience as well?
A: Often the issues we faced as teens are issues we face as adults: trying to figure out who we are, what we want in life, what we want to be when we grow up, how to balance independence with family and friends. I think the biggest difference is really that teens are often facing these questions for the first time which can make them seem that more momentous. As adults we’re a little more jaded — we’ve been through tough times and figured out how to deal with what life throws your way — but as teens it’s all so fresh and new.
Q: Do you ever get “star-struck” meeting other authors or have “fan-girl” moments?
A: YES! All the time! At the RT convention last year I was standing in line with Holly Black (I’m a huge fangirl) and received an email that Charlaine Harris had read and positively reviewed my first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I was jumping up and down and squeeing to Holly when the woman in line in front of us turned around smiling. Turns out, it was Charlaine Harris! I couldn’t believe it — I was totally dumbstruck J That’s one of the really great things about the RT Convention — you never know who you’ll run into!
Q: Since Romantic Times has an emphasis on romance, who are some of your favorite romantic couples of fiction, or ones perhaps you’ve created?
A: Oh, I LOVE romance! I’ve already mentioned how much I love Sarah MacLeans’s romances (I loved Callie and Ralston but I think my favorite of hers has to be Simon and Juliana in Eleven Scandals – yum!). Reading her books reminds me of what it was like to read Julia Quinn and I adored her Bridgerton Series (I think Penelope and Colin were my favorite because you’d seen poor awkward Penelope in the previous books and just wanted her to shine!). And of course one of my first and lasting favorites is A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux.
I can’t imagine writing a book that doesn’t have romance in it in some way. As for my own stories, I think one of my favorite couples is Mary and Harry from The Dead-Tossed Waves. It’s not a major part of the plot, but I based their later in life relationship off of my mother and step-father who both grew up in the same place (banana plantation in Latin America) and so had that similar background but grew up and lived very different lives until finding each other again late in life. They had a spectacular love at first sight.
Q: Are there certain things you have to have to write, like snacks or music?
A: Diet Coke. I’ve been trying to cut down, but one of the first things I reach for in the morning is a cold can of Diet Coke to get me going.
Q: Writing seems to be such a personal thing, is it hard to send your work out into the world? How do you deal with getting feedback from so many different people?
A: It’s always a bit terrifying when my book goes out because there’s nothing more I can do to fix it and no book is ever perfect. My book feels very personal to me when I’m writing it but thankfully I have some really excellent friends and critique partners who I trust to give me honest feedback (and that also helps me get used to the idea of other people reading what I write).
I like to think that being scared to send work out is a good thing — it means you’re pushing yourself and growing. Of course, that doesn’t make it easier – lol. One thing that helps me is that Stephen King says that every author writes for one person. For him it’s his wife and for me it’s my husband. If he loves the story then I’m happy J
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to young adults (on anything), what would it be?
A: Ooh, tough question! I would love to say enjoy life but sometimes it’s hard to always enjoy — there will just inevitably be difficult things to overcome in life. So I think instead I’d say experience life. Don’t sit on the sidelines and let fear keep you from what you want most. Everyone fails at something — it’s a good thing to try because otherwise you’ll never grow.
Q: What is your opinion on the steady popularity of supernatural elements in YA fiction? Do you think that the Vampire (were’s, angels, demons, fairies) trend is here to stay?
A: I love incorporating supernatural elements into my writing because it makes it so much easier to cast a bright light on the world — you get to twist the world in various ways to make some aspects stand out and others fade away. Often, by doing this you can raise a lot of questions about how we live our lives now and where we’re headed in the future.
I think there will always be books with supernatural elements on the shelves (as there always have been) and it’s just a question of whether those dominate. I don’t see that changing anytime soon though I do think that YA authors are really pushing boundaries and we’ll see those elements included in unexpected ways.
Q: As writers of Young Adult fiction, teens (and some adults for that matter) can get kind of obsessed with characters and the authors that created them. Do you enjoy the fame and attention you have gained from writing or is it more of a nuisance?
A: Oh, it could never be a nuisance! Readers of all ages can be amazingly passionate and it honestly feels surreal to have my characters be the object of that passion. Growing up authors were like rockstars to me and I still can’t believe that I get to live my dream life!
Q: What is next for you? Any exciting news you could share…or tease us with?
A: Unfortunately I can only tease! I’ve already turned in my next book but I’m not sure yet what I can share about it other than the fact that it’s not set in the same world (no zombies) and that it will hopefully be coming out Summer 2012! I’m really really excited about the project and can’t wait until I can share more!