Friday 29th November - Carmen Baca

Sixteen Questions for Sixteen Authors

Contributor spotlight : Carmen Baca, author of “La Embrujada”

The interviewer's spotlight now swings around to New Mexico to focus on Carmen Baca, who wrote the short story “La Embrujada” for the “Dragon Bone Soup” anthology (published in December 2019). In this story, Carmen draws on her local knowledge to write what seems to be her own thoughtful meditation on what it means to be a witch (a "bruja"). Readers should note that the title "La embrujada" translates to "the haunted", "the beguiled" or (more likely) "the bewitched", which offers a clever clue to the story's theme.

What is your real name and what name do you write under (if they are different)?

My name is Carmen Baca. My works are published under my name.

Where do you hail from?

I’m from New Mexico, “the land of enchantment.” I was born in the original Las Vegas, NM, and I reside in Cañoncito de las Manuelitas, a rural community 20 miles from any town.

What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?

The greatest attribute about where I live is that my closest neighbor is hundreds of yards away. I inherited the land my father’s ancestors settled; located at the bottom edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, I’m surrounded by forests, wide expanses of blue sky, and welcome wildlife.

When and why did you start writing?

I have always used writing in my educational pursuits and in my career as an English teacher, but I began writing a memoir of anecdotes based on my career about twenty years ago. However, when I reached my mid-30s, I wrote my first novel and always dreamed of publishing that particular story.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

That first book, the one I wrote in my 30s, was inspired by a wooden box which had been locked for most of my life. The contents revealed some truths about a subject which had always fascinated me. Because other books on the topic have created controversy and misconception, I wanted to set the record straight from a perspective no other author had ever tried before.

How did you come up with the premise for your story?

The book is based on my father’s life, his desire to follow in his forefathers’ footsteps in joining a religious brotherhood, and his induction into the confraternity. The book is written through my childhood and adolescent memories of growing up amongst the brothers who made up the brotherhood. I based the character of my father at age fifteen on myself at that age.

Is any part of the story based on your life experience?

I wanted readers my age and older to be reminded of a time in our shared memories that is slowly dying out with each generation. When a lot of my readers tell me they’re saving my books for their children and grandchildren for the same reason, I know I’ve succeeded. Many young readers thank me for showing them what their own parents and grandparents experienced growing up and add that they wish they could have grown up in those times too.

Are you a plotter or pantser? If you ever tried to switch, how did that work out for you?

I have never liked the term pantser; I prefer the term discovery writer. The joy of the blank page with characters emerging and the story developing as I write excites me like nothing else. Not knowing what the characters are going to do or how they’ll react to a complication makes the journey so much more exciting than if I knew what was coming. New characters emerge and conflicts arise, unplanned and unexpected till I get to the end of the ride, sometimes happy and sometimes in tears because of the human experience I’ve created from one wisp of an idea. Blows me away every time. The only work I’ve got a bare outline for is my seventh book because the idea for it came unexpected, it’s still two books away, and I didn’t want to forget.

What are the mistakes and pitfalls a new author should avoid when using traditional publishing?

I wanted to publish that first book so badly that when four publishers accepted my query and wanted the manuscript, I stopped looking for more. In hindsight, I should have tried to find a bigger publisher, who knows? There’s no point to “what if” thinking, but I’d say to new writers, don’t be in such a hurry to accept a publishing contract. Research publishers of your genre, and maybe even contact other authors who’ve published with them to get their take on one you might be considering. Join writing groups before you publish (I didn’t even know writing groups existed then). And learn about marketing from the get-go because no matter whether you self-publish or go traditional, you’ll be doing 90% of the marketing.

What is your favourite quote about life?

My favorite quote is by Confucius, which I shared with my students over the years. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I loved ninety-nine percent of my teaching career; it was so much fun for me that I never considered it strictly work. The same goes for being an author, my second career which gives me joy and which I do not consider work.

What are the three best pieces of advice you could give to a new author about writing?

The three best pieces of advice I give to a new author about writing are as follows:

(1) Learn the conventions of the language; don’t just take someone’s recommendation about changing this or removing that—know the rules and when/how to apply them.

(2) Don’t listen to just anyone when it comes to writing advice. Consult reliable sources.

(3) Don’t burn bridges in this business. Be respectful; you never know when you’ll meet someone who can do great things for you as you publish.

What are the mistakes and pitfalls a new author should avoid when writing?

New authors should avoid thinking they can break any rule. Learn the rules first to see if they can be broken. Get constructive feedback from qualified individuals. For my first book I consulted English and Spanish teachers, an author, and a publisher to see if I truly had a piece of work worth pursuing.

What has been your proudest moment as a writer?

My proudest moment as a writer was the day the proof copy of my first book came in the mail. Holding that book was magic. I hadn’t cried like that in a long time. That book published twenty-five years after I wrote it; my dream had come true. I even made my husband cry.

What are you working on right now?

I’m editing my fifth book, a short story cycle with three intertwining plots. I’m also halfway finished with my sixth, which is my second short story collection. Between books I love writing short stories and articles, so I’ve also got five of those I’m finishing up for submissions.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t like to plan ahead too much; I prefer to enjoy my life a day at a time. But I’d like to continue writing and publishing as long as the well of ideas doesn’t run dry.

How can readers find you online and on social media?

Readers can find me by clicking on the link which directs them to my FB page, my website, my publisher’s website, my email, and my Amazon author page.

More interviews

These are listed in Sixteen Questions for Sixteen Authors.

About “Dragon Bone Soup”

“Dragon Bone Soup” is an anthology of Fantasy and light Science Fiction short stories, showcasing the very best in Indie writing talent from across the world. Published in December 2019, it is edited by P.C. Darkcliff and DW Brownlaw.

About the editors

For more information about the editorial team, click on the following links...

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