Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Stef Carpenter about her life, what inspires her, and the creative writing process that went into her debut novel; The Gemini Factor.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Stef, a 40-something year old urban fantasy and horror writer, and musical theatre nut from London. I grew up in Norwich and York before moving to Derby for University (where I studied Performing and Media Arts, including Creative Writing) before settling in North London 16 years ago. I now live with my husband, my daughter – who is almost 9 at time of writing – 5 cats and a plethora of fish. Yes we have 5 cats and 2 fish tanks, it’s like TV for cats!
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I have been writing as long as I can remember. I was a precocious child who could read and write before I started school and my family said I started writing stories almost as soon as I could string a sentence together.
There was always something magical to me about stories and books; I read voraciously as a child (and still do!) and I loved the idea of magic and adventure and wanted to add my own vivid imaginings to that.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As I said, I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but when I was 10 my stepdad brought home a big old office typewriter that was being thrown away from his office and a ream of paper and the real journey began! I still type far too hard even these days, as I learned to type on that clunky old thing!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The first story using these characters was written when I was 11. It wasn’t a great story, and it included a school robbery inspired by one happening at my school and my mum freaked out, thinking that people would assume I’d done it!
That story died a death, but the characters didn’t and banged around in my head demanding to be given a story until I wrote the first version of The Gemini Factor. I think I was 15 when that was finished, so it’s been almost 30 years!
What made you want to write The Gemini Factor?
The characters demanded a story, and a good one. I wanted to write urban fantasy because I love magic and extra-sensory abilities but I’m far too lazy to do the research involved in historical writing or world building for high fantasy!
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Gemini Factor?
To be honest, I find the writing process relatively easy. It’s editing and having the guts to try and get it published I found hard. I had spent such a large portion of my life with this story and these characters that I found it difficult to cut things that didn’t move the story forward. Getting it published was terrifying because it felt like sending my babies out into the world unprotected! I am so grateful to the team at Siren Stories for liking my book pretty much as it was and wanting to publish it.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I have three main protagonists in The Gemini Factor. I started with Julia, who is basically me as I would have preferred to be when I was a teenager – short and blonde! Her attitudes and mannerisms are mostly my own, although I wish I had her abilities too! Paul started life as an incidental character in the first version of the book, but when I came to edit it I realised that there was more to him than I had first realised and that actually his relationship with Katz and the insights he could bring were really important to the story. Andrew was originally based on a boy I fancied at school, but over time he grew into his own person and the big brother character that I always wanted but never had.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Luke was inspired by all the boys who bullied me at school, especially those I had secret crushes on! Katz was inspired by my fear of doctors and medical procedures. I had a squint corrected by surgery when I was 3 and my surgeon scared the bejeezus out of me, so Katz was probably born right there.
What is the inciting incident of The Gemini Factor?
The inciting incident is the accident that Andrew has which leads Julia, through Luke’s interference, to Katz and all that follows.
What is the main conflict of The Gemini Factor?
The main conflict is the battle between the twins and their friends, and Katz and his bosses, and a fight for freedom.
Did you plot The Gemini Factor in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I never plot. My characters go where they want to, and I follow! Usually I start with a single line or phrase and go from there.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Gemini Factor need?
The lovely Siren Stories team helped with my editing of the final version. I had done several revisions over the years, and a lot of editing myself. Writer friends had done proof reading before, so thankfully there wasn’t much left for the SS team to spot.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Just write. Don’t worry if you think it’s no good while you’re writing the first draft, you can always revise and edit later. The most important thing is to start and to finish what you started. Even if you never show it to anyone, it can spark an idea for something you write later.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m currently working on a new novel which is also urban fantasy, but with a much more magical influence. It’s set partly in our own dimension, and partly in several others, and I feel it explores some large philosophical questions. My hope is that it will be the start of a trilogy, perhaps even a series.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m so proud of my accomplishment. It was worth the effort just for having written it and finished it, but being published by such a lovely publisher is just the icing on the cake. I just hope readers will love these characters as much as I do!
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Twitter & Instagram are both @vesula
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