Q&A with Cora Carmack

June, 2017
Cora Carmack Before she turned to storms, Cora Carmack was all about awkward love. The bestselling author made a name for herself with sweet, intensely relatable, and hilarious contemporary romances like Losing It and Faking It. But Carmack is woman of many interests, and this month she fulfills a lifelong dream: publishing a young adult fantasy novel.

One of the most highly anticipated YA books of June, Roar is the first book of Carmack's planned Stormheart series. Here she sweeps readers away to a land ruled and shaped by magical storms. Desperate to bend the winds to her will, Aurora Pavan, sole heir to a powerful Stormling family, joins forces with a young rogue to face a storm…and steal its essence.

Carmack answers your questions about wildly ambitious childhood dreams (from the ballet studio to the Oval Office!), favorite book quotes, and the best friend brainstorm session that helped her create the magic system of Roar.


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K.T.: I really enjoy your books! What was the hardest scene to write for Roar—and where did you get the inspiration to finish it?

Cora Carmack: Hi K.T.! Thank you so much. I think the hardest scenes to write were the opening scenes. I rewrote those probably a dozen times trying to find the right balance of characterization and world building and plot—while also keeping the pacing steady.

As for the inspiration to finish, I'd say it was 50% my looming deadlines and 50% my love of this story. And writing young adult fantasy has been a lifelong dream for me, so that also kept me moving forward.

Beemylittlequeen: Hi Cora! I'm a twenty-something awkward kind of girl, too. (And I fell in love with Max's awkward personality in Faking It.) What books made you want to become a writer?

CC: Hey there, my awkward friend! I'm so glad you loved Max! She's one of my favorites. I grew up reading Harry Potter, so that's definitely one of my biggest influences. But the books that actually made me sit in a chair and do it were Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Fire by Kristin Cashore, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I reread each of those books probably once a year, and they always remind me of the way I felt when I first read them. I remember thinking, I want to write books that make someone feel the way these books make me feel. I highly recommend them all!

Nandini: The magic system in Roar is wonderfully unique and inventive. How did you come up with it?

CC:Hi Nandini! Well, my first idea for this book was the concept of magic storms. Then slowly I began fleshing out what that might mean. What could storm magic do? How would you collect it? The latter question was probably the hardest problem to solve. I'd originally thought of having my storm hunters create flying machines that could take them up in the clouds. But realistically, they all probably would have died in 0.2 seconds.

So I called my best friend (and wonderful assistant), and we talked for hours about how one might actually steal the heart from a storm. We came up with a lot of ideas, but in the end, the one I liked best is that the heart of one storm calls to the heart of another. And you can lure the heart of a storm out of hiding to either syphon off magic or steal the heart itself. From there the rest of the world sort of filled itself in.

Maria: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CC: Great question! I always struggle to answer these "teen me" questions because in a way I wouldn't change anything. Everything I went through brought me to where I am today: It made me who I am, and I'm proud of that. But if I could, I would tell young me to worry less. (Of course, I have anxiety and would have totally disregarded that advice.)

Questioning yourself and the world is good, but not if you get trapped in that phase and don't go forward. In my mid-twenties, I read this Ray Bradbury quote: "Jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." A few months later, I published my first book, and my life changed nearly overnight. I've never forgotten that. So now I would tell my younger self to LEAP! It's worth the risk.


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Barbara: There's always a rom-com element (or a rom-com scene or two) in your books that I've read—even the more angst-ridden ones—and that is something I enjoy so much because life is never all drama. Do you infuse comedy in your books purposefully or is it something that just tends to happen in your writing?

CC: Hi Barbara! I think it's a little bit of both. When I wrote my very first book, Losing It, the few New Adult books that existed were very angst-y. And that just wasn't the experience of my twenties. I spent my twenties laughing so hard it hurt, dreaming bigger dreams than I had any right to dream, and getting to know myself in ways I never had. So I just wanted to see someone like me on the page. And what is life without a little laughter?

When I'm writing, I call it shading. Like in art, dark shading makes the light stand out more—and vice versa. We as humans feel more intensely when we experience the full range of emotions that humanity has to offer.

Joanna: When did you decide that being a writer is what you wanted to do with your life?

CC: When I was five years old. Really. Of course, there's a bit more to the story. When I was in Kindergarten, a teacher had us all write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. Then she gave it back to us twelve years later when we graduated high school. Mine said I wanted to be a writer, an actor, a teacher, a ballerina, an archaeologist, the President of the United States…plus I wanted to have 200 babies without getting married. And I'd live in my parents' backyard. Clearly, as a kid, I wanted to do EVERYTHING. That's still how I am today. And no other career lets you experience as many things and live as many lives as writing.

Alice: If you left on vacation tonight and could only take one book, what book would you choose?

CC: C.L. Wilson's Lord of the Fading Lands. The whole series preferably. It's an amazing adult fantasy romance series. I read it a few years ago, and I push it on everyone I know. It's the only book not written by J.K. Rowling that sits on my esteemed Harry Potter shelf.

Elly: Do you ever start a book…and then worry it's not any good and feel like starting a new project? Any advice for this sort of writer's block? Love your work! Thank you!

CC: Oh Elly. ALL. THE. TIME. I have so many half-completed or barely started works. On the one hand, I believe in listening to your gut. When I had the idea for Roar, I was technically already in talks with Tor Teen to write a different fantasy novel. But I knew as soon as I had the idea for Roar that it was something special, something I wanted to write immediately. So I did.

But I also know there are times when my anxiety (aka lizard brain) pushes me away from a book I really want—or need—to write. I'd say give yourself some time. Take a break from actually writing words and mentally live in the world of your book for a while. Think about the characters, about the scenes, and about the parts of their lives that might never make it on the page. Dig into their past, their fears, their secrets. These things don't have to ever make it on the page. But spend some time just existing in your story, and if it makes you excited, if you eventually start to feel like you can't wait to actually write a certain scene, then you know you need to stick with that book.

And when it comes to writer's block, I often find that writing and brainstorming by hand is really helpful for me. It makes my brain slow down. It gives me permission to make mistakes because I know it's not final. And talking things out with a friend as a sounding board never hurts either.

Jade: I love quotes from books. What's your favorite quote (or one of your favorites)?

CC: Ahhhh! Same, Jade! Same! The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is so quotable that I could probably list fifty without even trying that hard. But here are two of my favorites. (I'm actually planning to get a tattoo of the first one.)

"She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds and she would wring them out like rain."

"I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and understimating the human race—that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. None of those things, however, came out of my mouth. All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you. A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR. I am haunted by humans."

Libby: If you could take one of your book characters home to meet your parents, who would you choose and why?

CC: Hi Libby! That's a good one. From my romance books, I'd probably take Carson. My parents would LOVE him. Especially my Dad, who is a former football coach. And my mom would love him because he's such a nice guy. But I'd be tempted to take Mateo Torres just because he's so much fun and I love him.

But from Roar, I think I would take Locke. He'd have tons of interesting stories about the storms he faced. And he's gorgeous. That certainly doesn't hurt. Taking home Max from Faking It wouldn't be that much different from introducing Jay Crownover to my parents. Hahaha. So been there, done that. My mom loves Jay's books, but she's so sweet and southern that she called one of Jay's characters a "hard butt" because she doesn't swear. We still laugh over that regularly.



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message 1: by Nandini (new)

Nandini Bharadwaj Thanks for including my question and to the wonderful Cora Carmack for answering it! Also, happy book birthday to Roar! :)


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