Q & A with author Ber Carroll

Having started her career in the finance sector, Ber Carroll never really planned on becoming an author.

Now with eight novels under her belt, Ber has quit her job as a finance manger and writes full time.

FOCUS caught up with the author ahead of her talk at Castle Hill Library on Thursday, September 27, to chat about her books and her passion for writing.

Q: What sparked your love of writing?

A: Reading sparked my love of writing. I was one of those kids who always had her head stuck in a book (I couldn’t eat a meal without having a book open on the table alongside me … bad table manners, I know, I know). For me, reading and writing are very interconnected. I would go as far as saying that reading widely and avidly teaches you how to write.

Q: What inspires your writing?

A: Everyday things. Snippets of conversations that I overhear. Things that happen directly to me, or to family members or friends (I’m always swiping their anecdotes about work or school or wherever). Newspaper articles, documentaries and reality TV (which gives a birds-eye view into people’s homes and lives … perfect writing fodder).

Q: Out of all your books, which is your favourite and why?

A: This is always a hard question to answer because books are a lot like children and authors should not have favourites. Having said that, The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy holds a special place in my heart. The book was quite experimental for me: there’s a higher level of suspense, more at stake for the characters, and Sophie isn’t as instantly likeable as the protagonists in my previous books. I’m very thrilled with the final product and learnt a lot of new things through the writing process.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become an author?

A: Writing a book is hard work, and getting the book published is harder again. Expect some ups and downs and hard graft. Don’t be too disheartened with rejections. All authors are rejected at some point or other. The ones that survive dust themselves off and get back to work. Listen to feedback, even if that feedback means EVEN MORE HARD WORK. Finally, I encourage all aspiring authors to be well-read in the relevant genre. It’s useful to know what books are out there and how your work compares. Publishers are book lovers at heart, so if you ever get in front of one, it helps enormously if you’re a book lover too and can speak their language.

Q: Your new novel ‘The missing pieces of Sophie McCarthy’ has been called “impossible to put down” by bestselling author Liane Moriarty. What do you think is the key to an engaging novel that keeps readers on the edge of their seats?

A: In a novel like this, where there’s an element of suspense at play, timing is extremely important. The reader is drip-fed information and this must be scrupulously controlled by the author: what to reveal and precisely when. Too much information and the reader will ‘get it’ too soon. Too little information and the plot won’t make sense. Restraint goes hand in hand with timing. Not going overboard. Keeping everything believable and roughly consistent. Resisting the temptation to plant too many signposts. Holding back, holding back, holding back, and then smacking the reader with something they didn’t see coming. Something that turns things upside down, causes the reader to gasp, and turn the page to read more.

Q: What can audiences expect from your upcoming author talk at Castle Hill Library?

A: I usually begin these talks by explaining how I became a writer in the first place (I am still quite surprised that I’m the author of eight novels and not slogging away in Finance, which is where I started my career). Then I’ll talk about Sophie, what inspired the book and her character, which drives the narrative. Sophie is a complex character. She is very real to me and I have A LOT to say about her!

Q: Any new novels in the works? If so, can you give us a little sneak peek?

A: I’ve just finished a first draft of my next novel. It’s about a school reunion gone dangerous. I can’t really say much more at this point.

You can catch Ber at Castle Hill Library on Thursday, September 27, at 6.30pm.

Find out more and book now at www.orangeblossomfestival.com.au.

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