INTERVIEW | Carole McDonnell

Carole, describe yourself for our visitors.

Thank you so much for this interview. I’m a wife, a mom, a Christian, a writer. One of my friends calls me someone who walks the borderlands. I like that because I’ve always been someone who didn’t quite fit perfectly into any category. I’m Christian but I often find myself disagreeing with other Christians. I’m Black but I find myself sometimes arguing with other Black folks. I believe in being honest and transparent. As a writer, one of my favorite Bible verses is, “A true witness delivers souls.” To me, I witness about being a Christian, or being a Black woman,  by being honestly myself warts and all.  And unfortunately, I’m pretty warty. But God isn’t finished with me yet. At least I hope not.

How do you find time to connect with God?

I generally try to live in the shelter of the Almighty. I need to. For my health, for my son’s health, for my sanity. I’m never too far from God — I hope. I have the Bible on tape and also on my computer as mp3 files. I also have downloaded many sermons from internet and like many other Christians I have sermons on tapes. In the morning, I wake to the alarm on the radio (not a Christian station) and after my son is on the schoolbus, my husband and I play “pick a page.” Basically, one of us picks up a religious book from the floor or from a bookshelf and says to the other “Pick a number from 1 to whatever.” The other picks a number and the reader starts reading from the page number picked. Then we discuss it.

During the days I write while listening to one of the downloaded sermons or Bible books on my computer. The TV is usually on in the background. Either on a Christian channel, or VH1 (I’m a reality TV nut) or on the scifi channel. And at night we go to bed by listening to a sermon on  tape. In addition, I keep a couple of blogs where I I tend to ramble and ruminate on my spiritual issues.

Do you have a favorite bible verse and or quote you wish to share?

The one I mentioned earlier is a favorite. And another favorite is You, God, see me: Hagar’s revelation of God. And yet another is “The kingdoms of this world is become the kingdom of our God.” Back in the day the kingdom of art belonged to God. Every artist worked for God or for spiritual reasons. I want the kingdom of speculative fiction to become the kingdom of my God. I’m kinda tired of speculative fiction that isn’t Christian.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

I read mostly nonfiction and old poetry. And religious writings. C S Lewis. Oswald Chambers. John Lake. Bible Expositors. Modern writers I like are Missionary Don Richardson who wrote “Eternity in their Hearts” and “Peace Child.” I also like Pastor Richard Twiss, a Native American minister who belongs to the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples who wrote “One Church, Many Tribes.”

I like books on linguistics, memoirs, histories, and books on flaky natural stuff. I recently read “Consider the Eel” which was a natural history on eels. And Somaly Mam’s “The Road to Lost Innocence” which was about being brought up her being sold into a Cambodian brothel.

I have a lot of favorite books that I return to all the time: Hamlet (not a book, I know but I’m in love with Hamlet I think.) And of course the Bible. As for fiction, I tend to read old stuff. Victorian Literature, French Literature. Anglo-Irish Literature. I have yet to move past 1970 unless it’s a book written by a friend.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

I have to praise God for that. I’m a mad networker. I know way too many people via the internet. And of course networkers tend to meet other networkers. There’s a woman who writes market report for speculative fiction. I sent her some information I came  across for her column and she wrote back that a new book company that was looking for novels with female characters. It was the first year for that imprint. And often new companies don’t quite know what they want or what works for them. So it’s easier to break in.

I hadn’t finished my novel Wind Follower yet but I had another novel finished but in pretty bad shape. I sent the editor the first 100 or so pages of that novel and waited. She said it would need a lot of work. I sent her another note telling her the synopsis of my unfinished novel, Wind Follower. I explained that I had learned to write a whole lot better since I started that book but the book was so religious in so many ways I didn’t know if a feminist secular press would be interested. She said she’d look at it. So I sent her the first chapters. Luckily, I had had three stories published in well-respected anthologies so she knew I could write. Plus she had my networking friend’s word that I was a writer who would do anything to perfect the book. So she accepted it.

Tell us about your current book.

It’s called Wind Follower and it’s a kind of Christian conversion story told from the pagan point of view. Since I read Eternity in Their Hearts, I have always believed what St. Paul said that all cultures have heard about the truth of the gospel. For instance, the Chinese pictograph for salvation being eight people in a boat. Or the astrological signs or a virgin with a child, or the water bearer who would come to bring living water to the earth. Or the many cultures that believed that blood — especially the blood of a pure sacrifice– would take away sin.  But it’s also a quest and a slave narrative.

It’s about a young man from an Asianish-Native-Americanish tribe who marries a woman from an African-ish tribe. It takes place in a kind of alternate world so the earthly races don’t exactly match but they correspond somewhat. This boy is at war with the spirits and triest to ignore them. But that’s hard to do because he is destined to be a prophet for his people and to lead them from paganism to a worship of the Creator. He gets dragged into a spiritual battle in spite of himself.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

As a lit major I wanted to use a form I had grown up reading when I read the Arthurian Cycle. But I wanted to use minorities. And I wanted to show my disagreements with so-called Christians.  I didn’t want the pagans to be shown as people who didn’t know God. For instance, Abram thought the pagans around him didn’t understand God and pretty much expected they would treat him badly because they didn’t respect spirituality. I wanted to show that in the past Christians or Abram had that subtle racism thing going on. In fact, I kinda took a swing at Sarah in my novel. But I pretty much wanted to write a story about pagan tribal religion and what often happens when a minority person encounters Christianity. They have to make a decision about accepting a religion brought to them by a tribe that considers them inferior.

The story itself began as a short story then became a novel. When I wrote I just took everything a day at a time. I have some good folks who help to correct me. Because I didn’t want to become too anti-white or too anti-Christian. It was a balance and they helped me. And God is faithful. I really feel He helped me write this one. May He help me write others.

Did you have a favorite character(s)? Who and why?

I like Loic, the main male character. He’s a bit spoiled but he’s very good-hearted. And he refuses to worship the spirits. I like it that he challenges the herd and walks the borderlands.

What’s next for you?

Well, I’m working on two new WIP. One is called the Constant Tower. The other is called Dark Inheritance. An excerpt of Dark Inheritance will be published in the Dark Distortions horror anthology but I’m hoping to perfect it and get both these books published.

My publishing company decided to do only urban fantasy so it dropped many of its authors. Some of us were expecting that because a new publishing company will try anything. But still, one has to begin the cycle of trying to find an editor or an agent again. But I’m sure God will be there for me and guide me as always.

Where can visitors find you online?

I’m all over the place actually. I’m on Blacksciencefictionsociety.com I’m also part of the Carl Brandon Society, a group that specializes in speculative fiction by writers of color. I have several blogs. My Bible Stuff blog is carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com and my literary whining ranting blog is darkparables.blogspot.com

Thank you so much for interviewing me. I really appreciate this.