Updated: Feb 25, 2019
| by Winter Lawrence |
I’m relatively new to Facebook. I mean, obviously I’ve used it for my personal life in the past, but I’ve never really kept up with it — at least not as adamantly as I have with my author page. I can tell you that one of the reasons Facebook has never appealed to me is because strangers can easily contact me, which, frankly, makes me a bit uncomfortable — especially when certain people have salacious intent. I’m not one to knock anyone’s preferences, but I don’t personally care for the often persistent, intrusive, and offensive material that comes my way the moment I log into my account. It’s enough to make me want to slam my laptop shut forever and just stick to good-old-fashioned books for the rest of my life!
Unfortunately, when you’re an author, being in the public eye and having a public persona is a requirement for success. The good news is this: when life gives me lemons, by golly, I make the best lemonade! And so while it’s taken me a moment to adjust to “getting to know” complete strangers online, I’ve also come to the realization that there’s a positive side to it too. There’s a world of great people out there — people who I probably would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise — yet there they are, and it’s wonderful getting to know them!
Take Carla Vergot, for instance. I was on Facebook one day when I received a message, asking me to “like” an author’s page and website. Naturally, as an author who always supports other authors, I bravely followed the link (as this can sometimes end with not-such-great results!), and I discovered that Carla truly is an author, and I totally fell in love with the description of her upcoming debut novel Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough. Because, I mean, who doesn’t love a book about a character obsessed with Stephanie Plum!
After I was done checking out her website, which is very cool by the way, I decided to message her back to let her know that I had “liked” her page and that I was excited for her new book. It’s been history since then, folks, and we’ve been chatting ever since, like fast friends!
So one day, while we were messaging about one of her upcoming book promotions, I had an epiphany! Carla should participate in my Author Spotlight! I know, it seems so obvious, but I was really excited when the thought occurred to me, and I was even more excited when she agreed! She even graced me with an autographed ARC copy that I’ll adore until the end of time, not only because I always cherish books (especially the autographed type), but also because it’s a good book — like really good! I dog-eared a ton of pages and thought up a bunch of questions along the way! Here are a few of my favorites…
(Q) Let’s begin with your protagonist, Lily Barlow. She’s a witty college student who’s suddenly tasked with the unfortunate job of finding a new manager for her family’s bakery because her father falls ill. From the start, we learn that Lily is a little obsessed with the fictional character Stephanie Plum and that she definitely isn’t happy about being home. Granted, she isn’t there for a good reason, but the reader can tell early on that she isn’t a fan of her small town and that the idea of taking over the family business is appalling. Of course, as the book continues along, we begin to get the answers to many of these questions, but it would be awesome to have your insight on Lily’s character. What inspired you to write her, and how did you go about selecting some of her quirkier characteristics?
(A) Lily has been in my head for a very long time, and as I’ve gotten older, she’s gotten quirkier. If I had put her on paper twenty years ago, she would be a very different person. As it is, I’ve come to appreciate people’s idiosyncrasies, and Lily is my nod to the quality of human quirkiness. Her goofiness makes me laugh, and I hope it makes the book fun to read.
As for selecting her quirkier characteristics — her ridiculous sayings emerged all on their own. In the beginning I struggled with dialogue. It was really the hardest thing for me to write. Eventually, I stopped trying to write it altogether and just started listening. How do people talk? How do they phrase things? What makes it sound authentic? How would a female convey this thought? What about a male? Someone old? Someone young? After I spent time listening to people talk, really learning how they express themselves, it became easier to write dialogue. As Lily evolved on the page, I just let her start talking, and her goofy phrases just took off. I now keep a list to make sure they don’t repeat.
(Q) Your book, to me at least, has a character-driven plot, so naturally, I can’t only ask about Lily, because you have some really interesting folks who share the spotlight with her. My favorites, of course, are Miss Delphine, the sweet yet nosy and slightly unnerving old lady who offers Lily a temporary home, and McNugget — the deranged chicken who stalks Lily’s every move. How on earth did you come up with these characters? And why a chicken phobia? Did someone you know happen to inspire that particular quirk?
(A) Character development and well-crafted details are my favorite parts of any story, and that’s probably why I spend so much time on my own characters. Like Lily, Miss Delphine has been with me for a long time. She’s a combination of a favorite aunt, a neighborhood busybody, a good Samaritan, and a crackpot. I named her after a woman who came to a yard sale I had when I lived in Florida. The woman’s friend kept yelling for her, “Delphine, come see!” “Delphine, look here!” The name resonated with me, and I knew I would resurrect it at some point.
And the chicken phobia did come from someone I know! A few years back, we inherited chickens from a friend who was looking to re-home his flock. I named them and promptly fell in love with them. They’re sweet, curious, and intelligent animals, but not everyone has this background knowledge when meeting a chicken for the first time. It was always an interesting experiment to see what a visitor would do when she or he came face to face with a member of our flock. One afternoon a friend of mine came over. She opened the trunk of her car in the driveway, and a chicken flew up and perched there, flapping. The friend screamed, I laughed, and Lily’s chicken phobia was hatched. (Pun intended.)
(Q) I hate to drop spoilers during interviews, but a big part of the mystery — at least regarding the title, that is — is the play on words between “Dough” and “Doe.” The former refers to some of the intrinsic struggles that Lily is facing, while the latter references “The Doe Network,” a website that features records of all the bodies the cops haven’t been able to identify, dating back to the early 1900s. Tell us about your research on this. Is there really a “Doe Network,” and what prompted you to write about it?
(A) There really is a Doe Network, and I really am addicted to it. (So, get ready, Winter, here comes my dark side…) I love true crime stories, and the ID Network is one of my favorite sources. The Doe Network was featured on one of the episodes I watched, and when I went online to check it out, I got sucked in. I encourage people to visit the website (doenetwork.org), because I think the more people who know about it, the more of these mysteries can get solved.
(Q) Let’s talk vernacular, because boy-oh-boy did you nail that perfect blend of Southern charm mixed with just the right amount of a witty twenty-something-esque Stephanie Plum fan to perfection! Tell us a little about the setting of your book and how you drew on personal experience to help with your writing process.
(A) I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and while not a small town by any stretch, it comes with a good dose of charm. Then I went to school in Raleigh, also not a small town, but plenty of southern sweetness there as well. That, no doubt, painted the backdrop for the book. In addition, I’ve had a love affair with small southern towns all my life. I think it’s fair to say the setting reflects a collection of mental snapshots I’ve saved up through the course of my life. Whenever I described a scene in the book, I probably had seen that building or that street corner or that country lane or that courthouse somewhere in my travels.
(Q) Last, but definitely not least, can you share some important dates with us? When and where does Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Doe hit the stands? Also, do you have any promotion dates, giveaways, and events scheduled that you’d like to share?
(A) The book will be available through Amazon and in Barnes & Noble on December 4th. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. Also on December 4th, my college roommate is hosting a launch party at The Garden Hut in Fuquay-Varina, NC. After that, I have two book signings scheduled for local independent book stores (Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, VA, on December 8th, and Four Seasons Bookstore in Shepardstown, WV, on December 9th). I’m working on scheduling some signings at Barnes & Noble in northern VA, but those dates are not yet confirmed. Oh, and for those who are swept up in the coloring craze — people can print a copy of the blank sugar skull on my website. Anyone who colors it, posts it on their Facebook page, and tags me by October 31 will be entered to win a signed copy of the book.
Thank you, Winter, for giving me a chance to run my mouth about Lily Barlow. I enjoy thought-provoking questions like yours. This was a fun interview!
Carla, thanks for agreeing to participate in my Author Spotlight; it was an absolute joy to read your book and then to share your thoughts and insights with others! I’ll be sure to download and color a copy of your book cover soon, and I’m sure everyone will have fun with it and will love the opportunity to snag an autographed copy! Best of luck on all of your future endeavors and know that we’re all looking forward to reading more of Lily’s adventures soon!
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Carla graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Language Arts, Writing, and Editing. In other words, she was an English major! Then she got her Master's degree in education from George Mason University. Before writing The Lily Barlow Series, Carla worked in fund development, raising money for nonprofit organizations, and taught special education in the public-school system for fourteen years.
Readers, trust me when I tell you that Carla tells her backstory much better than I, and with a much funnier twist, so go and visit her website to catch up on the rest of her biography and all of the information you’ll need to snag a copy of The Lily Barlow Series at https://carlavergot.com.