Cora Carmack, author of Roar, has done a multitude of things in her life–boring jobs (retail), fun jobs (theatre), stressful jobs (teaching), and dream jobs (writing). Tor Teen sat down with Cora to talk about her inspiration, her research, and her writing idols.
Will you tell us a little about Roar and what inspired you to write it?
Absolutely! YA speculative fiction was my first love. I used to run a popular YA book blog, and writing YA fantasy was my biggest dream. So while I’ve been writing full time and publishing for the last few years, I’ve been longing for the day I could dip my toes back into the YA Realm. And Tor Teen gave me that chance.
I first had the idea for Roar while doing a radio interview for one of my romance books. The interviewer asked if there was something I really wanted to write that I hadn’t yet. So I mentioned my desire to write YA Fantasy. Then I also said I’d always wanted to write a book about storm chasers, but hadn’t yet because I didn’t have time for all the research it would require. I remember thinking… I suppose I could write a fantasy book about MAGIC storms, and then I could just invent all the research. The interview continued, but all the while my mind was whirling, filling in the gaps of a world that suffered from violent, magical storms. As soon as the call ended, I sat down and typed up everything that came to mind–a black market that sold storm magic, a princess with a dire secret, and a band of storm hunters who battle tempests to steal their magic. I was OBSESSED.
Technically, Tor Teen had already offered on a proposal for a different fantasy book, but I went to my editor and pitched her this new idea for a world plagued by sentient storms, and thankfully she was totally on board. And the rest is history.
What’s the most bizarre thing you learned while researching Roar?
Great question. Remember when I thought writing a book about magic storms wouldn’t require much research? Wrong. It required even more research because I had to write, think, and plot a book about storms wherein radar and computers don’t exist. So I dug back into early records and writings on weather to see how they thought about storms, what they had observed, how they attempted to predict the weather, etc. In the midst of that, I found all these crazy superstitions and signs that people thought could help them predict the weather. Here’s a few of my favorites from The Book of Signs by Theophrastus (A greek philosopher who was a student of Aristotle):
- It is a sign of rain or storm when birds which are not aquatic take a bath.
- A dog rolling on the ground is a sign of violent wind.
- It is a sign of storm or rain when the ox licks his fore-hoof; if he puts his head up towards the sky and snuffs the air, it is a sign of rain.
Do you identify with any of the characters in Roar?
I’m a very character driven writer. I think it stems from my days doing theatre. I like to really inhabit my characters and understand what makes them tick, and let them lead the story. In order to connect that deeply with each character, I have to identify with them. So many of my characters have a small kernel of me in them—some fear or hope or secret or insecurity that makes them feel real to me. Aurora has so much of my teenage self in her. She’s restless and feels stifled by her surroundings and longs to make her mark on the world. Growing up in a minuscule town in the middle of nowhere in Texas, I felt that same longing intensely as a teenager. Another character that really sticks out is Novaya. She (like me) suffers from anxiety. But unlike me, she has volatile magic that must be contained and kept secret at all costs. So glad I don’t have to juggle anxiety and deadly magic.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing is hard. There are days when I identify a bit too much with the myth of Sisyphus. Like I’ll never reach the end of what I’m working on. But my favorite parts of writing are what come before and after the endless boulder-pushing that is drafting and editing. First… I love the moment of genesis—the spark of an idea and the mad dash to flesh it out. But my favorite moment of all is when my book finds its perfect reader. We all have our favorite books, the ones we wish never had to end, and we gladly reread again and again. It’s such a joy to find those books as a reader. But it’s nothing short of remarkable when your book becomes that for someone else.
Where do you like to write?
I get restless easily, so I have to move around a lot when I’m writing. I’ll start out at my desk and write for a bit there, and then move to the couch, then maybe move downstairs to the other couch for awhile. I recently got a treadmill desk, so I’ll work while I’m walking on that. When the weather is nice I’ll write on my porch. And this might be a little TMI, but I actually write in the bathtub a lot! My dad made me this awesome desk-thing that goes across the tub so I don’t have to balance my laptop precariously on the edge anymore. And it makes for a great place to focus and relax.
Which books are currently in your to-read pile?
I just recently finished Frostblood by Elly Blake, so I’m eager for the release of the sequel Fireblood. I do most of my reading via audiobooks because of some vision issues, so next up in my queue is The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.
If you could only recommend one book, what would it be?
This is brutal. My current go to recommendation is The Tairen Soul series by CL Wilson. It’s a complete, 5-book fantasy romance series. And guys, this series is everything. I laughed and cried and stayed up late in the night unable to stop reading. It currently sits on the top shelf of my bookshelf which previously had been reserved only for Harry Potter. That’s how much I love these books. They made my HP shelf!
Who are your literary heroes?
I mean… Not to be cliche, but J.K. Rowling is pretty much queen of my life. But I figure she’s like half the world’s literary hero. I also adore and admire Libba Bray. I first fell in love with her words as teenager with A Great and Terrible Beauty. I stalked her on livejournal for a while, and realized we had a lot of things in common. She grew up in Texas, got her start in theatre, and moved to NYC on a hope and a prayer. I actually sent her a long angsty email as a teenager asking for advice about life and college and writing, and she wrote me back the most heartfelt and compassionate response. She made my dreams feel like a tangible, possible goal, and I’m not sure if I’d be where I am today without that reply she sent.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Oh man. I am the queen of procrastinating. The Internet is usually my biggest distraction – so many times I’ll be like “I’m just going to look at Twitter for a minute” and then suddenly I’m rage-scrolling for an hour. Also Snapchat, and those voice-changing filters…my friends and I will often use Snapchat instead of texting, telling each other random stuff while having a cat face. It’s the best (and the worst). And like so many other human beings, I have a Netflix problem.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I mean, we just talked about procrastination…does that count as a ritual? LOL. I usually write on my computer, but whenever I’m stuck on something I’ll write by hand in a notebook or journal. It makes me slow down, and sort of gives me the permission to suck because I know I can always fix it while I’m typing it up later. That method always seems to open things up for me. I’d say I’ve probably handwritten a substantial section of all of my books at one point or another.
What’s next for you?
Well, in the immediate future, I’m headed to RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta and then Jay Crownover and I are taking a month-long trip to France, Germany, and Norway. So get ready for a ton of ridiculous Instagram posts! 😉 Then I get back in to the states about two weeks before the release of Roar, during which I will likely subsist on caffeine and food delivery for days. As far as books go, All Closed Off (the fourth book in my Rusk University series) is set to release on July 18. And I’m hard at work on the sequel to Roar, which I’m so excited for. We’ll get to delve deeper into several characters, plus there’s a rebellion, and more romance (for both Aurora and other characters). The storms also kick it up a notch in this book, so all in all, I’m pretty pumped to work more on that.
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(This post is a rerun of one that originally appeared on the Tor/Forge Blog.)