Name: Skeeter Enright (pen name)
Where are you from: Toledo, Ohio in the Midwest United States
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
My home is a small farm that I share with weird birds, the world’s cutest donkey, and a confused pig. The pig was raised with several dogs, so I told her she is a Vietnamese Chow Hound and she’s taken it to heart. She is a great guardian. People are especially cautious when a pig runs up to bark at their car. My old Dad lives nearby, and we take turns looking after each other and the creatures that share our lives.
I’m currently a secondary school science teacher, so I’m putting my Master’s Degree in Education to the test. In the past I’ve been a groundskeeper on a golf course, a shepherd, and did both metallurgical, and neuropsychopharmacological research. I know this is quite a stretch in fields, but as Heinlein said, “specialization is for insects”. There is always something new to learn or do. My research background has been an asset in developing the various cultures of the characters in my stories. I’ve always been interested in science and the natural world. This has helped me suspend reader’s disbelief, when writing urban fantasy or science fiction.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
This summer I’m off to Belize to research the history and culture of the area, as well as scuba dive. I have an idea for a story related to the creation of and purpose for the Mayan temples of the area (nothing to do with aliens).
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’d written a bit as a child…nothing substantial. It wasn’t until I was living on the island of Guam in the Western Pacific that I started writing seriously. My little sailboat “Laura Mae” would try to catch the sunset and I would write small fictions that included people I’d met in my travels. They say people who travel to those far flung islands are either, missionaries, mercenaries, or misfits. I’m not sure which category I fell into, but I met so many people rich with experience that I was compelled to make characters of them. I put those stories into a collection called “Travelers in the Wilderness of the World” that I will eventually publish…once I’ve finished my travels.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I returned to the mainland United States from Guam, I started selling travel essays to local weekly newspapers and magazines. Selling articles didn’t make me feel like a real writer. I was just telling stories, as though I were talking to people.
When I saw a call by a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology, looking for a true story about a supernatural experience, I had a writing epiphany. I seldom mentioned a random encounter I’d had with a medium. She gave me an unsolicited message from my aunt who’d died tragically. Figuring out how to make that experience into a tale that didn’t make me sound like a nutter, was the challenge that made me finally feel like a “real” writer. Especially when it was published under my given name as Answering the Question in “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Miraculous Messages From Heaven”.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As a child every year we have a horse competition for our local version of a pony club. We would spend a week at the County Fairgrounds for the competition. There was always a carnival in conjunction with the Fair. The people who traveled with the carnival fascinated me. As an adult I went to the Fair and started talking with the Carneys and gained some insight into their lifestyle. My first novel “Carnival Charlatan” arose from the question, in a world where everything is assumed to be fake, what if someone really could do magic? Not just a story about a psychic witch, “Carnival Charlatan” is unique in its setting. It gives the reader insight into the fierce loyalties and exotic habits of the men and women who live the secretive and dying Carney lifestyle.
In the story, twenty-six year old Ariel Land can throw a spell as well as any witch, yet she hides her abilities under the guise of a carnival Tarot reader. When the disappearance of a friend forces her into the same type of supernatural situation that killed her mother, Ariel has to decide between loyalty to her Carney friends and her sense of self-preservation. If that weren’t enough, a serial killer determined to rid the world of witches is stalking her.
Excerpts from the story can be found on my website: http://skeeterenright.weebly.com or purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Carnival-Charlatan-Skeeter-Enright/dp/1629291668
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing style is rather eclectic. It depends on the story. About the only thing I do consistently is to inject humor into mundane situations. I like writing with a first person protagonist, but I’m not bound by that as a convention. I feel first person makes the reader more present in the story and the culture of the characters. My first two novels are very character driven, so that style works. The third novel is a military space opera that is more plot driven, so it is written in third person as are many of my short stories.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I started with the working title “Diary of a Fake Charlatan”, but people found the idea of a fake charlatan confusing. Since the carnival culture was so prominent in the story my book club friends recommended putting the carnival in the title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The central theme is: family can be found anywhere… and one should always take care of your family.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The carnival culture and idioms are as exact as I could make them. Carneys have a language “Z-Latin” they use when they need to be private. I was told I captured that unwritten language fairly well. Myths, legends, and many creatures used in the story have Celtic and Native American origins. Being a fantasy obviously a lot of the story is imaginary, but I tried to base the magical concepts loosely on the laws of physics. There is a rational for all things that happen.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The situation on the fairgrounds and some of the comments characters make are things that came from my life. There is a crow in the story that acts like a pet I had as a child. Other than that the story came from random research and the junkyard of my mind.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
It is hard to choose a single book as an influence on my life. It seems as my life changes, a book comes along that makes sense for that time. So many stand out, it is hard to pick a single one. “The Mists of Avalon” introduced me to female protagonists as central to the story. The Harry Dresden novels by Jim Butcher brought urban fantasy into my repertoire. Joyce and Mitchner gave me the impetus to explore other cultures. “On Writing” by Steven King helped immeasurably with my writing craft.
Fiona: What book are you reading now? I’m reading through the novels of Lois McMaster Bujold, primarily the Vorkosigan series. She is a master of the Space Opera genre.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Although I wouldn’t exactly call him a new author, Mike Carey, who is better known for writing comics, has written several novels. Most recently “The Girl With all the Gifts, which has an interesting take on the perception of intelligence. Jim Hines has a great fantasy series that begins with “Libromancer”. The underlying premise is that real magic came into being when books became mass produced.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Currently I’m trying to find an agent for my contemporary mystery “Off the Reservation” that examines the social mores of the Southwestern United States in regards to the Native American peoples.
I’m also working on a military space opera “Legion of Strangers” that takes the French Foreign Legion, as the last military force on earth, into space in order to put down a rebellion on a colony planet.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have a friend that I met through my book club, Erica Kahler, who has supported me in my novel writing endeavors. She is a talented writer, and has been wonderful with both critique and encouragement.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Right now, writing is more of an avocation. I’m hoping to expand my writing into a retirement career. I’m not prolific enough of a writer to leave my current career to make a living as a freelance writer. Short story markets don’t pay particularly well and it isn’t easy to get that breakout novel that will bring in a decent living. I hope to write enough novels that I will have a steady small income from the proceeds, just enough to keep me and the pig in beer and skittles. Of course, if the break out novel happens, I would start writing full time. I have about five books outlined to write. All I need is time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
“Carnival Charlatan” went through so many revisions that I’m fairly content with the finished product.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I come from a long line of story tellers. It seemed a natural progression to start writing things down.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is an excerpt from “Off the Reservation” The story is about Half Navajo Michael Yazzie, who has to leave the Reservation and go to Phoenix. He needs to help his cousin who is being framed for murder. Dealing with the big city is hard enough, but it becomes even more complicated when Michael meets his cousin’s lawyer…the white father who abandoned him as a child.
Jon was waiting behind the glass, like an exhibit in the zoo. His eyes reminded me of a little speckled heifer calf I’d found once. Trapped in barbed wire, she was pitifully glad to see me. She never struggled as I cut the wire away. What worried me is the calf never got up once it was free. She just laid there and died.
My cousin looked terrible. There was a bloody bandage on the side of his head and his right hand. Grime rimmed his fingernails. I wanted to touch his shaking hands. To reassure him things would be all right. The glass between us was hard to bear.
“Why didn’t you call someone?” I asked.
“I didn’t want Mother to know.” He glanced at me briefly, moving his head up then down.
“This is serious. They think you murdered a guy”.
“Wah… I was drunk, but I didn’t murder anybody.”
“Why do they think you did? They didn’t just lock you up for nothing.” I slapped my hands on the counter. We only had fifteen minutes.
He wrinkled his brow and bit his lip for almost a minute. “I had a knife in my hand,” Jon said without looking at me. It sounded like he was going to leave it at that.
“Was there a fight?” I prompted.
“No, I was drunk behind some stores. There were two White guys, and then the cops were there, and I had the knife,” he said all in a rush. “I got no clue, Mike. I was really drunk, sleeping it off. I can’t remember.” His eyes closed tight. Sweat dripped from his face. “I’m scared.” He put his hands on his forehead. The gunk under his nails was blood, his hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles because of the bandage.
“Are you sure you didn’t fight? You have blood on your hands.”
“No cousin, I swear. I just have a knot on my head.” Noticing my alarmed look, he added, “I’ll be OK.” His eyes were open so wide I could see white all the way around the dark brown iris.
I was scared too, but I didn’t want him to panic. “We’ll work this out. Don’t you worry, I’ll get you a lawyer and…”
“I got a lawyer already. A guy gave me his card. I called him from the hospital. He’s supposed to be real good. He defends a lot of Indians down here in Phoenix.” Although Jon’s shoulders were still hunched, his eyes didn’t look as wild.
Despite Jon’s assertion, there were too many Indians in jail around here for me to think a Phoenix lawyer was going to be of any use. “Is he White?” I asked.
“He’s got a White name.”
“You haven’t seen him yet?”
“He’s coming this morning. He said he’d be here for the rain or something.”
“I think that’s the arraignment. It’s when you first see the Judge. How are we going to pay the lawyer?”
“He said he’d get the court to pay for me. Something about right to council, whatever that means,” he countered.
The guard was coming to get Jon. He was huge, the kind of guy you call when cattle get loose on the freeway. He had an irritated set to his shoulders.
“You better get going. Tell the lawyer to talk to me after you see him. I’ll wait out front, on the bench by the statue of the blind lady in the lobby.” I got up, hoping Jon would move quickly enough not to irritate the big guard.
Jon started back to the jail with a bit more spring in his step, but the look he gave me, just before he passed through the door, reminded me of that speckled calf.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The marketing of what I write. The stories come to me with almost no effort. I just write them down. Selling them is where the work comes in. I spend hours upon hours researching markets, contacting agents and publishers, and promoting the book I already have out. It has to be done, but I’d rather be spending the time with my characters.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Right now my favorite author is Robert B. Parker the mystery writer. He can develop a character using just dialog and nuance. His Jesse Stone novels have compelling characters most of whom are never described. I went back and looked through several of Parker’s novels and he never describes a setting until the second or third chapter. Yet, as a reader, you barely notice.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel to three to four book fairs and conventions a year to promote my book and as many writing seminars to pitch books to agents in person. My travels for pleasure always turn into opportunities for research.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher chose a talented artist Ash Arceneaux as the cover artist for “Carnival Charlatan” She took my suggestions and came up with an amazing image for the cover. It really caught the tone of the book.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time to write is always a problem. My pesky day job keeps me fed, but definitely cuts into my writing time. Correcting grammar is also a bother, especially when writing dialog. People don’t speak with correct grammar, so in order to find the right tone I have to get creative with punctuation.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I always gain things from my research. With “Carnival Charlatan” I learned not to pre-judge other cultures. The most important thing I found about the carnival people is that although they seem crude and coarse to outsiders, they have an unbending code of honor among their own.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Stick to it and don’t be discouraged by rejection letters. They don’t necessarily mean what you wrote was bad. It just didn’t fit what the editor or publisher wanted that day. If you are persistent your work will eventually find a home.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’ve found a theme in many of my stories. What I hope people will take away from my characters travails is the knowledge that if you keep your wits about you, even the worst situation can be survived …with a little help from your friends.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a children’s reader called “The Wild Pony”
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Watching the creatures on my farm constantly makes me laugh. The rabbit who fell in love with the rooster. The donkey, who looks like a reverse Panda bear doing his Eyore impression. Iggy Pay, the pig jostling the cats for a place in front of the fire. Emus dancing on a windy day. Life in its simplest form. How can you not laugh? On the other hand, the terrible things people do to each other make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
This is another question with too many possibilities. If I had to narrow it down, I think I’d like to meet the American President Abraham Lincoln to ask if his motivation for freeing the American slaves was altruistic or simply political expediency.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
My headstone would fracture a quote by Raymond. “Life is a horizon, but a horizon is only the limit of our sight. She is out seeking new horizons”. It describes how I lived my life, and hope to spend my afterlife.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Besides writing, I ride horses, sculpt, hike, and travel as often as possible.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy TV series based on books like “Game of Thrones”, although they are seldom as good as the novels they are based on. I’m a big modern Doctor Who fan. I actually have a Tardis telephone cover.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I could eat Indian food every day of the week. As for colors, blues, deep greens, and soft browns are my favorites. Folk music and the blues are my preference, but I enjoy just about every type of music depending on my mood.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
If not writing, I would spend my time building efficiently beautiful houses.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? My website is: http://skeeterenright.weebly.com Skeeter Enright can also be liked on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Skeeter-Enright/1438653563033695?fref=ts