Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR welcomes Charlotte Henley Babb

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Charlotte Henley Babb. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
By day I am a mild mannered web designer (except when troubleshooting IE) and grader of freshman papers in my online classes. But by night and weekends, I live in other worlds…Netflix is a primary portal, as I don't have cable or satellite or analog TV reception.

I'm working two jobs now  in order to be able to afford to retire in about five years, when I plan to write full time and travel to science fiction conventions.  My newest passion is steampunk. I love wearing my black leather corset, and my red striped bustle dress. I design fascinators and "thrall-ware" frippery for the donor who wants to remain discreet among the living.  That gives my non-verbal artist some air time, and lets me buy fabulous junk at yard sales and the Goodwill store to deconstruct and recycle.

I've been married twice, both divorced and widowed, which may explain why I don't write romance novels, and I've been single for over 15 years. My daughter is a freelance illustrator who is moving to the left coast to pursue her career away from the South.

TBR: Tell us about Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil and where it's available.
Charlotte: Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil is my debut novel, and it is available as an ebook on
·                     MuseItUp Publishing  
·                     Amazon   
·                     Barnes & Noble   
·                     Smashwords   

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Charlotte: Here's an excerpt that's not available anywhere else—Chapter 8, right after Maven is recruited. 

Here be Dragon
Outside Fiona's office was a vestibule with two chairs and a door leading to the village green, which was paved with jade and moss agates, surrounded by many plants. Cobbled lanes threaded between heavy-beamed buildings and incongruous brownstones. Something was missing, even in the anachronistic setting. A few cats lounged. A horse or two waited patiently, a dog slept in the path, and some people in peasant dress walked purposefully in the street.
What did she expect? Goblins, trolls, golems? It was still daylight. Then again, when she looked behind, the places they just passed seemed to have moved—some were closer, some farther away, and some not even present. The landscape itself possessed an innocent look, the kind the usual suspects take on when the cop walks the beat. Still, the Bump wasn't flashing. She wasn't Mundane anymore, but maybe more real than ever.
Their destination was a tavern with a painted wooden sign showing a red sunset fading to deep blue with a crescent moon at the top. The sign read “The Twilight Lounge” in glowing purple neon like letters. Magic?
Fiona stepped down two steps into a low doorway, which led into a dark pass-through. A cartoon on the wall portrayed a humanoid, a cloudy explosion and a sketchy reptile.
“In the Twilight Lounge, one wears a persona. Part of the ambience.” Fiona took her wand out of a pocket. “I prefer to do my own persona rather than risk Belle's sense of humor. Allow me to choose your favorite story.” She touched Maven's head gently with her wand and then her own.
Maven shrank, both in width and height. Her gossamer turned blue with checks, and she wore sparkly red shoes. Her hair grew and braided itself into brown pigtails. Fiona stretched up, dressed in black with a pointed hat and a green face.
“Oh my goodness!” Maven piped in a child's shrill voice.
“Goodness had nothing to do with it!” Fiona snapped. She tapped each of them again, this time the transformations wavered as if they were not vibrating at the right frequency.
“On second thought, let us be more traditional.” Fiona changed into a very large, brown bear with mob cap and apron, while Maven became a little girl with long, yellow ringlets, wearing a blue frock and white pinafore.
 “You'll find it amusing once you get used to it,” Fiona growled. “A certain contrast to one's own appearance is appropriate. It disappears at midnight, or you can change when you leave.”
Maven decided never again to risk Fiona's sense of humor. Fiona waddled in. Maven's shiny patent-leather Mary Janes clicked and her pinafore flounced over a scratchy crinoline. In the tavern various creatures lounged, drinking, eating, and chatting. An ogre sprawled across a rocky incline against one wall, while her date, a salamander, basked in cheery flames. Darkness hid much of the activity at the tables and booths, but to Maven it was Faery's equivalent of a bargain waffle house.
The bar, a sinister slab of marble as dark as swamp water, stretched along one wall. Cobwebs and Spanish moss draped the living trees which supported the slab. Several patrons sat or stood there—a Sphinx perched on a rock, lapping some golden liquid from a bowl; a unicorn on his hind legs held a glass in his cloven hoof, leaning on a foreleg as his leonine tail twitched toward a young woman on his left. She was dressed in rich fabric with a peaked hat and veil, and perched on a tiny stone tower, sipping from a long-stemmed lily. Maven wondered if either of them were virgins.
What do unicorns wish for? She knew what virgins wished for.
Behind the bar stood a dark, brawny woman. Her impossibly red hair was piled in a beehive above her massive neck. She had green eyes, green mascara, and green eye shadow out to her temples. She wore a bright-flowered red and green sarong, which only restrained her ample figure through some magic of its own—must be gossamer on steroids. Maven wondered who was behind that persona.
Fiona introduced her. “Belle, this is my new protégé, Maven.”
Maven felt herself curtsey, something she hadn't known she knew how to do. “How do you do, Miss Belle?” she chirped.
Belle stared speechless for a second, then guffawed. Her laugh chased every other sound from the place. Only as Belle began to gasp for breath did the sounds sneak back in with a few furtive looks.
“Do all right, Little Miss Maven. Just plain Belle will do.” She wiped her eyes. Fairy makeup stayed put—not a bit of it smeared onto Belle's hand. “Don't know your own strength, Fiona.” She calmed herself. From behind the bar she handed each of them a bowl of porridge. “How goes it, Goldilocks? Get your wand yet?”
“Yes, ma'am.” Maven took the wand out of her pocket, fighting the urge to curtsey again. She dropped her voice, but could not avoid the little-girl chirp. “Tulip did too. We've been learning to poof this afternoon.”
Belle's face lost its smile, and she arched her eyebrows at Fiona. “I'm sure Fiona knows what she is doing.” She didn't sound sure.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Charlotte: I have always liked fantasy, but as I have gotten older, I’ve realized that there are no stories of the passage from youth to middle age, no stories for the passage through middle age and beyond. All the old women are evil or bumbling. We need stories—that large demographic of us Boomer women who have leisure, money and independence. It is said that civilization only began when people started living long enough to have grandmothers. Who writes for them (US)?
I wanted to write about women "of a certain age," middle aged, even old women. Maven is around fifty, too old to be a mother even if she had a lover, and she feels like an abject failure. Fiona is over 800 years old, and she still has a few things to learn, just as do Belle, the Cook, Dolores, and Lady Dee.
 There are young women in the story, but the point that I most wanted to make is that the Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast stories are the ones that poison our minds. No matter how long you wait, he's not coming to take you away from all this, and no matter how much you love him, he isn't going to change. It's kind of an anti-romance novel, though everyone gets a wish, and at least one character is literally swept off her feet and carried away.
Of course, I did want to write something light-hearted and funny, because the medicine goes down better with a spoonful of sugar. You won't make it to "old wives tales" status if you don’t know how to laugh.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Charlotte: I’m learning to be a plotter…15 years and 40k words of non-usable bits shows me that plotting is more efficient. But I do sometimes just write and see where it goes. I can always change an outline.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Charlotte: Most of them are composites of people I know. Maven does not look nearly as much like me now as she did ten years ago. She has taken on aspects of several women I know who have a lot in common with her. Also, she likes beer, and I don't. I think it's important to give a major character something that is different from the author, or from the author's friends.
One character in particular, Silicon Jones, is based very heavily on a friend of mine, and he is good with that, as long as he gets his 10%. It's sort of a running joke between us, and Jones will eventually star in his own novel.
But other than those two, the rest of the characters mostly showed up and have developed as the story has gone along, in some ways much different from the way I saw them originally.

TBR: Any tips or tricks for world building you’d care to share?
Charlotte:  Two questions:
How is that world like this one? If it’s just like here, be here now.
How is that world different? What if one thing about our culture was different—say that women were considered to be better at math than men—how would that change how the world works?
For fantasy, you have to ask how the magic works. What does it cost? What can be done with magic, and what can’t?  
In my particular case, I wanted an obviously generic fairy tale setting as one of four dimensions where people exist: Mundane, Faery, Cyberspace and HD. The blended edges of these dimensions are defined by the Veil, which is coming apart.
In two other story universes, the view of magic is entirely different, and the political organization and the overall culture is upside down from the one I grew up in, primarily to see how that would work.

TBR: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
Charlotte: “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing” –Lazarus Long (aka Robert Heinlein).

TBR: Did any music inspire your book? Do you have a playlist?
Charlotte:  I like light instrumental jazz if I need background noise. It helps me get into trance and stay awake. But mostly, I like silence. Music with words is distracting, and I already have enough distractions.

TBR: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?
Charlotte: I’d least like to invite Grizelda the Troll, as I could not afford to feed her well, although I love her as a character. On the other hand, she could do a great job of clearing the shrubbery around the house.
Fiona and Maven are always around so I hear from them constantly.

TBR: While creating your books, what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
Charlotte: Don’t take writing advice from people who don't write. Don't listen when someone says you can't do it, you can't make money, whatever.
Many readers are like people in an art gallery—they know what they like, but they often don't know why they like it. Especially, don't take advice about where to start the story. I was counseled to start at the beginning, by a person who I thought knew more than she did, and I don't think getting the story written and published would have taken so long if I had written book three first, and then come back to this one as a prequel.
Live and learn.

TBR: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Charlotte: Time and space move around unpredictably, due to the collapse of the Veil.  In one place, a week might last as long as six weeks in another space, and only a few hours in a third space. Whether time travel is possible or practical, I have not decided, but the first book takes place during Maven's (subjective) first week on the job, while several other story lines last for six weeks or more concurrently.

TBR: What's next for you?
Charlotte: I’m working on a sequel in which Maven is turned into a cat, working title That Darn Maven, and a third book, After Midnight. I’m thinking about a steampunk standalone, possibly starring Anne d’Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice as a heroine.

TBR: Any other published works?
Charlotte: I have several short stories in online 'zines which are still around. I wrote two story cycles in shared world space opera called Port Nowhere, which is now out of print. I plan to revamp those and release them in a slightly renamed version, since there is already a Port Nowhere world in the Star Wars Universe.  I have also published several Maven short stories in one volume: Maven's Fractured Fairy Tales.

TBR: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Charlotte: The most rewarding part is reading it once it’s done and forgetting that you wrote it, being caught up in the story. 
The challenging part is turning the internet off—no Facebook break, no research, just write.

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Charlotte: One of my reviewers said that Robert Heinlein would like my writing, and that one of Terry Pratchett’s characters, a witch named Granny Weatherwax, would cackle at my stories. I felt like I’d won some kind of prize for both my favorite authors to be mentioned in the same paragraph with me. 

TBR: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Charlotte: I cut my teeth on Robert Heinlein and Louisa Alcott. I re-read Terry Prachett on a regular basis, as well as Sherry Tepper and Mercedes Lackey. Recently I’ve enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series,  Shelly Adima’s Lady of Devices,  and for something completely different, John Hartness’s Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories.  My phone’s kindle app gets a workout.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Charlotte:  I’ve got platform! ;-)

TBR: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Charlotte: Which fairy tale (or other story) do you love to hate? What kind of twist would you like to see in it? Is there a character you'd like to see played by someone completely unsuitable?

TBR: Readers, Charlotte will give away an ebook copy Of Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil (prc, mobi, epub or pdf)  to one lucky commenter. She'll pick a winner on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, and announce the winner here. Be sure to leave your email address so she can contact you.

Thanks for visiting TBR, Charlotte! All the best to you.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to TBR, Charlotte! Love your story premise. And your costumes!


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