Thursday, 5 April 2012

Author Interview - Edward H. Carpenter

Author Edward H. Carpenter
stopped by the Shut Up & Read blog today for an interview!


Seven Lives to Repay Our Country
 will be "Free for Friday" April 6! 

The battle of Saipan pitted US Marines and Allied soldiers against the island's Japanese defenders in one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific War. In this short story written by a US Marine, a pair of Japanese soldiers on Saipan confront the inevitability of defeat in different ways.
Buy Now:  Amazon

And watch for Happily Every After coming up in
Read It & Reap on June 1!

Get ready to root for the bad girl in this short story that gives the dreaded "evil queen" from your favorite fairy tales her own voice. Good? Bad? Misunderstood? Love her or hate her, you won't be able to ignore her, or to put this short story down until you're finished.
Buy Now:  Amazon

Thank you Edward for taking time to answer our questions!  When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you?
I’ve written since I was very young, and in fact I had great plans to be a writer for outdoorsman’s magazines such as “Sports Afield” when I was just a lad. Those plans got derailed by a funny little thing called life, and for most of my twenties and early thirties, my writing consisted of a bit of poetry and a lot of letters, professional papers, etc.

My career as a writer really began in 2004 and 2005 while stationed in Saudi Arabia. I ended up with a lot of spare time on my hands, so I ghostwrote a book on poker, sketched out some short stories, wrote advice columns for an online paper and had a non-fiction piece on tanks in World War One published. Then there was another lull until 2011. I was in a fairly demanding job in Japan, and then graduate school, so while I was still writing, I didn’t feel I had the time to try to get anything published. I did a bit of blogging as well, but it wasn’t until Amazon’s KDP program made e-book publishing so easy that I decided to test the waters with “Seven Lives to Repay Our Country” and now, I’m definitely excited to be riding the swell of the greatest development in writing and publishing since the Gutenberg Press.

Do you have a favorite character? Which character did you have the most fun writing?
Oh, it’s a bit early to say. I very much enjoyed writing the wicked queen in “Happily Ever After” – she’s a complete realist, and an unapologetic person who knows what she wants and goes right about getting it. In a way, she embodies a bit of my persona in the workplace, where I, like many people I imagine, am frequently annoyed by having to deal with incompetence and red tape, and by the fact that most people don’t exactly work in a meritocracy, but are supposed to patiently wait for a particular period of time to elapse before being allowed to advance. This is rather true in schools as well, I think. How nice to be able to sweep such obstacles aside with a bit of poison or a sharpened blade! Shinji in “Seven Lives...” was also fun to write, although his story’s a little more serious. Some of his grievances (like being kicked out of flight school) came from my own experiences in the Marines. And, currently, I must say that right now I’m having a LOT of fun writing about Regency England (and places beyond) from the perspective of the perfidious Mister Wickham. Yes, THAT Mister Wickham.

How much and what kind of research was necessary during the writing process? 
It depends on the story. Usually I’ll start with an idea, the writing will just flow, and then I’ll go back and do some research as I go along to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge about a particular event, technology, disease, etc. This is not always the case, but I do write a lot of historical fiction, and you want things to be as true to life as possible in such writing, even when you are taking poetic license or indulging in a bit of absurdity. In other cases, such as “Happily Ever After,” where the story is pure fantasy, there may be little research required at all, just an ability to think about something from a unique perspective. Obviously, this goes for fiction; my non-fiction all requires a good bit of research and generally citations.

Where do you get your ideas for your writing? 
Often from reading or travel. “Seven Lives...” was a direct result of a bit of professional reading I was doing in Japan in 2007. The Commandant of the Marine Corps publishes a list of books that every Marine should read, and in one of these, I came across a description of the battle for Saipan, with a copy of General Saito’s final order. I found it quite moving, and, deconstructed, its sentences became the structure around which I found myself weaving the story of a pair of lowly soldiers facing the very real prospect that they would not be around the next day to see the sun rise.

Reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Everything” gave me a lot of material for future works, and inspired my most recent short story, “Lethargica,” which is currently in the running for the Glimmer Train’s “Short Story Award for New Writers.” Whether or not it’s selected, it will be released on Amazon later this year. And two of my current works-in-progress draw much of their material from a pair of recent trips – one to London for a friend’s wedding, and another to a tropical island off the coast of Borneo!

What was the hardest part of writing your books? 
Finishing one before starting another! Right now, I have 6 short stories in varying stages of completion, a slowly coalescing novel, a language learning textbook with a proposal awaiting an answer, a couple of non-fiction works, and 8 more short stories whose titles are fixed in my mind, but for which I have yet to actually put a word down on paper.

What do you see as the influences on your writing? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences? 
Hemingway, certainly. Jane Austen. Charles Bukowski. Neil Gaiman (a recent addition to the list.) 

Do you have any hidden talents? 
Ha, if I told you, they wouldn’t be hidden anymore! I can leap modest-sized obstructions in a single bound, and can sometimes make myself appear invisible to beautiful women (but, sadly, never to tax collectors, policemen, etc.) I’m actually the least talented of all my 11 other brothers and sisters (yes, we do come cheaper by the dozen!) My family has jugglers, contortionists, singers, musicians, and, ummm... me. 

What book are you reading now? 
Mmmm, well, right now, I’m doing research for “The Perfidious Mister Wickham,” which will probably be coming soon as a serialized novel on the internet. Therefore, I’m taking a deep dive into the sordid side of the Regency, with some very old books, and some very new books. The former includes Pierce Egan’s 1821 classic, “Real Life in London”, while the latter includes Jerry White’s “London in the Eighteenth Century” and Jane Rendell’s “The Pursuit of Pleasure.” I also just finished up “Blood, Bones, and Butter,” by Gabrielle Hamilton and am working my way through “A Universe from Nothing.” What I really need is some good fiction to distract me, but I haven’t found anything that’s really grabbed me lately.

Of your two published books, do you have a favorite? 
Oh, tricky question. It’s like saying, “You have two kids, which is your favorite?” I find it particularly difficult because they’re both so different. Can I plead the fifth? Or maybe turn the question around and ask your readers – if they’ve read both, which is THEIR favorite? 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing/creating your books?
Let’s see... I’ve learned about epidemics that I never knew existed, and that the death penalty in England used to be focused nearly entirely on crimes against property (such as theft) as opposed to crimes against people, (such as murder.) I learned that King George the Third went insane, and that one of the most influential Prime Ministers of England was so bankrupt that he would have been in debtor’s prison if not for his position in the government. I’ve learned that although General Cornwallis failed in crushing the American Revolution, he succeeded in stopping the Irish rebellion that came only a few years later. I’ve learned the hardest part of the author’s job these days isn’t writing stories, it’s promoting them so that they find an audience. 

Who designs the covers for your books? 
I do! My first cover for “Seven Lives...” was a complete disaster. I ended up downloading GimpShop, a free-ware clone of Photoshop, finding an old public domain picture from World War Two, and creating that cover myself. I learned a good bit, so making the cover for “Happily Ever After” was easier. It’s still a process that takes me a couple of days, but it’s just another kind of creativity, and I enjoy it. Someday, I may be rich and famous enough to farm this work out, but right now I’m having fun with it, and the profit margin on short stories (about 35 cents per sale) is small enough that I can’t really justify the expense of hiring someone else. Another aspect of design that I learned about was book trailers! While I don’t think they’re appropriate for all books, I really enjoyed making the trailer for “Seven Lives to Repay Our Country” ( ) and I’ll be starting the process again soon for “Lethargica.” I’d love to hear what you think of my movie-production skills!

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 
A dictionary, a thesaurus, a copy-editing manual (I need to use mine more!) and a few select friends who are good readers and not afraid to criticize. And legions of adoring fans, of course! One other thing I’m working on developing is a “Core Group” of devoted readers who really like my writing and want to get early, free copies of future stories in exchange for helping spread the word once the titles are released to the public. If you are interested, this posting on my blog explains how you can sign up.

If you'd like to know more about Edward H. Carpenter, follow these links!


  1. 11 brothers and sisters...? That is madness.

    The picture looks like he is drinking the wine in either a church or a prison. Both are rather unsettling.

  2. loved the hidden talents!

  3. @ Midu - glad you loved the talents!

    @ Michael - Not madness, just Sparta. And it was in a prison chapel.

  4. I love the diversity of these two books! It's impressive.

  5. @ Michelle - glad to hear you liked the diversity of my stories; the next few months will bring tales of anthropomorphic mice, charming Princes, scandalous rakes, war-weary snipers, barbarian queens, Yugoslav artillerymen, and death from above, among other things. Stay tuned!