Author Interview: Charlene Carr

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This month, some of our members are reading Hold My Girl by Charlene Carr. While they’re busy reading the book, the author took some time out to chat with us.

You can learn more about Charlene in this interview:

Tell us about Hold My Girl…

Hold My Girl is a dual-narrative novel about two women whose eggs were switched during IVF. While exploring issues of racial identity, betrayal, and loss, it follows the journeys of these two women.

Both on their paths toward motherhood, and through their tumultuous efforts to become the legal mother to the one surviving child from the switch.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

When my daughter was born after almost five years of trying to conceive, multiple surgeries, in vitro fertilization, and finally a successful frozen embryo transfer, I was fearful of the fact that, visibly, she was a different race from me. 

In those early months, when her hair was fine and straight, her eyes grey, her skin even paler than my white husband’s, I was genuinely concerned that there had been some mix-up at the lab and she wasn’t biologically mine.  

As the months went on and I repeatedly heard comments about how she was the spitting image of her father, and ‘jokey’ questions about whether she was really mine, the fear grew deeper. Especially because if she wasn’t, I feared some other woman may stake a claim on her. 

Thankfully, by the time she was a year old, her hair had curled, her eyes turned brown, and I started to see myself in her facial features –and so did other people. I stopped fearing she wasn’t mine.

This gave me the freedom to explore the questions – what if these changes hadn’t happened? What if she wasn’t really my child? And what would I owe to the woman whose biological child I was raising? 

You’ve had a life of adventure, why did you decide to settle in Nova Scotia?

When I was living in South Korea, I was ill for months and ended up spraining both of my ankles (a few days apart) which made mobility very hard. The life of my loved ones back home was difficult too, with potentially terminal diagnoses, a death, and the loss of a relationship I thought may be a lifelong one.

I had applied to grad schools far from home, but all I’d gone through, as well as seeing how family focused the Koreans I met were, made me reconsider spending an even longer time so distanced from the people I loved most.

So, I put in a last minute application to a graduate school just a few hours from my parents and was accepted with a full scholarship. That took me to Nova Scotia. I didn’t initially think it would be where I’d ‘settle,’ but within months of living here I realized it was the first place in years that felt like home.

A few years later I met my husband, who was a born and raised Nova Scotian, and as he wanted this to remain his home, I decided it would remain mine, too.

How do you juggle being a mother with writing?

When my daughter was younger, I squeezed writing in during nap times (which were short and inconsistent!), after she was in bed at night (which brought its own challenges, as I was usually wiped after being a stay-at-home mum all day), and on weekends and holidays, when my husband could take on more of the parental role.

It’s easier now that she’s in school six hours a day (which is more like four after pick up/drop off and making sure I take time to eat), but it still means taking a number of evenings, weekends, and holidays to write.

I have to treat it as a job, which it is for me now, and not a hobby, which is difficult without set hours and an office door that closes, but it is doable.

Charlene Carr Author

Who were your favourite authors growing up?

I was very into the classics growing up – probably starting with Laura Ingles Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, anything L.M. Montgomery and C.S. Lewis, and I loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

As I moved into my tween and teen years, it was books by Austen, the Bronte’s, and Tolkien. Oddly enough, I read very little contemporary or commercial fiction until I became a published author myself, which wasn’t until I was in my late 20s.

What is the most challenging part of the writing process?

This is a hard one, because I think the answer is a bit different with every book. Overall, I’d say it’s that first attempt at revising my first draft. The point where, after the first read-through, I can tell certain things aren’t working, but I’m trying to figure out how to fix them. In my most recent book (which should be coming out sometime in 2024), it was that the pacing and energy didn’t feel right.

There wasn’t enough of a build up to tension, and as a result, I felt as if a lot of the scenes were falling flat. Eventually I realized that it was because a pivotal scene I had fairly early on needed to be moved elsewhere, and it took quite a while to figure out exactly where it needed to be. Once I figured it out, however, things started working SO much better and I was able to see other flaws and how to fix them. 

If Hold My Girl was made into a movie, who would play the lead roles?

This one is so tricky! The option rights have been sold and there is currently a team of AMAZING people who are working on the first steps to see Hold My Girl turned into a limited series.

I do, of course, have my dream actors, but if the show gets made I’ll be an executive producer and may be in communication with or even working with the actors who are cast, so I’m not going to put out into the world that I may have hoped the role would belong to anyone else. 

What are you reading right now?

Instead, I’m going to tell you about what I’m going to read next, which is Crying Wolf by Eden Boudreau. It’s a memoir about date rape, and I’m sure so much more. I’m the type of person who, once I know I want to read a book, tries to learn as little about it as possible, so you’ll have to look it up if you want the full description.

I do, however, know some about Eden, who hosts a podcast called Dear Lonely Writer, which is an INCREDIBLE show that I recommend writers listen to.

Eden is an absolute delight, so wise and perceptive and eloquent, so I’m sure Crying Wolf will be a read that imparts important lessons about life and the journey to one’s most authentic self.

What would we find in your writing space?

A tea warmer. My headphones. Sticky notes about whatever little thoughts I’ve had and want to remember to work into the text, and a window. I always like to be near a window when I write!

What’s next for Charlene Carr?

I’m currently working on (hopefully!) final revisions for my next book, which is both a multi-generational family saga and the story of a young woman who is struggling to figure out her place in the world, especially as it relates to her racial and cultural identity. I’m also really focused on trying to find more ease and joy in my life.

I was doing really well at cultivating that for a while, but it slips, so I think will be a lifelong journey of figuring out how to balance loving my work SO much, but also wanting to make sure I take time for rest, for realizing all the little stresses that pop up about ‘work things’ are just that – ‘little,’ in the span of a life, and what really matters is moments of contentment and love and fulfilment that I experience for myself and also with the people who matter most to me.

Thank you for your time Charlene! Keep an eye out for our Hold My Girl reviews.

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