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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Author Interview: Carter Tachikawa

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Carter Tachikawa, author of Lithium Whole, a book of poetry. This is Carter’s first book, but she told me she has a series that she is currently working on.

Carter told me she’s Indian-American, but added “Indian being from India, not Native American. I was born here, but my roots go back over there. Unfortunately, I’m not that certain of my genealogy as no one has been able to give me much information about it. I do know the majority of me is Indian, though there could be something else mixed from far back.”

When I asked Carter our standard “writers block” question, she told me she wouldn’t call it writer’s block in her case. “I have moments of laziness where I don’t want to write,” she confessed. “I have enough to write, but I don’t feel like writing. But being blocked, no.”

One way she avoids writers block is by trying to write every day, whether she feels like it or not. “Even if it’s just one line or paragraph,” she said, “it’s enough for me. It’s what keeps my creative juices flowing. From that one line or paragraph, the rest slowly comes together.”

I also asked Carter what the most important elements of good writing were, in her opinion. She stated, “Three things every writer must know: know your setting, know your characters, know your dialogue.”

She went on to say that it’s important to know the time period you’re writing about and to do research if you aren’t sure of something. “If you don’t have a place set,” she told me, “then you just have people floating around talking.”

She continued, “Second, you should know your characters. Who are they? What do they do? Is there something that the reader should know about them? Give them layers. Treat them like they are people you know. Make them your friends. You don't have to be in love with them but you have to know them. Good or bad, get to know them.”

She concluded by saying that, in her opinion, dialogue can either make or break a story and can make an action speak louder.

Her own writing has been influenced by diverse writers from Stephen King to JK Rowling and includes the several short story writers and poets, including Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, Toni Cade Bambara, Joyce Carol Oates, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sylvia Plath.

Carter told me that the hardest part of writing Lithium Whole was deciding what to put in it. “How did I want this book to be?” she asked herself. “Was it supposed to be more autobiographical or did I need to tell someone else's story? That was the part that gave me the most difficulty when writing it.”

I also asked her what advice she would give to a writer just starting out. “First and foremost, know if this is what you want to do,” she warned. “Be confident and comfortable with your writing. If you're not sure of it, do something and make yourself sure of it. Learn to love your story. Handle it with care. No matter what you feel about it, make sure you feel something for it. Words don't appear on a paper just like that; there's meaning behind those words. Find out what it is and share it with the world.”

On a personal note, I asked Carter to share with us her strangest habit. “I cannot eat vanilla ice cream without something in it,” she confessed. “I need my vanilla ice cream have some kind of topping on it.” Also, when she’s eating her meal, she eats all the side dishes first, leaving the main dish for last.

She also admits that, while she likes both Coke and Pepsi she prefers Pepsi products. “It has a sweeter taste to me,” she told me.

I asked her what she wanted to know about the future. “I want to know if I’ll be happy and satisfied,” she said. “I want to have fame, but if I can’t have that, then at least give me my happiness. I want the world to be stable.” Then she added, “And I also want to know if gas prices will ever go down!”

Her wish, though, is much more basic. “I would like one really good friend,” she told me. “I have friends and people who I love but I don't have that special person. This is the kind of person that I can share my secrets and life with. In a crowded room, I still feel lonely and wish I could get that person with me there. I want someone who isn't quick to speak or judge but listen and analyze. I know these people are out there. I have yet to find one.”

You can keep up with Carter on her website,

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