Aimee Carter: How I Broke My Jaw, Lost My Job, and Got a Book Deal at 22 *

Aimee Carter author of Goddess Interrupted

Photo by Onyonet Photo Studios

In Goddess Interrupted—the second installment of Aimée Carter’s awesome Goddess series—Kate (newly immortal, having gone through a pretty brutal test in Book One) and Henry (better known to some as Hades) are finally married. But alas, wedded bliss isn’t in the cards. Henry gets abducted by the King of the Titans just as Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld . . .  and the only person who can help Kate save her man is Persephone. Who just happens to be Henry’s ex-wife and Kate’s estranged sister. Complicated, no?

We caught up with Aimée recently and grilled her about her series and her craft. And check out the beginning of Goddess Interrupted, here on Figment!

Describe Goddess Interrupted in 5 words.

Darkness, romance, uncertainty, war, courage. (Also: “Persephone stirs up major trouble.”)

You tweak the original myths in a lot of ways. Was there something specific about them you were trying to rewrite—something you wanted to either highlight or downplay?

Initially I wanted to stick to the original myths, but as I began to plan the story, I realized how much more interesting it would be (for me and potentially the reader) if the myths weren’t the ones we already knew—if I could twist them a little. The myths were originally passed down orally, after all, and stories can change and become sensationalized the more they’re told. And considering the many, many inconsistencies in Greek mythology, I decided to use that to my advantage. A lot of the changes I made, especially for some of the more prominent characters, are designed to make them more sympathetic—Henry especially. But I stayed as true to the original mythology as I could while writing the story I wanted to tell.

What about the myth of Demeter and Persephone spoke to you, as a writer?

I love the bond Demeter and Persephone share, and the emotions Demeter goes through, having lost her daughter, are some of the deepest described in Greek mythology. It’s such a rich story with so many layers, and as a writer, I saw a lot of potential there for conflict, tension, and redemption for all characters involved.

In college, you focused on screenwriting. What did you learn about novel writing from that experience?

Enough that I now, without hesitation, recommend that every aspiring (and established) novelist take at least one screenwriting course. For me, screenwriting isn’t about a script—it’s about the story. Screenwriting demands a tightly structured narrative, all the way down to planning out what page numbers certain events have to happen on, and it forced me to up my game as a writer. It taught me about tension, character development, the value of a scene, of a page, of white space—it showed me how to create conflict in even the most minor of scenes. It showed me how to include only the descriptions and details that matter to the story. And because scripts only have a fraction of the word count novels do, it taught me how to say a lot with a little. I fully believe that I was published as young as I was because of those screenwriting classes.

You wrote more than 20 full-length manuscripts before you hit your stride with The Goddess Test. Did you know when you wrote it that this was going to be the one?

I didn’t. I still can’t believe it. I had The Goddess Test in my head for a very, very long time, and I really wasn’t even supposed to write it. It’s sort of a funny story: I was supposed to work as a production assistant on a movie set that summer, but I had my wisdom teeth taken out a few weeks before production was set to start. My dentist wound up breaking my jaw in two places, and because of that, I had to spend over a month recovering, losing my job on the set. So instead, I wound up writing The Goddess Test.

You’ve been shopping novels to agents since you were a teenager, and wrote The Goddess Test when you were 22. Was it hard to get taken seriously as such a young writer?

I think the single worst “compliment” I’ve ever received was “You write well for your age!” I didn’t want to write well for my age. I wanted to write well, period. When I was 16, 17, 18, I actually had a lot of interest from agents because I was so young (though I should note I also attended many writers’ conferences and met these agents face-to-face), but in the end, it was the material that sold for me, not how long I’d been around. I didn’t tell my agent how old I was (22 at that point) until several months after she’d signed me, and only then as an afterthought.

What’s your best piece of advice on how to survive the editing and revision process?

Remember that the whole purpose is to make your story better. Nothing’s perfect the first time around, and you should try to look at editing as a chance to fix your mistakes before others read your work. Getting critiques can be extremely painful and disheartening, but rather than letting it get to you, try to find the value in what your critique partner is saying. And remember, it isn’t personal. If it is, then you need to find yourself a new partner.

You got your start writing fanfiction, mostly for Harry Potter. How did the fanfic community help you develop as a writer?

When I started to write Harry Potter fan fiction, the fanfic community was just getting started as well. I didn’t know anyone, I had no idea Harry Potter was as popular as it was even back then, and mostly I just wanted to write down my theories about what would happen (and in some cases, what had happened) to my favorite characters. Readers commented with their reviews, and the majority of them were eager to point out things I’d done wrong. Boring sections, overuse of clichés or certain phrases, story elements they didn’t like or didn’t make sense, etc. I quickly adapted, and really, in that sense, the fanfic community taught me how to write.

What can we expect from the third book in the Goddess Test series, The Goddess Inheritance?

I can’t say too much without spoiling the second book, but I will say that you’ll be able to figure out what The Goddess Inheritance is about based on where the second book leaves off. Inheritance is brutal on the characters, both physically and emotionally, and it was a brutal writing process for me as well. By far one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written, but I’m very satisfied with how it turned out. Fingers crossed the readers will be as well!

You’ve also got a dystopian series on the way, about a 16-year-old orphan who gets surgically altered to replace the future American prime minister’s dead niece. Has writing that series been very different from writing the Goddess Test books?

Yes! The first book in that series, Masked, is due out in 2013. When I wrote it, we were on submission with The Goddess Test, and it was late enough in the process that I was absolutely certain Goddess Test wouldn’t sell and Masked would be my debut instead. I wrote it under intense pressure from myself to “get it right this time,” so for ages, I had a love/hate relationship with it. Now, however, I’m very proud of Masked and what it became because of the pressure I put on myself. It’s definitely different from the Goddess series—more action-packed, for one thing, with guns and tattoos and stakes that are higher than ever for my protagonist. But the characters are still running the show, and the ones that appear in the Masked series are some of my all-time favorites. I can’t wait for everyone to have the chance to read it!

* Not a recommended path to publication.

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