On Writing: An Interview with Carla Sarett

WIFU COVER 1 - Copy (509x800)Carla Sarett is the author of two short story e-book collections, Nine Romantic Stories and Crazy Lovebirds - Five Super Short Stories. She writes breezy, yet philosophical stories with female protagonists asking questions about the state of their life and love. Carla’s stories have been published in countless journals. She lives outside of Philadelphia. I first met Carla at the Philadelphia Writers Group, where a few of us realized we shared a love of literary fiction, and we eventually started a small monthly critique group that meets in homes and on Google Hangout. Jim: Your stories are whimsical ponderings on love and life. While they are about romance, they aren’t typical romance stories. What was your inspiration for these stories?

Carla: I think we write from who we are. You can’t escape yourself when you write, because it all oozes out anyway, even if you’re running in the opposite direction. I’m drawn to philosophical themes by temperament-- I think my dad was as well. It’s the way my brain works when I’m out and about “processing” reality. Story-wise, I get inspired by real stories that I hear, even fragments of dialogue (I am a compulsive eavesdropper) or something I see, like a couple arguing in a coffee shop. But tone wise, I think movies inspire me more -- especially older Hollywood films.

Jim: You’re a big fan of Deborah Eisenberg. What draws you to her stories?

2013-07-27 11.06.57Carla:All great short fiction writers create a world in a story-- you put it down and you remember it. The characters stay with you. They’re as real as your neighbors. So, for me, Eisenberg’s stories are like that. The people she imagines stick with me-- like Rosie in “Rosie Gets a Soul.” I can’t forget Rosie. I like the fact that Eisenberg allows her characters to talk about questions as big as the moon-- the way people in a bar do when it’s late and everyone’s feeling lonely. She never turns characters into cartoons or makes them quirky. To me, she’s what Salinger could have been, if he’d grown up.

Jim: Where do you do most of your writing? Do you write every day?

Carla: I’m disciplined about most things -- so I write every day although some days offer fewer hours for work than others. I reserve some days for editing, rather than writing. I do not like leaving too much unpolished. I clean it up as I go along. These days, I write in a home office that looks out onto my green yard -- big trees, deer, squirrels, very idyllic. I could never write in a public space like a Starbucks. The very idea horrifies me.

Jim: What inspired you to be a writer? Can you recall a moment, or perhaps it was a book or an author that you read where you said “this is what I want to do?”

Carla: I’m more surprised than anyone that I started writing short fiction. It wasn’t a goal or even a dream of mine. As a market researcher, I published lots of “think pieces” and those kinds of articles. But after my mother died, someone bought me a journal-- and that exercise morphed into fiction. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I thought that if I could finish 9 stories, (a magic number because of Salinger’s Nine Stories,) I’ll keep going. That is why I called my first story collection Nine Romantic Stories, even though by that time, I’d written three times that many.

Jim: You’re a big Hitchcock fan. What is your favorite film and why?

Carla: Vertigo is my favorite of Hitchock’s films. I often watch it for inspiration (speaking of inspiration.) One of my own stories, “Mandolinata,” is based on Vertigo, a kind of Vertigo in reverse. I’ve used references to Vertigo in other stories as well. I like the theme that we want to be fooled, we’re eager to be fooled-- anyone can do it. I first fell in love with the film because of its haunting musical score and romantic scenes of San Francisco, especially at the Mission-- those scenes with no dialogue are gorgeous. But I admire inventive storytelling -- and Vertigo’s split structure is terrific. I think an underrated feature of Vertigo is its use of humor. As the hero is behaving crazily, we’re treated to the tolerant saleswoman in the dress salon. What a perfect moment.

Jim: What are you working on now and when do you hope to have it published?

Carla: I’m working on a novel based on the woebegone heroine from “Career Girl” (in the romantic comedy anthology, Love Hurts) and “Skinny Girl” (published in Red Fez.) Working with a longer form piece is fun, but it’s challenging-- especially since I’m used to working with stories of 3000 words and under! I’d hope to have this novel published in 2014, or rather I’d be delighted if that happened. I’m also working on some memoir pieces about my grandparents -- the first of which is due to appear in the October edition of Blue Lyra Review.

Thanks for inviting to your blog, Jim!