I’m impressed with author, Martha Carr. I’m impressed with the quality of her writing and her reasons for creating the Wallis Jones series of books which includes, THE LIST and the newly released follow-up book, THE KEEPER.
Besides being a political thriller author, she writes a nationally syndicated column on politics, is a cancer survivor, and has written nonfiction books as well.
Faith, and having the courage to do the right thing are strong themes in her writing and her life. I had the privilege of asking her some in-depth questions about her life, her writing and her motivation to inspire with the written word.
Connie Brentford: What would you say was your best day as a writer?
Martha Carr: My best days as a writer are when I get to connect directly with readers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have readers want to tell me what a passage or a character means to them and how they’ve made changes in their life because it gave them courage, faith or hope. That’s pretty much all there is to this life, being of service to others along with loving the people right around you. A good story can open the door to seeing our lives differently, even when it’s a good ride, like a thriller.
The connection always happens when I least expect it and readers say things that make perfect sense but I didn’t expect when I was writing the story. Like, The List, the first thriller in the Wallis Jones series, has a lot of women saying how much they love the way the family interacts and really love Norman, Wallis’ husband. That’s a cool thing when people can talk about all of the action in a thriller and care that much about the characters.
CB: Can you tell me who your ideal reader is?
MC: My ideal reader for the Wallis Jones series has fallen into two distinct camps of women trying to balance it all. They talk about the family and Wallis trying to figure things out and keep her family alive and safe. The other is men who are 30 and older and talk about the conspiracy and the technical aspects of spying and getting away with it.
There’s an element of faith in this book that leaves the door open for readers to put their own stamp on it and not get hemmed in by my beliefs. That’s been fun too because readers bring their own idea of what’s right when trying to decide what Wallis ought to do and it’s never the same answer but they all want her to succeed.
CB: When you wrote THE LIST and created the character of attorney, Wallis Jones did you envision it as a series of books from the start?
MC: I did see it as a series and I even know how it will all eventually end. I’ve got most of them mapped out and it’s fun getting to explore the characters on a personal level and then the story on a bigger level and let it unfold. There’s room for a few unexpected surprises, even for me but it’s necessary, as the author to know where I’m steering the car.
CB: What are the major themes in your novel?
MC: The major themes in the book are family lineage and what responsibility we have to that topic. On my late father’s side, I’m a descendant of Thomas Jefferson’s sister, also named Martha and that had a big impact on how I saw myself. I know next to nothing about my late mother’s Georgia and Louisiana roots and all of that is part of the series. There’s also the question of what’s the right thing to do and how that can be a moving target and the search for really hearing the voice from within.
CB: Do you read other genres or do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write?
MC: I also love memoirs, especially when people can talk about the solutions they’ve found for themselves. I’m not interested in victim-hood but I’m on board for anyone who can celebrate their life.
CB: What was your darkest hour writing this book? What sustained you?
MC: This was the 7th book I’ve written (I’ve ghost-written two books) and I still started out wondering if I could do it again. I’m not happy that I still have that doubt at the beginning but I still marvel at what doing a little every day will get you in the end. Prayer throughout the process is what sustained me because it feels like a fluid, ongoing conversation that isn’t about getting what I want but finding out what I already have and the joy in all of it. Prayer is also always accessible and that’s a great feeling too. Doesn’t have to be formal and can happen anywhere and suddenly, I’m reminded I’m not doing the heavy lifting. Everything is okay.
CB: When did you decide that you were a writer?
MC: I wrote a piece for The Washington Post about surviving abuse, starting to write for a living and learning how to run a marathon and was afraid of exposing myself like that publicly and thrilled about not carrying around the secrets anymore. After the story ran and went out over the wire, nationwide, I got hundreds of letters and emails from readers saying that what I did gave them courage. It was the first time that I really understood that my mess could become a message and I had a place in the world.
CB: If you met Oprah in an elevator and had to convince her in three sentences that THE LIST was perfect for her book club what would you say?
MC: The List is a novel of suspense about a happy family that gets caught between two old political powers that have always existed behind the scenes, invisible to most of the public.People she cares about are dying and time is running out as she tries to figure out whether or not it’s better to accept her legacy or follow her faith and trust that things will work out. What if you had a good life but suddenly saw that most of it was part of a political payoff? Could you have enough faith to do the right thing?
CB: What is your favorite word and why?
MC: Right now, it’s ‘ask’. It’s something I have forgotten to do in years past because I wanted to look like I already knew what I was doing. I’ve learned the power of letting trusted people into the process, even when I think I do know and gathering information that can change the way I see things.
CB: Almost every writer puts a piece of themselves in their book. What part of you is in THE LIST?
MC: I’m a little part of everyone’s struggle to do the right thing, fail and then get up and try again. I don’t even intend to do it but then I hear readers talking about a character and it becomes clear as day that I was working something out for myself and it just happens to be of benefit to others as well.
CB: If you were marooned on an island and you could have one fiction book with you, what would it be and why?
MC: Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. He wrote a story that showed different character’s perspective and how everyone was making decisions based on what they thought others wanted but were wrong and how much of a struggle it can be to just love someone.
CB: What is your best advice for a reader that is considering a career in writing?
MC: Definitely do it. If you’re a writer you won’t be happy till you’re writing. Go to festivals, form a small support group of writers that meet regularly, go to writer’s retreats and have some fun with it. It’s the best ride out there.
CB: What is one thing that people may not know about you?
MC: There’s an idea that any writer is out to change someone’s mind, particularly if you write political thrillers. But I’m trying to start a conversation where everyone feels welcome at the table. People find out that I talk about God and assume I’m conservative, when I’m a moderate, and they find out that I love DC comics and have jumped out of a plane twice and assume I’m a liberal, still not true. I’m made up of a lot of pieces doing my best.
The List and The Keeper are available from Amazon.