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Author Talk: February 12, 2010


February 12, 2010

Carla Buckley's debut, THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, is an apocalyptic novel that centers on a family whose already fractured relationship is put to the test as they find themselves in the grips of an avian influenza pandemic. In this interview, Buckley explains what inspired her to write about such a timely topic and describes how her awareness of such highly infectious diseases has influenced her day-to-day life. She also discusses her writing process and shares details about her next book already in the works.

Question: Why did you choose to write about an avian influenza pandemic?

Carla Buckley: Being married to a scientist allows me unfiltered access to some pretty amazing information. At the time, my husband was conducting research into bird flu and regularly bringing home frightening reports. One night, I had a nightmare so vivid that I called my sister the next morning to share. After I was done speaking, there was silence. Then she said, "This is the story you need to write." That story became THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE.

Q: Do you keep emergency supplies on hand?

CB: When I realized the only thing I could do to prepare was stockpile food and water, I went to the grocery store and loaded up my cart. Twice. I also made sure to stock up on pet food, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit, including respiratory masks, and things to keep my kids entertained if we ended up being quarantined --- books, paper, craft supplies. I figured if we didn't end up needing any of it, we could recycle through them, and I could replenish when flu season returned.

Q: Does the current H1N1 pandemic worry you?

CB: I've done too much research for THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE to be complacent. In fact, when WHO announced Phase Five, I was due to participate in my first writers' panel in Washington DC. I stuck a bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse, and made my husband promise he'd load the kids and dogs in the car and drive out to get me if the government sealed off the airports and train stations. Then I went and had a marvelous time.

Q: Could you talk a little about your writing process? When do you find time to write, do you outline, that sort of thing?

CB: I write while my children are at school (even if this requires me to give them a little push to get on the school bus). This generally gives me six hours, minus the time needed to separate the dogs and make sure they're not rummaging through the trash. Summer pretty much follows the same routine. I get up early and write until my children wake up and need something. Since two of them are teenagers, that's usually mid-afternoon.

I used to write without any sort of plot, which was fun, because I never knew where I was going until I got there, but it also made for a pretty incoherent story. It wasn't until I started outlining, working toward key plot points while leaving some wiggle room for inspiration, that I found my best writing method.

Q: Can you reveal anything about your next novel?

CB: It follows in the same vein as THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, focusing on a family in conflict facing a global threat. The science behind it is just coming to the surface, and I predict we'll be reading a lot more about it in the months to come.

© Copyright 2010, Carla Buckley. All rights reserved.

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