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Author Interview: Carolyn T. Dingman

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Today, I am pleased to have author Carolyn T. Dingman over to talk about her debut novel Cancel the Wedding.

Cancel the Wedding
by Carolyn T. Dingman

Genre: Contemporary
Hardback: 240 Pages
Publication: July 8, 2014
by Harper Collins

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancĂ©. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

Author Interview

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I live in Atlanta with my husband and two girls (ages 13 and 14 at the moment). I moved here about a hundred years ago when I graduated from Clemson University. Okay, it wasn’t a hundred years, more like twenty-something, but it does feel like it’s been a long time since spiral perms and pegged jeans. My degree was in Architecture and I worked in the field until my first daughter was born.

I wish I had a better answer for how I got into writing other than to say that there are always stories swirling around inside my head with voices and characters and situations that just pop in there. Sometimes I write them down. I realize this makes me sound like a crazy person who is symptomatically hearing voices, but I like to think of it less as insanity and more as the creative process.

I learned the actual nuts and bolts of how to write through a personal blog that I had when my girls were little. Blogging taught me what it means to write, not just creating storylines and pacing the plot, but also the physical act of sitting down to do it. You have to make yourself go to the computer and do the work. I quit the blog cold turkey one day when my younger daughter, who was about eight years old at the time, came home from school and asked me not to write about her on the internet anymore. So I was left with the habit of daily writing, the voices in my head, and the privacy clause I had just signed with a crayon. There was nothing left to do but get serious about trying to write fiction.

How would you describe your novel in a tweet (140 char. or less)?
As a side note, I totally suck at Twitter, but here goes: An unexpectedly witty and often funny story of a woman unraveling the poignant mystery of her mother’s past while charting her own future.

What inspired you to write Cancel the Wedding?
The initial spark for Cancel the Wedding came from the idea of exploring that moment in life when your path changes, whether you do it consciously or not, something happens to shift your course. I wanted to follow a character as she went through that mess and turmoil to get to the other side. I think we can usually look back on our life from a distance and say, “that was the moment, that was the choice I made that forced my entire life to change,” but you can’t always see it while it’s happening. When you’re in the midst of the changes it doesn’t feel like a necessary transition to something better, it just feels like you’re in the middle of life’s shit sandwich and everything is falling apart. It was a perversely fun moment to explore.

What did you enjoy most writing Cancel the Wedding?
For me, the best part of writing this novel was when the characters would do something I wasn’t expecting. It’s a strange thing to be going along typing away thinking you know exactly where your story is heading and then, boom, a character says or does something and you’re shocked. I have no idea what sort of creative force is out there in the universe controlling your fingers as they race across the keyboard, but every once in a while I would tap into it and I was always so pleasantly surprised.

What challenges did you face?
The biggest challenge I faced was the waiting. There is a lot of waiting in the world of writing and publishing, which is not easy for an impatient person (points to self.) Sometimes you have to make yourself wait, walk away from the writing for weeks to allow yourself a fresh perspective to edit. Sometimes you’re waiting for an editor’s notes or for it to be your turn at the top of that pile of manuscripts on someone’s desk. Then at the end you’re waiting for the publishing date to roll around. It’s a hurry up and wait business. I found that to be the most challenging aspect. Totally worth it, but challenging.

How have your life experiences influenced your writing?
I grew up with very little family. My sister and I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. And as an Air Force family we grew up moving constantly. My main character, Olivia, is curious to find some touchstone to a past, an extended family, someplace that she could call a hometown. I’m sure this desire on Olivia’s part comes from my own curiosity about family ties and the rooted sense of place that would have come from having a hometown. I see this theme popping up again and again in my writing, the idea of discovering your family’s past and trying to understand what they were like.

I also think my fascination/aversion to the numerous man-made lakes in the north Georgia mountains created aspects of the story I didn’t necessarily see coming. Cancel the Wedding is set in a fictional town on the banks of one of these lakes. They are beautiful and strange bodies of water created from damming up rivers and flooding everything in their path in order to create a reservoir. And for some inexplicable reason people go missing in their waters every year. Seriously, it’s creepy. A person will fall off a boat or a dock and simply vanish. It can take weeks to recover the body. Sometimes the bodies are never found. What the hell is happening with the strange currents and sunken debris of these lakes that bodies can just disappear? I’m sure that setting Cancel the Wedding near one of these man-made lakes was the cause of the manifestation of the mystery that develops in the story.

What would you like readers to get from reading Cancel the Wedding?
I would hope that they would get simple enjoyment from reading it. That’s why most of us read, isn’t it? To be wrapped up in someone else’s life story and escape for just a bit. I would hope they bring it with them to the doctor’s office because they weren’t ready to walk away just yet. Stay up a bit too late to get in one more chapter. But beyond entertainment I would hope they could take a moment to understand who their own parents were, before they were parents. If you’re lucky enough to have your mother and father alive then dig out their secrets now. It’s much easier to get their stories from them while they are living. You might be surprised what you learn.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m having a fun conversation in Q&A form with you! I’m also initiating a campaign to close off the entire Buckhead area of Atlanta from vehicular traffic so when my oldest daughter gets her learner’s permit in October she won’t be distracted by all of those pesky cars. It will just be her, the road, and the five-point safety harness I have bolted to the driver’s seat Nascar-style. And possibly a helmet. When I’m not lobbying for the road closures I’m also at work on my second novel.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to add that I’m grateful for the support of the book blogging community is giving to Cancel the Wedding. It’s especially sweet since I was once a part of a blogging tribe and I am so appreciative of the support of my old blogging friends and the new ones I’m making along the way.

About the Author

Carolyn Dingman grew up as a nomadic military brat often making up stories that the adults referred to as "lies." She is now a grown-up and hardly ever lies anymore unless she's writing fiction where it is considered socially acceptable. She studied Architecture at Clemson University which in no way prepared her for a career in writing. Carolyn lives in Atlanta with her husband and two girls. She volunteers too much, eats too much chocolate, and prefers beer over wine.

Connect with Carolyn
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

You can read my review of Cancel the Wedding here.

2 comments on "Author Interview: Carolyn T. Dingman"
  1. I love what Carolyn said about waiting. I am querying agents with a picture book manuscript I wrote. I started last week and now I wait. The waiting part is so hard. (And no one, other than other writers, understands that sometimes you need to wait weeks to revise/edit a manuscript again so it can percolate in your mind.) Great interview!

  2. Ooh, most excellent interview! And, no, I don't think you sound crazy talking about voices -- those stories swirl no matter what you do and they just have to come out in one way or another. So right about just wanting to get wrapped up in a good story. That's a huge reason I pick up a book.


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