I’m excited to introduce you to Carla Damron. I met Carla through the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and had the absolute pleasure of seeing her receive WFWA’s Star Award for published women’s fiction for THE STONE NECKLACE at the end of September. — Orly Konig

Now for the Poppy Q&A with Carla:

Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now?
Do you mean, besides the WFWA Star Award? Because that makes me deliriously happy!

This makes me happy, too: our little lake lost all its water two years ago when Columbia had a massive flood which damaged the dam. Getting it repaired was not easy, as dams had burst throughout the county, and government officials wanted to assure that dam repairs complied with stricter codes. For two years, we’ve been looking out at a big brown yucky mud flat.

Then about a month ago, all the repairs were completed and our lake refilled! Paddling around in my kayak is therapy for me. Note: this is a small lake, with no current or waves, which is important because I am a TERRIBLE kayaker. It’s embarrassing how bad I am. But I can navigate down to the dam and back without turning over. Okay, sometimes I DO flip, which provides wonderful entertainment for my neighbors. And my husband. And our dogs.

Where do you love to be?
In my kayak. Or curled in my favorite reading chair with a good book and a cup of coffee, or on the tiny porch of our shed by the water where I love to write.

What’s your favorite time to write? Do you have any writing “quirks” should we call them?
I am in no way a morning person, except when it comes to writing. If I can wake up, grab coffee, and go straight to my computer, I can get a lot done. My mind is uncluttered. I’m not ditzing around on Facebook or plowing through emails. I dive into the narrative and stay there.

My quirk is my self-appointed editor, Scout. She’s a cat we adopted three years ago who loves to sit behind my monitor and watch me write. Sometimes she grabs my hand when I reach for the mouse. And I kid you not: one time when I left the office for a few minutes she erased SEVERAL pages of work and replaced it with the letter “P” written about a million times.

She really kind of sucks as an editor.

Congratulations on winning the WFWA 2017 Star Award! Can you tell us about where the idea for THE STONE NECKLACE came from?
I’d been writing mystery novels—I have three out in the Caleb Knowles series—but wanted to try something different. When I was driving back from a writing conference, the seed planted itself: What if a man was a hypochondriac who always thought he was having a heart attack? What if he HAD that heart attack? What if it happened when he was driving and it caused an accident? Who would this accident affect—and how would it change them? THE STONE NECKLACE is the braided stories of five people whose lives intersect at the event of that crash: the man’s wife, who becomes a widow; his troubled daughter; the struggling young mother in the other vehicle; the ICU nurse who works on him (who has just returned from drug rehab); and a homeless man who hears voices and sleeps in a graveyard.

It’s a complex novel structure that required me to develop different narrative styles for each POV character. Balancing the story lines so that one didn’t overpower the others also proved a challenge. I actually returned to school for an MFA degree so I could figure out how to shape and revise this novel.

And finally, What are you reading right now?
I’m reading two books: John Hart’s wonderful mystery IRON HOUSE and Elizabeth Strout’s ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.  Strout remains my very favorite author: she’s a master story teller and is always teaching something new about the craft of writing.

I still have so much to learn.

About Carla

South Carolinian Carla Damron is a fiction writer and social worker. Her most recent novel, The Stone Necklace, was selected for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Star Award” for best novel and chosen to be the “One Book, One Community” read for Columbia SC in 2016. Damron also authored multiple short stories and the Caleb Knowles mystery novels Keeping Silent, Spider Blue, and Death in Zooville in which she explores social issues like addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. Named the 2014 South Carolina Social Worker of the Year, Damron holds an MFA in creative writing from Queens University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina. While both careers, social worker and writer, have their challenges, they’ve also become intertwined; Damron uses fiction to explore and raise awareness about social issues. Find Carla online.