Carla Hanna Interview “Women on Wednesday”

Excerpt from the Women on Wednesday feature Sept 4 2013 on Pubslush:

What was the impetus/inspiration to write your story/stories? 

When I lived in Santa Monica, California I saw first-hand the clash between Hollywood values and family values that provides the themes to the . My entertainment industry friends struggled with commitment in their relationships and wanted more than anything to have a loving and secure relationship, regardless of their heterosexual or homosexual orientation. One of my friends was a famous screenwriter who had an absolutely awful, desperately lonely life. She cycled through lovers. Her high school son hated her. Her stories reflected her life. She envied my happy life. She urged me to write a about my experiences as a Hollywood outsider living inside the tight Hollywood community. I’m a nobody and not a name-dropper so I dismissed the suggestion. But then I realized that I could write about the Santa Monica world I saw by creating a fictional story based on what was real. I hope that in about the contradictions reflected in the ‘business of the story’ that I can make readers and movie-goers aware of the power they have but also freely give up in their consumption of those stories.

What were some of the struggles that you faced in the writing process? How were you able to overcome them? 

The actual writing process is incredibly easy for me and enjoyable. I am a structural . I write from a very precise outline. Absolutely everything is mapped out before I start a project. For the Starlet Series, I mapped out the themes I wanted to tackle. I outlined 10 stories of which I’ve written five stories and published the first three novels: Starlet’s Web, Starlet’s Run, Starlet’s Light, Starlet’s Man, Starlet’s Six, Starlet’s Fly, Starlet’s Story, Starlet’s Totems which is now titled Starlet’s End, Starlet’s Spider, and Starlet’s Mom. I created notebooks for each of the main characters, sketching out their lives. I researched whatever I didn’t know, like Bitterroot Salish Native American history. I interviewed my actor-friends and crew. I chatted with set stylists, personal trainers for the stars, and set directors. I visited my sister who lived on the Flathead Lake Indian Reservation and took the time to know the culture. I flew to London, took a train to Wales where I had gone to college when I was younger, and visited Switzerland, being sure to have fondue in Zermatt.

I welcomed feedback and enjoyed the editing process, excited to make the stories as good as possible. What I didn’t like was working with an editor for a traditional publisher to make the series as commercial as possible. I didn’t like hearing that I couldn’t talk about God in a novel, that my characters couldn’t be of mixed-races, and that I needed more steamy scenes. I didn’t like knowing that I created a series that traditional publishers would need to alter, worried that it would offend their readers. According to the editor, the series will offend the Christian market because the actress falls in love and has premarital sex. It will bore the new adult readers because the actress doesn’t have casual sex. The editor even went so far to demand I rape my heroine, turning Starlet’s Web into a rape story instead of a love story.

I overcame the profound disappointment that I didn’t have a mainstream series by staying true to what I want to accomplish. I kept in mind that I have the power to choose what I want to do.

How do you see writing as an empowering experience for yourself and other women?

I was lucky that I don’t need the money so I can write stories that can help people live happier lives and share my unique perspective on love and joy. My series can inspire.

I also know that as my unhappy screenwriter friend continues to write blockbusters, her (and Hollywood’s) train-wreck values will continue to shape Western culture. What we read and watch influence us. Why should I allow unhappy but successful writers, directors, and investment funds influence me and my children? I don’t want the drama.

If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?

A happy, beautiful woman.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Funny you should ask. I want to go on the Disney Caribbean cruise for fall break with my neighbor’s family but my kids want to do the Beaches vacation in Jamaica instead. I want to do the cruise because I love my dear friend and her kids. The hubbies get along, too. My hubby is on the fence, worried about paying all that money for a cruise only to have kids have motion sickness. He has a point.

Carla Hanna, of The Starlet Series coming of age novels

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