25th Sep 2012
For Books’ Sake Talks To: Veronika Carnaby
They are driven by their desire for fun and creative fulfillment, and live out every teenager’s rebellious fantasy, spontaneously moving to New York City in fearless pursuit of their dreams.
I am keen to find if there is a sense of living vicariously through her characters, or whether protagonists Valerie, Emm or any of the other kids are based on the author herself.
“Valerie, in particular, is especially reminiscent of myself in my own creative journey,” says Carnaby. “As the main character, she echoes many of the situations I went through during that period of finding myself.”
Carnaby reveals that at least some of the other characters are based on people she has known, but is reluctant to name names.
Everything about Bohemia suggests that the author is extremely romantic about mid twentieth century counter-culture, and Carnaby admits that she has been influenced by, perhaps even obsessed with, the 1960s for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve always been fascinated by how revolutionary of a decade it was, not just culturally, but also socially and politically,” she says.
Her influences outside of literature are to be expected; she mentions The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to name a few.
But it is her fascination with the Beat Generation, and the likes of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti that comes through unmistakably in this novel.
Questioned on what exactly it is about The Beats that inspires her so much, Carnaby replies; “Simply put, I love their limitless and original techniques. Kerouac didn’t care what anyone had to say about his stream-of-consciousness work. It was avant-garde, it was frowned upon, but it was him and that’s really all that matters.”
She praises the fact that their work was not focused on the technical, but more about “the art of painting a mental picture in the reader’s mind and embracing no boundaries.”
The narrative style of Bohemia is certainly reflective of this ideology, and I ask if it was ever difficult to maintain the retro, Americana style?
“[Getting] into that mid-twentieth century frame of mind felt like second nature to me,” she replies.
Due to the Beat Poetry style, the prose reads like it has been written fluidly, without over-thinking and meticulous planning. I am curious to find out whether this was the case, or whether it took time to carefully craft the novel this way.
“This entire process was a spontaneous one—that’s how I started it and that’s where I left it,” says Carnaby, clearly thrilled that this organic writing process comes through in the text.
“In the past, I’ve written, re-written, edited, and revised content, and I felt like I was beating it to death and getting nowhere,” she continues.
“A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that they have to meticulously plan each scene to create an effective story, but sometimes, it’s ok to stray from the norm and go with the flow.”
It is also quite evident that this spontaneous writing style freed Carnaby from the shackles of being too literal with her story. For example, the beginning of the story that is set in England still reads as if it is American, but it sort of works with the tone of the novel.
“The beauty of it is the fact that much of what is said or what happens is all up to the reader’s interpretation,” agrees Carnaby.
However, this daring literary style has not always been met with enthusiasm. “I took an enormous risk against the wishes of many a critic over the years,” she admits. “I’ve found that any time anyone tests the ‘limits’ of what most people are used to, there will be backlash.
“I don’t want to re-write the same old book with the same tired techniques. I’d rather bring something new to the table that’s true to me and that people will have a genuine reaction to.”
It is this desire for creative freedom and control that led Carnaby to self publish. She is philosophical about this decision, explaining that the challenge to overcome the negative stigma attached to self-publishing was actually one of the reasons she decided to do it.
She confesses that promotion has been by far the biggest hurdle. “Regardless of who you are and what you do, anyone who’s promoted their work will agree with me that the process can be both frustrating and rewarding,” she adds.
Carnaby is publishing Bohemia as an ebook, and as a paperback using CreateSpace, the print-on-demand service from Amazon. She speaks extremely highly of this service, referring to it as “a fantastic opportunity for self-publishers”, and admits she has grown “as enthusiastic as ever” about going independent.
Given Carnaby’s background as primarily a poet, I ask if she plans to write another novel, or if she will be returning to poetry.
“I most certainly plan on churning out more and more novels, and will probably carve out some time in between to scribble poetry as well,” she replies, adding the somewhat mysterious, “Keep an eye out, the next work might come sooner than you think!”