Full Metal Carla: An Interview with C.R. Gardner

NiTH’s title of ‘Genre Master’ over the past few years belongs to Carla Gardner. C.R.’s also a feature author on our WOLVES collaboration, so we sat down to talk about everything from anime to regional living.

We know C.R. Gardner as a fantasy author with seemingly boundless amounts of energy and imagination, but who is the ‘Carla’ behind the C.R.?

Let’s see, who am I?

I am me, and the whole of me is made up of many parts.

I am woman and wife (married 25+ years), I am mother of three wonderful boys, two of who are already taller than me! I am daughter and sister, creator, artist, writer, farmer. I am the Crazy Chicken Lady, collecting and breeding Heritage chooks and ducks. I am a little bit left and a little bit green, a little bit hippie and a little bit permie. Purple is my favourite colour. Dragon’s are my favourite animal, Butterfly Swords my weapon of choice with a touch of fire magic thrown in, Fantasy my favourite genre. I’m also a Board Game Geek, Bookworm, Anime Girl, Theatre & Movie Addict. As for food, I love cheese & crackers, homemade dips & chip, chocolate in all its forms and pizza.

Did you also grow up in regional Australia?

I grew up in Mt. Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, a few kilometres from the beach with younger sibs, cats, dogs, guineapigs, ducks, canaries and budgies. Went to the local primary and high schools – not my favourite time of life. My second home, where we went every September school holidays was a dairy farm in South Gippsland, down Yarram way. Probably goes some way to explaining my love of cows.

So the big question. Why do you write?

Short answer, because I cannot not write! For me, writing is up there with breathing – if I don’t write I get more and more cranky until I’m no longer pleasant to live with.

I constantly have ideas dropping into my head, or am inspired by something I’ve seen, read or heard, and if I don’t write down those ideas, I do eventually forget them or they get mixed up with other ideas. My biggest problem is actually having the time to keep my bum in the seat and finish them, which is why I really enjoy the short story, so much easier to finish than the multiple novels I work on when I can.

I’ll try my writing hand at most things, but I am predominantly a writer of fantasy with a touch of romance and a dash of horror. Dragons, swords and magic feature heavily in my writing along with werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, winged horses and unicorns and have since childhood.

You’ve written a lot of stories at NiTH, often with some pretty creative titles. For WOLVES you’ve gone with something a little more relate-able. What’s your story about?
The Long Winter is about a changing world where winters are growing longer and the Wastelands are spreading. It is a world where shapeshifters and magic are regarded with suspicion and fear.

What inspired you to write it?

When NiTH presented the first prompt for WOLVES I “saw” a lone, white she-wolf, outcast from the pack, watching the humans in their town in the valley below, before running through black skeletal trees in a snow-covered world. I’ve always had a fondness for wolves – loved Jack London’s ‘White Fang’ & ‘The Call of the Wild’ – but have always been partial to those wolves who can take on human form and vice versa, especially if they are black or white. And then there were the NiTH prompts which often required some extra creative thinking.

What was it like working on the collab with other writers?

Fun, hard and scary.

Hard because life is hectic, so setting aside the time to work on the edits while keeping a kind of balance with the rest of my life was a juggling act. Needless to say, I dropped the balls, a lot.

I found it scary editing someone else’s work – what if I get it wrong? What if I hurt their feelings?
Fun cause I enjoy the editing process and working the wrinkles out of my story and so was working with the other authors.

The last round of edits were the hardest as I was also co-ordinating North East Artisan’s involvement in the Benalla Wall to Wall Festival fractured my elbow, writing arm, of course! This meant I ended up doing the last lot of WOLVES edits with one hand!

Tell us about a favourite story of yours?

So hard to pick just one! But I’ve chosen Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. It’s a great story – it made me laugh and cry. It has swords, magic and adventure, blood and horror. I cared for the characters.

I did not expect that answer! But now you’ve said it, I can see how the FMA series has influenced you

Got me interested in alchemy, anime and manga. Inspired my unfinished novella/novel tentatively named ‘Silver Eyed Monster’.

Who do you think would enjoy FMA: Brotherhood?

Everyone! Anime fans. Adventure fans. Fantasy fans. Some people won’t like it, because for some reason not everyone has the same tastes as me, but Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood will probably be enjoyed by people who enjoy fantasy, magic and adventure and don’t mind a bit of blood and gore.

Thanks Carla. Last question, how can people stay in touch?

If you’re interested you can find me on Facebook, where I do sporadic updates on what’s happening in my writing life and other things.

Thanks Carla! WOLVES is out now everybody. Check it out here.