I got to interview the amazing Hannah Carter, a friend and fellow Christian author. She's been on my Starganauts launch teams, and I had the pleasure of providing feedback on her debut, The Depths of Atlantis.
I'm grateful for her support and excited for you to hear from her about writing, publishing, gritty topics, and faith. I LOVE her writing, and I hope this piques your interest in her awesome fantasy books!
1) Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have any fun facts you'd like to share?
Hi! It’s so nice to “be here” today. 😊 For starters, I’m a Christian. After that, I’m an INFP, Enneagram 4, and a Ravenclaw. Some fun facts about me are that I once lived in Hong Kong for a month on a mission trip (I had to sing songs in Cantonese!), I have been inside Westminster Abbey in London (even if it just happened, I’m counting it!), and I cry at almost anything remotely sappy, sentimental, or Disney-related.
Hmmm…my favorite authors…that’s not a fair question, because there are so many! LOL. Especially now that I’m in such a big writing community, I feel like I love so many of my friends’ stories. And there are different authors who have been pivotal in my writing journey. For instance, my favorite author growing up was Nancy Rue, and she became my writing mentor back in 2019. But I would have to say…C.S. Lewis and Diana Wynne Jones are two people who have actively shaped my writing style, and I adore their books.
2) It's great to have you here, and I cry at sappy movies, too! I feel you about being part of that community. So, what got you into writing?
I know that a lot of kids would go through phases where they changed jobs—maybe one day they wanted to be a fireman, a doctor, an astronaut. But I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer. I’ve never really had a different answer. Even my old diaries from when I was six or seven are filled with stories—although they’re all bad fanfiction about Scooby-Doo, The Little Mermaid, and The Wiggles, let’s be honest. (Six-year-old me had some interesting plot lines.)
Books and storytelling have just always been in my life, and I do think that’s what first piqued my interest. One of my first memories is pulling out an American Girl book (Samantha Learns a Lesson!) and reading it. I was somewhere between 2-4. I always joked that I had to teach myself to read early to satisfy my curiosity, because whenever my parents didn’t want me to know anything, they’d spell words out loud. That simply won’t do for a Ravenclaw as inquisitive as me. 😉
3) You're a Christian author like me. How did you come to know Jesus, and how does your faith influence your writing?
I know that I said I don’t remember a life without reading, but I truly don’t remember a life without Jesus. I come from a line of theologians and preachers. My parents met in youth group, my grandpa has preached at the same church for over 50 years, and there’s a version of the New Testament that my great-grandpa actually translated (he taught Greek at the local Christian college for many, many years). So, I was raised in Sunday school and got baptized when I was 8.
That's so cool, to have faith in Jesus at a young age!
Because I was so young, though, I feel like most of my struggles and the crux of my faith story comes after I was saved (which is honestly the way life often is—our problems aren’t miraculously fixed once we are saved). And I think, growing up in the church, it’s really easy to struggle with legalism and scrupulosity. So, a lot of my journey has been (and is) finding freedom in Christ while still living for Him. I could talk for hours about this, because it’s something near and dear to me. I’m always awed at the ways that God reveals new things to me in life.
My faith influences my writing in several ways. Firstly, my content! Because of my own personal convictions, you’ll never find swear words in my novels or explicit spice content. But besides what I don’t write, my faith also influences what I do write. I want to give people hope in the darkness and be a spark of God’s love for them. I don’t write “safe” stories (after all, God isn’t a tame lion, but He is a good one… 😉).
I write about people who live in a world that’s just as messed up as ours, and I help them find beauty in it. Because there’s beauty in the dichotomy of our existence and world: it’s beautiful because it comes from God and is His gift, but there’s heartbreak because of suffering and sin. And I want to showcase both, because only in the darkness does the goodness show—and only by the goodness can we recognize what the darkness is.
4) I love the Narnia reference, and what a great reason to write. Are you a pantser, plotter, or a bit of both?
I am definitely a pantser! I usually craft a story based on a character, an opening line, and the general vibes and aesthetics. For shorter stories like my flash fiction, I usually have an idea of where I want to go or even an end line, but to connect Point A to Point B is generally a mystery to me.
However, one of my favorite parts of writing is EASTER EGGS! So, how does that work with being a pantser? Easy…the editing stage. 😉 With my novels—especially the Atlantis Trilogy—I know the story inside and out from all the previous drafts and the sheer amount of time that I’ve worked on it. That means I’m able to weave in little cookie crumbs and hints about the truth, which is something that I love so, so much.
5) I'm a panster who edits in Easter eggs, too! Sweet. So, what inspired The Depths of Atlantis and what is its plot?
Reanna & Co. have taken a long journey to get where they are. They first seedlings of the story idea were planted way back when I first watched The Little Mermaid as a child. That sparked my mermaid obsession! But Reanna’s story really took shape because of a video game called Rune Factory. There was a character named Pia on there. I absolutely adored her, and wanted to create a character like her—a mermaid on land. That was where Reanna and her “land sister” came from, though originally their names were Tori and Stella instead of Reanna and Tara, respectively.
Reanna is almost nothing like Pia now (poor girl gained a healthy dose of depression/anxiety and lost a lot of her ditziness), but that’s where her idea came from. And as for Laile…she came from the Sims! (I get a lot of inspiration from video games.) I had her parents, Damien and Cynerra, as characters, not really intending to ever smush them together with Reanna’s world. But I ended up loving that family so much that I knew I had to write a story, and Reanna needed a best friend…and the rest is history. 😊
As for the plot of Depths:
Reanna may have escaped Atlantis, but her past just won't sleep with the fishes.
Reanna may have bartered away her mermaid tail for a one-way ticket to Earth, but apparently, her mother - the Queen of Atlantis - didn't get the message. Now Reanna finds herself kidnapped and back on the dimension of Gaia, where a whole continent is in danger, caught up in a war over her fate.
The longer Reanna runs away from her mother, the more desperate and barbaric Queen Arana becomes. And when Reanna learns of the Queen enslaving countless elves in concentration camps, Reanna knows that she can't let her fear define her decisions. If she doesn't step up, she will forfeit not only her own life, but also the lives of the elves and her new friends - including two boys from Earth, whose past and futures are inexplicably tied to hers.
Cool blurb! I wanted to add that your story is a portal fantasy...one of the things I loved about it. 😊
6) How long did it take you to write and publish Depths? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Oh, gosh! It took me about 8 years to write and publish Depths. I think I finished one of the first drafts when I was 18. I like to refer to Depths as my little Frankenstein monster book, because I’ve cobbled together so many drafts and edits and rewrites to make the final product that got published.
Definitely my biggest challenge was finding a publisher, though! I’d actually given up on it ever being published and kind of shelved it. After a long series of agent rejections, I just thought it wasn’t good enough to see the light of day. I focused on other things, and actually got into short story writing through Twenty Hills, Havok, and SnowRidge Publishing, among others. Havok was my first published piece—"Fae Blood"—and because of that, I started to connect with wonderful authors and friends. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing flash fiction/shorter stories. That brought me into connection with short story competitions, and I got my foot in the door with a variety of smaller presses. But Reanna never left my mind, especially because I had the whole trilogy completed.
So, I casually pitched to SnowRidge, and their enthusiasm for my full-length novel absolutely blew me away. I remember just standing in my living room and crying because this story of my heart was finally going to be published, and God had finally opened a door.
Depths still had to undergo many more rounds of edits and revisions, but at the end of the day, I’m so happy that it’s out in the world, because my goal has always been to inspire people and know that they are not alone. No matter how dark their world is, no matter what they’ve been through, there is community and love waiting for them.
7) Sounds like quite the journey! How much of yourself (or others) do you put in your books?
I think it’s true that you have to “write what you know” sometimes, but it’s also important to have separation from yourself and your characters so they don’t become self-inserts. I think each of my characters has a personality flaw of mine that I foisted onto them, because flaws are part of what makes us human. And humans are so multi-faceted that it’s easy to take bits and pieces of ourselves and others and make something completely new.
But…I’m not going to lie, sometimes I do base characters off my friends. 😊 Marri, a new character in Tides, has a lot of qualities of my friend Mariella, and is a soft tribute to her and how much she’s helped me. So it was fun getting to chat with Mariella and be like: “What do you think should happen here? How would Marri react?” Mariella was integral in shaping the journey of the character Marri, who I absolutely adore. 😊
8) You write about heavy topics such as depression, abuse, and self-harm. What led you to this decision? What would you say to those who object to fiction addressing these topics?
I love this question! I think, honestly, God led me to the decision to write about heavier topics. Because I feel like that is one of the ways that I can reach people and show them the love of Jesus, by showing them that they aren’t alone. What they went through (or are going through) sucked, but that they don’t have to give up because there is hope.
As someone who also struggles with depression/anxiety and what comes with it, I also wanted to put my testimony to work. To use the hurt and my past as a way to reach out to those that have similar struggles or backgrounds. And I think that they are a lot more universal than we like to talk about: someone can go through these things even if they sat in a pew every Sunday or if they’ve never even set foot in a church. Sometimes, suffering is the only thing that unites us.
That would be what I would say to those that would object to fiction addressing these topics. There’s a time and a place for cute and fluffy stories—and I myself write some of them—but we can’t turn a blind eye or sweep tragedy under the rug. One of my favorite songs by Francesca Battistelli says: “So bring your brokenness and I’ll bring mine/’Cause love can heal what hurt divides/And mercy’s waiting on the other side/If we’re honest.” I feel like the only true connection we can ever make with others is if we’re honest, sincere, and willing to show our scars, plus extend mercy and love for others’ scars. Open the door a little bit—it’s okay to address the sorrow in the room and shine some hope on it.
9) What are some of the joys and struggles of being a traditionally-published author?
Joys: working with so many wonderful people! I adore my publisher, my editors, and the fact that there’s someone in my corner who is willing to teach me what I don’t know and bear some of the burden.
Cons: Deadlines. Oh, boy. These little suckers stress me out something awful. Luckily, both publishers that I’ve worked with for my novels (SnowRidge for the Atlantis Trilogy and Twenty Hills for my upcoming collection of short stories) have been wonderful with allowing me to adjust my schedule. But at the end of the day, there are hard deadlines that I have to meet. And there have been many tears involved as I tried to meet them!
10) You're coming out with a sequel soon titled A Twist of Tides. Tell us about it. How does it tie in with your first book?
A Twist of Tides picks up just a few months after Depths. It follows Reanna & Co. as they face the consequences of the first book (no spoilers!) and introduces two new mentor characters: Thessalonike, legendary librarian mermaid and sister to Alexander the Great, and Marri, Reanna’s cousin. Queen Arana still lives, and Thessa and Marri want to train Reanna and help her rebuild the trident of Atlantis so she can dethrone her mother.
But of course, this is a Hannah Carter story, so nothing can ever go right, so disaster and mayhem lurk at every corner. 😊
As for the official blurb:
Reanna glimpsed the depths of Atlantis, and now she must survive the consequences.
After Reanna’s ill-fated attempt to stop Atlantis’ war, the Council of Solis holds her life and the lives of her friends in their hands.
But amidst this turbulence, the legendary mermaid Thessalonike reappears with a guardianship offer. She takes Reanna and Co. to her underwater library, but her training is not what they expect. Nor is her end goal, which involves reconstructing the trident of Atlantis with
11) What is some advice you would give an aspiring Christian author?
I would say…don’t be disheartened if God doesn’t open the doors you want immediately—or at all. I think it’s very easy to pin our identities and hopes into what we can accomplish: finishing a manuscript, getting an agent, being published, overnight fame, fortune, and glory. The truth is, whenever we put our identity in anything—whether it is being a writer or anything else—we’ll always be disappointed. We’ll never write a perfect enough book, we’ll never be published with a “big enough” publisher, we’ll never sell enough copies to fulfill ourselves. I know this seems like really easy advice but, at least in my experience, it’s some of the hardest.
As humans, we’re always looking to find our worth in what we do, in who we are. And the message of the Gospel is that our worth isn’t found in any of that—it’s that we were created by a God who loved us enough to both create us and buy us back with His Blood, even though by doing so He was “sixpence none the richer” (a fabulous analogy by C.S. Lewis that I highly recommend). Our worth doesn’t come the moment that we write the next Harry Potter; it comes the moment that we realize the truth in “be still and know that I am God” and we trust in Him and the story He has planned.
the help of Reanna’s long-lost cousin Marri and without the Council’s sanction.
In the face of Thessalonike’s tactics, the ever-growing danger of the war, and the weight of their own dueling desires, Reanna’s found family must decide whether they will pull together, or if the twisted tides will rip them apart.
12) Lastly, what's next for you after the release of A Twist of Tides?
Turning my attention to my collection of short stories from Twenty Hills, called Saltwater Souls! It’s filled with all sorts of mermaids, from dark and devious to sweet and sentimental. It’s due to come out in Spring 2024, so I’m throwing all my attention on that before I start editing Book 3 in the Atlantis Trilogy. And I’ll be in several anthologies as well, so keep an eye out for those as they’re announced!
How exciting! It's been been a treat interviewing you, and I really loved a lot of your answers. Thanks, Hannah.
You can find my friend on Instagram (@mermaidhannahwrites)and her books on Amazon and SnowRidge Press's website. Visit Hannah's Amazon page here. You can buy The Depths of Atlantis and preorder A Twist of Tides, which releases Nov. 2nd!