Carol Carpenter was raised Southern Baptist, came out of the closet at 18, and grew up in the trans-Pecos oil and ranching plains of New Mexico – where the Bible Belt, the Mexican border, the oil business, the cowboy, and the poor collide to form a landscape of conflict. It is about this world, and that of Santa Fe to the north, that Carpenter writes.
Thematically, her work deals with the tension between progress and tradition. She pits urban and rural cultures against each other, working class against professional class, religious against secular, then watches them clash and connect. It is in these clashes that her characters find meaning, humor and insight. Viewed as a whole, her work proclaims that progress and tradition need each other; that opposite needs opposite; that without the harmonizing effect of poles, our world is out of balance.
While Carpenter's writing is sometimes overtly political, it often strives to uncover and honor the wisdom of all traditions and perspectives, to suspend cultural judgments in search of higher truths, and to celebrate the divergent impulses of all storytellers, as evidenced by her own exploration of genre.
Her influences include Horton Foote, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, Annie Proulx, Anna Deavere Smith, Joseph Campbell, Jimmy Carter, country and western songwriters, Baptist preachers, right-wing demogogues, left-wing crackpots, the American Southwest and the rich oral tradition of her family and culture. She currently lives between New York City and Madrid, NM.