Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Author Spotlight on Carol Goodman

The spotlight series brings to light authors’ insights on writing for young readers and the secrets to their success. In this post, Carol Goodman will tell us her secrets to world building, creating young adult characters, writing with different voices, and working with a co-writer. Goodman writes both young adult and adult novels with great success in the mystery, fantasy, and contemporary genres. Her books have been nominated for IMPAC awards, the Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark award, and the Nero Wolfe Award; and The Seduction of Water won the Hammett Prize. Her work has also appeared in literary journals, such as The Greensboro Review, Literal Latt, The Midwest Quarterly, and Other Voices.

Welcome, Carol! It’s a treat to interview such a prolific author on the craft of writing for younger readers. Your young adult Blythewood trilogy is a wonderful mixture of fantasy and historical fiction. How did the blend of these elements aid in the world building of Blythewood?
I had written an adult fantasy series set in the present at a fictional college for fairies and witches.  As I was writing that series I began to think of a sort of prequel set in the past at a boarding school.  The idea for Blythewood was born out of that.  I was drawn, particularly to the period around 1911 because my daughter, Maggie Vicknair, has a webcomic set in that period.  It was fun to use an historical period because I was able to re-imagine historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, through the lens of magic.  Plus I could imagine how creatures with wings might dress in the Edwardian era.  I also enjoyed researching the period and imagining what roles magical creatures might have played in world events.  There's something magical about that past that I think added to the creation of that fantasy world.  
You’ve written several adult mystery novels that received critical acclaim and won awards, such as The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water. Beyond the characters’ ages, what is the main distinction between writing adult and young adult fiction?
The biggest difference for me was remembering always how it feels to be a teenager.  Emotions are often heightened when we're young.  We don't have the perspective of time to know that we can get over heartbreak, that things will change.  For a teenager, a crisis can feel like the end of the world and first love feels like the only love.  In my adult fiction I often go for understating emotions, but in writing the Blythewood series I would always try to imagine what my teenage characters would be feeling.  Otherwise, there wasn't a tremendous difference.  I respect my young readers just as I respect my adult readers and I never want to talk down to them. 

You’ve also penned a paranormal gothic romance series known as the Fairwick Chronicles under the pseudonym Juliet Dark. What about these books required a different writer’s voice?
The Fairwick Chronicles are narrated by a woman in her early thirties.  She's more experienced and cynical than Ava is (in Blythewood), although when she discovers herself in a magical world, she is just as wonderstruck.  Then there's the issue of sex.  There's a lot more of it in the Fairwick Chronicles--the first book of which is called The Demon Lover.  While there is plenty of romance and passion in the Blythewood books (and, spoiler-alert, one pretty sexy scene) I wasn't going to write graphic sex scenes for teenaged readers.  

You co-wrote the YA paranormal Black Swan Rising series with your husband Lee Slonimsky under the name Lee Carroll. How did the collaboration work in terms of your roles as writers, and what is the secret to your success working together?
My husband, Lee, has always been my first reader of manuscripts (and I read his poetry), so our collaboration came out of us sharing our writing with each other for many years.  I had started asking him for poems in my books, and then we started talking about writing something together. We went about it much as we were used to going about sharing our work.
Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky
One of us would write something, then pass it on to the other, and the other one would continue, then pass it back ... etc.  Sometimes we would do some editing or rewriting of the other's work.  Although we often talked about the plot and characters, we never tried to write in the same room (actually we once tried and had to stop after ten minutes).  I think our secret to our success working together is always to respect each other's writing.

Is there some secret about you that our readers may be surprised to know?
I'm pretty much an open book (no pun intended) who spends most of her time writing, reading, and teaching (with some dog walking and yoga thrown in) so I don't have too many exciting secrets.  I've had some colorful ancestors, though, including a great-aunt who was a dancer in Vaudeville.

As a sneak preview for our readers, can you share with us any secrets about upcoming projects?
I've written a middle-grade novel called The Metropolitans, which will come out in March, 2017 (Viking Children's).  It's about a group of kids who meet at the Metropolitan Museum on the eve of WWII and discover they must find an ancient Arthurian book hidden in the museum in order to thwart an attack against New York City.  It combines my love of NYC (especially during the war years), the Metropolitan Museum (my favorite kids book is From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), and Arthurian legends.  It was great fun to write!

Thanks for such an interesting interview, Carol. We’ll keep an eye out for The Metropolitans next year. It sounds like an intriguing mix of historical periods and suspenseful settings. All the best, Chris BrandonWhitaker!


  1. That new book sounds wonderful! Looking forward to reading it.

    1. I agree, Wendy! I'm always interested in new middle grade novels that straddle the borders of fantasy and contemporary fiction.


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