This is a very special blog post for me - I am so thrilled to host one of my favorite authors, Over the last year, I have had the opportunity of emailing with Carolyn quite often and I am so lucky that we have become friends.
Her book, DELICATE, has just been released, so I have not finished it (book review will follow shortly) but I wanted to get the word out!
Carolyn's books are thoughtful, deep, provocative and real a MUST read.
Delicate is on sale now!
Thank you Carolyn - C.K. Martin for being so open in answering my questions.
1) Your latest book Delicate has just been released. Can you tell us about it?
Two second cousins (not blood relations) who haven’t seen each other in years because of a family feud reconnect over the course of one summer due to their own respective delicate situations. Ivy’s heartbroken because the boyfriend she thought could be the love of her life has just dumped her (which is only the tip of the iceberg) and Lucan’s being driven crazy by the presence of his mom’s young boyfriend, and their noisy bedtime activities as well as his best friend’s dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend. These situations are like dominoes – leading to a collection of other complications ranging from painful urination to physical abuse. As much as the book is about the things going wrong in Ivy’s and Lucan’s lives it’s about meeting someone who you feel you can really talk to, who understands where you’re coming from and will help see you through.
2) What was the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing this book?
That’s an interesting but tough question, one I really have to give some serious thought. I guess this is actually something I learned in the revision process with my editor when he wanted the storyline about Lucan’s friend, who is physically abusive to his girlfriend, expanded slightly. My kneejerk reaction to any kind of abuse is to feel sheer animosity for anyone who commits these acts, but what about when the boy committing them is only sixteen years old? As a society, we can’t just write him off as damaged. We have to try to help him. Because we’re talking about Lucan’s best friend I had to see him as whole person, not just some kind of villain. It’s such a complicated issue; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
While we’re talking about it, there’s a good page on loveisrespect.org aimed at people who are abusive towards their partners but want to stop:
3) Every author seems to have a "process" when it comes to their writing - can you tell us about yours?
I always feel like a bit of a fake talking about things like writerly process because I don’t really know what mine is. It seems to happen in a messy back room of my brain where a bunch of stuff I find interesting or am drawn to collect in a heap. I think it’s a kind of a subconscious process, like dreaming. Usually my mind attaches itself to a vague idea. In the early stages when I’m lying in bed or walking around on my own I’ll hear the main character’s voice in my head, and after that’s been going on for a good while--of me discovering who the character is--I begin to plot a little.
4) Do you write your book or do the characters write their own stories?
For my contemporary books it’s definitely the characters leading the way. Sometimes I’ll have a really rough chapter by chapter outline to work from but because the characters are leading the way the outline can turn out to be pretty wrong and I have to go in the direction they’re steering me. For my sci-fi books Yesterday and Tomorrow things work a little differently because they’re more plot heavy and involve things like time travel, nefarious government agents and the trajectory of climate change. But even then the characters can surprise me.
5) Which literary figure would you ask to read your drafts?
I love this question. There are so many writers I admire. But the one who had the biggest impact when I was a tween and young teen was Judy Blume. She was so honest and comfortable in discussing things about adolescence that many other writers wouldn’t. I don’t think I even knew about wet dreams before I read her book THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T. I aspire to be as frank and fearless as Judy Blume in writing about young people so I couldn’t ask for a better person to give feedback on my drafts.
6) How do you feel about being a Canadian writer?
I love to set my books in Canada because I’m Canadian and that’s important to me. Although we share a lot of common cultural ground with our neighbours to the south we also have our own values, holidays, cultural icons (among them people like Terry Fox, David Suzuki and Laura Secord), not to mention the national popularity of Tim Hortons, the CBC and hockey! I feel it’s important that we see our own cities and towns written about because these places and the stories we can tell about them and their inhabitants are just as important as stories set in the U.S. or anywhere else. And, you know me, Tina, with our recent change in government I feel as though ‘Canada is back,’ like Neil Young said. It’s an exciting, hopeful time to be a Canadian.
7) If you were not a writer, what would you be?
Going way back, in my high school aptitude test my highest score was for journalism, and then law. But my degree is in film studies and I love movies so I’d probably a film critic. Unfortunately, it’s another job that the existence of the Internet has made a lot less financially lucrative!
8) Do you have a mantra or philosophy that you live by and if so, can you share it with us?
A couple of days after my step-mom passed away suddenly I was in a car with a few people, including my dad, and saw a personalized license plate that said ‘rage on.’ It might sound whimsical to say this, but I took it as a message from her. My step-mom Catherine was kind of a free spirit, very much her own person. At her funeral a bunch of eighth grade students showed up to say goodbye to her and she’d been retired from teaching for years at that point, so they would’ve just been small children when they’d known her but they sure remembered her. In particular, I remember one of the kid’s mothers came up to me after the funeral and recounted that one snowy day when hardly anyone was going to school she had to drop her daughter off. She was apologetic about it and Catherine said, “That’s okay, we’ll just dance,” which is so Catherine if you knew her.
So ‘rage on’ is the phrase that now appears in one of the front pages of my books as a message to keep going no matter what kind of crappy situation you find yourself in. You can get to the other side if you keep going.
9) What do you love the most in the world?
We’re talking what rather than who, right? A mishmash of things including pub food, dogs (if my husband and I are out walking somewhere I always point out the cute dogs), Dublin, Ireland—which has my heart forever. Movies. My record collection. But in a fire if I had to save just one thing it would be my childhood teddy bear, which was my father’s teddy bear before me. When I was fourteen months old the teddy bear was in the hospital with me and had to be sterilized in order to stay with me. Back then they didn’t let parents stay overnight so he was there in their place.
10) What would you tell your younger self?
I feel as though my younger self was very Luke Skywalker like in the ‘never his mind on where he was or what he was doing’ sense. I was always longing to be somewhere else, somewhere cooler where I thought my real life would start. So I’d like to tell my younger self to relax and enjoy where you are, be in the moment and not in a rush because there are things you’re going to miss about this when you’re older. Take one day at a time!
Thank you, Tina, for having me on Bookshipper!