Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Interview with Carolee Dean

Q: Of which book are you the most proud? And why?

A: I'm proud of all my books for different reasons. COMFORT was my first novel, and at the time, just completing it felt like a miracle.  My second novel TAKE ME THERE is about a boy who's running from a gang in California after a botched initiation where someone dies. He goes to Texas looking for his father who is in prison to find out if badness is in his blood or if it is something he can outrun. Many teens have told me how strongly this book reflects their personal experience. I'm very proud of that, especially since the story is so different from MY personal experience.

My third novel, FORGET ME NOT, is about another tough subject, cyber bullying that leads to an attempted suicide. I wanted to approach it from a different angle without becoming overly dark and I wanted it to be hopeful without an overly cheerful ending. Ally, the main character, finds herself on an abandoned hallway with a group of teens who have killed themselves. She must decide whether to go back and walk through the pain that made her want to end her life or stay on the relative "safety" of the hallway.

FORGET ME NOT comes out this month (October) and there is a GHOST TOUR with prizes going on at my blog at

Q: Patty Campbell talks about the germ for a piece of writing being like the sand in the oyster.  What is your grain of sand?  Do you begin with character or setting or something else?

A: A germ of sand is a good metaphor, but I tend to think of my writing process more like a pot of soup. I encounter images, ideas, and experiences everyday that go into the pot to simmer. These very different tidbits bubble to the surface in combinations I never would have imagined.

Here are some of the "soups" I've cooked up and the images and experiences that helped create them.

COMFORT - My experiences as a Texas high school student preparing for the UIL  poetry interpretation competition... A cafe with terrible service and frozen food with a video running constantly of the owner's husband playing guitar... a classmate showing up to school with a black eye, telling everyone her father hit her because she thought if she embarrassed him, he wouldn't do it again...

TAKE ME THERE  - A local poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca, who taught himself to read and write in prison and became known around the world for his art... A boy who ended up in prison because he stopped at a fast gas so his friend could get cigarettes, not knowing his friend intended to rob the place at gunpoint... A girl left alone her senior year in a million dollar house because her parents were getting a divorce and wanted to move on with their lives... Texas high school football...

FORGET ME NOT - A girl sitting inside with her boyfriend during lunch, looking out the window at the kids on the quad as if she'd rather be anywhere but where she was... The raven who left a dead pigeon outside my office door... The boy in my seventh grade class who hung himself...

Q: Why do you write for teens?

A: I'm very lucky because I get to spend every day in high school. I work at a high school as a speech- language pathologist. Seeing what my students are going through reminds me of my own troubled adolescence. There are things that happen to us when we are young that we don't have the perspective to fully understand. When I go back and revisit those things now, it helps me process and understand what  happened. Every story I write for teens helps me grow up just a little bit more.

Q: What is one thing you would like your readers to know about you?

A: I have a strong sense of humor, despite the dark subjects I write about, which is why there are always humorous (or at least quirky) elements in my books - like the mother who wants to make her husband into a country and western superstar, even though he doesn't really want to be one... the grandmother who treats her pig like a household pet... and the boy who spends a month speaking in iambic pentameter when he returns home from the psychiatric hospital.

Q: In high school, where did you fall? (Prom Queen/King, Gamer Geek, Brainy/Book Nerd, Jock, Shy/Quiet Scholar, Skate Rat, Stoner, Class Clown, etc.)

A: I was very religious. My favorite book was the Bible. One story that stood out in my mind because it was so disturbing was the one about the man who cut his wife's dead body into twelve pieces and sent the  pieces to the twelve tribes of Israel. I could hardly believe my parents were letting me read such racy stories, and wondered if they were really reading them as closely as they claimed.

We moved to Lubbock when I was 15 so my father could attend preaching school and my senior year we moved to Happy, Texas where we lived next to the church on Main Street.

As I've gotten older, I've become more spiritual and less religious. My family sometimes wonders about the dark subjects I write about. If they had read the book of Judges a little closer, they might understand.

Thanks so much for your time Carolee! We look forward to seeing you at the festival.

Visit Carolee Dean's website or follow her on Twitter at @caroleeJDean

No comments:

Post a Comment