Nielsen BookScan has listed her novel as #20 on the mass market horror/occult/psychological list for last week. It is #29 overall (in hardcovers and trade) in the horror/occult category. She is up there with Stephen King, Dean Koontz and the like. I recently got a chance to talk to this very talented and prolific award-winning writer.
Carole, thanks for granting me this interview. You´ve written over fifty novels in so many genres. I know you´re a busy woman.
Never too busy to talk about writing and books, though.
Tell me a little about yourself. How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Being an only child (my father died before I was three) with a working mother meant I had to entertain myself a lot. That made me a bookworm and hyper-creative. I made dioramas with moss and twigs and dollhouses, "wrote" and put on plays, and was writing "Hollywood" on my aunt's old manual typewriter at age eight. I was pitching my favorite book as a movie so I could play the eight-year-old heroine. Ahead of my time. Now kids get music and acting breaks early!
I attended Catholic girls' schools in high school and college, so had no idea that the larger society had limited roles for women. As a theater major, I stood on 12-foot ladders to hang lights, and worked with animal glue and gauze to build sets as well as acted and directed. I saw women running student government and contributed to the campus newspaper and literary magazine.
Going out into the "real" working world was a shock. The talents and hard work that earned me such options as working on Vogue magazine as an editorial assistant (I was a finalist in a tough, three-stage writing contest but didn't take the job), didn't work at the metro daily newspaper where I got myself from advertising department flunkie to women's department reporter in a year, without a journalism degree, but then stalled.
I was the first woman on The Newspaper Guild of the Twin Cities union executive board, the first woman to chair the Twin Cities annual Gridiron Show (when I started writing for it, women were not allowed to attend or act in it), and the first full-time female Opinion Page staff and Editorial Board member. But despite doing award-winning writing, I was never allowed to reach my full potential. I finally discovered the management never read the features sections I worked in. Not manly.
In college I'd started what became my first published novel, triggered by a fondness for the Gothic romances then popular, but a loathing of the wimpy heroines in need of constant rescuing. These Gothics were descendants of Jane Eyre, probably the first novel to feature a "working woman" who wasn't a prostitute, and could have been good role models for women. A bigoted anti-Irish comment I heard a British couple make was another trigger for the novel and gave me my theme and "cause." The heroine was half English and half Irish.
I resumed writing that first novel Amberleigh after hitting the glass ceiling in my reporter job, just to see if I could end up with a real novel. I was surprised that I could. From that moment, I became determined to work my way from nonfiction writing into full-time fiction writing, which I've been doing since 1984. Everyone said you couldn't make a living writing fiction, and they are pretty correct, but some of those who are persistent and prolific can.