It’s interview time again, and today I’m introducing Carolyn R. Russell.
Carolyn is the author of The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table. Carolyn’s new YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time, was published by Vine Leaves Press in March of 2020. Other works include essays and stories for The Boston Globe, Dime Show Review, Bridge Eight, Wanderlust Journal, Medusa’s Laugh, Fifty-Word Stories, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Club Plum Literary Journal. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives north of Boston with her husband and two children.
Welcome to the Fountain Pen, Carolyn. Tell us a little more about yourself.
My obsessions: My family, my friends, writing, reading, movies, the ocean, red lentils, politics, 90’s alternative rock.
How did your writing career begin?
I read incessantly as a kid and wrote a lot of poetry and stories. I fantasized about eventually writing stuff that might be read by people I didn’t need to bribe. When I was nine, I entered a newspaper contest, and my entry was published. And that was it. I was smitten.
What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
I envy those writers that have picked a lane and can develop a following in that particular niche. My first book was non-fiction, film criticism on the early work of the Coen brothers. My next book was a humorous YA mystery, and my latest, a dystopian thriller. I also write personal essays and various modes of short stories. When an idea come to me, it tends to dictate its own form. So, alas, I have no niche.
How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between? Where you do get your ideas?
I find my writing will often take me where it wants to go, rather than where I intend to take it. I usually begin a piece with an idea, and jot down a rough outline as the story begins to take shape. But once I begin writing, all bets are off.
Tell us about your most recent publication.
Several years ago, I read an article in the New Yorker about a plan to genetically modify mosquitoes so that they couldn’t reproduce. The idea was to release them into the wild and greatly reduce their population order to combat the transmission of their blood-borne illnesses. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possible negative unintended consequences of such a move, and it spawned the back story for my YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time. (Just last month, I read that the project has moved forward: 750 million of these genetically modified mosquitoes have been approved to be set free in Florida.)
Once I had the back story, the world that might be the consequence of such a program going horribly wrong began to grow in my imagination. The characters and plot followed.
How did your relationship with Vine Leaves Press begin? Was it a conscious decision to work with a small press rather than a Big 5 or self-publishing route?
I chose Vine Leaves Press because of the way they responded to my query for In the Fullness of Time: they totally got the book’s aesthetic and its blending of genre and literary elements. They were also terrific about supporting my wish to immediately immerse the reader in a futureworld. The reader assembles this new world as they follow the protagonist’s adventures, rather than being spoon-fed information at the outset. Jessica Bell, Melissa Slayton, and Amie McCracken, thank you.
Is there anything you need to have with you when you write? A tool of the trade, a mascot…?
I don’t absolutely need anything and have written in some weird places on some strange surfaces in order not to lose a phrase or an idea. But my favourite place to write is at home at my desk, surrounded by a comforting mess of photos and mementos, with my dog Tofu snoring at my feet.
Carolyn has written three books:
You can learn more about Carolyn on her website
If you want to know a little bit more about In the Fullness of Time, you can read my review 5-star of it on Goodreads.