Friday, May 25, 2012

Feature Friday: Carolyn Turgeon

For this Friday we have the colorful, Carolyn Turgeon!  (I mean colorful in all the best ways: two-tone hair, a rainbow plethora of tattoos, excellent clothes, etc.)  Carolyn Turgeon is the author of four novels: Rain Village (2006), Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story (2009), Mermaid (2011), which is being developed for film by Sony Pictures, and The Next Full Moon (2012), her first book for middle-grade readers. Her next adult novel, The Fairest of Them All, will be released in 2013 by Simon & Schuster. She lives in Pennsylvania and New York.



Interview:
A.L.:
As some of the readers might be able to tell you I’m an absolute fan of Celtic mythology.  The fact that your newest book, The Next Full Moon, is about a young girl who is a swan maiden just tickles me pink.  Can you please tell me what led you to decide to write a swan maiden?
 
Carolyn:
Actually, my original idea for The Next Full Moon was about a mermaid, or, specifically, about a 12-year-old girl who begins noticing strange things happening to her body, like shimmering scales appearing on her skin. She’s mortified and embarrassed, of course, but will eventually discover that her mother (whom she thought had died when she was a small child) was, and is, a mermaid. So the girl starts out feeling like a freak but slowly discovers her true magical identity. I loved this as a metaphor for puberty. But when a UK editor swooped in and bought the UK rights to my second novel, Godmother, and asked what else I was working on, I sent a list of projects and had this children’s book/ mermaid idea at the end of it. She bought it, but as a mermaid novel for adults, and that ended up becoming my third novel, Mermaid, which doesn’t really have anything to do with this original idea. Later, when my friend Julie Merberg approached me and asked me to write something for her new children’s book company Downtown Bookworks, I came back to this idea, but I knew I couldn’t do another mermaid book when Mermaid hadn’t even come out yet. And then one day it hit me that swan maidens would work even better for the story.  

A.L.:
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a budding author?

Carolyn:
Probably the best advice I can give is to be tough, have a thick skin (but not so thick that you can’t listen to criticism and advice), and just keep at it, keep getting better, keep improving your craft and working until you find the audience you want. Too many writers get discouraged—by rejection, by criticism, by the endless hours you have to spend in front of a computer when no one really cares whether you do it or not–and give up. My first novel, Rain Village, took me ten years to write (in fits and starts, with many mistakes along the way) and, once I found an agent, four more years to sell to  publisher. I could have easily given up in that time, but I just had this deep belief that this is what I was supposed to be doing and that it was worth it. I think you have to have that kind of faith.

A.L.:
Do you consider yourself a revisionist author?  Will you ever deviate from retellings and mythic fantasy?

Carolyn:
To some extent, I do consider myself to be that; certainly Godmother, Mermaid, and The Fairest of Them All (my Rapunzel-growing-up-to-be-Snow-White’s-stepmother adult novel that comes out next year from Simon & Schuster) are all revisions of classic fairytales. Rain Village is fairytale-ish but not based on any other stories, and The Next Full Moon is a little less revisionist. But I do want to write all kinds of other types of novels (and plays and screenplays!) and hopefully will do so over the next many years. I have this noir-ish crime novel that’s been on hold for a while that I plan to finish this year, and though it shares some themes with my other books, there’s not a bit of fantasy or fairytale in it. 

A.L.:
Ava, the main character in your book is only 12 years old.  YA is often classified as books for readers between 12 and 18.  Would you consider The Next Full Moon to be a MG or a YA book and why?

Carolyn:
I consider it to be a middle-grade novel, mainly since it’s for ages 9 and up and I wrote it with that MG age group (9 to 12) in mind. But honestly I don’t think it’s that much different from my other novels, which are for adults (but have YA crossover appeal). This book is just shorter and sweeter, with a protagonist who’s 12. I do think plenty of adults would enjoy it, too.

A.L.:
If you could chose to be one of the fantastic mythical peoples in your books, which would you be?

Carolyn:
Oh, I would be a mermaid, no question! I love mermaids so much I started a blog, iamamermaid.com, and in the last couple of years I’ve talked to and met a ton of real-life mermaids (that is, women who wear tails and love the ocean, etc.), I’ve become friends with the ladies at Weeki Wachee Springs (and even went to mermaid camp last summer!), and, inspired by them, I got scuba certified last fall in Nicaragua. This August I’m going on a 7-day diving trip out of Nassau with a bunch of mermaids, divers, and photographers, and we’ll be doing three to four dives a day in the open ocean. I MAY or may not wear a tail. 

A.L.:
Would you ever run away and join a circus?  If so, what would your act be?

Carolyn:
Of course I would! Sadly, I don’t know that I have any talents to offer to a circus, unless it’s in a back office working on the brochures. But maybe I could learn to tame some lions or ride on the back of an elephant while wearing sequins and spangles. 

A.L.:
Would you be able to handle being someone's Fairy Godmother?  Would you keep your hands off of Prince Charming?

Carolyn:
I’d love to be someone’s fairy godmother. As an author, when you really touch someone, you can kind of get a taste of that. And one reason I wanted to write for a younger audience is to reach those little girls who need a fairy godmother more than anyone else. Also: my close friend Jeanine Cummins has a little girl whose been kept in pink cowboy boots since she was a toddler because of yours truly. If I can’t use real magic or change pumpkins into stagecoaches, books and pink cowboy boots are the next best thing! 

A.L.:
Which of your characters is most like you?  Why?  Who is least like you?

Carolyn:
I think there’s a bit of me in all of my characters, but the only character I’ve written that I pretty much just wrote as myself—but in the 12-year-old incarnation—is Ava from The Next Full Moon. I thought it might be challenging to write for this new age group, but the minute I imagined myself as twelve again it was like no time had passed at all and there I was again back in 1983, too tall, overdeveloped for my age, the new kid in school (Ava’s not a new kid, but when I was twelve my family moved from Texas to Michigan), and just so so self-conscious and embarrassed all the time. I wasn’t growing feathers at that age, but I was every bit as mortified by my changing body as Ava is.  Least like me is probably… Well, actually, they’re all kind of like me in one way or another. Except for the dashing tightrope walkers (in Rain Village) and all the princes and kings!

A.L.:
If you had to put two of your characters in an American Gladiators match, who would you pick and why?

Carolyn:
Both Mermaid and The Fairest of Them All have powerful witches. There’s the Sea Witch in Mermaid, Sybil, who gives the mermaid the potion that will change her tail into legs and takes the mermaid’s tongue as payment, and then there’s Mathena, who’s the witch who locks Rapunzel in the tower in The Fairest of Them All. A full-on gladiatorial battle between these two powerful witches, one who lives in the sea and one who lives in the forest, could be pretty interesting.

A.L.:
Did you ever have a point where you were just so frustrated with a plot or character where you almost gave up?  What was it and why?  How'd you overcome it?

Carolyn:
Maybe back when I was writing Rain Village, since that was my first book and I was frustrated all the time and had no idea what I was doing. For that book, I kind of started with a place and an image and a mood and worked over many years to figure out what the story would be and who the characters were. It was the most inefficient possible way to write a book! I’ve learned to figure all that out before I write, and the more books I write the more I know that even when something doesn’t work, you just have to make it work—step back, brainstorm, calmly figure it out, talk it though with a friend, give it time—or just scrap it and do something better. But that’s not really giving up so much as it is cutting the chaff and moving on!

A.L.:
You've covered circus people, fairy godmothers, mermaids, and swan maidens.  What are you going to write next?

Carolyn:
Well, right now I’m finishing up my Rapunzel/Snow White book (which adds a healthy dose of witches to the above list), and then I’m finishing my noir novel. After that, I’m not sure! Maybe more mermaids (though I still run my blog and am also editing a Mermaids special edition magazine that’s about to debut) or mermen… maybe something that dips more into Greek myth… maybe a historical novel set in medieval Italy (I studied medieval Italian poetry in grad school and have had a Dante book on the back burner for years now, too)… or maybe something super realistic set in New York City. Godmother was half set in present-day New York (and half in the fairytale world of Cinderella) but that was a while ago. I’ve been writing a lot of kings and queens and castles lately, so it would be nice to write a book with subways and electric lights in it!

The Giveaway:
Carolyn is giving away a copy of Mermaid and a copy of The Next Full Moon to one lucky winner!

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale  
Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father's greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom.

Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart...

A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. It will make you think twice about the fairy tale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page.


Buy it on Barnes and Noble
Buy it on Amazon
Read Goodreads reviews

The Next Full Moon  
This thoroughly compelling, gorgeously told tale, begins as the weather turns warm enough to swim in the local lake, twelve-year-old Ava is looking forward to a lazy summer, and her crush, Jeff is most definitely taking notice of her. Everything is going beautifully. Until Ava starts to grow feathers—all over her shoulders, arms, and back. Horrified, mortified, and clad in a hoodie, she hides out in her bedroom missing her dead mother and worrying about the summer, and the rest of her freakish life. Carolyn Turgeon has a gift for imagining magical worlds. In Ava’s case, this other-worldly place belongs to the Swan Maidens, one of whom is Ava’s mother. Ava goes back and forth between middle school and this magical realm taking the reader along for an exhilarating, extraordinary ride.



Buy it on Barnes and Noble
Buy it on Amazon
Read Goodreads reviews

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter.  Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to international entrants.


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