Russell, Carolyn

A native of Indiana, Carolyn lived in Michigan, Illinois, and South Carolina before she retired and moved to Missouri to be closer to her grandchildren. She graduated from Ball State University where she also received a master’s degree in student personnel administration in higher education. Carolyn taught special education at the junior/senior high level before moving into academia. Officially, she’s retired, but she works part-time at the local library in Poplar Bluff. Her duties include writing the library’s bi-weekly column for the local newspaper. Writing has always been part of her life, but it was her dear friend and former colleague, David Silberstein, who convinced her that she had a flair for fiction. Carolyn travels often to visit with her five children when she isn’t writing. Her hobbies include tennis, reading--especially mysteries, and travel.

Interview Carolyn Russell
Susanne Marie Knight


When did you start writing?

Writing has always been my first choice for communicating. In school, I would go to great lengths to avoid oral reports and public speaking. Even today, I’d prefer not to talk in public, but I do of course. I began my first novel while still in high school. I collaborated with a girlfriend. I remember we named the protagonist “Sable Brown,” which was the color of our mascara. In the mid-80s, I began writing essays and short stories before tackling a novel. Of course, that book has never seen the light of day--it was simply a learning experience. Someday, I plan to go back to it and give it the attention it deserves.

What type of writer are you…

I write in sequence. After working an idea around in my head for weeks, sometimes months, I start at the beginning with an idea of where I will end up; however, I allow the characters and the situation to unfold spontaneously. Sometimes, I’ve had to corral a character who wanted to take the story in a different direction, but not often.

BEYOND THE LIES sounds very intriguing….

The story line is based on personal experience. As a teenager, like Gloria, I discovered I was adopted. Later, I did search and find my biological mother. The book is based on that premise, but it’s pure fiction.

What was the most difficult scene?

When Gloria Miles confronts her biological mother about the identity of her biological father.

What the most enjoyable scene?

That’s easy--the love scene in the barn.

What type of writing schedule do you have?

I prefer to write in the morning for 3-4 hours and edit that day’s work at night. This is the ideal, but it doesn’t always work out this way.

How do you handle writer’s block? Any tips for us?

I don’t recall ever really having “writer’s block,” so I’m afraid I’m not much help with this one. Sometimes, I don’t write for months at a time, but I’m always working on something in my mind.

Who is your favorite author?

No doubt about it--Pat Conroy. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago--didn’t wash the hand he shook for hours. I truly believe THE PRINCE OF TIDES is a classic. The man is a genius. He commands the English language like a maestro conducts an orchestra. Unfortunately, he only publishes a book every 3-5 years--which is a starvation diet for those of us who are Conroy addicts.

What type of books do you like to read?

Mainstream fiction, mysteries, nonfiction, biographies, and cookbooks.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Just do it. Always send out another query the day you receive a rejection.

Quitters don’t get published. Recently, a fellow author, Jill Riddell, sent me a copy of a novel by Sara Lewis entitled, SECOND DRAFT OF MY LIFE. It’s a good read for the writer.

Do you have any advice for up and coming authors?

Stay with it. Write what you know, and don’t take “no” for an answer. It all sounds so cliché, but it’s all so true.

Can you tell us what projects you are currently working on?

I prefer not to talk about works-in-progress. I do have another book coming out (with another publisher) in 2004--a love story. All I’ll say about the current project if that it is a romance set in France.