Three Questions and a Cover — a short interview with one of my favorite authors, along with one of the author’s covers.
Carolyn Haines is a USA Today bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney, Pluto’s Snitch, and Trouble the black cat detective mystery series. She was inducted into the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame in 2020, received the Harper Lee Distinguished Writing Aware and the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Awards for her work. A native of Mississippi, she live on a small farm in Alabama where she takes care of a herd of cats, dogs, and horses.
1. How much of your own personality do you share with your characters? Is that a choice, or does it happen on its own?
Some of my characters have more of my personality than I sometimes want them to have! All of them are stubborn (and so am I). But it’s funny, because even the protagonists always share some of my traits. I think that when I’m creating characters, motive is such a critical thing. While I’m not always proud of my motives, I understand them. I do try to give my characters some better qualities than I have–behavior I aspire to, you could say. In the cast of the Sarah Booth series, Sarah Booth grew up being a tomboy, much as I did. She has a tremendous love for the natural world, which is also true of me. But she’s braver than I am in the sense that she takes on cases that I would be reluctant to get involved in. I have more self-preservation than Sarah Booth does. Tinkie also shares a lot of my traits, as do the other characters. The thing I like best is that these characters have grown and changed over the years. In Sarah Booth time, not even two years have passed. In Carolyn time, it’s been almost 25 years since I first started writing these characters. While they haven’t aged much, they’ve grown and matured (I hope.) With the Pluto’s Snitch books, Raissa is very young–in her early 20s. I have a touch of the ability to see things…spirits. Not nearly like she does.But I wanted to write this type of character because I wanted to explore that ability. She is also much braver than I am. I’m more inclined to run in the opposite direction than try to talk to an apparition.
2. What’s the most interesting / flattering / peculiar thing a reader has ever said to you?
“You have changed my life.” While that’s very flattering, it’s also a little unnerving until you hear HOW you changed a person’s life. In this particular instance it was a woman who told me she’d always hated reading. That she looked upon reading anything as a chore and avoided it, but that once she started reading my books it changed her into a reader and that had changed her life. I really love that. Books to me are truly magical. I would love to have magic! So in this one instance, maybe I did have a little bit of magic.
3. What warning can you give to aspiring writers?
Writing, at least as I know it, has been a harsh mistress. Especially for a woman. There are choices to be made if you want to be a writer, and those choices all involve how you spend your time. In any one person’s world there is often work, relationships, fun, children, writing. It’s very, very difficult to keep all five of those things in your life if you are writing hard, because the writing life is solitary. I need to be alone and quiet to think and write. I’m a pretty tough writer in that I can work despite a lot of sickness or anxiety, but the sense that I’m not taking care of things as I should can really clog up my writing process. It seems that life is always a juggling act, trying to live life and give time to others while attending the compulsion to write. There are easier ways to make a living, so if you can walk away, it might be smart to just walk away.