Interview: Caroline B. Cooney
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Caroline B. Cooney has a published author for over 3 decades. Caroline's first published novel, Safe as the Grave, was released in 1979. She has been writing steadily ever since, securing a place in libraries, bookstores, and homes. As of 2012, she's released over seventy books. If you've followed her since her early career, you'll recall Twenty Pageants Later and Among Friends. Perhaps you've read her action-packed stories like Flight 116 Is Down! Maybe you picked up her spooky The Vampire's Promise trilogy or the Christina books when they were republished.
For many, the Cooney book that they'll never forget is The Face on the Milk Carton, which introduced readers to Janie, a teenager who realizes she was kidnapped as a child. The success of that book led to a sequel, Whatever Happened to Janie? Then came The Voice on the Radio and What Janie Found, following the protagonist's story through the rest of her high school career. In 2012, the author released a short eBook entitled What Janie Saw. In January 2013, her story will finally be resolved with the publication of the final book in the line, Janie Face to Face.
I recently interviewed Caroline, and we spoke of Janie, Pilgrims, Egyptian queens, and everything in-between. We hope you enjoy the interview!
The first Janie novel, The Face on the Milk Carton, was made into a TV movie starring the fantastic Kellie Martin. How involved were you in the production? As a screenwriter and an actress myself, I know you don't always have a choice in the matter.
I had nothing whatsoever to do with the movie! People find this difficult to fathom, but the book author is not often part of the film script or the filming. I had a movie party, though - the cable company wired my whole house temporarily; neighbors brought their televisions; we borrowed chairs; we had people in every room; the caterer served during the movie; everybody cheered during the credits! Such fun.
When you were a child, a librarian handed you the novel The Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucile Morrison, and, because you loved it too much to part with it, she allowed you to keep it. Do you still have it?
I still have it.
What was it about the book that struck you so deeply?
That book gave me a lifelong passion for ancient civilizations on the Mediterranean - Greek and Roman, mostly. I studied Latin and Greek for years. I even managed a semester of hieroglyphs - an astonishing written language way beyond my abilities, but loads of fun.
What was the first manuscript you ever completed?
My first eight books were never published.
How did you get your book deal for Safe as the Grave?
When I wrote Safe as the Grave, I just mailed it in to a children's publisher I thought would like it. I had low expectations since nobody had wanted the first eight! But this one succeeded. That method doesn't happen often now; publishers can't handle the volume of submissions.
Considering your early works - Among Friends, Family Reunion, Twenty Pageants Later, that era - do you have any sentimental favorites?
I love them all! Among Friends is still a joy to me, because friends are crucial to a good life, and one must also be a friend to have them.
Well put. Tell me about your forthcoming Mayflower story.
The Pilgrim story begins in 1607 when a handful of radical Christians are so persecuted that they must flee England or face prison. The families try twice to get out of the country and are caught each time. I had no idea how much suffering and sacrifice those children faced just to get to Holland. The drama in Holland is no less. The decision to leave for a New World, sailing in a little splinter of a boat to reach a wilderness where they will be utterly alone, is the most exciting story I have ever researched and the most exciting I have ever written.
What about writing makes you happiest?
Writing is work and I love work. I love how an amorphous thought, paragraph by paragraph, turns into a thriller or a mystery. I love going back and chiseling yesterday's writing into something better. I love waking up in the middle of the night, struck by a new thought, and racing to the computer.
Attention trivia buffs: Bonus CBC facts below!
- The screenplay of The Face on the Milk Carton was written by Nancy Isaak.
- Book series such as Cherry Ames and Sue Barton inspired Caroline to attend nursing school. "Who knew that if you became a nurse, you dealt with sick people?" Caroline said to me. "Certainly those books never implied such a thing."
Visit Caroline B. Cooney's website, which includes a comprehensive list of her novels.
Which of Caroline B. Cooney's books are your favorites? Leave a comment below!