Writer, author, storyteller
Welcome to the world of Carolyn Meyer. Meyer is well known for her versatile and flawless writing rich in historical detail, vivid descriptions and well-drawn characterizations. Publishers Weekly has said that Carolyn haslush detail-rich prose and ably evokes her characters lives.
She has written historical fiction books for young adults and nonfiction for young adults and younger readers for many years. Her versatility is seen on topics she has written for her young audience such asthe Amish, the Irish, Japanese, Yup'ik Eskimos, a rock band, rock tumbling, bread baking and coconuts. Ten of her books have been chosen as Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association.
As we garner more insight into Carolyn’s life, we invite you to sit back and get comfy as we learn more about Carolyn Meyer, the skillful writer of historical fiction and realistic novels.
Is writing something you always wanted to do?
CM: Yes, but I didn't have any idea how to make that happen. For most professions there's a clear road to follow: dentists go to dental school, teachers get a teaching degree, actors study acting. But what do writers do? Well, if you do what I do, you just keep writing and reading and rewriting and reading some more and sending things out and getting people to read what you've written. After a while you get better at it, and then—if you're lucky and you keep at it—you start getting things published. And at some point along the way you say, "Yes, I'm a writer."
You write a lot of historical fiction. How much research goes into the characters' past lives in order for you to formulate such rich historical detail?
CM: Lots—maybe three months or more before I even write the first word. I start with a quick online search to get a rough idea of the subject. Then I go to the library (public and university) and load up on books. If they're really good books, I order them. Then I do a lot of Googling to fill in some of the little details even when I'm 250 pages into it. I tend to overload my story with those details and have to go back and take out a lot and that really kills me.
Was it easy to write about the character Mary Stuart, the headstrong and multidimensional woman as she is described in your recent novel, The Wild Queen?
CM: It's always a challenge to make a character relevant to the lives of my readers. Mary Stuart was no more difficult than any of the others and in many ways she was easier because there is so much good material available about her. A character like Cleopatra was much more difficult because so little is actually known about her and I had to invent like crazy.
The story of the Queen of Scotland’s reign is well known and some say was very mysterious. After completing The Wild Queen would you say that you have gotten to know and understand her choices a bit more than others who have read and possibly researched her life?
CM: Probably not. She was a controversial woman. Did she have anything to do with the death of her second husband? No one knows for sure—including me—although there's plenty of speculation.
You have a long line of bio-historical novels on powerful women in history. Why this particular focus?
CM: It didn't begin as a focus; it was just something that evolved. My first of what has become a series was about Mary Tudor, aka "Bloody Mary," just because I thought it would be interesting. And it was! So, naturally, I had to write about her half-sister, Elizabeth. And that led to the bad girl, Anne Boleyn, which took me back to Mary's mother, Catherine of Aragon. By then I was hooked.
Of all the characters you have written about is there one that reminds you of yourself? If so, which one and why?
CM: I don't identify with any of these characters as adult women but I almost always found something about them as young girls with which I could identify—usually with the struggle to find out who she/I was and how she/I would deal with life's early challenges.
You have been pretty busy with writing. Along with the release of The Wild Queen you have also released Cleopatra Confesses this past June. How did you manage to release two books around the same time?
CM: Not too difficult—Cleopatra Confesses was published in hard cover in June 2011; the paperback came out in June 2012 just as The Wild Queen was being published in hardcover. Both are available as e-books, which is a new experience for me. I usually average a book a year and I hope I can keep up that pace.
Where did you get the idea for Cleopatra Confesses?
CM: I wanted to write about a queen who wasn't European; an Egyptian seemed a perfect choice. The hardest thing was getting the image of Elizabeth Taylor out of my head. The glamorous movie star played Cleopatra back in the 1950s.
Most of your writing is geared towards young adults and younger readers. What has the feedback been like from this audience?
CM: I'm always thrilled when I get email from young women who claim they were never interested in history until they read one of my books and became not only fans of historical fiction but developed a real interest in the whole broad range of history. But I'm also pleased that older readers are discovering my books and also enjoying them.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you prepare yourself in some way?
CM: I get up early, throw on my clothes, and go for a three-mile walk during which I mull over plot development and revision issues. Showered, dressed, breakfasted, and armed with a mug of tea I'm at my desk by 9 a.m. and work until noon. Three days a week I work out at the gym for an hour and do errands on the way home. Then I'm back at work for another hour before dinner. I write for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday but I almost never write at night except to catch up on e-mail (like this one!).
What authors have inspired you to write?
CM: I admire authors like Kristiana Gregory and Kathryn Lasky but my inspiration comes mostly from reading widely outside of my genre.
What’s next for Carolyn?
CM: Victoria Rebels will be published January 1, 2013. And I'm still struggling with Beauty's Daughter: The Story of the Daughter of Helen of Troy due out sometime next year if I ever get it finished. It's always a struggle!