Interview: Author Carole Barrowman

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Image Courtesy of CaroleBarrowman.com

Image Courtesy of CaroleBarrowman.com

As a professor, columnist, and author of both adult and children’s fiction (not to mention a biography or two) Carole Barrowman is one busy writer. Raised in Scotland until her teens, Carole arrived on American shores with a passion for writing and a gift for teaching. She is now the Director of Creative Studies in Writing at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on top of a successful novel writing career. Carole Barrowman is also one half of the Barrowman writing duo (you may have heard of her brother John Barrowman), but never forget she is a force all on her own.

FGN:  You were born in Glasgow, Scotland. When did you come to the United States? Was there much culture shock? How did you adapt?

Carole Barrowman:  I was 17 when we left Glasgow, so I spent my formative years in Scotland. I guess there was some culture shock but it was mostly in terms of adapting to university in the US as opposed to going in the UK. I wasn’t happy about the move but my parents were savvy in what they did. They told me if I wasn’t happy in a year, they would let me come back to Scotland. Of course, they knew what would happen. I loved university and made lots of new friends and … American boys!!

FGN:  When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

Carole Barrowman: I don’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. I think I was born that way, I was always telling stories and writing down ideas. And I was always surrounded by books… I wrote my first real story for a contest in school. It was an adaptation of a David Bowie song (because, you know, I could do better that Bowie). It was terrible, but I just kept writing and reading and learning the craft.

FGN: What were your first stories like? Did they have any particular common characters or subjects?

Carole Barrowman: My early stories were very Enid Blyton like. I so wanted to be sent to a boarding school and to have adventures on islands with caves, and to have parents who ignored me, but sent me great picnic baskets with cakes.

FGN: Did you and John ever write together as children? What is your process like when writing by yourself? How does your process differ than when you write with John?

Carole Barrowman:  I’m eight years older than John so mostly I ignored him when we were very young (or I tormented him in ways that are part of the Big Sister contract). The gap between an 8 year old and a 16 year old is pretty huge.  We travelled a lot together as a family, especially when we first came to the US and we’d tell lots of stories together on those trips.

My writing process changes with the demands of each project. When I collaborate with John, we work together a lot (live and digitally) in the beginning of the process, creating outlines and lots of notes. I take those and I write from them, letting characters take shape out of our initial brainstorming. When I have draft worth sharing then John will jump in again with his feedback. But I do the writing. We are both very imaginative so we always have more ideas than we need.
FGN: Do you have any particular rituals when you sit down to write?
Carole Barrowman: Ha! Of course, I do. I wear a big loose comfy cardigan (even if I’m writing in the summer) when I write, and I buy a new one for every new book project. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but I like to have some kind of liquids when I’m working, mostly sparkling water or peppermint tea (I drink gallons of both). Sometime I listen to music…but not always. When I’m working on a novel, I always start by revising a page I finished the day before to get back into the head of my characters etc. I write lots of reviews and having a deadline helps, so even with my fiction I give myself small and big deadlines… like 1500 words today or no wine with dinner!
FGN: You have written childrens’ books and Torchwood tie-in books, but your passion seems to be with mystery novels (as evidenced from your column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and your seminars on the Art of Mystery). Do you have any mystery novels planned for the future?
Carole Barrowman: For years the book I’ve been working on between other projects is a mystery set in the Civil War with Clara Barton and Walt Whitman as main characters. I putz (a technical term…) with it regularly and this spring I decided enough and have sent it to my agent. We’ll see. Fingers crossed (and all my other body parts).
FGN: According to your website, you’ve been teaching since you were about… 14. What drew you to teaching? What drew you to Alverno college?
Carole Barrowman: I hope you realize that was a little fib… I’ve been teaching forever though (at least 30 years I think). I love teaching. It’s afforded me a life with books and ideas and smart women. Alverno is a small liberal arts college for women and it’s progressive in its pedagogy. Its mission fits with my values about education and women and leadership and the importance of the liberal arts no matter what your career choice.
FGN: Cardiff, Wales seems to be a special city for you. What is it about Cardiff that is so special to you? What are some of your best memories?
agbioCarole Barrowman:  Love Cardiff. Lost of fond memories of crazy wild times on the bay with John, hiking along the stunning coast. In fact, you may want to check out ANYTHING GOES and I AM WHAT I AM for some of those stories. Too many to mention here.
FGN: You seem to be coming to more and more Comic and Sci-Fi Conventions. What has been your best convention experience? Your worst?
Carole Barrowman: Love Cons. I love to meet and chat with fans and hear their stories. Plus even though I don’t do Cosplay, I’m so impressed with those who do! I haven’t had a bad experience at a Con yet and hope to keep doing them.
FGN: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
Carole BarrowmanThe BOOK OF BEASTS (Simon & Schuster, 2015), our final book in our middle grade trilogy is out in US this fall. That’s exciting! I’m 71CrDXe2XGLcurrently collaborating with John on some other media projects and we’re writing the next novel in the world of Animare and Guardians.
FGN: Where is the best place for our readers to follow you and your works?
Carole Barrowman: I’m on twitter at @BarrowmanCrime and I have an author’s page on Facebook at Carole E. Barrowman. I can also be reached through my website at www.carolebarrowman.com.
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