Interview: Carol Goodman

Please welcome Carol Goodman, author of fourteen novels — most recently, Blythewood.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Write in the morning, walk with a friend at nearby Poet’s Walk in the afternoon, dinner with family at night, then curled up with my dog, a cup of tea and a good book.

Do you haBLYTHEWOOD COVERve a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My Cath Kidston bag, dark green, rosemary mint, “Would you like some tea?”, tea and scones.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Dubinsky, who introduced me to creative writing; my eight grade teacher, Jim Johnson, who first told me I could write; and the writer Sheila Kohler, who said to keep going with my story about a Latin teacher and her students.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I keep the radio tuned to my local NPR classical station.  Even when they talk it’s kind of soothing.  I also love the little bios they give of famous composers.  My favorite one starts, “Depressed and deeply in debt, Handel wrote his masterpiece …”  It always gives me hope!

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Earl Grey infused dark chocolate with a crystallized violet on top.  Ava and her friends often take tea at Violet House in Rhinebeck, which was once the violet capital of the world.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
My daughter Maggie started a webcomic a few years ago ( set in 1911 and I loved the era.  I also love books about girls’ schools set in the turn of the century.  I started picturing a girl of that period who worked trimming feathered hats and who heard bells in her head.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
People haunted by the past, the sometimes frightening power of the imagination, the journey to find the place where you belong and the people you belong with.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Avaline Hall has grown up with a secretive mother who is hiding from her past.  Ava has been isolated from family and her social class.  After her mother dies she is on her own, trying to survive in 1911 New York City, supporting herself by working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  She hears bells in her head and is afraid that she might be prone to the same melancholy and delusions that plagued her mother.  She doesn’t know where she belongs.  When she finds out that she is not suffering delusions, but that there is magic in the world, she’s determined to find out the secrets of her mother’s past and find a place where she belongs.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Jane Addams meets Hawkgirl meets Veronica Mars

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, Val MacDermid, and Elly Griffiths.

What’s next for you?
Tea … and then the second Blythewood book, Ravencliffe.


Carol Goodman is the author of fourteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize, and, under the pseudonym Juliet Dark, The Demon Lover, which Booklist named a top ten science fiction/fantasy book for 2012.  She has taught creative writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz.  She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


Twitter: @C_Goodmania

7 thoughts on “Interview: Carol Goodman”

  1. I’m just going to come right out and admit my fangirl status here: I’ve read all of your books, and I think they are just wonderful. I’m always recommending them to people. Love the academic settings!

    Are there specific authors in the gothic tradition who have intrigued you as a reader? I’m guessing Poe, for one, since he’s invited to your dinner party. 🙂


  2. Carol, I’m a long time fan of your work, and I’m so excited to hear you have a new one out. I think we have a few cross-connections…I’ve just moved back to the Bard area after many years away–was on Poet’s Walk last month–and I believe we even have the same editor at Ballantine! It was fun to get this glimpse into your process…thanks, Mysteristas!


  3. I agree with Theresa-great chocolate choice! Very unusual and I love that there’s a violet capital of the world. Your book sounds delightful and I’m adding it to my TBR pile. Thanks for visiting Mysteristas!


  4. Hm … so if I need a second career it will have to be chocolate maker obviously! It was great fun to be on this site! Thanks, Cynthia, and thank you all for your kind replies. Jenny, I’ll keep an eye out for you at Poet’s Walk! Other Gothic writers to have for dinner? Shirley Jackson and Sarah Waters, I suppose. Going to have some Harney’s Holiday tea now … Happy Holidays to Everyone!


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