Interview: Carolyn J. Rose

Please welcome Carolyn J. Rose, author of No Substitute for Maturity and other novels.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Waking up to feel a breeze from an open window, smell coffee brewing, hear birds singing, and discover that my unconscious was at work while I slept and has at least two ideas for characters or plots. Finding that the supermarket has a sale on cheesy snacks is a bonus.

Do you havNSFMat200x300e a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My characters and I love cashews, dark chocolate, cheesy snacks, and a little rum now and then.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel) for his use of the language, Rex Stout (the Nero Wolfe series) for his characters, and my husband for never getting in my space or in my face.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No. It distracts me from writing and from listening for the washer to finish, the dryer to tell me it’s done, the dogs wanting to go out or come in, the neighbors coming and going, etc. All of that is so distracting that I don’t need more distractions.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
My latest book, No Substitute for Maturity, is a cozy. So it would have a thin shell of dark chocolate (representing the theme of reaching maturity and the baggage that holds us back from that goal) and a fluffy whipped center filled with fruit and nuts (representing the quirky characters that populate Reckless River).

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
As a substitute teacher, I encounter kids on the road to adulthood. As someone who reads the paper and keeps up with the news, I’m well aware of all of those who never grow up and man up (or woman up) and who try to pass the buck and the blame. As my protagonist (Barbara Reed) embarked on a live-in relationship with her boyfriend and his teenage daughter, I saw the opportunity to create situations where the way characters reacted (childishly or in more adult manners) would create conflict and humor.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Responsibility, revenge, the ability to laugh at yourself, and the power of love.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Barbara Reed’s parents checked out emotionally after the death of her brother and she was shepherded through adolescence and her teen years by her domineering sister Jeannine. Jeannine went on to become a radical feminist known as Indigo Zephyr, shortened to Iz, and still feels she should run Barb’s life. She also feels that after two less-than-successful marriages, Barb should take a pass on getting involved with men. Fortunately, Barb meets two other strong women and, in the course of No Substitute for Murder, gets her life back on the rails. Her wealthy neighbor, Muriel Ballantine, a former Las Vegas showgirl, may or may not have been married to the mob. And Wilhelmina Frost, known as The Big Chill, has a caustic sense of humor and a clear view of reality—or what passes for reality at Captain Meriwether High School where Barb works as a substitute teacher. As the story arc develops, Barb becomes less tentative and more in charge.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Julia Roberts’ character from America’s Sweethearts, Bridget Jones, and Mary Tyler Moore.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie (to ask about that time she went missing), Edgar A. Poe (for the creepy factor), John Connolly (more shiver factor) and Tana French.

What’s next for you?
I’m revisiting Hemlock Lake, a fictional community in the Catskill Mountains. Like Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood, The Devil’s Tombstone will begin in April with winter giving way to spring and more change coming to the community and another long shadow of crimes in the past reaching into the present.


Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret and A Place of Forgetting. She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.



11 thoughts on “Interview: Carolyn J. Rose”

  1. Always love reading about other writers and love the fact music isn’t Carolyn’s thing when writing. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve tried and failed listening to music while writing. Who doesn’t want to listen to the neighbours get up to strange things during the day


  2. David, sometimes I wish the neighbors had a filter, but it’s usually good material.
    Mary, thanks for the encouragement.
    I’m off to work now – a substitute teacher usually works on the day before spring break – but I’ll check back after that final bell finally rings.


  3. As the husband whose main job is staying out of her face (and the co-author of five of her books) I’m the one who listens to music as he writes. I’ve got like 12 Pandora stations. I put them on shuffle and away I go. Carolyn is amazingly focused and writes regardless of distractions. I’m like a hummingbird with a word processor. I flutter around, occasionally pecking at the keys then flit away.


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