Sunday, September 14, 2008

Carolyn D. Wall

Carolyn D. Wall’s debut novel, Sweeping Up Glass, has enjoyed one of the most amazing paths to publication I have ever heard of.  The novel was accepted by Poisoned Pen Press, and when the ARC was sent to reviewers, it received such a reception that PPP sold the rights to Bantam for hardcover publication in the summer of ’09.  PPP retained rights to publish just one thousand copies in August of ’08, one of which I am lucky enough to own (signed by the author, yet!)

This may be Carolyn’s first published novel, but she hardly sprang from nowhere.  She is a full-time freelance writer and lecturer who has written thousands of stories and articles and produced and recorded a six-weeks course in journaling entitled The Journaling Tapes: Writing from the Heart.  Obviously, the woman knows whereof she speaks.  Martha Beck, columnist of O, The Oprah Magazine, writes that “Sweeping Up Glass deserves a place on the shelf next to classics like True Grit and To Kill A Mockingbird.”

What would you ask Carolyn if you had a chance?  I actually did have the chance.


DonisHow was this book born?  

Carolyn: Big question!  It was a conglomerate of bits from my life, symbolic of my family, social issues and things I’m passionate about, snippets from my neighborhood, wonderful things I’ve heard and stored up.  For example, when I was born we lived over a grocery store.  I absolutely adored my father, as Olivia does hers.  Mine worked hard at many jobs – RCA Victor, Canada Box, selling meat pies from his bicycle basket and so on.  While he was adept at angering my mother (so was I), he never operated a still!

D: Silver-faced wolves are an almost mystical presence in the book.  Did these animals ever actually exist in Kentucky? 

C:  Research showed me that there were never any wolves in Kentucky.  So I invented that whole thing – had “Pap” haul them down from Alaska, allowed that it took him a long time to trap them.  I told how deeply he cared for them, that they adapted and did multiply, but remained endangered.

D: Where did the title come from?  

C: The book was originally called The Judas Hunter.  In my heart, I never felt it fit the book well.  Also, it was misleading:  was Judas doing the hunting, or was someone hunting Judas?  The book’s theme is:  things often aren’t what you think they are.   So Judas was metaphoric for those who lied, betrayed, and so on.  So at the last moment I was desperate for a strong title.  I scanned the book’s pages on my computer screen and hit upon the moment when the bad guys break into the grocery store.  The next morning, Olivia and the boy are kneeling on the floor, scooping up coffee grounds and … sweeping up glass.  Eureka!

D: What is your next project? 

C: I have just finished The Coffin Maker.  Both books were resold to Bantam Dell and in several other countries.  The Coffin Maker stars Flannery Christian and her band of not-so-merry men.  Then, of course, there’s Lupe who killed the janitor, and Raven who reads chicken bones.    This book addresses an issue that’s attached to the Mexican-American immigration thing, but is something I’ve never heard anyone speak of.  It’s designed to poke some sticks, but New York assures me that’s fine and dandy.

D:  How are you handling book promotion?  Do you have a publicist?

C: About the publicity thing:  at this point, I don’t have a publicist, and have no plans to hire one.  So far, I choose the appearances that sound like fun and that will sell the most books.  I love to talk – put a microphone in my hand and turn me on.  And I love to travel, but yes, it gets expensive.  So I do pick carefully, and I wait to see who offers what. 

D: This has all happened so unexpectedly. Is there a not-so-rosy side to all the sudden attention? 

C: I’m so grateful for the press coverage, and the honors that are being accorded Glass. The leverage of the universe never fails to astound me.  On the flip side, or maybe in the same vein, it’s amazing the number of people who attach themselves when your name begins to mean something artistically.  Several people I barely know have opted to address editors, agents and reviewers, using my name, calling me “dear friend”, saying I referred them.  It sheds a whole new light on those wiggly little critters doctors used to attach to the skin, to draw blood.  Tho only word that comes to me is “ick.”  But this story takes the cake: a nice writer-guy named Fred recounts that he was approached by a man claiming to have AIDS/HIV, wanting Fred’s financial support while he “put up a cornfield” next to the store that sold Fred’s books. 

In the end, the best advice came from you, Donis “ it’s the test of the rich and famous”, you said.  What I really heard was, “Oh, poor you.  We should all have that problem.  Suck it up.”

You were right.

So I did.

Many thanks.

D: Where can people read more about you and your work? 

C: My website is


Here is the moral that all aspiring writers should learn from Carolyn’s experience.  Write well, children, write well, and you shall be rewarded in the end.  Oh, and P.S., Carolyn is a fellow Oklahoman.  I’m not too proud to latch on to that kinship. - Donis -


Helen Ginger said...

Well, I hereby admit that I don't know Carolyn well and we are not best friends. I am however intrigued by her book and will soon be a reader - hopefully, if I can find one of the copies.

Warrior Librarian said...

Nice interview. The book sounds great, can't wait to read it. And she sound lovely, I'm sure she deserves all her success.

Donis Casey said...

I think every one of us who succeeds big just adds to the pile of success of which the rest of us can partake.

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