Janet Lee Carey
Describe your new book.
Dragon's Keep started out as a fairytale about a princess with a dragon's claw a kind of beauty and beast combined. I wanted to flip the old fairytale image of "the perfect princess" on its head and write about a girl who's challenged to accept herself, beastly flaws and all. I penned it in first person so I could really get inside Princess Rosalind's head. After about page 90 I realized I was writing a full-length novel. Happily, I was soon caught up in the complex relationships between Rosalind, her overprotective, disapproving mother, and the vengeful dragon who comes to claim his own. I wrote Dragon's Keep in a white heat, not knowing how it would end until I reached last page.
What is your favorite family story?
I've always been a nature lover and sometimes that's dangerous. When I was seventeen I was driving my stepfather home one day and as we motored along, I spied a flock of redwing blackbirds winging skyward. Beautiful! I was so thrilled I sped up. My stepfather's cry of "slow down into the turn," came too late. We ended up in a deep ditch. The car was tilted at a sharp angle so I was actually peering down at my stepfather who was now scrunched against the door of the passenger seat. He looked up at me and said quite casually, "Well, we're in a ditch."
If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
I would live in Middle Earth because Tolkien paints such a rich world full of history and magic. Middle Earth feels like a very real place and Tolkien's nature descriptions continue to open my eyes to the beauties around me. I know Frodo has a harrowing adventure, yet he travels with his friend, Sam, and he eventually destroys the ring. He doesn't quite win out, and Middle Earth is forever changed by the stain of Mordor, but that rings true as well.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
I really enjoy Dia Calhoun's fantasies. Her writing is brilliant and subtle and her characters are richly developed. I especially loved The Phoenix Dance. It is first and foremost a fantasy, but the story gave me a rare view into bipolar illness. I love coming away from a book with new insights and a greater understanding of others. It's one of the reasons I read.
What do you do for relaxation?
I walk, do yoga, meditate, read, and journal. We also live near a lake where many varieties of birds gather throughout the year, so I've recently become one of those middle-aged birdwatchers skulking in the bushes wearing binoculars!
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
I liked the episode where Homer gets lost in another dimension. My favorite quote from that show is, "Help! I'm somewhere where I don't know where I am!"
Who are your favorite characters in history?
I didn't like studying history when I was a kid because the old school textbooks taught history from war to war. But my hero growing up was Harriet Tubman. Over a period of ten years she made nineteen trips into the south to rescue slaves. She escorted more than three hundred people to freedom in that time. When I read her story I was amazed at her resilience, commitment and strength. This wasn't one-minute heroism. This was continual, loving sacrifice. What a hero!
How do you connect with your readers?
I've always done school visits, speaking engagements, and maintained a website, but I still felt cut off from many readers. Recently I joined three fellow authors to create readergirlz an online book community for teen readers. We have a website, newsletter, and a MySpace page that allows for lots of author/reader interaction. Each month the author of the featured book provides readers with book club party ideas (including music and menus), book discussion questions, community service options based on the book's theme, and topical discussions. The MySpace group page allows for some real, often deep, dialogues on friendship, racial tolerance, self-acceptance, and other important teen topics. We've been flooded with enthusiastic readers and currently have more than a thousand friends, mostly girls and teen librarians across the country. It's been an amazing success!