Allow me to introduce you to Cara Rosalie Olsen. She is the author of Awakening Foster Kelly, an amazing YA book that I recently just read and reviewed during Bout-of-Books 8.0. So what do I think makes Cara Rosalie Olsen Indie-Credible? Could it be her attention to detail and her vivid descriptions? Or maybe it’s the smart, witty characters that she created in her first novel? You know, the kind of characters that you would really love to get to know and spend some quality time with. Of course it could be the way she weaves a tale that makes you forget you’ve been reading as long as you have. (I lost track of time more than once while reading Awakening Forster Kelly.) Or was it the way her twists and turns make your jaw drop because you never saw THAT coming? Actually it’s all of those things combined with the fact that she is gracious, friendly, humble, totally approachable and more than just a little talented. Yep, I’d say all that and more make Cara Rosalie Olsen an Indie-Credible author 😉
One of my favorite things about hosting any author is getting to know them better and helping readers get a glimpse into what makes them tick. That was the main reason that I decided to do an interview post when it came time to host Cara. She whole-heartedly agreed and gave me plenty of info to get started. So let’s get to know Cara Rosalie Olsen just a little bit better, shall we?
- Who or what inspires you… do you have a muse?
Everything inspires me. Life is made up of all these incredible complexities and nuisances, and our brains are only so capable of understanding things, but still we try. We try so hard to understand and communicate and love and learn and live and be happy. If you look closely enough, every single book ever written is about these things.
- Do you have a writing ‘quirk,’ if so what is it?
I’m fairly boring in that department. If this even counts as a quirk, then I prefer to write while wearing pajamas and no make-up and my hair pulled completely off my face and neck. Something about being completely peeled allows me to, one, be comfortable, and two, relax with my characters. It’s the way I hang out with my best friends; and who are my characters if not the people I want to be around.
- What makes a great story?
I can only answer this question as it pertains to my respective tastes and preferences, but,
More and more everyday I am learning that the reader’s experience is a very personal one, and not every book is meant for the same person. This makes sense to me and I believe it is, in essence, what makes finding a good book much like finding a pearl inside a hot-dog bun.
Admittedly, I am one who will put down a book rather abruptly if I am unable to feel connected to its characters. Characters—deep, grossly beautiful, fleshed out characters—are most important to me. While writing this book, there was only one rule I adhered to: write the book I would want to read. Naturally, this meant it wouldn’t be for everyone, and that is something I had to be okay with, sometimes by the hour. It’s never easy to frustrate or disappoint a reader; but if done properly these will be the reasons they love your characters, not solely because they identify with them. And because nothing good or fruitful ever came of trying to appease the masses. They do not want to be appeased; they want to be reminded why they care.
My perspective is that books are meant to be read and enjoyed—not analyzed and endured. That said, AFK is not fast paced, nor is it plot driven. It does not fit the typical YA paradigm. It is not for the reader looking for adventure on every page and relevance in every single sentence. (That’s a lot of nots, I know, but better to be upfront about it.) To me, that is not human. We do not always elegantly and purposefully move from one thought to the next. Sometimes it’s awkward. Frustrating. Uncomfortable. Sometimes people don’t get you. That’s good! Because it’s the direct result of our having brains and hearts rather than microchips and hard-drives.
When writing fiction, whether the genre be Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance, or Sci-fi, and whether I love them or loathe them, I want the characters to get under my skin. I want to feel. This is what you will find inside my books, and especially this one. I will always focus on tackling and addressing what someone is feeling, rather than what they are doing or where they are going. Why is more important to me than How. Depth over Progression. And generally speaking the Whys are more needy, demanding; they take time to evaluate and explore, because they are not post-contemplated insights; thoughts happen in real time, and just like in real life, sometimes that means tangents. If this disgruntles the reader, well then I am left to wonder if perhaps the mirror might be reflecting a little too much light.
Okay, that’s the longest answer, I promise!
- What challenge do you find most gratifying and to mean the most to you when you meet it?
Something I admire in other authors is their ability to soften me toward a villain. This doesn’t mean I always like him/her. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite. A fantastic example of a well written villain is “Jack Randall” featured in the “Outlander” series. I loathed him, found myself aching for his death, but also understanding exactly why he was the way he was — revoltingly awful — and at certain times even finding myself sympathizing with him. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of my third book, in which a villain will be born whom I hope to arouse the same sort of sentiments I just shared. If I can coax my readers into caring about him — not for him, but about him — I will award myself with a job well done.
- How do you process a negative review?
What we’re talking about here is rejection; some might say rejection of the very worst kind. Many authors — myself included — favor the comparison “new baby” when speaking of their novel, so essentially what has taken place is someone has told me they hate my baby. Ouch. If this happened in real life, I’d be hard pressed to respond with some mixed martial-arts; however — and believe me, it’s something I contend with daily — a book is not a baby, and people are entitled to not want to take mine home and snuggle with it. Of course there will always be that initial sting at discovering a reader did not enjoy their experience with Awakening Foster Kelly. That hurts, because my main purpose in writing this book was so that others might relate, find themselves a little more understood, and ultimately meet and fall in love with people made of breath and smoke. The peace I have found in dealing with this inevitable part of the writer’s life, is the same peace I strive for in my everyday life: to remind myself that my worth is not determined by others. Whatever people might say, however they feel about me — whether it’s positive or negative — does not hold bearing on who I am. I operate under the belief that I am beloved and treasured, this including any shortcomings and failures I might possess; and even more, I rest assured that these “flaws” are tethered to a flawless source using these devices to make me a better, whole-er person. In falling prey to harsh words and criticism, allowing such things to define me, this only inhibits me from being the person I was created to be.
- What author or authors have inspired you the most?
Diana Gabaldon. Peter S. Beagle. Sarah Addison Allen. These are the authors whom I have been compelled to admire and emulate. They make me feel stuff. I don’t always like it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for me.
Because I just got done reading Awakening Foster Kelly, here are some questions that are specific to that book.
- What inspired you to write Awakening Foster Kelly?
Goodness, I could write a companion novel answering this question. But I will attempt brevity – something, if you’ve read my book, I am not so keen on – and say that Awakening Foster Kelly was my response to the fear each human harbors at facing the question “Am I enough?
- What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
I love to laugh. Any book that can pull a genuine, heartfelt laugh out of me is a winner. That said, I think the chapter wherein Foster meets Jake and Emily for the first time would likely be my favorite. I couldn’t stop laughing while writing it.
- Music was almost a character in its own right in Awakening Foster Kelly. I loved Mr. Balfy. Do you have a musical background and did you have a teacher who inspired you as much as Mr. Balfy seemed to genuinely adore and inspire his students?
In high school I was part of the choir, but no, Mr. Balfy is entirely dreamt up. If I ever met someone like him in real life, though, he’d have to shoo me away with a bat (but we both know he’d never do that, ’cause he’s way too nice and awesome). That said, I come from a very musical family. My father was an entertainer in his youth, an accomplished vocalist and pianist. My grandmother and sister also sing and play the piano. Around twelve years old, I gave lessons a year — this was part of a binding agreement — before deciding that learning to play an instrument is really, really, really tough work, and I didn’t love the piano enough to continue to feel that dejected and frustrated. Innately I have the ability to sing, and this I do as often as possible, sometimes in front of people, and sometimes all alone, shower on or windows down, harmonizing with someone much more talented than myself. Sara Bareilles is stunning. Sara, if you’re out there listening, can we be friends?
- I don’t know if I can honestly pick a favorite character from this book. They were all so full of personality and had their own special ‘something’ that made them unique. You’ve said in a previous interview that Emily was your favorite to write and I can see why, but do you have a favorite based on who they are?
That would be Foster, definitely. Gosh, she’s just so good. And not in this perfect does-she-have-any-flaws-at-all? sort of way, because you very quickly learn she is maddeningly self-depreicating and comically clumsy. No, what I love about Foster is that she genuinely cares about people — sometimes against her very frightened will — and literally has no motives in being kind. She is the type of person that, if asking “How are you?” and you replied “I’m fine.” she would then quietly wait to give you the opportunity to answer truthfully, and if you didn’t, accept and love you for that decision, too.
Don’t get me wrong. At times I wanted to shake her; and of course that’s why Emily Donahue is in her life.
- How are your characters created?
People who know me like to believe they see me in Foster, or see me in Emily, and the truth is, I am in all my characters, even the villains. Yes, there are some with which I definitely share stronger commonalities, and some very little, but one thing I am adamant about is every person I birth is an individual. It’s important to me not to confuse Cara’s cereal with Mr. Balfy’s cereal.
- Foster’s dog, Rhoda, played an important role in Awakening Foster Kelly. Do you have a special pet in your life? (Silly question I know since she’s mentioned in your bio, but this picture of Bella is just too adorable not to ask about her 😉 )
Rhoda, I just love her. I have never owned a lab, myself, but have seen firsthand what wonderful companions they make; such great family dogs – if you can get past the never-ceasing shedding! Oh, my Bella. I think it’s safe to say she is my dearest love; which basically I do, in the acknowledgements of AFK, when I said “It’s very possible I love you more than a human ought to love a dog, but we don’t care, do we?”. Probably because I have no child of my own yet, she is very much the center of my world. We rescued her from the shelter, where she was first rescued from a hoarder. She had been bred for her beautiful coloring, and left to go hungry and without care along with a hundred other animals. I have this picture of her, from when we first brought her home . . . I can’t look at it without tearing up. And then I look at the picture here, and I am so proud. She is healthy and happy and just so SWEET! We adore her. My husband and I will actually circle Bella on the bed and just watch her sleep. She makes the cutest noises and snores louder than any human I know; she loves to snuggle into warm, hollowed out spaces, and sometimes when we’re napping together and she looks up at me, I know she’s saying, “I love you, Mommy.”
- Finally, what do you have in store for readers next?
I have just finished writing my second novel, My Friend Sue, and am in the process of editing. You can find the synopsis and cover art on my website. I am hoping to release the book come this late winter or early spring of 2014. We’ll see if they let me.
Cara Rosalie Olsen believes she would have made a fine hummingbird, as she struggles with sitting still and enjoys inordinate amounts of sugar. If she wasn’t a full-time writer she would have liked to join the cast of Saturday Night Live, or, taken over as CEO of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. She lives in Southern California with her patient husband, Michael, and her scrumptious pooch, Bella. Awakening Foster Kelly is the author’s debut novel.