Carrie Mattern: An Author Interview
This is a first for me, but I find that I very much enjoyed a chance to discuss Carrie's soon-to-be-released book, so I hope it's not the last time I get to share an author interview here on the ole blog.
I "met" Carrie online just a few short weeks ago. When my sister-in-law, who happens to be a former classmate of Carrie's, discovered that Carrie would be releasing a new ebook, she thought we might have some common interests and recommended a chat. Soon after the introduction, I was following Carrie's lead and joining up with the Support Michigan Authors Facebook group.
In addition to membership in the Support Michigan Author's group, Carrie also has a blog at Thoughts That Carry. You may find me in the comments there from time to time.
Now, let's get on to the interview, shall we?
Although I've been given access to a small sampling of All About Jane and have a pretty good idea what this story is about, can you please summarize the book's premise for the blog readers?
All About Jane is a young adult story from the mind of a teenage protagonist, Cassie, who lives with the guilt of one girl, Jane’s, suicide. It is a tale that frequently goes untold today...but is all too common in our society. When someone, particularly a child or adolescent, chooses suicide, who is affected and left with guilt? Who is responsible, if anyone? And how does one heal afterwards? These are the questions I attempted to answer within the book. I also wanted to clarify that ‘bullying’ is not the cause of suicide; there are several factors that combine and lead to a suicide attempt.
In your acknowledgements you mention that you had attempted to write this particular story nearly ten years ago. As a writer myself, I understand the stops and starts that can happen with any story. Was there any particular person, place, or thing that really helped you keep at this story until it was finished?
A few things inspired the final product, but one more than any other stands out to me today. About three years ago two junior students of mine began a club that promotes positive behavior. It was after reading an article on Tyler Clementi’s death at Rutger’s University in class that they were motivated to bring awareness
to our school. They talked to me about it and I said I will help out with whatever they need, but it must be student led. So began Empathy for All, or EFA. This club has changed my life. The kids that join year after year show such compassion and tolerance for everyone that I knew I had to write this story down for them...I want them to know they cannot control what choices people make with their lives. All they can continue to do is to be positive role models for their peers, the youngsters they visit at other schools, and their community as a whole. They make such a difference in more lives than they will ever realize.
What was the most difficult part of this story for you to write? The easiest?
To begin, Cassie was an easy character to write as she has a lot of similar traits that I did when I was her age. Things like being insecure with boys, naive, torn between family and friends, an introvert, but also well liked were ideas I could identify well with. She also has a mean side that I had, just not to the extent portrayed in the book. I was more manipulative, whereas Cassie is calculated and precise, almost methodical in her schemes.
The toughest part of the story was writing the rape scene. I fictionalized a story that I had heard happened while I was in high school and created a metaphor for the entire situation. Imagining what this girl (unrelated to All About Jane) in high school went through during a party, and the aftermath she endured from the kids at
school, was gut wrenching. I struggled for days to put on a piece of paper what she has to live with still today. It did not seem fair. It did not seem honest, but inside I had that writer’s voice speaking up and telling me that a girl or a boy will benefit from reading this scene. They will see that what has happened to them was not right, or they may see foreshadowing of what could happen to them if they stay in the unhealthy relationship that they are in at the moment.
I understand you're a teacher as well as a writer. What grade(s) do you teach? Do you feel your position as a teacher has given you access and, by extension, insight into teenagers today?
Currently I teach English to juniors and seniors. I find that they read only what they can connect to, and if it’s an article about adolescent confidential informants, a Holocaust memoir such as Night, or even each other’s work, I try to provide them with realistic, accurate pieces that they will connect to and actually read. My hope is they will read All About Jane, since I did not let any of them view it early. Insert evil teacher laugh here.
I read that you're part of a writer's group. Were there any teenagers in the group? And, if so, did their feedback help you keep your characters age-appropriate on the page?
My writer’s group is composed of an array of women who are all instructors. Many teach at the high school and collegiate level. We meet every month and bring work to share with one another. We also visit conferences together during school vacation times or the summer months. They urged me to enter a fiction contest with All About Jane, and it won second place. Without their confidence in me, I may have kept working on it another ten years.
Students who helped this process were all former graduates that I have taught at various schools. Many of them provided feedback with allusions and dialogue that were necessary to change for a modern adolescent reader. It was inspiring to work with them collaboratively via technology. Consequently I am considering
a teen writing collaboration for my next book. An Ainsworth alum and former Flintstone, Patrick Jones, did this with his most recent novel and it looked like it was quite an amazing experience. Writing gathers us together and puts us on intimate, common ground. Sharing an experience with a group of teens would be
very profound and educational.
Are you working with a literary agent?
At this time I am working alone. A literary agent will be something I seek in the future if the self-publishing venture becomes too much to manage. Currently my husband does all the finances and advertising for me, so I just get to write and show up where and when he has something scheduled. It is wonderful. I also
have a current senior student illustrating my third children’s book, The Magician’s Daughter, due out this June.
What can you tell me about your publisher?
My publisher for All About Jane is MANA, who specializes in marketing new authors. Last summer I met the CEO, and she works very closely with Flint authors, so I decided to enter her fiction contest this fall. With winning second place, All About Jane is marketed as an ebook for free, along with royalties and
such. If it does well, we may see it in hard cover this fall. I have went the self publishing route with other books, and now I am learning about how these venues compare. This industry is a full time job and perfect for those who work from home. I, however, wish there was more time to devote to my writing since teaching all day long does not leave much time to write during the day, and being a mom of three does not leave much time during the evenings.
In closing, let's take a minute to point interested readers in the right direction. When and where will the masses be able to buy a copy of All About Jane?
As of May 29, 2013, All About Jane can be purchased at http://www.marketingnewauthors.com/bookstore.html
Thank you for taking the time to read more about myself, and All About Jane. If you’d like to read more, the Prologue will be available for free for a limited time at www.carriemattern.com next month!
Once again, many thanks to Carrie for sharing her book's story with me. I certainly enjoyed the chance to learn more about All About Jane and Carrie's journey in writing the book.