Interview | Carolyn O’Doherty

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Author Bio: Since she was little, Carolyn O’Doherty has always loved to read and write. She always wondered what it’d be like to freeze time which inspired the idea of creating the Rewind series. She’s from Portland, Oregon and when she’s not writing, she works with Portland nonprofits to develop affordable housing. She also writes flash fiction for fun and to get out of that tricky writer’s block. The sequel to the Rewind series, Unleashed, will be released this fall and she’s currently writing the third and final book of the series.

Website – https://www.carolynodoherty.com/
Instagram – @carolyn.odoherty

Allisone Doerner: What was your inspiration behind Rewind?

Carolyn O’Doherty: When I was a kid, I used to daydream about being able to freeze time. It was an idle fantasy that mainly focused on things like how I could cheat on tests or finish up an assignment I forgot was due. I also thought it would be a handy way to save myself if I was ever in a dangerous situation. At the time, I couldn’t decide if it would be better to be able to move things around while time was frozen, or if I wanted everything to go back to how they were before I froze time, so I settled on a magical incantation I could recite at the end of the freeze that would determine what happened when it was over.

Fast forward (many) years and, while drumming up ideas for a new novel, I remembered this old fantasy and started considering the concept in more concrete terms. How would freezing time actually work? What were the real-world things a person who could freeze time might do? Most importantly, how would the rest of the world react if someone had power like that? Those questions slowly evolved into a plot that eventually came together as REWIND.

AD: Which character(s) do you relate to the most?

CO: Probably Alex, although I don’t think I’m much like her. She’s more impulsive than I am and definitely braver. I’m not sure I’d risk my life as willingly as she does. Then again, we had very different upbringings. I hope if I had been raised in as loveless an environment as she has, that I would become as fiercely loyal to the people I care about.

AD: If you could freeze time, what’s the first thing you’d do?

CO: Well, there is that neighbor I’ve always hated. . .Kidding!

I think I’d explore places I’m not supposed to go. The high school across the street from my house has been under construction forever, that would be worth an illicit exploration (not super exciting, but you did ask about the first thing). On a grander scale, I’d like to sneak into the private rooms at Buckingham Palace, or the back areas at the Louvre, or climb over barriers so I could touch (frozen!) wild animals. I think of frozen time as a place utterly free of rules. It would be a heady place to visit.

AD: Which authors have inspired you?

CO: The first author I fell in love with was Lloyd Alexander. He wrote a children’s fantasy series about an assistant pig keeper in a land called Prydain, a place I could imagine perfectly and desperately wanted to visit. The best part is, I met Lloyd Alexander when I was about ten. He was utterly charming and even remembered the fan letter I wrote him. I will always be his fan.

I also loved C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Basically, my favorite stories were filled with magic and grand battles between good and evil. Later, I transitioned to science fiction and gobbled up books like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series and everything I could find by Ursula K. LeGuin. These writers opened me to the possibilities of imagination and the wonder of creating a new and fantastic world.

As an adult I moved away from sci fi and fantasy, toward more literary authors. Toni Morrison, Ann Pachett, and Margaret Atwood rank as some of my favorites because of their masterful storytelling and lyric prose. I will never write as beautifully as they do, but I am absolutely inspired to write better when immersed in one of their books.

More recently, I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers. I love stories with fast pacing and an intricate plots, especially if it includes characters you can’t completely trust. Tana French is my current favorite in this genre.

And of course there’s Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. I’ve read all their books multiple times. Despite their differences, I think part of what appeals to me about their stories is that they take place within rigid social structures. Everyone is so well behaved and polite—even Agatha Christie’s murderers tend to be tidy and no one ever seems to seriously mourn the victims.  Reading their books is, to me, like consuming literary comfort food.

AD: I see on your website that you write flash fiction. Would/did you ever consider making a collection?

COy: I don’t think there’s a huge market for flash fiction collections, but I certainly wouldn’t turn anyone down if they offered to publish them! I did collect all my Short Fairy stories into a calendar one year and gave them to everyone in my family for Christmas. Maybe one day I’ll put together another one and try to market it.

AD:  What advice would you give to fans who want to write their own book someday?

CO: As with any skill, if you want to be good at writing, you have to do it a lot. Some days the words flow, other days getting even a few sentences down is a struggle. My advice is to just keep working at it. I don’t think it matters that much what you write. Just spending time composing words—essays, stories, poems, journal entries, free writes—all of it helps you learn how to balance a sentence and convey your thoughts. Reading helps, too. Absorbing how other writers tell their stories teaches you so much about how to tell your own.

If you’re serious about your craft, I think it’s also really important to get feedback. I’ve taken a ton of classes and workshops, and been part of a number of different critique groups – both face-to-face and online. It really helps to be part of a community. Writing is a solitary activity and finding people to share the ups and downs with is infinitely helpful. It also makes the whole process much more fun.  

AD: Are you currently reading anything?

Carolyn O’Doherty: I’m always reading something! Right now it’s The Power by Naomi Alderman. The Power is an intriguing novel that explores what would happen if all the women in the world suddenly developed a new power that made them physically dominant over men. So far (I’m not done) it’s not a pretty vision, but her ideas are super provocative and definitely make you think.

AD: What was the reason(s) for writing in YA genre?

Carolyn O’Doherty: I write YA because these are the kinds of stories that first made me fall in love with reading. On some basic level, I think this is the place where my imagination has the freest range. I also like that most YA books have happy endings. To write a novel, you have to sink into the world you create and be with those characters for a long time. I don’t want to spend that much time and emotion living in a dark place. I’ll read a book about tortured characters, but I don’t want to live there.

AD: I see you’re working on the sequel, Unleashed. What can readers look forward to?

CDy: Actually, what I’m working on is the final book in the trilogy! Publishing is a slow industry and books are completed months ahead of publication dates (in part so they can garner reviews before they’re released). Unleashed hits bookstores in September of this year. The story picks up a few days after Rewind ends. Our spinner friends are discovering that life outside the Center presents a whole new set of challenges. They are struggling with basic things like finding food and shelter, all while trying to keep ahead of the Center and Carson Ross, both of whom are working hard to track them down. The group itself starts to fragment. KJ is still sick, Shannon wants to go back, Alex wants to save the rest of her friends, and Jack just wants to play with his newfound skills. The escaped spinners might be free but they are in no way safe. The final book, which is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2021, broadens the story into its larger international context and grapples with the question of whether there is any place for spinners in a world that fears their very existence. It’s a challenge to bring a trilogy down to a satisfactory conclusion—I’m working really hard to try and pull it off!

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