Sunday, July 12, 2015

There's no substitute for Carolyn Rose ... Really!

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Carolyn, it's great to have you back on the blog.
You've lived in several areas of the country. How has your environment affected your writing?

Two environments have affected me the most—the Catskill Mountains of New York where I grew up, and Vancouver, Washington, where I’ve lived since 2000.

The feeling of being rooted but also yearning to break away that I had as a teenager figures in the plot of Hemlock Lake, the first of my Catskill Mountains Mysteries. The ghosts and legends of those ancient mountains and the stories I heard as a child feature in Through a Yellow Wood and The Devil’s Tombstone.

My Subbing isn’t for Sissies series is set in Reckless River, Washington, a fictional town that has a lot in common with Vancouver, where I now live. Barbara Reed, the divorced and downsized protagonist, becomes a substitute teacher, a job she describes as being a step above that of crash-test dummy. Not coincidentally, I became a high school substitute teacher shortly after ending a 25-year career as a TV news producer and assignment editor. Silly me, I felt I was getting too old for the stress of constant deadlines. Now I have stress on a whole different level. But when the final bell rings I can leave the building knowing I don’t have to return to that particular classroom if I don’t want to.

 How many books have you written?

Counting one I trashed, three now out of print (and staying that way), and six co-written with my husband, the total is 19 going on 20. I just started on the fifth Subbing isn’t for Sissies book. (Working title: No Substitute for Mistakes.)


Give a short synop of your most recently published book, No Substitute for Myth.

No Substitute for Myth:

Is Bigfoot prowling around Reckless River, Washington? Has Sasquatch come to the city?

Barbara Reed doesn’t know if she believes the legendary creature exists, but evidence is stacking up. Something big is scavenging for food in city parks. Something tall and heavy left footprints across a dirt parking lot. And something huge and hairy careened into her one night on the riverfront trail.

Did that same creature kill a man and drag his body into a swamp? Or was the killer human? Will justice be undermined by media frenzy, a tide of tourism, and hundreds of hunters?

With help from the usual suspects, Barb, her drug-cop boyfriend, her pearl-powered wealthy neighbor, and Cheese Puff, her less-than-loyal dog, set out to solve a mystery, catch a murderer, and bust a few myths along the way.

I love Cheese Puff!

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Instead of hidden, I’d use the phrase “thinly disguised.” My main characters share a lot the attitudes and opinions I’ve had at different times of my life. And most of them can’t resist snack food or a BLT on rye with crispy bacon. They’re pretty outspoken and sarcastic, love dogs, prefer small towns to cities, like a frothy rum drink now and then, and think we’d make more progress in government if we took some of the politicians out of politics.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

Sitting. Cutting back on the snacking. Getting through the dreaded middle.

Thanks to a special cushion that helps my sciatic nerve pain, I am now able to sit comfortably for longer periods of time, but I make an effort to get up every 20 minutes and move around. Unfortunately, moving around generally takes me in the direction of the kitchen, the lair of the cheesy snacks. More unfortunately, my brain demands carbohydrate fuel to generate ideas to get me out of the quicksand I occasionally write myself into. If it wasn’t for water aerobics at the community pool, I’d have to sew my lips shut so I wouldn’t have to shop for clothing at a tent store.

LOL! And did I mention, dear readers, that Carolyn Rose has a great sense of humor that runs through her stories?

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

To get the feel for The Devil’s Tombstone, I read a number of articles on the geology of the Catskills and went back to those mountains in April of 2014. That’s the time of year when the book begins, a season when the sun casts long shadows, wind soughs through the pines and hemlocks, and ice may still clog the lakes. One theme of the book is the legend surrounding a huge rock, a glacial erratic. I wanted to see and touch some of these rocks carried by glaciers and left behind when the ice sheets retreated. Fortunately, I was able to convince my brother (Lorin Rose) and my cover-designing cousin (Dorion Rose) to come along and carry the sandwiches. More fortunately, the hike wasn’t so arduous that they had to carry me on the return trip.

I get plenty of inspiration for the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series every day that I show up to sub at my favorite Vancouver, WA, high school. I get even more when I walk on one of many trails along the Columbia River or streams that run through the city. Thinking about what creatures might be lurking in the forest along a greenbelt trail gave me the inspiration for No Substitute for Myth.

And, I confess I’d been watching several TV shows featuring teams hunting for Bigfoot. I’m always ready to make popcorn and slouch on the couch for an hour or so and take in a mystery or a Bigfoot hunt.
What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far?

To let my characters express their opinions. I used to hold back because a writing coach told me my characters were too over-the-top. I also worried what people would think of me because of what my characters said and did. As a result, my characters were flat. Now I let them cut loose and splatter their thoughts on the pages.

I'm so glad you do, Carolyn.

What advice can you give new writers?

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. And don’t let others define “success” for you. If you’re able to do it, take money out of the equation and write for the joy of sharing your stories with people you’ve never met and may never meet. I did end-zone happy dances when I saw I’d sold books in Malta, Angola, Ecuador, and Singapore. I may never go to those places, but my characters have.

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Everywhere BUT on a spreadsheet. I have four bulletin boards in my office, all layered with scraps of paper, cartoons, articles, file cards, and photographs. I also keep notebooks for each series with character and setting details.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I’m terrible at this. I use Facebook and blog for a few other authors and I have a tiny mailing list. I don’t Tweet. I’m an example of what NOT to do.

I don't tweet either. I never quite figured out how or even why. 

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

I’d like to write at least two more in the subbing series, and then tackle a mystery/love story with paranormal elements.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Check my website:  and my Amazon author page:

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? (please provide the buy link for easy reader accessibility)

Amazon Links:

Kobo Links:

Nook Links: 

Both books are available as trade paperbacks.
Great! Carolyn, I wish you the best and can't wait to read No Substitute for Myth. I hope readers will start at the beginning of this series and read them all. Such fun and giggles!