Interview with Carol June Stover
Author of Kenmore Square - A Novel
Is this your first book?
I wrote three non-fiction books before turning to fiction in the mid-1990s, and Kenmore Square is my third novel.
Do you have more books planned for the future?
Right now, I am completing a collection of short stories. My tales are written for readers who enjoy a good read during quick breaks or while traveling—a tale they can pick up and put down. Some of my short stories have surprise “ba-boom” endings, make you pause to consider a point, some leave you scratching your head, and some are for a good laugh.
What inspired you to write Kenmore Square?
Kenmore Square was inspired by my time spent in the Boston hotel industry years ago, and by the characters I met and read about during my marketing career in that city. The seeds of the tale were sewn when I stayed in a Kenmore Square rooming house while apartment hunting. It was a very nice place, but somehow it sparked my imagination and inspired my tale set in a mobster’s run down rooming house in Kenmore Square. And it was local crime headlines that inspired my tale about the mobster’s daughter whose mother is murdered on her tenth birthday and her suspicion that her father did it…but how can she prove it?Likewise, I became fascinated with another inn too—the famous Wellesley Inn in Wellesely, Massachusetts. It was stately and beautiful, but I also thought it would be a great setting for a mystery. So, I wove the rooming house and the inn into my story for a mixed bag of emotions. It was fun to write.
What category is you book?
The publisher, Champlain Avenue Books, categorizes Kenmore Square as literary fiction, and reader feedback tells me that it has a sub-genre which is “cozy mystery.”
If writing another book will it be a sequel?
I think this particular book could very well deserve a sequel, particularly since mobsters usually have more than one grimy tale up their sleeve.
Would you ever consider writing in a different genre?
Between writing fiction or non-fiction? Fiction wins for me, hands down.
What is your schedule like when you are writing?
I like to edit first thing in the morning and add to my story in the afternoon. I know that many suggest writing all the way through and leaving editing for last, but this works best for me.
Was there anyone in particular that had an influence on your writing?
My first career was in marketing, and when I began my second career writing nonfiction in the mid-90s, I wrote what I knew about which was the history of modern dolls. But my father always said, “You should be writing novels.” So the motivation to write fiction came from my father. Also, my mother was an avid reader, so I learned the power that a good story has over a reader very early in life.
Who is your favorite author?
I love the work of Elizabeth Strout, Sue Monk Kidd, Jonathan Franzen, A. Manette Ansay, Alice Munro and Jean Thompson. I’d say my favorite is the one whose book I read last!
What is your favorite book?
My heart says it is Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kittridge, but her book, The Burgess Boys is great too.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I’d tell them to study the basics of good storytelling before they begin writing. Even the most fascinating characters and the most wonderful plots need sound structures to bring them to life and to carry the readers along.
What has been the toughest criticism you have received as an author?
It has been tough accepting the fact that you can’t please everyone…one agent rejects your manuscript because they found one of your characters “underdeveloped,” and the next one compliments you on your great character development for the very same story. You just have to write your heart out and to like your own story. That is what counts.
What has been the biggest compliment received for your writing?
Just yesterday a reader told me, “Your story really ‘got to me’ in places.” When I asked where that was, they named two scenes I never suspected would be so moving. It really makes me feel good when my words have touched someone like that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My first two novels were inspired by fascinating anecdotes from my own family history: “Current River Redemption” was inspired by my late Grandmother’s tales about the stark realities of her life in rural Arkansas in the 1920s, growing up as the daughter and granddaughter of famous pioneer preachers with loads of “thou shalts” and high expectations. Her fascinating tales ranged from Arkansas’ crippling drought in flood season, to the power of young love in the country, and everything in between including plagues, famine and the effect that wartime carnage had on her small town—it was gripping reading. My second novel, Surviving 26th Street was inspired by growing up in Northern New Jersey in the 1950s. It’s the tale of a southern family transplanted “up north” with high expectations after the war, but then starts to unravel when failure sets in. The story is about a family in conflict, including destructive love, lust, greed and the drama of 1950s social taboos.
Is there a special topic that you enjoy writing about?
I am drawn to stories that abound with social interaction and test the strength of relationships, promises, and all else that humans hold dear.
Do you feel your book reaches out to a certain audience?
In general, those who enjoy stories with conflict from social dynamics—these readers will love my stories. I find that women who appreciate literary fiction filled with sensitive, intelligent scenes are particularly fond of my stories, though I have had men confess to enjoying them too.
What were some of the challenges in getting your book published?
It is very difficult for an “unknown” writer, particularly one on a second career and one with a low profile like me, to attract the major publishers. I’d say that gaining access to readers with open minds from major publishing houses is a challenge. The same goes for gaining access to top agents…or to any agents that read queries at all!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
My first career was spent in marketing, and my favorite part of that work was writing. So, I’d say that I’ve always wanted to write, but that it was hard to find time, especially when you are on a demanding career track. You have to wait for a time when you can take a break and pursue writing…particularly if you are a jump-in-with-both-feet type of writer, as I am
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Learning the basics of writing a good book from the very beginning. One wants to get on with it, but it pays to take a step back, learn the basics and then let ‘er rip.
Did you ever experience writers block?
I’d call it writer-needs-a-break. If I’ve been going great guns for days or weeks, some mornings I get up and just yawn at the computer. If I take a day off, or even two, then I print out my story out and read it through once again, I’m always chomping at the bit to start writing again. Something always springs to mind as I am writing my story, even if it is not on my original outline.