“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Caroline Carlson

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Caroline Carlson is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Caroline’s debut middle grade novel MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, from HarperCollins Children’s Books, releases in just a few days, on 9/10/2013! Congratulations, Caroline!

Here is Caroline’s short biography:

Caroline Carlson holds an MFA in writing for children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, amid many stacks of books.

Here’s a description of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT:

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags. But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT is the first installment in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy. Books 2 and 3 are forthcoming in 2014 and 2015.

Here are the links to Caroline online: Website, Twitter, Facebook, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Now it’s time to hear from our guest:

Smack Dab Middleview with MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT author Caroline Carlson
1. What does your main character, Hilary, want?

More than anything in the world, Hilary wants to be a pirate. She dreams of sailing the High Seas, finding buried treasure chests full of magic coins, and impressing her father, who’s the admiral of the Augusta Royal Navy.

2. What is in her way?

Girls aren’t allowed to be pirates, so the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates rejects Hilary’s application to become a pirate apprentice. To make matters worse, Hilary’s father sends her off to finishing school to learn how to become a young lady of quality.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

I knew early on that I wanted to write a story about a girl who wanted to be a pirate, but I didn’t know right away that the treasure in the story would be magical, and I didn’t realize at first that magic would play such an important role in the plot. Even though I’m the sort of writer who plans and outlines, there were plenty of plot twists and character developments that surprised me as I wrote. (And I hope they’ll surprise readers, too, so I won’t share them all here.)

After I’d written the first 20 pages of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, I shared them with my workshop group at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I was a graduate student at the time. I’d never intended to send Hilary off to finishing school—she was going to run away and become a pirate without setting foot in Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies—but my workshop colleagues were so excited to find out about Hilary’s adventures at school that I decided I should send her there and see what happened. That single decision sent my manuscript in a new direction full of events and characters I’d never planned to write about. Now I can’t imagine the story without them.

4. Was MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

Yes, the book has always been for middle grade readers, though I’m not sure I made that decision consciously. All I can take credit for is writing down the story I wanted to tell in the way it wanted to be told. When it came out as a middle grade novel, I was a little bit surprised, since I’d thought until that moment that I was a YA author—but writing for a middle grade audience felt just right for me in a way that attempting to write YA never did. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover that I’m a middle grade writer at heart; after all, my favorite books are middle grade masterpieces like THE WESTING GAME, THE DARK IS RISING, and HOWL’s MOVING CASTLE.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

Kids are smart, they’re funny, and they know that fancy turns of phrase and elegant descriptions are no substitute for a captivating, well-told story. I hope readers of all ages will like MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, but I wrote it especially for anyone who’s courageous enough to have fun reading. 

Thank you for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Caroline. Again, congratulations on the release of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT! We’ll look for it soon on bookshelves!


  1. This sounds like a fun series. I look forward to reading the story. Thanks for a great Interview!

  2. What a cool book! Congrats, Caroline!

  3. Thanks, Darlene and Holly! I just began reading this - it's definitely a fun adventure.


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