Carol Dawson is both a novelist and nonfiction author whose books include the novels The Waking Spell, Body of Knowledge, Meeting the Minotaur, and The Mother-in-Law Diaries, all published by Algonquin Books, Simon and Schuster, Viking-Penguin, and translated overseas into several languages. Her award-winning non-fiction book House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby’s Cafeterias was published by the University of Texas Press. She has taught creative writing and literature at the College of Santa Fe, as well as numerous workshops. In addition, her work has been published in magazines and journals, including Texas Monthly, Southern Living, The Oxford-American, and Parenting Magazine. She is currently working on two historical novels, and researching her latest non-fiction book, Miles and Miles of Texas: The Story of the Texas Highway Department, 1917-2017, to be published in Fall of 2016 by Texas A&M University Press.
On November 15, Carol will be teaching a class for the Writers League as part of our November Novel Writing Series called “Plot Vs. Truth: Find the Most Exciting and Suspenseful Path of Your Story” at St. Edward’s University. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.
Carol Dawson: I love to write both fiction and non-fiction. The pleasures of locating the narrative arc in any form is one of the joys of writing. I do enjoy historical fiction, and the historical non-fiction I pursue is often equal in dramatic breadth to any novel I could ever create, and involves even more character complexity–therefore it’s immensely satisfying. Pulling the seemingly disparate skeins of a story together to knit a whole meta-picture: what can be more fun?
Scribe: What is your basic process when trying to create a new fictional character; do you derive traits from real people?
CD: Fictional characters generally just show up. They start talking inside my head, describing their circumstances, or walk through the room in a blue flapper dress, or suddenly appear, trudging through a snow-filled forest, all from their own volition. The trick is to always keep your door open.
Scribe: Do you refer to any specific books that you feel have great, strong characters and plot?
CD: No. Not when I write. There are many books I love and cherish, and frequently re-visit, but they and their appurtenances belong to their own authors, not to me.
Scribe: When you reach a bump in the writing process, what do you do to get over it?
CD: I take a walk. A long walk. Sometimes just a short one–often it doesn’t take much. The point is to get away from the text, and let your mind go play. The solution will come with motion.