Carol Goodman: creating magical places
Excerpts from the interview by Lynn Kaczmarek in the December/January 2003 issue of Mystery News
I have been seduced by authors before. Drawn into their books by a compelling story, fascinating characters or particularly vivid setting. But Carol Goodman kind of snuck up on me. Her first book, The Lake of Dead Languages, sat on a stack in my office for the better part of 2002. Occasionally drawn to the cover art, I oft times picked it up, then pushed it aside in favor of one of those other authors -- the safe ones, the ones I already knew. I usually consider myself an adventuresome reader, one who is willing to try just about anything, but for the last year or so I've found comfort in the familiar.
And so, it was with a rekindled feeling of reckless abandon that I finally opened the cover of The Lake of Dead Languages. And I was smitten. The voice of Carol Goodman rang true and clear.
Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson had attended the Heart Lake College for Girls, a small, private college located in the Adirondacks. The granddaughter of one of the founding family's maids, Jane had won a scholarship to the school and soon found herself inseparable from her two roommates. For four years they did things girls do -- they studied some and partied some; they wrote in their journals; they learned the classics. And they passed on the legend of the lake.
"...the Crevecoeur family lost all three of their daughters in the flu epidemic of 1918. It was said that one night the three girls, all delirious with fever, went down to the lake to quench their fever and drowned there. At this point in the story, someone would point to the three rocks that rose out of the water off the swimming beach and intone solemnly, 'Their bodies were never found, but the next morning three rocks appeared mysteriously in the lake and those rocks have from that day been known as the three sisters.' They say that when the lake freezes over the faces of the girls can be seen peering out from under the ice. The ice makes a noise like moaning, and that sound, like the lapping of the water, draws girls out onto the lake's frozen surface, where the sisters wait to drag the unsuspecting skater through the cracks in the ice. And they say that whenever one girl drowns in the lake, two more inevitably follow."...
An even more powerful work, The Seduction of Water comes out in January 2003 and is the result of Goodman's focus on something a writing teacher once said "Ask yourself if what you have here is already enough." A book that relies less on coincidence and even more on atmosphere, and the intricacy of a story-within-a-story, The Seduction of Water is the tale of Iris Greenfeder, the daughter of fantasy writer Katherine Morrissey. Iris grew up living at the Hotel Equinox in the Catskills where her father was the manager. When Iris was ten, her mother died mysteriously. Then as an adult, finding herself unsettled in both relationship and career, Iris returns to the Hotel to write her mother's biography and search for what some think is Katherine's last manuscript, the third in a trilogy about a fantasy world called Tirra Glynn...
I asked Goodman about the common threads in the books and if she would continue them. "I think that the challenge is always to not repeat yourself and not get into a rut. So far I've felt that I could continue telling a certain kind of story without feeling that they were repeating themselves. I'm still interested in telling a woman's story from the first person narration and I'm stil interested in the Hudson Valley and water. I think there's more to be done there."
Goodman is still in the research stage for the next book -- attending lectures, reading about Tiffany, taking a stained glass class...and kayaking.But soon she'll be sitting in her office on the converted front porch, Flair pen in hand. She'll be looking out the front window, the one that faces the Rose of Sharon bush. And on the wall, in between the windows, she'll glance occasionally at the Tiffany window postcard -- just below the snapshot of Mohonk Lade and above the 1940s picture of a woman walking through Grand Central Station. And in her mind's eye, she'll see that mystical world. And next year about this time, we'll all see if too.
Read the complete interview in the December/January 2003 issue of Mystery News