Carolyn Marsden, award-winning author of fourteen middle grade and young adult novels -- twelve out, two on the way -- has opened a new chapter in her career. She has turned from creating stories about children of other cultures, often in countries outside the U.S., to write about and illustrate her own bizarre multi-cultural past, and how it led to her literary present. Here’s how she describes her latest book.
MEXICO, JUPITER, SUBMARINE: How I Became a Writer
Exploding volcanoes! Harrowing escapes! Ouija Boards and Gong Gong on Jupiter. UFOs, auras, and fairies. Jules Verne’s submarine, under the sea and on Mars. The Beatles as a Communist plot. And the way all of this led to my resplendent writing career.
As I began MEXICO, JUPITER, SUBMARINE, I tumbled into the unknown. With big pieces of paper, scraps of this and that, found objects, cheap paint, and glue, I set out to write and illustrate my odyssey. I loved the trial-and-error, the feeling of free fall. What I created made me laugh.
What made you want to write a memoir?
As a writer I always wanted to somehow make use of my wild and crazy childhood. But whenever I tried straight-out writing about that early life, the writing came off as self conscious.
Then I saw a trailer for David Small’s graphic memoir, Stitches, and thought AHA! that’s the way to go. Right away the idea of doing an illustrated memoir clicked for me. For years I’ve loved playing around with collage and it was natural to combine my art and my writing.
How was this experience – writing and illustrating -- different from writing a novel?
Writing a novel is a very serious and often tedious undertaking. There’s angst involved. Creating MJS was pure fun—lots of lightness, lots of humor. I worked quickly, constantly improvising and using my intuition.
Why did you decide to publish it as an e-book?
MJS is an odd and quirky project. There’s nothing like it out there. Basically, I’m not famous enough for a publisher to take on the expense of something so risky. Plus I wanted to adventure into the world of online self-publishing.
What's the format?
It’s a fairly simple book—90+ collage panels that, with few words, tell the story of events in my childhood that directly and indirectly led me to become a writer. The collage is funky and made up of a wide variety of materials.
How will you market it?
I’m going the social networking route with Facebook, Twitter, Google +, while hoping to get some word of mouth support. I’ll attend an author event next month and will make a nice big poster with info about the book.
Any plans for more memoirs?
Yes, in fact, I’m working on another, called Every Mile a Miracle. This second collage memoir tells the tale of a wacky trip to Belize where I picked up an exotic Land Rover that my husband shipped from Holland. My 86-year-old mother, brother, and I traveled in this dysfunctional vehicle through Belize, Mexico, and the summertime desert of Arizona. We passed through the lands of the Mexican drug lords with a Category 5 hurricane at our backs. Making the collages is quite a journey in itself!
Where can one buy Mexico, Jupiter, Submarine?
MJS is available only in digital format. It can be purchased through i-Books for your Apple device.