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Meet the Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney
Caroline B. Cooney is the author of more than 75 suspense, mystery, and romance novels for teenagers which have sold over 15,000,000 copies and are published in several languages. The Face on the Milk Carton has sold over 3,000,000 copies and was made into a television movie. Her books have won many state library awards and are on many booklists, such as the New York Public Library's annual teen picks. Among her recent titles, Caroline is proudest of Diamonds in the Shadow, which won a Christopher Award, A Friend at Midnight, which won the Church and Synagogue Library Association Award, Hit the Road, which was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, and Code Orange, which received a National Science Teachers award. Caroline grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has spent most of her life on the shoreline of that state but recently moved to South Carolina to live near family. She has three grown children and three grandchildren. For many years she was a church organist and accompanied the choirs at her children's schools. Her newest book is If the Witness Lied, and she is currently at work on a suspense novel titled Three Black Swans.

Q&A with Caroline B. Cooney

Q: The Janie Johnson series beginning with The Face on the Milk Carton is very popular. Would you share with us how this book came about?

A: Years ago I was in LaGuardia Airport. It's a huge place, with miles of concourses, and here the entire place was plastered with home made missing child posters. They had a black and white photo of a very small child, maybe two or three. When I read the caption, I found that child had been missing for 15 years. All I could think were the parents - who got up that morning with their stack of homemade posters and their roll of Scotch tape and drove into New York City, still hoping, after 15 years, that of the tens of thousands of people who would walk through La Guardia, one of them would recognize the child, and tell the parents where she was now. But it was hopeless. Nobody would recognize her fifteen years later. They would never find their daughter. And I got on my plane weeping for those parents when I realized that there was one person who probably would recognize the photo: the little girl herself. What a plot! You recognize yourself on a missing child poster.

Q: What was the inspiration for your book, Among Friends, which was written in journal entries?

A: I loved writing Among Friends, whose basis was a real life classmates of one of my children and I privately referred to him as Paul Classified. I wouldn't write it in the same format today Among Friends is written from a number of viewpoints, placing quite a demand on the reader, just keeping track. Kids who don't find reading easy or a pleasure need to have a straight shoot. On the other hand, I like a complex story, lots of threads and lots of people, and such a book is never a straight shoot.

Q: You are a very prolific author. One of your newest books is They Never Came Back. How did you come up with the storyline and theme for this book?

A: The Wall Street Journal often describes men and women who have committed some large crime, destroying an investment fund, for example, and thereby ruining thousands of lives. I began to wonder what such people said to their children at breakfast the next day, after they were exposed as criminals in the papers and on TV. "Daddy is still a fine man, sweetheart, even though he robs people and is going to flee the country before he gets indicted." "Mommy loves you, darling, even though she has a habit of embezzling so much from her company that it is ruined and everybody loses everything. Give me a kiss and have a good day at school, and I'll see you in a few years when I'm out of prison." This image led to They Never Came Back.

Q: Do you hear from a lot of teens who are reluctant readers?

A: I have been blessed by being placed on Reluctant Reader booklists to the extent that I think of my reluctant readers when I write now. My happiest e-mails are from kids who don't care about books and who read one of mine and are so amazed to have enjoyed it, they have to share that with me.

Q: Describe a typical writing day and what you enjoy doing when you are not writing.

A: I like to write about families. Plain old happy families, where everybody's doing fine and everybody gets along, are wonderful, and I'm lucky enough to have one. But they don't make terrific books. For example, most afternoons when I finish writing, I scoot in to Charlotte, pick up my mother (she's 91) and swing by my daughter's to play with my grandsons. This is not a chapter for a suspense novel. In a thriller, somebody somewhere has to be doing something wrong, or be on the brink of it, or be drawn into it. Every morning I get up very early, fix a pot of coffee and read my two newspapers, currently the Charlotte Observer and the Wall Street Journal. I like to know what's going on in the world.

Interview Date: August 2010
Profile and questions compiled by Megan M., Main Library

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