Interview with Hollow Earth author, Carole Barrowman!

Hollow Earth takes readers on a classic fantasy-adventure featuring twins with the power to bring art to life, Animare, and a secret society determined to use that ability at any cost, including the twins’ lives.  Written by real-life brother and sister Carole Barrowman and John Barrowman, the story ranges from the National Gallery in London to the remote shores of Scotland to a place called Hollow Earth, where demons and devils are trapped for eternity.  Carole is Professor of English and Director of Creative Studies in Writing at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  John may be familiar to fans of Doctor Who as Captain Jack Harkness.  Carole was kind enough to take a few moments to visit us on the Files.

Hollow Earth US

The author’s note says that you and John cooked up the characters and plot while on a trip together.  Had you ever worked together before?  What was your process like?  (Did you ever pull rank as big sister?)  

This is our fourth book together, but our first novel. We’ve also collaborated on a comic (adapted from one of my short stories and featuring the character, Captain Jack, that John plays on television) so we have a good working relationship. We outline together, brainstorm etc. and then I return to Milwaukee and I do the writing. When I have a solid draft, I send to John for comments etc. I’m the big sister. Of course, I try to pull rank… some things never change no matter how old we are.

You said it!  You have two fascinating mythologies in your book – the idea of Animare, or people who can bring their own drawings into existence, and Hollow Earth, a place where mythological beasts are kept.  How did you come up with these ideas?  

Many of the books we love have strong mythologies (The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter series, The Golden Compass, etc.) and we wanted to create something that had some weight to the adventure, something that connects the twins to more than their immediate family. We also both loved Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl as children so we also wanted to make the stories epic adventures or sorts. I’m also a fan of William Blake and John Milton so their mythologies influenced us too.

William Blake - poet, painter and middle-grade inspiration

William Blake – poet, painter and middle-grade inspiration

That’s a fabulous range of influences.  Did anything happen during the course of writing the book that surprised you, i.e., a character or a plot twist?

Oh my, yes. Solon was not supposed to stick around, but as I wrote he just kept coming back and so when I sent the finished draft and sent it to John we knew we had to keep him.

You write about the Art of the Mystery for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  How do you think the traditions of mystery-writing in adult fiction translate in kid fiction? 

Although there’s also a significant supernatural element, there’s certainly a mystery at the core of Hollow Earth. By its nature, the mystery genre is about moral dilemmas and questions of life and death and loss and I think lots of great kidlit has adapted the traditions and the conventions of the mystery.

Well put! What are some of your favorite kidlit mysteries?

I’m a fan of many of the books that I think follow the conventions of traditional thrillers and mysteries like Anthony Horowitz Alex Rider series.

I think readers who enjoy the adrenalin rush of Alex Rider will feel quite at home with Hollow Earth.  I noticed that you have two distinctly different covers – one with a bird on the cover, and one featuring the twin main characters.  Is there a story behind this?  Do you prefer one over the other?

Buster Books first released Hollow Earth in the UK and they put the caladrius on the cover. The twins and the peryton are on the US cover. Most books have different covers when published in UK and US.

Hollow Earth - UK Edition

Hollow Earth – UK Edition

You’ll have to read the book to find out what role the peryton plays.  Hollow Earth definitely ends with the reader wanting to know what happens next!  What should readers expect next?

John and I imagined a trilogy so the second book (Bone Quill) will be released in the UK in February of 2013 and in the US in July/August. Our plan is a book a year if there are readers…

Bone Quill

I’m sure there will be many readers, including one lucky winner on the Files!  To enter to win a copy of Hollow Earth, post a comment below on what famous painting you would bring to life if you were an Animare.

Wendy Shang would get lost in the swirls of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

  1. I’m somewhat behind in my blog reading so only just saw that Wendy got to interview Carole Barrowman 😀 We saw her and her little brother plugging Hollow Earth at Alverno College last winter – They are quite the double act as you can see from the video And we got our copy of Hollow Earth signed by both of them 🙂

  2. I would bring Sunflowers by Van Gogh as I assume I’d get to meet the artist too.

  3. I’d love to be in the world of the Johannes Vermeer painting Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. I’d love to know what outside her window she was looking at, the sounds in the street or countryside below and what she had planned for that day. There is a map on the wall behind her and I wonder about its importance, and a jewelry box with a string of pearls…what is her story?

  4. I have to admit I have no idea of paintings or art or things like that (sheepish face). Nevertheless, I find this book interesting and I love the author’s range of influences (Dahl, Narnia, etc). Sounds like a worthwhile read. Great interview and thanks for the giveaway offer.

  5. I would love to bring to life New York Movie by Edward Hopper. The lush velvets, the pensive usherette, the enticing staircase, the glimpse of the movie screen offering undetermined delights to the shadowy theater goers…all this intrigues me . Good luck on your series!