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The Magical Lives of Carol Goodman

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Last Updated: 01/27/2020 4:06 am
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By then, her family was living in Great Neck, where Goodman spent her teen years writing "adolescent angst poems," one of which earned her the Young Poet of Long Island Prize at 17. She went on to Vassar, where she majored in Latin and read lots of folklore and classic mythology.

After college, she moved several times—to the Adirondacks, Texas, Colorado—while earning a master's degree, getting married, teaching Latin, having a child, getting divorced, and returning to Great Neck. Somewhere in all this upheaval, she managed to finish two novels, a young adult fantasy and a mystery. Neither one sold, and she nearly lost hope.

She met Lee Slominsky in 1994, when she took his class in mystery writing at Hofstra. "We were all adults, that's the important thing to remember," Goodman jokes, adding, "Lee was the first person who said, 'You're a writer. This is what you should be doing.'"

They married in 2000. Goodman soon sold her third novel, The Lake of Dead Languages, enabling her to stay home and start writing full-time. "I realized I could write and raise a child, or teach and raise a child," she says. "I could do two of those things, but not all three." In short order, she published seven acclaimed novels for Ballantine, most set in mix-and-match portions of upstate New York.

Though The Lake of Dead Languages is set in the Adirondacks, its fictional Heart Lake is modeled on Lake Mohonk. The Seduction of Water's Hotel Equinox may conjure the arson-doomed Overlook Mountain House, if it overlooked the Hudson instead of Woodstock. And while the artists' colony in The Ghost Orchard shares some DNA with Saratoga Springs' Yaddo, Goodman quickly affirms that the dark past she concocted for its founders is entirely fictional. The Drowning Tree takes place at a Vassaresque college, and The Sonnet Lover and The Night Villa in Italy, where Goodman spent a semester as a Vassar undergrad. And although the bohemian boarding school in Arcadia Falls recalls Woodstock's Byrdcliffe Colony, it adjoins a deep waterfall gash more like Kaaterskill Falls, where Goodman and Slominsky have hiked. "We go on location scouts, like in the movies," she says.

Last year, they finally left Long Island for the landscape of Goodman's dreams. "If you had asked me ten years ago where I wanted to live, I would have said Red Hook or Rhinebeck," she exults. In the fall, she walked daily at Poets Walk Park. "I'd get to that spot where the view opens up and every time I'd say, 'Oh my god, it's gorgeous here!'"

That may be one reason she stuck with the Catskills for Juliet Dark's Fairwick trilogy. "If I'm writing a new series, why not set it in my favorite place?" Goodman says. "I did not feel I had exhausted it, which speaks to the diversity of the Hudson Valley." The familiar location may also help ease Carol Goodman fans over the genre gap.

"My editor will tell you I write 'literary thrillers,'" says Goodman, who worries that might sound "a little pretentious. To me they're more bookish—they're about books and academia, folklore, and fairy tales."

Juliet Dark's paranormal romances also have bookish underpinnings—Fairwick's otherworldly faculty brings new meanings to academic multiculturalism. "I keep doing more and more research about actual fairy lore," Goodman says. "Celtic fairies are very strange creatures. They're not Tinkerbell."

There's nothing remotely Disney about Callie's incubus, whom Goodman's stepdaughter Nora nicknamed "the Demon Lovuh." The bookjacket copy promises "toe-curling sex," and Goodman-as-Dark delivers. Writing explicit sex scenes "was fun, but it was hard," she reports. "You risk embarrassing yourself. I like sexy books, but my natural inclination is the Hollywood fadeout—the sex scene takes place between chapters. I prefer to write about desire, the emotional relationship. But for The Demon Lover I had to go beyond that. The relationship is sexual and had to be—you wouldn't want to pick up a book called The Demon Lover and not have sex scenes."

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