Get ready to learn more about the book Sister Matthew and Sister Rose in this discussion with sapphic author Carol Anne Douglas.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Carol Anne Douglas about Sister Matthew and Sister Rose, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Workplace Romance category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write Sister Matthew and Sister Rose?
It reminds me of my convent grade school and high school. I once thought of being a nun. And I know several ex-nuns.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
My favorite characters is Mother “Doubting” Thomas who decides to solve a mystery. She’s not similar to me. She’s a traditional nun who figures out how to be a detective. She was fun to write.
What inspired the idea for Sister Matthew and Sister Rose?
Knowing Nancy Manahan, who edited the lesbian nun anthology Breaking Silence.
What part of Sister Matthew and Sister Rose was the most fun to write?
Imagining what it would have been like to be novice, though I never was one. I thought up arguments a warm-hearted mistress of postulants would give for the rule on silence and other rules. Figuring out how to make a mother superior highly intelligent but still rule-bound and with some limits on her sympathy.
How much research did you need to do for Sister Matthew and Sister Rose?
I spoke with all the ex-nuns I know. I drew on my childhood experiences. And I researched some about Thomas Aquinas, who I think is a mainstay of theology classes I never took. I also looked up priests and nuns who resisted the Nazis, though Pope Pius XII did too little.
What is your writing process like?
I’m more of a pantser. I think of a scene I want to write and write it. Then another scene from another part of the book that I want to write.
Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I don’t have a problem with staying focused.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
Barbara Kingsolver. I love her writing. She’s interested in both social problems and nature.
Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?
I used to have a cat who meowed loudly when I was writing and kept demanding that I stop and pet her. I wrote when she was asleep.
What are three words that describe your personality?
Gentle. Strong. Intellectual. I try never to hurt anyone. In my books, I never create characters based on my friends that reveal things they wouldn’t want reveal. I have undergone many very difficult things like the death of a dear partner, but I manage to keep moving. Friends have described me as the Rock of Gibraltar. I love reading, especially history books and literary fiction.
When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
I just plunge in.
What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?
They are inside my head, so that’s easy.
What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
Barbara Kingsolver. She writes serious contemporary stories with believable characters, most of whom want to be good people, and she often brings nature into her stories.
Do you feel bad putting your characters through the wringer?
In Lancelot and Guinevere, I had to kill off a character because that character dies in every version of the legend, but I hated doing that.
Have you ever hated one of your characters?
Richard III in my YA books Merlin’s Shakespeare and The Mercutio Problem. He’s based on Shakespeare’s Richard, so he’s a devious murderer. But he was fun to write.
What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?
Literary fiction. I love books that give me insight about the world. I’ve always felt that way.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer ever since I knew that books were written by people. My first inspiration was books like those by Beatrix Potter.
What books did you grow up reading?
Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Probably this has meant that I want to write about warm-hearted characters.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
Many books. The aforementioned Anne and Little Women. Jane Austen’s books. Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. Dostoyevsky’s books, especially The Brothers Karamazov. I reread all of Louise Penny’s books during the first year of the Pandemic. Virginia Woolf’s books, especially Orlando. I enjoyed their characters, the books told me something about the world, and their style was compellilng.
What book do you wish you had written?
I wrote a sapphic retelling of the Arthurian legends in Lancelot: Her Story and Lancelot and Guinevere. I found their creation of an imaginary world compelling.
Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?
I prefer literary fiction. I’ve already explained why. I like historical fiction. I also read some mysteries that aren’t hard-boiled and occasional fantasy that appeals to me. Also histories of countries like China, Russia, Israel, the Middle East, Ukraine and many others. I like reading books by women from other countries.