By Nan Lincoln
Special to The Ellsworth American
BAR HARBOR — Everyone has a story, and many dream of turning their story into a book one day. Some actually do, and the world is richer and more interesting for it. But most, due to work, family and other time-consuming activities, or perhaps lack of confidence, never get around to it.
On the other hand, there are folks like Carrie Jones who have many, many stories percolating in their heads at any given time, and are fiercely compelled to release them into books, on a regular basis. In her case, lots of books, almost 20 and counting, including the New York Times bestseller young-adult “Need” series.
“I have to write — all the time,” the Bar Harbor author said recently. “If I don’t get my ideas onto the page they pile up. But I love seeing where my characters will take me. It’s always a new adventure.”
“The only problem is the publishing business is so very slow,” she adds, “It’s frustrating, I’ll be deep into the next book while still negotiating with my publisher over the last book or doing the final edits.”
As if all that writing and negotiating weren’t enough to keep her plenty busy, Jones also teaches an online writing class based in Austin, Texas.
“It’s important to give people a voice,” she says. “Especially those people who don’t get heard, who need to find the confidence to speak, or write, their piece. I find it very satisfying to help them on their journey toward finding those voices and getting published.”
Several of her students have indeed made the leap from being one of those folks with a good story idea, to published authors.
One would think that writing and teaching should be plenty to keep Jones occupied but apparently not. For a few years she organized a Children’s Author Festival in Bar Harbor, inviting a dozen or so local authors, to speak in public seminars on a variety of topics, sign their books, and share their publishing war stories with one another. Her own involves misspelling her own name on a cover letter to her first publisher, which still makes her blush with embarrassment.
The Author Festival was a huge undertaking, she confesses, and one she reluctantly gave up when the demands of her own writing and teaching, grew too consuming. Oh, and she also fell in love and got married to her husband, Shaun Farrar. The two now share a self-described “quirky” podcast called “Dogs are Smarter than People,” about, well, dogs and other animals but also about the writing process.
That’s not all folks, every Monday she writes her blog about — yup, writing or maybe cooking or whatever else has taken her fancy that week.
Ms. Jones also manages a couple of rental houses in Bar Harbor and, in her spare time (??!!), paints pictures that would make excellent covers for her own books.
Actually, just writing about Jones’ current activities is exhausting.
So, let’s step back for a moment to catch our breath and talk about her past.
She grew up as a latchkey kid in Bedford, N.H., which sounds more like a bucolic breeding ground for good farmers than authors and celebrities, but it turns out the town has several famous sons and daughters, including Jones’ high school classmates the comedian Sarah Silverman and TV host Seth Meyers.
She says she was a constant reader as a kid but cringes a bit now when she confesses that the mystical, somewhat smarmy fable “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was the inspiration for her own first attempts at writing.
She wrote her first book in grade school — a fan fiction novel based on the TV “Star Trek” series, with a young heroine who is tasked with saving the world — a theme she returns to in many of her books — most recently in her “Time Stopper” series.
She eventually earned her bachelor’s degree at Bates College, and went on to graduate school in Vermont College of Fine Arts to study writing for children. Somewhere in there, she squeezed in writing jobs as a journalist for the Bar Harbor Times and Ellsworth Weekly, a first marriage, raising her daughter Emily — another accomplished and eclectic woman who, after graduating from Harvard with a degree in classic literature, joined the U.S. Army as a field artillery specialist.
Jones and her husband, Shaun, now live on a bustling side street in Bar Harbor where she still owns a couple of the houses she used to live in.
“I get fond of things,” she explains in her blog, identifying these rental houses by their street addresses and what books or series she completed while living there.
The most recent book she finished at her current home is the YA thriller “In the Woods” (Tor Teen, 2019), which she co-wrote with Steven E. Wedel, another prolific author, whom she met at a conference in Texas.
“At first Steve was a pretty intimidating presence; he’s a huge, hairy bear of a man who writes about monsters, soo…” Jones says. “But he turned out to be the sweetest guy. I’ve had such fun collaborating with him on our two books.”
Both of which involve monsters.
In “In the Woods,” a disgruntled teenage girl named Chrystal, and her paranormal event-obsessed dad (ala “X-Files”) track down some gruesome cattle-killing events in Texas. Monsters are found, but so is romance, when Chrystal meets and teams up with the handsome son of one of the affected ranchers.
Ms. Jones says she and Steven exchange chapters by email.
“It’s like a gift when the next chapter comes and I can see where he has taken the story,” she says. Thus far, she says, they have both been delighted with their “gifts,” and with the friendship that has grown from these collaborations.
In her own “Time Stoppers” series (2016-2018), there seems to be less blood and gore and more guile involved as a motley crew of adventurers from the land of Aurora (which bears a distinct resemblance to Mount Desert Island) set out to save the endangered Elves. Her bestselling “Need” series is located in a place a lot like Ellsworth, where she was living when she started it.
“It’s a bit of a cheat really,” she says. “Writing about places I know saves me a lot of the logistic complications of world building,” she explains. “I just start by looking out the window and then start tweaking and embellishing.”
One can’t help wondering what she’s seeing out of her window these days; what heroes and or hobgoblins are trooping by. We likely won’t have to wait too long to find out.
To learn more about Carrie Jones, visit carriejonesbooks.com.