Author Spotlight: Karol Ruth Silverstein

©Sonya Sones
June 14, 2019

Today we are pleased to feature Karol Ruth Silverstein and her debut YA novel, CURSED (Charlesbridge, June 25, 2019).

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Cover designer: Joyce White



Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

I’m originally from Philadelphia and came out to Los Angeles in 1990 to attend the American Film Institute, with aspirations of being a screenwriter. Early on I was getting compliments but no offers on a couple of coming-of-age feature scripts I’d written and someone suggested I consider adapting them into children’s novels. (Wish I could remember who so I could say thanks!)

That suggestion prompted me to delve into the world of children’s literature—or back into it, I should say. I was reminded of how much I loved books as a kid, how meaningful they were to me. Plus, the new books being written for kids and teens were amazing! I joined the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), started attending events and felt tremendously welcomed by the kid lit community. I definitely wanted to be a part of that world. I still write screenplays—and love screenwriting—but my heart is pretty much in kids’ books now.

Congrats on your debut YA novel, CURSED. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

CURSED is an #ownvoices story about a young teen, Ricky, who’s newly diagnosed with a chronic illness and struggling to cope with her physical pain, rage and fear. Her go-to coping mechanisms are cursing and cutting school, but when her truancy is discovered, she finds herself facing a far worse horror: possibly having to repeat ninth grade. The book’s frank, funny and full of f-bombs (kind of like me!).

The story is drawn from my experience of being diagnosed with the same illness at 13. Back in the mid-‘90s, a screenwriting mentor (writer/director and now award-winning children’s book author Holly Goldberg Sloan) suggested I write about getting sick as a kid . . . and I so didn’t want to! I had no idea how to approach it in a way that was authentic to my experience. I was angry and self-absorbed, rather than brave and heroic. That just wasn’t the formula for sick kid stories. Then, a chunk of years later, I discovered Ricky’s voice doing an exercise in a writing class. I knew immediately that she was not only my way in—but that I had to tell her story. 

Do your characters or did you have a playlist while writing this book? 

Ricky loves music and collects old CDs because she likes having something physical and digs the album art and liner notes. A few months before the story starts, she’d picked up Green Day’s American Idiot, not knowing it would “basically become the national anthem of Rickyville” as she jokes in the book. She uses the track Give Me Novacaine as her ringtone because she’s desperate to numb the pain in her life. She can also explain in depth why Wake Me Up Before September Ends is the saddest track on the album (not Boulevard of Broken Dreams, as many people think).

As a side note—Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic I Will Survive is also featured prominently in Cursed, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how. 

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?  

SO long, SO winding! And I think I can safely claim that the beginning of my journey was highly unusual. First, I resisted writing this book for forever. Then, it took me another forever to write a full, submission-worthy draft. As I was writing, changes in the kid lit industry made the need to sign with an agent more urgent. I stumbled onto the tail end of a Twitter pitch event while prepping for my SCBWI-Los Angeles volunteer gig and, through that, ended up signing with my agent, Jen Linnan (who happened to be the perfect agent for me). She was a champion of CURSED from the start—despite the inherent challenges of selling a younger-skewing YA manuscript full of f-bombs. She didn’t quit until we found my book a terrific home at Charlesbridge Teen.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on the screenplay adaptation of CURSED, two different middle-grade novels and several picture book manuscripts. I tend to work on several different projects at once (can you tell??). My agent and I are hoping to go on submission with a particular picture book by the summer. It’s just a few tweaks away from being ready. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you’re serious about writing books for children, join the SCBWI. Full stop. It will be the most valuable $95 you ever spend. Find your regional chapter and go to local events (most regions have free monthly LitMingles). Connect with other writers and start supporting one another. Find a critique group or partner. Take classes and learn your craft. Get involved. Volunteer. Put yourself and your work out there. Read books aimed at the audience you write for. Read and read and read some more. Lastly—don’t quit before the miracle.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

As a kid, I had an almost preternatural sense of balance. I could ride a unicycle and walk on stilts. My cousins from Arizona gladly gave me a toy castoff of theirs called a Wobble-Walker because none of them could figure it out. It was a bone-shaped orange platform with three pegs on the bottom that you alternated on, moving your hips to go forward. I loved that thing! I particularly loved that no one else I knew seemed to be able to use it—not my super-athletic sister, not the mean boys at school. Later in life, as I crossed the threshold from having a chronic illness to identifying as disabled, my physical balance became compromised. But my innate understanding of balance remains and I think has really served me well recovering from joint replacement surgeries (14 but who’s counting) and navigating life as a disabled person in general. 

Where can people find you online?

Twitter—

Facebook— 


Website—

Instagram—coming soon!



KAROL RUTH SILVERSTEIN writes all genres of children’s books and screenplays. She serves on the board of SCBWI-Los Angeles and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West. Based in the Los Angeles area, she currently lives with her two exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo. Follow her on Twitter @KRSilverstein and http://www.karolruthsilverstein.com






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5 comments:

  1. FAB interview Can't wait to read

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  2. " . . . don't quit before the miracle" brilliant advice!

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  3. Love the cover! I just added this to my reading list and can't wait!

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  4. This sounds like quite a brilliant story. I'd love to have a copy. Thanks for the chance to win one.

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  5. This is interesting story. The book sounds great. I need to read more YA because I have my first story idea for a YA novel but i’ve Never write one before.

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