The Compulsive Reader: Author Spotlight: Carol Culver

Monday, August 4, 2008

Author Spotlight: Carol Culver

I feel like I’ve been neglecting the Author Spotlight feature recently, but no more! An author has recently come to my attention that certainly deserves a spot in the limelight: Carol Culver. She is the author of the realistic and unassuming BFF series, published by Berkley JAM.

The series includes Manderley Prep, Rich Girl, and The Guy Next Door, and center around three unlikely best friends and their experiences at the ultra rich and sometimes snobby Manderley Prep. Things at Manderley Prep are especially chaotic with a new headmaster bent on reforming the school by using military tactics, much to the students’ shock and consternation. These happenings, coupled with each girl’s own adventures, are the makings for the perfect fun and unpretentious series.

Besides writing the BFF series, Carol has also written over 30 romance novels under the name Carol Grace. She has been a TV receptionist, and worked as a translator on a hospital ship. She also speaks French and is a part of the Fog City Divas. She lives in California in a mountain top home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can visit her online by going to carolculver.com.

Manderley Prep

Everyone at exclusive Manderley Prep has the right clothes, the right car, and the right friends, which makes Cindy Ellis stand out like a sore thumb. Attending Manderley on a scholarship is her ticket to a chance at an Ivy League school, where she can get as far away as she can from her demanding stepmother and two conniving stepsisters. She intends to stay focused on her studies. But when charming Italian exchange student Marco shows up, she just can't help but fall for him, despite her intentions. Is a fairy-tale ending in the works?

The first in the new BFF series, Manderley Prep is upbeat and engrossing. It gives the reader a taste of what a privileged life is like--good and bad--without appearing conceited. Also a real breakaway from the tired modern day re-tellings of Cinderella, this story is subtle, and the fairy tale doesn't dominate the entire plot, which allows for more serious plot twists that make this story believable and easy to relate to. Readers will love Cindy, and be rooting for this modern princess with a punch every step of the way.

Rich Girl

Victoria Lee is living every teenager's dream: she's beautiful, rich, and she has a whole mansion to herself while she attends Manderley Prep in San Francisco and her parents run the family business back in her home city of Hong Kong. Gabe Thomas's mom's employers are moving across the country, and unwilling to uproot him, she accepts a job as housekeeper for an absentee couple and their teenage daughter. For eco-conscience Gabe, this means a new house next door to a snotty rich girl and a new school full of snotty rich and wasteful kids. And when Victoria and Gabe are thrown together, there are sure to be sparks…

Don't be fooled by the title, Rich Girl is not your run-of-the-mill YA novel. Victoria's values are true, and her honesty and her lack of an egotistical and materialistic nature will make her an instant favorite. Readers will eagerly devour Victoria's valiant attempts at being a normal American teenager, while at the same time sympathizing with her with her and her many blunders. Gabe is also a wonderfully unique character, a cool relief from the many of stale male leads. Rich Girl contains all of the essentials for this brand of YA: hot guys, mean girls (and guys!), best friends and one big party. This exciting second novel is a fun break from the norm in what continues to be a promising and rewarding series.

The Guy Next Door

Maggie's life took a nose dive after her parents' divorce. Forced to move out of the large mansion that she grew up in, Maggie and her mother now live in a small house in a decidedly less affluent neighborhood. None of their old friends talk to them, and they are always coming up short on money. Luckily for Maggie, she still attends exclusive Manderley Prep, and she's made a few new friends along the way. But she'd like nothing more than for Ethan, her childhood playmate and ex-neighbor, to notice her as a girl, and not think of her as the metal mouth tomboy she used to be. The perfect chance arrives in the shape of a class trip to Hawaii, but how will Maggie ever be able to afford it?

The Guy Next Door is a completely absorbing and unique read. Maggie is intelligent, grounded and self deprecating in an empathetic way. Her continued worries about money may rub some readers the wrong way, but they'll be happy to see as the plot goes along, Maggie comes to find that she can live a happy and fulfilling life without the deep pockets she had before. Returning readers of the BFF series will also be able to summon up a bit of righteous indignation as the headmaster of Manderley Prep continues to form the school to his expectations, causing chaos along the way. The Guy Next Door is the perfect froth of teenage angst, romance, rule breaking, and action that'll keep you reading to the very last page.

Be sure to check out this great series, and keep an eye out for more of Carol Culver novels!

And now, and interview with Ms. Culver:

Why did you choose to write YA books?

After writing 30+ category romances under my pen name Carol Grace, I was ready for a change and a new challenge. I love that YA is open to all kinds of sub-genres - Inspirational, Romance, Historical, Literary, Ethnic. You name it, you'll find it in the YA section.

Are any of the happenings in the BFF series based on personal experience?

Most of my characters' experiences happened to my kids who went to a prep school very much like Manderley Prep - the prom, the school trip to Hawaii, the foreign exchange student, class officer elections, the rich and the poor, the popular and the unpopular. I think there are universal teen experiences we''ve all gone through

Which character can you identify with the most?

Cindy, the Cinderella girl with the mean step-mother and slutty step-sisters. I don't know why because I didn't have a step-mother or step-sisters, and I don't play the clarinet, but inside she was me.

How long did it take for you to write each book?

I'm a fast writer. It took a few months.

Are you planning on writing more YA fiction?

I'd love to. This is a wonderful genre, expanding and growing all the time. I currently have a proposal for a series featuring three teen mermaids who get washed ashore and have to deal with classes in California History, Chemistry Lab and cheerleading and still have to be back to the sea by sunset or ...well, you can imagine what would happen.

What three words would you use to describe the BFF series?

Fun. Light. Real

Are you a full time writer?

Yes, I once taught foreign students to speak English both overseas and at a nearby university, but now I write full time. It's great. No commute, no expensive career clothes and no schedule.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be and why?

I'd love to go to the South Seas - Tahiti, Bora Bora, Samoa. I love warm weather and beaches. Still, I shouldn't complain, I teach writing classes on cruise ships and this year I've sailed up the Amazon, been to Alaska and will be touring the Mediterranean this fall.

What's one good book you'd like to recommend to your teen readers?

Just One? That's too hard. I love Catherine Murdoch's DAIRY QUEEN and Jodi Lynn Anderson's PEACHES and for sheer laughs, there's Louise Rennison's CONFESSIONS OF GEORGIA NICOLSON.


Anonymous said...

Great interview- I have The Guy Next Door in my TBR pile. Do you know if you need to read the other books in the series first before reading this one? Or can they be read separately?

Anonymous said...

Hi Book Chic,
The BFF books can certainly be read separately. They all take place at the same prep school, and the 3 heroines each have their own story in their own book. But they play supporting roles when they need to.

Anna said...

I've been meaning to read these books for a while.

Maybe I'll get around to it soon. :p

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to start on Carol Culver's BFF series! They sound like such fun and exciting reading!

Anonymous said...

I love this series! These books remind me of Jane Austen books, but they deal more with the social problems of our time. And they're really fun to read.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend's little sister loves your books.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Elizabeth, I love being compared to Jane Austen!