Author portrait by Michelle Daniel Photography
Short version: I’m a nerd. I write young adult novels full-time. I live in Arizona with my writer husband and two naughty kitties.
Reeeally Long Version: When I was three I was moved to tears by the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I felt so bad for Rudolph that I went through the picture book and scratched out his bright red nose to make him like all the other reindeer. It would be years before I realized that physical conformity was not the answer to my social problems.
When I was eight I cut my first class. I pretended I needed to use the bathroom and snuck over to the library to check out another Nancy Drew book. I lost track of time, got back to class late, and made up a story about being constipated.
I’ve been making up stories ever since. And it was sometime during my third grade year that I first told my parents I wanted to be a writer. They told me it was wonderful idea, but I needed to have a Plan B.
We moved a lot; I have attended nine schools. Some kids who move a lot learn to make friends fast, to be adaptable and flexible and brave. I wasn’t one of those. I entered middle school a very frightened little girl. It didn’t help that I developed a raging case of acne for the other kids to mock, or that I thought the best way to defend myself from social attack was to perfect a scathing offense. I was just like Rudolph, except meaner.
When seventh grade rolled around, I decided I’d had enough. I would figure out how to be cool or die trying. So, I tried out for the cheerleading squad.
I was clumsy and awkward. I had to work harder than everyone else to master the most basic moves. At the tryout, though, we could get extra points for making up the words to our own cheer. I knew I had to take advantage of this, my only possible strength. So while the other girls were yelling, “Go, Dolphins!” I started off with “United we stand, divided we fall!” I squeaked onto the team. At the time, I was convinced it was my moving and poetical cheer that clinched it for me.
Cheerleading changed my life. Seriously.
I learned how to be unafraid in front of the entire school. I learned how thrilling it was to entertain others. And I learned—very gradually and with a lot of messing up—that a little kindness goes a long way when you’re trying to work as a team.
I started off the worst cheerleader who ever lived. Because in addition to being bossy and uncooperative, I was taller than everyone else on my squad. So I got stuck in the back and on the end for most of our formations. Turns out, this provides a wonderful vantage for watching your team lose. And it turns out that when you are wrapped up in team play, you tend to miss a lot of cheerleading cues. So I was out of step with everyone most of the time.
But to this day, I love watching sports, particularly college football and basketball. (Go Ohio State Buckeyes!)
College was a huge improvement. I loved being surrounded by peers who valued thinking and introspection. I learned that you can be a hardcore academic and still paint the town on weekends. I had my first real boyfriend, and I was able to accept the rather stunning fact that I had swanned into something kind of nice. I highly recommend college.
During this time I traded in my pom-pons for a football. I played in the women’s flag league for four years. The first year, I broke three bones and my team tied for last place. The third year, we won the championship.
I was amazed at how even clumsy, unathletic women like us could make such improvements with nothing but hard work and the carefree attitude that if we were going to fail, we were going to do it spectacularly. I overcame my depth perception issues and learned to catch a long-bomb pass in the end zone with seconds left to play, for instance. I blame football for the fact that I tend to write about young women who overcome physical inadequacies to find the hero within.
I graduated college with a degree in Social Science–which qualified me to flip burgers–and a mound of education debt. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Well, that’s not true. I did know. I wanted to be a novelist. But that just wasn’t practical, and I had to come up with something else. I had to have a Plan B. So I tried bank tellering, secretarial work, customer service, inside sales, substitute teaching, data entry, logistics, and even machine shop-ing. I didn’t enjoy any of it.
In 2004, after quitting a very high paying job in a very toxic atmosphere, I decided to get serious about writing. It was the only thing I kept coming back to, the one thing that had held my interest over time and distance and lots of life change. So I joined the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror where I met my future best friends, my future husband, and my calling.
I spent the next few years happily writing awful stuff. During this time, I got to know C.C. Finlay online, and after going on three real-life dates, I moved from California to Ohio to marry him. The writing became a lot less awful, and eventually I sold my first novel to Greenwillow/HarperCollins.
Hindsight is easy, I know, and writing about the awkwardness of adolescence is way easier than living it. But I can say unequivocally that although growing up is hard, it’s totally worth it. It’s possible to become your better self. And dreams, no matter how impractical, are made to be pursued.
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Betsy HodgesJanuary 1, 2018 at 1:59 am (5 years ago)
Rae, tomorrow is my last day as mayor of minneapolis, officially. These last days I have been in Mexico, on a beach, reading the girl of fire and thorns trilogy. I have alternately thrilled and laughed and cried in the beach bed thing we have. The books are *wonderful*. As an almost former executive woman leader (who has been sober for 28years and therefore has a more than passing relationship with faith and calling) it was edifying, especially now, to read a book that got the perils of leadership and faith *so right*. I could go on, say so much more, and maybe someday I will get to say thank you in person. I never stopped reading YA because… because it is so great, and because it tends toward the hopeful, and because the basics of growing up are the basics of adulthood anyway. So. A deep, profound, and sincere thank you for writing these books. Happy New Year! Yours, Betsy Hodges
Addi J.February 11, 2018 at 12:47 am (5 years ago)
I’ve read The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series more times then i could count. every single time i read it I’m pulled deeper into the rabbit hole, wondering this and wondering that. I will admit, I’ve grown a little attached to the characters. if by any chance or miracle you see this, I’d love to have a conversation and the books. Thank you.
DorothyMarch 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm (5 years ago)
Dear Rae Carson,
I am a fan of yours because I like reading your Walk on Earth a Stranger series. Your Fantasy stories have inspired me since I am an amateur artist with music on guitar and I enjoy Fantasy which includes comic books.
Do you read comics? Since you are a Fantasy author I have always assumed you read comics from time to time since they are Fantasy to get inspiration from and Lee Westfall has a power similar to what the heroines in comic books have.
If you do or you don’t read comics, I recommend try reading the comic books from DC and Marvel that have artistically have been given a setting in a universe completely excluded from accounts in past movies/TV series that were bad or mediocre and then the stories are written by actual novelists so the comics have a strong arc and so the comic books feel like reading a Fantasy novel or the visuals from Greek myths found on dishware, but the comic books’ stories are decorated with elegant artwork that has now declined since the DC Rebirth and Marvel Comics reboot which is aligned to mediocre live action movies—the cartoon movies from DC are good since the animated films are made by the same writers writing the comic books.
—As a fun way to entice you to read good comic books, here’s a link to my art you inspired me to make which is music of simple instrumental-rock, so one does need to remember that it is in the style of the instrumental-rock band Explosions in the Sky so be prepared to hear lengthy music of instrumental-rock from the 2000s era, and to further understand the music, it is best to read the video’s description.
Furthermore, my music is actually for a book trailer—videos that capture various images to represent the events and story for a book—specifically for comic books for Superman/Wonder Woman DC New 52 Series, so also be prepared to hear repeating uses of themes by movie composers John Williams, Shirley Walker, and Christopher Drake performed in a rock style from the 2000s.
You do have a bit of influence on me so I wanted to share music with you in admiration of you to let you know you do influence different types of artists who enjoy your art of Fantasy telling.
Note: the rest of my videos of book trailers for comic books look and sound just like the link I gave you if you’re curious to watch more. However, the book trailers for the other fantasy books use other peoples’ music that I was sure to credit in the videos’ description to make sure I honor and give those composers their dues.
Christine WilliamsApril 30, 2018 at 12:54 pm (5 years ago)
I Just finished your GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS series. Wonderful books. I enjoyed them a great deal. Your development of Elisa was interesting. She really grew from chapter 1. In THE BITTER KINGDOM, I was surprised when the drive of Elisa and her Godstone was to dig up some trees and find an oasis. Then her Godstone falls out. I was shocked. I thought – How is she going to keep the Invierne in check?! So, that part of the book was a bit of a mystery to me. I enjoyed the romantic stress and development of true love in the book. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your books and say thank you for writing them. It must have taken a great deal of imagination and research to develop this kingdom.
Peter A ManicJuly 12, 2018 at 1:19 pm (5 years ago)
I just finished reading your Star Wars Novel MOST WANTED. Have you thought about writing a novel centering Saw Guerra????
Cliff CaldwellNovember 13, 2018 at 2:51 pm (5 years ago)
I read that book too. It continued a mistake from Solo. I think they included the star destroyer (repair or construction?) scene because it looked cool. The whole movie was about how expensive fuel is. You would build a destroyer in a no g environment. For repairs, you would move the needed parts to the damaged destroyer, not the other way around. Your editor and the movie editor should have caught this.
Rich RipleyApril 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm (4 years ago)
I work for public Radio KJZZ and we are producing the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest & Authors Showcase at the Mesa Convention Center on June 1. Would you like more information on this event?
no sorryJune 28, 2020 at 7:18 pm (3 years ago)
This might be useful, as it contains the screencaps and database missing from the live post. http://laurajmixon.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/A-Report-on-Damage-Done-by-One-Individual-Under-Several-Names.pdf
Sorry for leaving it in a public comment on an unrelated post, but I don’t feel safe getting involved in the Twitter conversation.