by Kathy Brown
In November, 2020, we published Austin Mirmina’s review of Carole Knapp Johnson’s book Who Took Hannah? Carole, who lives in Haddam Neck, has been hard at work writing a sequel to that book. Her new book, The Search for Hannah was released on January 29, 2022. She is now at work on the third book in the series, The Curse of Hannah. The first two books are available on Amazon in multiple formats, including audio books.
Even though I hadn’t read the first book in the series, I was soon sucked into the drama unfolding in the second book in the series. The book was very edgy, filled with many colorful characters in a variety of locations.
I thought I would ask Carole some questions about the writing process. She is the style of writer known as a “Pantser” — according to Carole that is “a writer, usually a novelist, who writes their stories, ‘by the seat of the pants.’ The opposite would be a ‘plotter.’ This is someone who uses outlines to plot out their novels.” She went on to say, “I never know ahead of time what will happen next. I do dream about my characters; they often surprise me. Stephen King is also a ‘Pantser.’ My style has been compared to his many times. We both use bold and punchy sentences.”
Carole said that the first book in this series, Who Took Hannah? took three years to write. “There was a steeper learning curve to my first novel, due to my studying and learning how to write a book,” said Carole. “This was predominantly pertaining to the writing craft. The Search for Hannah took about nine months. I knew more about what I was doing and it was accomplished faster.” And now she’s working on the third in the series!
When I read the book, I was amazed at the detail in the book, and I could feel the atmosphere of each location, from restaurants to jails to institutions to Mandy’s apartment. I asked Carole about her research process. One of the locations that was referred to repeatedly was the Leprosarium. “I did extensive research about Leprosy and the Institution in Louisiana,” said Carole. “I contacted the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Carville, Louisiana, and spoke with an administrator. Started in 1894, as a Leprosarium, it lost funding and shut down in 1999. There are currently approximately 200 new cases diagnosed yearly in the USA.”
Much of the story takes place in the South, and it all takes place in the past. “Everything I included was researched extensively,” explained Carole. “I found legal documents used in the South relative to the time period when my story takes place. This includes actual birth certificates and laws pertaining to race in Louisiana. Everything I mentioned in my stories went through rigorous research that included the location and the time period. I explored clothing choices worn and vehicles purchased. I researched slang used and the age of users.” She went on to give an example, “Even as specifically as the bag of Cheetos that Clyde set out for Bertie. That packaging went through numerous changes. I researched all of them.”
Specific to this series was voodoo and human trafficking rings. Carole read several books on voodoo to familiarize herself with the practice of voodoo. Though she was accurate with chants and amulets, she “took some poetic license when events occurred using voodoo. I didn’t just want to mimic what was shown in movies, etc. I preferred to blaze a trail for possibilities to keep the interest high and on the cutting edge.”
Of human trafficking rings, Carole said her research was “painfully enlightening. All of the statistics quoted are accurate and come from several official sources. The numbers I quote are, sadly, true.”