With graduate degrees in vocal performance from Indiana University and in business from Columbia University, Carol Roan has sung in the television premier of a Ned Rorem opera and testified about gold trading before the CFTC. Between those events, she managed to keep milk on the table for her three children with any odd job she could find— administrator of NEH seminars at Princeton University, research assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study, editor of the politics entries for an encyclopedia—while teaching voice in the evenings and then, around midnight, teaching herself to write. Her first nonfiction book, Clues to American Dance, was commissioned by Starrhill Press. She wrote two more nonfiction books and co-edited three anthologies before her short fiction began to appear in print and win a few awards, including a fellowship to Summer Seminars Russia. See more at her website: http://www.carolroan.com
Why do you write?
I write to find answers, not only to the big question I begin with—What the hell is American dance, anyway?—but the seemingly smaller, and ultimately larger, questions that rise up during the writing—If American modern dance didn’t derive from European ballet, but from show dance, and show dance was strongly influenced by African-American social dancing, and those rhythms originated in Africa, then . . .?
What other creative activities are you involved in?
I was a professional singer at 18 and, after a mid-life epiphany in a 13th-century French abbey, began to teach vocal technique to singers and (improbably, because I was trained for opera) to teach performance technique to rock bands. I made my film debut, with a nomination for Best Actress, in the Waking Up in Cannes short film series at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. I made my professional dance debut this year in “The Goldberg Project,” as part of the Carolina Summer Music Festival. (Again improbably, because I said, when asked to write Clues to American Dance, “But I know nothing about dance.”)
Who is your favorite author and why?
I go from one mad crush to another, either because I fall in love with a style or with how an author’s mind works. I’m reading Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool, and envying the wit in every sentence. Also in the three piles of current reading is Feodor Pitcairn’s Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed, a book of photographs unlike any other. I wish I knew how to see the world as he does.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
I write slowly, editing as I go, until either the character or the idea forms itself and takes off in its own direction, far from where I had planned to go.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
The first image that came to mind was of large golden koi swimming in a dark pool overhung by willows. I may have dreamed that scene, for it doesn’t attach itself to other bits of memory and become a story. Moving on, I went on line and found CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. Who chose that acronym? If U.S. citizens dread getting the letter telling them they’re now eligible to join AARP, how must Canadians feel when they’re told they’ve reached the age at which they’ll be expected to carp about everything and everyone? Ah, I realize I’m now carping about CARP. Back to the golden-koi dream.