Claire Olivia Golden‘s debut novel, Unraveled, is being released on the 14th, so in preparation for release day, she’s taken part in an interview! Find out more about Claire below, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of this fairy-filled adventure!
Hi there, Claire. First of all, congratulations on the publication of Unraveled, which is due for release soon! Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters in the novel?
Hi, thank you so much! These characters have been in my head for so many years now that it feels unreal that soon they will be out in the world. Auri is a crochet-obsessed teenager just trying to figure out her place in the world… and she meets a girl who makes her question her sexuality. Cat is dealing with OCD, being a closeted lesbian, and being scared to tell either of these things to anyone. I myself am a crocheter with OCD, so each of these characters has parts of me in them—but they are also different to me in some key ways.
Unraveled is—without mentioning any spoilers—steeped in fairy tales and mythology. Cat, in particular, has a very involved relationship with the mythological. Is this something you share with your character in real life?
I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, ever since I found a book of fairy tales at my grandmother’s house and couldn’t put it down. My mom got me a book of Greek mythology and I became obsessed with it (shout-out to Rick Riordan for helping feed that obsession and for making mythology accessible to kids). There’s something about the universality of stories that appeals to me. Every culture has their own mythology, and there are similarities between all of them.
I found myself searching for fairy tale re-tellings to see how different people interpreted these tales, and it wasn’t long after that I started writing my own. I am not quite as involved as Cat is, because I don’t do magic, but I certainly believe that it exists, particularly in nature. In fact, Washington is the most magical place in the world to me, which is why Unraveled is set there!
Pairing crochet with magic and fairies is certainly a unique concept! How did you come up with the idea? What inspired you?
Thank you! Crochet, magic, and fairies are three of my favorite things, so I guess they were bound to pop up sooner or later. Unraveled is actually inspired by a half-finished crochet shawl that I found at my church’s rummage sale when I was 15 or 16 years old. I wondered why someone had abandoned a shawl halfway through, and my imagination took off with it. I started writing Unraveled for my blog readers not long after, and it spiraled from there. So I guess the story found me! (I never did finish crocheting that shawl, by the way. Maybe it was cursed after all.)
As well as being a writer, you are also an avid crocheter. How long have you been doing crochet, and do you do any other kinds of thread work, knitting, embroidery, etc.?
I taught myself to crochet when I was 14 years old and have been in love with it ever since. Crochet helps me a ton with anxiety. I also have a skin-picking disorder (called BFRB, or Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior), and having something to do with my hands keeps me from picking at my fingernails. I love making something out of a ball of yarn. There’s a kind of magic in it, I think. I love making things for my family and friends.
I have dabbled in pretty much all fiber arts: knitting, spinning (both on a drop spindle and spinning wheel), embroidery, cross stitch, punchneedle, weaving, and needle felting. However, crochet remains my greatest love.
Do you enjoy reading as much as writing? Who are your favourite authors, and do you have any book recommendations?
I’ve loved reading ever since I can remember, being lucky enough to have a mom who read to me non-stop when I was a kid. She also homeschooled me and my younger sister and took us to the library every week, where we would check out large stacks of books and tear through them that week. So I used to read over 200 books a year when I was younger. My first job was retail work at an independent book-store, Annie Bloom’s Books, where I made thorough use of my staff discount… and my college degree is in English and French, which means I had to read a lot of books.
My favorite authors are John Green, Marie Lu, Suzanne Collins, and Mary Oliver. Please check out my staff picks at Annie Bloom’s Books for my favorite queer YA books!
This question is a fun one, if not a little difficult! If Unraveled was to be made into a movie or a TV series, who would you pick to play the characters?
Oh, that’s a great question. There’s a model named Luca Hostelle who looks exactly like I picture Cat, although I’m not sure if she’s an actress. For Auri, I picture Mackenzie Davis.
The representation of mental health in books and film is incredibly important. There have been so many poor representations in the past, with mental illness used as a scare tactic to frighten audiences, which has the knock-on effect of society believing what they’ve seen on TV or read about in fiction. In Unraveled, Cat experiences OCD, and we get to hear her thoughts and feelings first-hand. Why was this important for you to write?
This was important for me to write because the poor representation had a hugely negative impact for me. My OCD symptoms started when I was 6 years old, but I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 19… which is 13 years of untreated, severe mental illness. Although I did get diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, nobody recognized the OCD for years to come… least of all myself. All I knew about OCD was from the media, so the picture in my head was a super-tidy person who washes their hands tons of times a day. Since I am extremely messy and don’t wash my hands excessively, I figured there was no way I could have OCD, so I didn’t bother bringing it up to my doctors or therapist.
But it turns out OCD manifests differently in everyone. It’s true that some people fit the stereotype, but most people don’t. I don’t know how things would have turned out differently if I had been diagnosed back when I was a kid. I can’t change the past for myself, but I can try to make sure nobody else goes through the same thing by providing better, more accurate representation of what OCD is really like. I hope that Cat will show people what it’s really like to live with OCD and that it’s no walk in the park, so they will have more understanding, empathy, and patience.
At one point in the story, someone close to Auri comes out to her as gay. She mentions that it’s always assumed that everyone is straight by default, and corrects herself, which is both amusing and thought-provoking. How did you figure out your own sexuality, and how has that influenced your writing?
I wrote Unraveled before I figured out I was bisexual and before I was diagnosed with OCD. I think my subconscious knew all along, and it came out in my writing before I was ready to acknowledge it to myself. In fact, I had to take a year-long break from drafting Unraveled because it was bringing up difficult questions and I wasn’t ready to confront that. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant until I was 10 years old… and I didn’t realize that girls could be gay until I was 15 and made a friend at summer camp who was pansexual. I had just never been exposed to the LGBTQ+ community. No wonder why I didn’t come out as bisexual until I was 20… I didn’t figure it out until then! Unraveled played a huge role in helping me figure out my sexuality, and a lot of Auri’s internal battle mirrors my own, because she and I were figuring it out together.
If the fairy realm was real, would you prefer to go live there, or would you stay in the human world?
Do I get to bring anybody with me? If I can bring my boyfriend and our cat Bubba, then I’d happily move to Feylinn… as long as I can come back to visit. And as long as I have plenty of protective spells with me. I’d like to meet some feathered squirrels (you’ll see).
Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects planned? Will there be a sequel or spin-off to Unraveled, and will we get to see Cat and Auri again?
Cat and Auri won’t stop bothering me about what happens next, so if they have their way, then Unraveled will have a sequel. There is no cliffhanger, but there are some loose ends I left on purpose that I’d like to revisit.
I also have a prequel in the works that takes place hundreds of years earlier and features different characters. There’s a lot of snow, hidden magic, and two girls who are best friends and totally not in love with each other. So we’ll see which one happens first.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
Thank you for having me!