AUTHOR CARLIE SOROSIAK
Carlie Sorosiak is the author of the novels I, Cosmo and Leonard (My Life as a Cat), as well as the picture books Everywhere with You, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth, and Books Aren’t for Eating, illustrated by Manu Montoya. She lives in Georgia with her husband and their American dingo.
ALWAYS, CLEMENTINE BY CARLIE SOROSIAK
From the author of I, Cosmo comes a humor-filled, heart-tugging tale of a genius mouse, secretly freed from a lab, who’s in search of a real home—and a way to free her old friends.
Clementine is different from other mice: she can calculate the speed of light and she dreams in Latin. The scientists say she’s a genius and put her through test after test. Clementine is proud of being a good lab mouse, but she’s lonely. Her only snatches of friendship occur during her late-night visits with a chimpanzee named Rosie. When a compassionate lab technician frees Clementine, the mouse discovers an outside world full of wonders: Brussels sprouts, games of speed chess, television fame, and a chance for a real home. But for Clementine, it’s not enough to be free when she knows that Rosie and the other mice are not. This tender, lively adventure story, narrated in letters from a mouse to a chimpanzee, shows us that goodness is something we have to define for ourselves—and that courage and wisdom aren’t proportionate to size.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CARLIE SOROSIAK
Q: Hi Carlie. Thanks for chatting with Scribblitt. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started writing?
A: I’m excited to be here! Thanks so much for wanting to interview me. Well, my name’s Carlie, and I live just north of Atlanta, Georgia, with my husband and my American dingo. I’m a full-time writer, but I also spend time volunteering at a cat shelter called Good Mews. I really love it there. I’ve been writing stories since I was about five or six years old—and wrote my first novel between the ages of nine and twelve. It was, as you can imagine, abysmal. I’ve had much more practice since then!
Q: You write stories about the inner lives of animals from the perspective of the animals. Can you tell us about why you choose to write about animals?
A: I think the simplest way to answer this question is: animals have always been thoroughly engrained into my life. Growing up, most of my best friends were dogs, and I’ve always had this fierce belief that their inner lives were—and are—just as complex as mine. Different, but with the same richness. I try to tap into that richness in my writing.
Q: Would you tell us the story about your rescue rabbit, Strawberry, whom you mentioned in your acknowledgements?
A: Strawberry was a very kind, white rabbit with pinkish eyes (hence, the Strawberry name). My kindergarten teacher was a member of an animal liberation group; she rescued Strawberry from a laboratory facility—then brought her to my kindergarten classroom and said, “Would anyone like this rabbit?” My mom stepped up. The poor bunny still had the research tag in her ear, so my mom and I took her to the vet to have it removed. I’ll always remember that; my mom said that she wanted Strawberry “to feel free.” Strawberry lived in our kitchen, and then in a nice hutch in our backyard. I hope that she felt safe with us. Certain people—like me—could cuddle with her, but she never quite got over her fear of humans. Understandably. I wrote Always, Clementine for her, and for all the other lab animals who might choose different lives than the ones they’ve been given.
Q: How do you create such a unique voice for your characters?
A: I do quite a lot of research into the animals I’m writing, and try—the best I can—to sound like that particular animal. For Clementine, I knew I wanted her voice to be quick, quick, quick, like a mouse’s heartbeat.
Q: Chess played a prominent role in Always, Clementine. Why chess? Are you a chess player?
A: Like many people during the pandemic, I watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, and it reignited my dormant love of chess. I was an avid chess player in elementary school; I was even the captain of my school’s chess team! I thought that chess would be perfect for Clementine. A brilliant mouse needs a brilliant game.
Q: What is your favorite scene in the book and why?
A: I absolutely adore the supermarket scene, because it’s so tense and fast-paced. I also love imagining Clementine scurrying over all those brightly colored vegetables; for me, it was a visual feast.
Q: What is the main message you want the reader to remember from Always, Clementine?
A: I’ve included an author’s note at the end of Always, Clementine, about animal testing, and I think the last line sums up the main message best: “There is hope for the future . . . We do not have to continue the old methods forever. Millions of animals—just like Clementine—are waiting for a new day.”
Q: What is your favorite quote and why?
A: My favorite quote in Always, Clementine is “I was lonely every day, until the night I met you,” because that’s one of the first lines that came to me. It really solidified, in my mind, the relationship between Clementine and her best friend, Rosie, a chimpanzee still stuck in the lab.
Q: What advice do you have for young writers?
A: Read as much as you possibly can—and widely! Audiobooks, graphic novels, and comic books definitely count.