The story behind ‘sweet karoline’ by Catherine Astolfo

I had two strong motivations for the novel, Sweet Karoline. The first was that I had a dynamite first sentence. The second was that I wanted to incorporate the fascinating genealogy from my children’s paternal side.

The first difficulty I ran into was how on earth could I make my character likeable when that dynamite first sentence goes like this: “I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline”? One of a writer’s primary goals is to ensure that the main character is someone Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]readers can care about. If you don’t give a hoot whether the protagonist lives, dies, achieves her goals, or solves the puzzle, you won’t keep reading. Even if the character is an anti-hero like Dexter, he must appeal to you in some way.

I began to think about all the times in my life when I heard someone say, “I could just kill…him/her.” I knew they didn’t mean it—most of the time. Ending a fellow human being’s life is abhorrent to most of us. When we’re angry, we sometimes want to inflict the worst thing ever on the object of our distress. The worst thing ever would be murdering that person. People who are forced to kill in war, for instance, very often suffer posttraumatic stress disorder.

What would happen if I said in anger, “Oh go drown yourself in the lake” and my target did exactly that? How would I feel? Would I consider myself a murderer? Would I have a mental breakdown like Anne does in the first couple of chapters? PSTD perhaps, even if I only imagined the accident?

Unless, of course, the character is a psychopath. That certainly puts a different stamp on things. We would probably agree that Dexter hasn’t got much of a conscience. My Anne is smart, charming, and has been terribly hurt. She suffers enormously from the “incident”, to the point of an emotional collapse, even though Karoline’s death was ruled a suicide. Perhaps Anne is upset, traumatized and feeling guilty because she didn’t prevent it. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be quite so devastated.


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Catherine Astolfo retired in 2002 after a very successful 34 years in education. She can recall writing fantasy stories for her classmates in Grade Three, so she started finishing her books the day after her retirement became official. Her short stories and poems have been published in a number of Canadian literary presses. Her story, “What Kelly Did”, won the prestigious Arthur Ellis IMG_2453aaAward for Best Short Crime Story in 2012.

In the fall of 2011, she was thrilled to be awarded a four-book contract by Imajin Books for her Emily Taylor Mystery series (previously self-published), and has never been happier with this burgeoning second career!

Catherine’s books are gritty, yet portray gorgeous surroundings; they deal with sensitive social issues, but always include love and hope. They’re not thrillers, but rather literary mysteries with loads of character and setting. And justice always prevails.

Selected bibliography: 

The Emily Taylor Mystery Series:

The Bridgeman. Imajin Books, October, 2011

Victim. Imajin Books, November, 2011

Legacy. Imajin Books, April, 2012

Seventh Fire. Imajin Books, July 2012


Winner, Arthur Ellis Best Crime Short Story Award, 2012

Winner, Derrick Murdoch Award, 2012

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, First Prize, 2010

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, Second Prize, 2009

Winner, Brampton Arts Acclaim Award, 2005

Winner, Dufferin-Peel Catholic Elementary Principal of the Year, 2002, the Catholic Principals Council of Ontario.

Winner, Elementary Dufferin-Peel OECTA Award for Outstanding Service, 1998




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