Artwork for podcast Author Express
Shifting Voices and Multiple Points of View with Carolyn Korsmeyer
Episode 925th January 2023 • Author Express • Shawna Rodrigues, Kathleen Basi, Kristi Leonard
00:00:00 00:11:49

Share Episode


After some years pursuing an academic career, Carolyn Korsmeyer now spends most of her time at the keyboard writing fiction. In addition to wanting to see what happens as her plots unfold (for she is an incurable pantser), Carolyn sees fictional narrative as an opportunity to reflect on memory, impression, and the different angles that characters (and the sorts of people they represent) have on the same subject. This inspired the focus of today’s talk: “Shifting Voices and Multiple Points of View.”

Many of the scenes in her new novel, Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium, present differing perspectives on events that are imperfectly understood. Two of the main characters are Americans who have moved to Krakow for several months. They are not familiar with the place, only one of them speaks Polish, and to add to that source of disorientation, they stumble across the path of a man who is dabbling in magic.

Adam, a historian, is conducting research at the archives of a large museum. His companion, Joan, has come along for the ride, harboring vague plans to re-boot her journalism career. As the story progresses, it is her perspective that comes to guide the reader, for it is Joan who emerges as the person whose actions and points of view prevail. She is an example of a female character who begins fictional life in a role that is adjunct to her male companion, but whose voice becomes more and more prominent as her inventiveness and sense of adventure propel the plot and its resolution.

Carolyn is familiar with Krakow—one of her favorite cities—from five extended visits there. She discovered on each trip how radically and quickly the city was changing. In Little Follies, she tries to capture the feeling of the place at the end of the last century. This novel took a very long time to complete, as each time she came back to Krakow she wanted to revisit the scenes where the story takes place. Little Follies is an example of a book where patience and a lot of revision finally paid off.

You can learn more about Carolyn at her website:, where there are links to her books, blogs, and podcasts.

Please find your copy of Little Follies at your favorite bookseller, at Black Rose Writing:


Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of Little Follies at

A little about today's host-

Author and musical composer Kathleen Basi is mother to three boys and one chromosomally-gifted daughter. Her debut novel, A SONG FOR THE ROAD, follows a musician on an unconventional road trip. Bestselling author Kerry Anne King writes, “In a novel filled with music, heartbreak, and surprising laughter, Basi takes us on a journey that encompasses both unimaginable loss and the powerful resilience of the human heart.”

Meaty, earnest, occasionally humorous, and ultimately uplifting, Kathleen’s fiction highlights the best within ourselves and each other. She writes monthly reflections on life, writing and beauty on her newsletter. Subscribe at

Be sure to follow or subscribe to Author Express wherever you listen to podcasts and to follow us on Instagram @AuthorExpressPodcast

Learn more about our hosts, the guests we've had, and their books -


We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at

Kathleen Basi 0:00

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in the new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Basi. I'm an award winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and of course, storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.

Kathleen Basi 0:22

Carolyn Korsmeyer has spent most of her career as a professor of philosophy before starting to write novels. Her fictional work includes historical novels as well as contemporary mystery. Reviewers praised Carolyn's first novel, Charlotte's Story for the right and witty voice of the narrator, Charlotte Lucas, familiar to readers of Pride and Prejudice. Her second novel, Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium, features a woman who chances on mystery and danger while on a visit to Poland. Carolyn drew upon her experience of Krakow, one of her favorite places in writing this story, although she had to adjust the map of the city slightly in order to make room for a fictional museum where theft, magic and danger converge. Welcome, Carolyn.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 1:08

Thank you.

Kathleen Basi 1:08

So, let's get to know you a bit by learning a bit about where you're from. Tell me the most interesting thing about where you are from.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 1:16

Well, I've lived in Buffalo, New York for quite some years. And I think after this beginning of this winter, Buffalo is probably best known for its wicked blizzards. But in fact, it's a very interesting city. Its history, as a major city begins with the Erie Canal, because it was the terminus of the Erie Canal and became rapidly a very wealthy city with a very complex population that prompted many, many immigrants from, chiefly from Europe and from elsewhere in the US to come work here. It since then fell on much harder times. But the legacy of all of that activity is, continues to be very interesting and to be preserved in the architecture and surroundings.

Kathleen Basi 2:04

I am so interested in the Erie Canal. I understood that, I understand that somewhere up in that area, there's a lock still, isn't there? That you can actually walk through?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 2:13

Well, there are lots of locks on the canal, which were designed in order that the different elevations of the water could be accommodated. The biggest lock is in a place called Lockport, which in fact is just north of Buffalo. I believe there are five locks there that were designed to accommodate canal boats that had to go between the Erie Canal and Lake Erie. And the problem is, that there's a natural wonder there called Niagara Falls, that's very high. And so, the locks would adjust the elevation of the waterways. The locks at Lockport are still functioning for tourists. And it really makes for quite an interesting day to take a trip up and down the locks in Lockport.

Kathleen Basi 3:02

Well, that sounds super interesting. We're gonna have to check that out at some point.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 3:06


Kathleen Basi 3:07

Yeah. So, living in a place like that, that has such a draw for tourists, what is your favorite place to visit or your favorite vacation spot?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 3:15

Well, I'm particularly fond of, of Krakow, the city in Poland that this novel takes place in. And I've had the opportunity to be there frequently enough that I got to know the city pretty well. Although for anyone who's traveled in that region, they will know that it, it changes rapidly. There's been a great deal of renovation and fixing things up for tourism. It's a pretty comfortable place to be now. And Poland itself is a place with a fascinating and a complicated history. So, it is one place that I particularly like to go.

Kathleen Basi 3:49

Well, that gives us a good introduction to your book. Tell me something about this book, it's set in Poland, and what chapter or part of that book sticks with you the most strongly? What's the most striking thing about your book?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 4:02

ting it, believe it or not in:

Kathleen Basi 4:46


Carolyn Korsmeyer 4:46

So, the story begins with over nine characters being worried about y2k. But as things advance, we discover there's another character who thinks he can use the turn of the millennium for his own magical purposes. And he devises a very complicated scheme to make this happen, which ensnares three of the other main characters, and create situations that are dangerous and even murderous.

Kathleen Basi 5:14

Oh, that does sound interesting.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 5:18

It was a lot of fun to write.

Kathleen Basi 5:19

So, what do you hope readers take away from reading this novel? And tell us what it's called also.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 5:24

Oh, it's called, Little Follies: A Mystery at the Millennium. What do you take away? Well, one of the things that interests me a lot is the different perspectives that people have on the same event. And one of the things that powers the complexities of the plot and the, the interaction among the characters is that they don't understand the problems they're facing in quite the same way. And so, I think one thing that might be taken away, apart from my hope, just a good story, I hope it's a good story that people find it an exciting read. But I hope it's also kind of thought provoking about what you can and can't do based upon your understanding or misunderstanding of a situation. And that, I think, might pertain both to the characters who are interested in, in a historical research project that one of them is engaged with, and also the somewhat delusional character who wants to use this magical demon to transform his own life.

Kathleen Basi 6:30

Yeah, that all sounds so interesting. Thanks for sharing about that. So, let's move on and let me ask a little bit about your writing process and your writing journey. Who encouraged you in writing over the years? And how did you get to this point?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 6:44

It was a long route. No one in particular encouraged me. I've written letters to say, scribbled since I was a child. And over the years, I would start what looks like a story or a novel and never get it finished. Most of my writing, because most of my, as you mentioned in the introduction, most of my career has been as a professor of philosophy. So. the first books I wrote that were actually completed and published, were in philosophy. I started Little Follies, when I was on leave, a research leave in Poland. And it took quite a long time to finish because I was also, you know, doing my other job. But it was very encouraging for me, and I don't know, satisfying, actually, to be able to finish it. I think, I finished it five or six times, because it needed to be a good five. But having actually completed it was so satisfying, that I went on to write several more. And it really is a very enjoyable thing for me. I do like to write, and I do have time, not as much. Nobody ever has enough time. But I don't have time teaching in the classroom anymore. I don't have time to do that kind of writing. And I try to do it every day. Not always successfully.

Kathleen Basi 8:06

It must be, can you talk just a little bit about the difference between writing for nonfiction academic versus fiction?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 8:15

Yes, that is a really interesting aspect of this transition. At first, I could not do the same kind of writing in the same day. It just seemed like, I was wearing two different heads. The styles are different. The requirement for analytical clarity is very high in philosophy. And of course, you don't want to confuse readers in fiction, but you also want to teach them a good deal and

Kathleen Basi 8:38


Carolyn Korsmeyer 8:38

not disclose what you mean for maybe several pages. And for, for quite some time, I just couldn't do the two at once. For some reason, I couldn't really tell you why. The problem seems to have disappeared. I seem to be able now to switch modes, you know, just maybe with a cup of tea in between. Well, I didn't do it on purpose. It just kind of happened. And I realized that I was no longer stuck in there. Either, or mentality.

Kathleen Basi 9:06

Yeah, I think, I write music as well. So,

Carolyn Korsmeyer 9:09


Kathleen Basi 9:10

I write music as well. So, I, I totally understand that going back and forth and I do nonfiction feature work. So ,that going back and forth is a mental flexibility. I think like, everything, it's probably a learned skill.

Carolyn Korsmeyer 9:24

That's right. You might not even know you're learning it. Suddenly you, kind of, can do it.

Kathleen Basi 9:27

Yeah. Well, so, tell us Carolyn, where's the best place for people to find you online? Where's the one, one place where they should go and look you up?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 9:35

I think the best place is my personal website because I try to keep it up to date with announcements and so forth. The website is just my name. It's www.CarolynKorsmeyer.

Kathleen Basi 9:49

So, can you spell that for us?

Carolyn Korsmeyer 9:51

Yes, C-A-R-O-L-Y-N

Kathleen Basi:

Thank you, Great. So, tell us in closing, what book or story, fiction, nonfiction, your choice, has inspired you the most?

Carolyn Korsmeyer:

That is such a hard question because I don't believe there's any one answer, but I'll mention just one. And in so, doing, I'm going back to a classic that features a really interesting female character, Dorothea Brooke, if you're familiar with George Elliot's novel Middlemarch, it's one of my favorites. And I like it because of its complexity, its seriousness and Elliot's stunning ability to be hilarious, unexpectedly. Something just terribly funny popping out of the page, even if a subject that she is devoting her time to at that moment isn't so funny. And that style is something I really admire. To be able to present something that's serious and thought provoking, but also not make it dead weight, you know, to add the wit and humor to it. Life itself, I think is for most of us a kind of combination of quotidian, tragic and comic and I think that Elliott is brilliant at evoking that in, in Middlemarch.

Kathleen Basi:

Well, I think I know the next classic I need to read. Thanks for sharing that, Carolyn. And thanks for coming on today.

Carolyn Korsmeyer:

Thank you very much for having me. I enjoyed it.

Kathleen Basi:

Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday. And in the meantime, follow us on Instagram, at Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express, but keep it interesting.