Creating Caroline Abbott, an American Girl

Lots of you have already heard the latest news: Caroline Abbott’s stories are set in 1812!

That’s all I’m able to say about her for now. What I can do is tell you a little about the process for creating Caroline and her world.

When I was invited to join the project, the editors at American Girl had chosen 1812 as the time period for the new character.  Nothing else, including her name or where she lived, had been decided.

I spent about a month doing lots and lots of research about that era.  I read everything I could find:  books written by modern historians, books written by people living during the chosen time period, letters and diaries.

After that I met with the project’s editor and researcher at American Girl. We narrowed down possible locations for the setting, and—after getting feedback from other editors—we chose the location. Once that was decided, I traveled to do more research.

Next,  I created a proposal for each book, sharing my ideas for the stories. My proposals were read by several editors and the researcher. The editors have lots of experience with American Girl books, and they know what readers like.

Once everyone agreed about the basic ideas for the stories, I began writing.

Sophie, my writing companion.

When I finished the first draft of Book 1, I started on Book 2 while the editors and researcher reviewed Book 1. I did several drafts of each book. Each time, they got better. With all the back-and-forth, we were sometimes juggling three or four books at once!

The researcher helped find answers to historical questions. Once I had complete drafts ready, the researcher also identified several content experts—historians who know a lot about the time and place I was writing about. They read the drafts and looked for any historical errors that might have crept in.

The whole process of researching, writing, and revising six books about Caroline took over three years. One of the hardest parts for me was that everything was a secret!

Next month, I’ll tell you more about the process of creating Caroline. Check back soon!

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27 Responses to “Creating Caroline Abbott, an American Girl”

  1. Labyrinth-Living Says:

    Thank you for sharing the process you go through in your writing.

  2. Amy Says:

    This is really exciting! I’m not very familiar with this time period, so I’m excited to learn more about it.

  3. torirstewart Says:

    Wow – I bet keeping the secret for 3 years WAS really difficult. Congratulations and I bet you are just brimming for everyone to finally see your story. Congratulations 🙂

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      I kept telling friends I was too busy to do this or that, and I suspect that after a while they started wondering if I was just trying to avoid them. At least now they know I really was busy! Thanks so much for your comments.

  4. Jess Says:

    I can’t wait! If I were you, I’d probably end up blurting the secret out! =)

  5. agthewayiseeit Says:

    Dear Kathleen,
    I am 10 years old and my name is Caroline! My nickname is Cece but my real name is Caroline. I think I am actually getting her. I love american girl also, I will definetly be looking next month to see a picture of ms. Caroline

  6. Dance Lover Says:

    I am supper excited! I can’t wait to read the books, and I am really hoping to get the doll if I like how she looks! You did a really great job with all you work and a REALLY good job at not telling everyone! XD I would have blurted it out! 😛

  7. Carol Abbott Says:

    My name is Carol Abbott and you can bet I am going to buy the doll for myself when it comes out. I can’t wait!! I look forward to your books, too. They make the dolls come to life.

  8. Carol Abbott Says:

    PS. I live in Baltimore. I hope that’s where the setting will be since we have been celebrating the 200th year of the Star Spangled Banner with tall ships, parades, and lots of fireworks.

  9. Sarah Says:

    I have two of my own, and I just stumbled upon this website, through another… I’m so excited to have a new historical to look at in magazines! And me and my friend who has four, always play with them when I go to her house, or she comes to mine, and I am going to be so excited to tell her when I see her soon!!

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      I’m glad you found this site, Sarah! I’m glad you’re looking forward to a new historical character from American Girl. I hope that one day you and your friend will enjoy playing with Caroline, too!

  10. Emma Says:

    i want to be a historical author someday! i will get caroline if i like her! i hope she has curly red hair!

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Hi Emma! How cool that you want to write historical fiction too. It’s a wonderful thing to do. You’ll never get bored, I promise! Thanks for coming by the blog.

  11. Emma Says:

    i no you probaly can’t say this but is caroline’s skin tone black? just wondering… and maybe someday i will write american girl books too!!!

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Hi Emma! You’re right, I’m not yet able to reveal any more details about Caroline. In your stories, you can create characters exactly as you wish! That’s one of the fun things about writing books.

  12. Catherine Says:

    I am defiantly going to buy her. I know a little about 1812. And I have never saved up and bought a doll so this will be fun! I like to write books I once even wrote a really good fantasy. Do you have any tips on writing books?

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Hi Catherine! I hope you do enjoy meeting Caroline in September! And I think it’s wonderful that you like to write stories. My top suggestions: Keep a notebook and write a little bit every day, if you can. Writing takes practice! And when you read a book that you love, stop and think about *why* you loved it. You can learn a lot about writing from studying what other authors do well. Good luck!

      • Catherine Says:

        I commented earlier and I would love to know if you have written any other books if so please tell me the titles. And do you reccomend any books? I am ten years old and I am an advanced reader. I have read things like the classic Tom sawyer and the little house on the prairie series. And almost all the american girl books at my library. Oh I have also read Little women it’s one of my favorites. Got any suggestions on books?


      • Kathleen Ernst Says:

        Hi Catherine! In addition to writing eight mysteries for American Girl, I’ve written novels about the Civil War. You can find information about all of my books on my website,

        I love Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books too. I also loved Marguerite Henry’s books when I was younger. I wish I had more time to read!

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