Local Author Watches Her Novel Come to Life

Born in Elizabeth and raised in Freehold and Old Bridge, Lissner began writing as soon as she could pick up a pen.

Caren Lissner, seated, on the set with actress Bel Powley.
Photo courtesy of Carrie Pilby Productions

In early January, Caren Lissner sat on a bench in Central Park, shivering. The New Jersey native witnessed a scene most authors can only imagine: her acclaimed young-adult novel, Carrie Pilby, was becoming a movie. As actress Bel Powley strolled by, Lissner played an extra, but more importantly, she watched as her book came to life.

Lissner’s story features Carrie (played by Powley), a 19-year-old child prodigy who struggles to connect with others. Lissner modeled the protagonist—and some of her experiences—after herself.

“Carrie is an exaggeration of the person I was at 19,” says Lissner, now 42. “I thought I knew everything, as young people sometimes do.”
Born in Elizabeth and raised in Freehold and Old Bridge, Lissner began writing as soon as she could pick up a pen. Her debut novel was first published in 2003, eventually selling more than 74,000 copies.

The movie project began in 2012, but really took off in 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a screenwriter. It is scheduled to premiere this month at the influential Toronto International Film Festival. Lissner hopes for a theatrical release later this year.

“It was always a dream of mine,” says Lissner, “to sneak quietly into a theater and see people laughing, thinking and reacting to a story that I had created.”

Lissner—the editor in chief of the Hudson Reporter newspapers in Bayonne—has more fiction on the burner. “I’m finishing a novel that I’ve been working on for many years called In for the Winter, as well as a second novel about a woman approaching 40,” says Lissner. “I’m also writing a screenplay about rap music; it’s a comedy.”

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