Hello Karen! It is a pleasure to be able to ask you some questions about yourself and your writing.
Sara: Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got your start as an author.
Karen: I was always an avid reader but never really thought much about writing. Not until I graduated from college and started immersing myself in fiction again. After graduate school I vowed to never read another textbook ever again. Ha! I started jotting story ideas down in a journal and thought, maybe someday I’d give writing a try. But it wasn’t until I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids in diapers and my husband came home to tell me his position had been cut that I decided to get serious about pursuing writing. At first I thought I could help supplement the family income from home while he searched for work. I know . . . don’t choke on your snack while you laugh. I ended up going back to work a couple months later, but by then the writing bug had bitten hard. Six years later I signed my first contract. I haven’t looked back since.
Sara: What do you like most about writing? Is there anything about writing that you do not particularly like?
Karen: My favorite part of writing comes as I near the end of a book. I’ve known since the brainstorming stage how the plot will wrap up, and I’ve become so in tune with my characters by this point, that the words flow with greater ease than at any other time. It’s like doing a 1000 piece puzzle. When you’re left with only 20 pieces, they start fitting together with ease, and the picture, almost completed, drives you to finish. It probably helps that I’m a very task-oriented person by nature. So reaching the end of any long and involved task fills me with a certain level of satisfaction and euphoria. Which means my least favorite part of the writing process is getting the revision letter. When a task is complete, it’s hard to see it show back up on the to-do list. Thankfully, once I get immersed in the rewriting process, the disappointment wanes. I know the rewrites will make the story better and when I finish, I regain that satisfaction of completing the job once again, and all is right with the world.
Sara: Some authors go from start to finish with a complete plan for their novels while others kind of let their stories and characters develop as they go along. What is your style of writing?
Karen: My process falls somewhere between the two extremes. I need to have a basic roadmap before I start writing the story. I need to know how my hero and heroine will meet, what their main goals are, what kind of conflict will be working against them, and about 3 pivotal plot points in the story. I don’t outline, but I do write a fairly extensive synopsis (anywhere from 5-10 pages). I turn this in to my editors and get their feedback. I’ll tweak a few things here or there. I’ll do preliminary research on time and place to solidify my setting, then I’m ready to start. Having my roadmap, I can then let my characters lead the way through the rest of the story development. Sometimes they surprise me by taking a side road I didn’t anticipate, but most of the time, I keep them on track.
Sara: Your stories are exclusively set in Texas – what makes this setting so fascinating for historical romantic fiction?
Karen: It’s all about the hero. *Grin* There’s just something about that rugged cowboy image that sets the romantic heart to fluttering. At least, that’s what happens to me. Ha! He’s strong, he lives by a godly code, and when he finds the right woman, he’d fight to the death to keep her safe. Now, I know cowboys can be found in many states – Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, just to name a few of my favorites – but when one thinks of cowboys, the first place that comes to mind is Texas. And since I’ve lived in Texas for over 20 years, I’ve come to think of it as home. The history of the state is rich and since the land itself is so large, you can find nearly any type of setting you wish for a novel. It’s the perfect breeding ground for romantic stories featuring rugged heroes and feisty heroines, my favorite combination.
Sara: To Win Her Heart is my favorite of your novels. I really related to Eden, especially since she loved books so much. Do you find a bit of yourself in any of your characters?
Karen: Oh, my . . . do I ever. Especially when it comes to their flaws. My characters often struggle with spiritual issues that I, myself, have struggled with. Adelaide’s failure to wait on the Lord’s timing. Eden being more concerned with what others might think than in showing compassion. Hannah’s desire to prove herself right. Travis, and later, Nicole’s determination to handle things on their own instead of letting others help. Joanna’s insecurities about her physical appearance. The list could go on and on. Authors draw on many things for inspiration, but our largest source has to be our own emotions, spiritual struggles, and life experiences.
Sara: One of the things that I appreciate about your novels is how the spiritual aspects are seamlessly woven into the stories. How difficult is it to incorporate Christ in your novels and have it feel natural as opposed to forced?
Karen: The easiest way to make these spiritual aspects feel organic to the story is to create characters for whom spirituality is a key part of their identity. That’s why the vast majority of my characters are already mature believers. Just like you and me, they struggle with faith issues in their lives, and they react as many of us would. None of us is perfect. We all have weaknesses and sins that cause us hardship and heartache. My hope is that by showing my characters turning to God in prayer, turning to the Bible for guidance, turning to other Christians for support, that readers will be encouraged to do likewise when they face their own obstacles.
Sara: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Germany. Where would you go?
Karen: How funny that you mention Germany. I’ve often said that if money was no object, I would love to tour the castles of Germany. I love mountain settings, romance, and fairy tales. What could be more romantic than the castle that inspired the home of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty situated in the Bavarian mountains? I get dreamy-eyed just looking at pictures of Neuschwanstein. I’d also like to see elegant Eltz Castle and historic Wartburg Castle. Wartburg is one of the oldest preserved castles as well as a place where church reformer Martin Luther lived and translated the Bible into German. How awesome would that be to see? My daughter would love touring the castles and my husband would dutifully ooh and aah, but I might have to bribe my boys with a ski trip or something to get them to tour the castles with me.
Sara: I’m excited to read your upcoming novella Love on the Mend. Is there anything else on the horizon?
Karen: Thanks for mentioning Jacob’s story. I knew as I wrote Full Steam Ahead, that the little runaway boy that Darius and Nicole took in had a larger story to tell. I’m excited to reveal that story in Love on the Mend. And of course, to give him the happily-ever-after he deserves.
My next full-length novel releases in June. The title is A Worthy Pursuit. Here’s the blurb:
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.
Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother’s death. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.
When the teacher he’s after produces documentation that shows she’s the little girl’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim?
Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart and start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.
Sara: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our Historical Romance Month! We look forward to reading and reviewing your future novels!
Karen: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun!
To find out more about Karen and her books visit her website or FaceBook page.