We are so excited to welcome Karen Grose! Her book, The Dime Box, was published in November:
“Buried secrets lie closest to the heart. Greta Giffen barely escaped being murdered by the man she grew up with. She’s not sure who Ian is, or who she is, but she’s determined to find out. When she bolts from their secluded cabin in northern Ontario and flees to Toronto, her new life comes at a price. Ian dies under suspicious circumstances and a veteran detective believes eighteen-year-old Greta has the perfect motive.
A prime suspect in a tense police investigation, Greta finds it hard to make Detective Astra Perez believe the details of her dark and appalling story. Digging deep into her sordid history and forced to face the people from her past in a new light, Greta struggles to accept the secrets that have haunted her since childhood. Still, Detective Perez remains doubtful. And until Greta herself confronts the disturbing evidence in front of her, she will never truly escape that cabin in the woods.”
Thank you to Karen for sharing her thoughts in the interview below.
Tell us about your book. What influenced you to write it?
Before I begin, thank you for having me on Epilogue. I’m so grateful to be here with you.
Set in Ontario, The Dime Box is the story of a young woman accused of murdering her father. It’s my debut novel and recently released, it’s a thriller suitable for all ages.
I enjoy novels with strong and feisty female protagonists and Greta is no exception. Inspired by the stories of the students I’ve had the privilege of serving in education; her story is one of resilience, heartache and triumph. I’m interested in social issues such as gender, justice, what it means to be family and the search for identity, so these themes are woven into the novel. Finally, I like books that keep me up at night turning pages! To do this for readers who may like the same, the characters in The Dime Box are forced to face significant moral dilemmas and make difficult decisions.
How did you come to writing? What was the moment you knew writing was what you wanted to do?
As a young child, I loved to read and still remember the feeling of getting lost in a good story. I also loved to write. As early as grade school, I remember being lost for hours writing stories and poems and plays and journals. That feeling never left. As my journey continued through high school, university and during my career serving students and schools, writing played an integral part of day-to-day life.
Like everyone, things got busy. Between work and family and kids and the dog, it took a while to carve out the time to write The Dime Box. Five years and twenty-seven drafts later, here we are.
What is it about writing that excites you?
I love writing complex and compelling characters. They don’t necessarily have to be ones I admire, just characters that surprise me as they come alive and jump off the page.
In my experience, the process of character development is natural and authentic. When I start writing, I don’t have each character’s full personality figured out. It’s a partnership. They evolve as the writing evolves. It’s so much fun when they begin to reveal their quirks, strengths, flaws and motivations. As the plot thickens and the interaction between characters deepens, each character’s voice develops further and I’m often amazed by the decisions and choices they want to make.
What is your writing process or practice like? Do you have any regular rhythms or writing habits?
This is a great question. As a new writer, I’m always intrigued by how those with more experience handle their processes and practices. In talking to my colleagues, it’s fascinating to hear how differently all genres of writers handle it. There’s a wide array of answers.
I find it easiest to write each day. When I experience gaps, I’m not as present in the story as I want or need to be. As many of my ideas or required edits or glaring plot holes seem to become suddenly more apparent just as I begin to drift off to sleep, most mornings I get up and write in the kitchen on my laptop with a latte (or three) at my elbow.
Tell us about how you juggle and/or balance writing with the rest of your life? What are the struggles and the joys?
In today’s fast-paced world, life-work balance is tough for everybody. With all the responsibilities on our plates, self-care is important. Whether it’s reflection, meditation, getting enough sleep, exercising, healthy eating or making time for friends and family, all are important for long-term health, happiness and stress management.
Writers are the same. Some days I struggle with the balance I aspire to have. For example, if I’m deep into a scene or chapter and time flies by, I may not eat as well as I should have or forfeit exercise. There are other days I don’t write as much because of family commitments or work or a prior engagement. Yet these struggles are few and far between. Save for the times my imaginary friends refuse to talk to me and I go through a day or two of writer’s block, most of the time the writing flows freely.
In terms of publication, what are some of the biggest challenges you face? How have you worked to overcome rejection, failure, and self-doubt?
I’m deeply respectful of every writer’s publishing choice. Whether they self-publish, go indie, hybrid or publish traditionally, the writing talent around the world right now is remarkable. I’ve read many books from each of these publishing options and I’m in awe.
No matter the route one takes in terms of publishing, there are challenges. As a new writer, one of the biggest I faced was of my own doing. And it was a whopper of a learning experience! I sent an agent I deeply respect a query well before I had any business doing so, and of course, received a rejection. At the time, it was devastating. Painful. But looking back on it now, the agent’s assessment was absolutely right. That rejection spurred me to take another thorough and objective look at my manuscript, consider its structural weaknesses and to go back and rewrite it. The rewrite took a year and ultimately made The Dime Box a stronger story.
Self-doubt is part of every writer’s journey and I experienced it writing The Dime Box too. Though I strongly believe in Greta’s story, there were times I wondered whether other people would find it compelling or as interesting as I did. Some days the story flowed naturally, other days it was a struggle. Many times I was stuck in a scene, unsure whether to delve into it more deeply, or make it a simple bridge. I’ve since learned these types of thoughts and feelings are a natural part of the process and writing my second novel now, I keep this top of mind.
And now some lighter questions…
How do you celebrate successes? What does success look like to you?
As a new writer, my definition of success is simple. I hope when a reader chooses The Dime Box, they fall in love with Greta as much as I did. Since the novel’s release, I’ve received many emails from people who have enjoyed Greta’s story. It’s mind blowing they’ve taken time out of their busy day to write. I’m so deeply humbled and I always write back.
Who are some of your favorite writers and your favorite books of all time?
This could take a while!
I loved The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Shining by Stephen King.
I read five books recently I really enjoyed: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, The Woo Woo by Lindsay Wong, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Up next are: Crow Winter by Karen McBride, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis.
What are your favorite writing resources (books, websites, podcasts, etc.)? Links please (if available).
Whether new or established, I’m grateful to be constantly learning from other writers. One of the many books I keep on my desk is Stephen King’s On Writing, I enjoy Joanna Penn’s podcasts about the craft and the business of writing and I’m always amazed by the thoughtful insight shared on Kate Foster’s blog in Australia. My go-to group for discussion and inspiration is Twitter’s #writingcommunity. Penny-that’s where I met you! It’s a great space to connect, lift each other up, cheer each other on and ask questions. It’s like having a warm, friendly family of a million writers sitting right beside you in the house.
What is your favorite writing snack?
Tough choice. Depending on the time of day, either jujubes or popcorn.
What is the last TV show you binged?
The Handmaid’s Tale. Loved it!
Where can we find your work?
The Dime Box can be ordered online at Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Waterstones, as well as from your local independent bookstore.
Originally published March 12, 2020 on Medium.com by Penny Zang.