An interview by Kate J. Foster, a professional editor from Australia.
Who are you and what do you write?
Thank you for having me on your blog, Kate. So humbled to be here with you. My name is Karen, I’m from Toronto, Canada, and I write thrillers. My first novel, The Dime Box, was just released this week.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
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. I have no idea now where all that early writing went, but I remember spending hours pouring over poems and short stories and essays through elementary and high school. When life moved on, I became a teacher and watching the students I served find voice in their own writing was one of the best parts of the job. If what I observed is any indication of the future, we’re going to have a huge number of remarkable and prolific writers in this world.
My own writing came a little later in life. After raising a family and a career of crafting school newsletters, memos and corporate reports, I decided the foggy pieces of The Dime Box lingering in my mind were taking up too much real estate. One day, I casually shared the premise of the novel with a colleague. He said, “Interesting. So why don’t you write it down? Giddy-up. How hard can it be?” Ha! Famous last words. Yet here we are today.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
The journey has been a lot of fun. I try to carve out time to write every day. If I don’t, or if I leave large gaps of time between writing, I’m not as present in the story as I want or need to be. This means writing early morning, after work, or on weekends and holidays. The beverage at my elbow varies by the time of day I write.
There are two specific physical spots I like to write. The first is at the kitchen table because it keeps me in the hub of family activity, yet it’s quiet enough to concentrate. The second is at our cottage in northern Ontario. There is nothing better to spur the mood of a thriller than sitting in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods beside a lake at night.
What’s been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
I love everything about the process of writing. That first messy draft is exciting, and nothing beats the feeling of the plot emerging and the characters coming alive on the page. In subsequent drafts, the surprises I constantly encountered were equally as much fun. As the plot thickened and the interaction between the characters deepened, each character developed their own voice and suddenly wanted to make their own choices. There were times I was watching them, my mouth hanging open, and saying “What? Really? Alright.”
Through later drafts, and The Dime Box went through twenty-seven, I was deeply grateful for the feedback received from early readers. Writing can be myopic, and the insight they provided identified plot holes, opportunity to develop characters further or places better served by using a bridge or slowing down and staying in the scene. As The Dime Box moved closer to completion, I had a lot of fun working with and learning from my editor. When someone else with remarkable talent and experience takes your work and lets you know honestly where it shines and where it falls down, it can only get better. I humbly suggest every story needs an editor and a great editor makes every great story better.
I think the hardest part of being a new writer with a debut novel is getting the word out. It’s not easy in a crowded market, nor is it easy, nor does it feel natural, to market oneself. I’m learning this is important though, and am awakening to the wide array of strategies and tactics to do so.
Would you go back and change anything?
Writing The Dime Box taught me a lot. There were times the story or a specific scene in the story didn’t flow the way it needed to and it was frustrating. But I learned as drafts evolve, I could go back to those tricky scenes and write them with the detail, colour and depth they needed. This experience was helpful and as I’m writing my second novel now, I keep it top of mind.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
In five or ten years time, I’ll still be writing. It’s my passion!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new writers just starting out?
It’s daunting to answer this question because I am a new writer. That being said, one thing I’ve learned in the early stages of this journey is that technology has revolutionized opportunity for writers of all genres. There are so many online communities where we can connect, ask questions, cheer each other on, lift each other up and work and learn together. I love Twitter’s #writingcommunity. I’m grateful for the advice and guidance those more experienced generously offer about the craft of writing and the business of writing itself. Technology has also expanded publishing options and I’m deeply respectful of every writer’s publishing choice. Whether writers self-publish, go indie, hybrid or publish traditionally, I’m in awe of the amazing artistic talent out there.
And some quickfire preference questions…
Ketchup or Mayo? Ketchup chips. Odd? In Canada, we have milk in a bag, Nanaimo bars, Swiss Chalet, Coffee Crisp, Peameal bacon, poutine and Bloody Caesars too!
Night or Day? Day
Inside or Outside? Outside
Dogs or Cats? Dogs (See Ruby below!)
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? Both, but I really love the feel of a book in my hands
Walk or Drive? Walk
Sun or Rain? Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Both. It’s situational
Comedy or Drama? Drama (but not my own)
Chips or Chocolate? Chocolate
Originally published on November 27, 2019 at https://www.katejfoster.com/general-blog/author-interview-karen-grose