Blog Archive

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Writing with a Passion for the Old West: Author Interview with Karen Witemeyer

In doing research on your books, it looks like you've published 8 novels and 3 novellas, with the first one being published in 2010. Tell me what the process was like in getting a publishing contract with Bethany House? 
I wrote for about six years before I signed that first contract, learning the craft of writing fiction and publishing short pieces for magazines to gain experience. Getting that first contract was such a validation of all the years of hard work I'd put in, but it was also terrifying because now I had to write under deadline and learn the fine act of juggling edits and marketing while still continuing to write the next book. Not an easy task for a newbie!

Were you active with writing groups during that time?
Yes, I joined a local writing group that met once a month in my hometown. I also joined two online groups: Romance Writers of America (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). I learned so much from being involved in these groups. Not only did they help me hone my craft, but they taught me everything I didn't know (which was EVERYTHING) about the publishing industry and helped me network with other authors and industry professionals.

Did you go to writing conferences? 
Yes. I have attended every ACFW conference since 2005. I credit the ACFW conference for connecting me with my publisher. I met both my agent and my editor at the 2008 conference and signed that first contract in January of 2009.

What do you think is the best way for an attendee to prepare before attending a conference to make the most out of it?
If you are planning to pitch your book to editors and agents while at the conference, be sure to research them ahead of time. Make sure you select people who would be a good fit for your manuscript. Don't just read their short blurb on the conference website -- visit their professional sites, read their blogs, get to know their pet peeves so you can avoid them. Other than that, come with realistic expectations.
We all hope to sign a book deal while we're there, but realistically, it's probably not going to happen. What can happen are marvelous God-led appointments with other writers and even agents or editors that might pave the way for future open doors. I first met my editor by volunteering to stuff envelopes during pre-conference set up in 2007. We both still remember that connection even though I didn't pitch to her until later. Open yourself to what God can do and give him room to work.

What made you chose writing historical romance set in the west? 
Historical romance is my favorite genre to read. In fact I rarely read anything else for pleasure. I've been hooked on historical stories since Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. When I decided to try my hand at writing, there was never any doubt as to what genre I would pick. Writing what you love to read makes the process much more fun.

How do you go about researching your stories time periods? 
I do a lot of research online, but I also purchase books to have on hand. I keep books on fashion and transportation handy as well as books that deal specifically with certain occupations, but the resource I reach for most often is my 1895 Montgomery Ward Catalog reprint. There's no better source for the look and functionality of everyday items.

How do you keep the writing fresh and contemporary after so many books?
That is the hardest part of this job. And truthfully what scares me the most when I look down the road into my publishing future. Often times I find inspiration by reading other authors' works, watching movies, and television. Any story art form that allows me to soak in creativity can be a source of ideas. I'll take something I liked from one area, mix it with something from another area, then turn it on its head to make it my own. Of course, the ultimate source of creativity is the Creator himself. Daily prayer over my writing is the most important ingredient.

You've also published novellas with other authors. How do you compact your story down to around 100 pages?
I actually really like the shorter length stories. By necessity, I have to keep the plot simple and direct. No need for subplots and extensive secondary characters. And because all of my novellas to date tie into a previously written novel, I'm already familiar with the main character(s). This allows the story to flow more easily than when I write a full novel from scratch. The key is to still keep proper pacing even with a shorter word count. Too many novellas start at the same pace as a full-length novel then rush through all the main action in order to finish. The beginning needs to be pared down just as much as the middle, so you must come up with creative ways to introduce your characters and set up the story more quickly.

Books that are Christian themed are growing in demand. Why do you think that is occurring? 
The Christian market has been hit just as hard as the general market with decreasing profits, but people still hunger for a story that resonates truth. And with more and more Inspirational authors writing high quality fiction, readers are finding stories that uplift and give hope, perhaps even stories that challenge them to a place of deeper faith. That is my prayer.

One of my weaknesses is writing the short 200 word blurb on a book and I know many others feel the same way. Could you give us some advice as to how to successfully put it together? 
The book blurb is one of the hardest things to write because it must compel a reader to buy your story with so few words. I write romance, so I typically have three short paragraphs.

Paragraph 1: Who is the hero; what does he want; what stands in his way.

Paragraph 2: Who is the heroine; what does she want; what stands in her way. (And play their goals off each other as much as possible so the reader feels the tension between them already.)

Paragraph 3: Tie in the romance angle and hint at the big danger that threatens to tear them apart. Then the hard part - Do all of this in your voice and style to make it unique. Inject humor or suspense. Sprinkle in short, punchy sentences. Don't just slap something together. Work on it for hours. Days, weeks, maybe. Run it by critique partners. Make it sing.

Thanks for your great tips. If you would like to learn more about Karen and her books, here's how you can so just that...

Now AvailableWith This Ring? ~ Romantic Times Top Pick! 
A Worthy Pursuit
~ "One of the best western romances of 2015" - True West Magazine
Karen's Website       Inspired by Life and Fiction Blog       Petticoats & Pistols Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment