Blog Archive

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rewriting and Staying Motivated: Author Interview with Karen Rose

First off, kudos to you for winning two Rita Awards (RWA) and for being a finalist in five others. It looks like the first book you had published was Don’t Tell in 2003. How long did it take to write that first book? 
Thank you :-) DON’T TELL is my first published book and it took about 3 years to complete. I was working full-time as an engineer at the time, so my writing time consisted of stolen moments after my children were in bed and the weekends my hubby would take the girls to the bookstore or library to give me a few hours peace and quiet. 

In your bio, you said that book went through 5 full rewrites. 
I did write DON’T TELL five times before I finally sold it in 2001 and each time was a little different. The only things that were common in all five iterations were the prologue and the scene where Caroline meets her ex-husband face to face. Everything else changed and varied by mood and how much I’d learned from the past attempts. It wasn’t even a suspense until version four. It had been women’s fiction or mainstream romance for the first three versions.
Why are there multiple covers and imprints for this book?
There are two covers in the US – the original 2003 cover and a re-release in 2011 or so. The other covers are international versions. There are two for the UK and at least four for Germany!

From what I can see, you've always been traditionally published. Do you think it was easier then or now to get the attention of a large publishing house? 
Yes, I’ve always been traditionally published. That was the primary option back in 2001 when I sold my first book. Easier or harder now to get the attention of a large publishing house? That's a hard question to answer. I think there are many more paths to getting a traditional publisher’s attention such as the traditional query (although some houses do not accept unagented queries so you’d have to find an agent first), winning a contest where the prize is an editor’s read, successfully self-published sales, but the paths are much narrower, able to hold fewer authors. The number of houses has decreased, mostly due to mergers and buyouts. There are only so many slots for book releases, so fewer new authors can be considered. 

What are your thoughts on the rise of indie publishing?
I personally think the rise of indies is good because it allows so many more options for readers, but now there are so many that it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Net? I really don’t know! If you do, please tell me :-)

What made you decide to write romantic suspense?
I didn’t start out writing suspense. My first books were women’s fiction or contemporary romance. It was my first agent who read the prologue to DON’T TELL and said, “You have a suspenseful voice. Have you considered writing a suspense?” I said, “No, but I’ll give it a try.” 

I approached it from a reverse engineering standpoint, LOL, and chose a suspense whose ending had surprised me. I read that book backward to figure out how the author had dropped the clues. Then I watched a LOT of original Law & Order to get rhythm and cadence of a suspense. Then I just sat down and wrote.
What are some of the more difficult aspects of writing a romantic suspense novel?
I think the most difficult aspect of writing a suspense is creating characters and plot compelling enough that readers are so caught up in the story itself that they don’t look for the clues. The most difficult part of writing a romantic suspense is keeping the balance right. Some of my books are more “romance-y” than others, but all have a core romance.
Have other novels been started and stopped along the way?
The only novel I started and never finished was a paranormal. I set it aside because I had suspenses to write and deadlines to keep. It’s always stuck in the back of my mind, though. Maybe I’ll finish it someday!

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
When I first started, it was to never give up. But now, nearly 20 books later, it’s the words of my very wise editor who knows me well. “Every book doesn’t have to be better than the last. Every book just has to be good.”

Perfectionists like me can obsess that THIS book (whichever is the next one) won’t be as
good. It can become debilitating. I put my heart and all of my effort into every book. I push myself to be better. But there comes a point when that drive toward perfection can freeze a writer in her tracks. So I just write as best I can and hope my readers fall in love with my characters all over again.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
Oh my. Hmmm. My last rejection before selling DON’T TELL to Warner Books (I signed the contract 15 years ago this month!), was from an editor who said my book was “generic and familiar.” Ouch. That really stung. I didn’t really have to learn to write past it per se – I got “the call” offering to buy my book from Warner Books a week or so later. But I did deal with the sting by writing the rejection back into one of my books. The villain was told his art was “generic and familiar.” It made him determined to prove everyone wrong. Unfortunately, that villain upped his killing game. I just kept writing :-)

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension, etc?
Easily the beginning is the hardest part. So many directions the book can go at that point! It’s like a long hallway lined with doors. Some have tigers behind them and some just lead to weird, wrong places. If I pick the wrong door, I’ll have to start all over again.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
Keep it tight! My books tend to be complex and long, with a lot of characters. I’m reminded often to keep the storyline tighter.

What did you learn in publishing your first book that helped you in your writing?

Be respectful. Listen to feedback and carefully consider it because the editor wants the same thing I do – a good book. Be able to read between the lines of critique and understand what change the editor really wants to see, even if she or he hasn’t clearly articulated it. But at the end of the day, it’s my book. I have to be proud of the content. So I listen and make changes, those that are articulated and those that aren’t, but I stay true to my voice.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
The generosity of my readers! I love how much they love my characters.

What frustrated you the most?
That there are so many factors that make a successful book release – most of which I can’t control.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
It’s not always easy to fall into the writing of a book (the “zone”) when it moves from hobby to business. The stress of deadlines can make creativity dry up. When I get caught up in the stress, I have to remind myself why I love my characters. So I wish I’d known sooner that I have to treat my characters like any other real-life relationship. Keeping my creativity, enabling my characters to thrive in my mind, takes work. I can’t expect it to always “just happen."

What is the best book you've ever read about the craft of writing?
GMC – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon.

What other works are in the process?
I am just finishing the edits on a summer-release book (I’ll have two out in 2017!) called The Monster In The Closet. It features all the Baltimore characters and is the story of Clay Maynard reuniting with his daughter, who was stolen from him before she was even born. And I’ve started the fourth book in the Cincinnati series!

Any other tips or words you’d like to share about writing?

Don’t give up. And don’t write to get published. That’s a lot of pressure! Write because you must, because you love your characters.

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Karen's writing and her , latest book, here's the link to her EVERY DARK CORNER page on her website: http://www.karenrosebooks.com/books/every-dark-corner/overview