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Saturday, December 10, 2011
Author Interview with Karen Rose Smith
The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Karen Rose Smith, whose latest book, Once Upon a Groom, the second book in her Reunion Bride series from Harlequin, was released in October. She also has a never-before published ebook novella available, Always Devoted, which is a blend of mystery and romance and is the third book in her Search for Love series.
Karen's interest in writing began when she was in high school; she had a superb English teacher who made poetry come alive. By reading poetry, Karen learned that poets could express their feelings about any and all subjects, and she liked that. As an only child in a traditional Italian Catholic family, she had learned that feelings weren't communicated with words—food maybe, but not words. So she started writing poetry to express her emotions. Her first taste of seeing her words in print came when she submitted one of her poems to the high school literary magazine.
When she went to college, she began her first novel that was loosely based on the Beatles (Paul was the hero in her head), and she and a cousin wrote a script for the Monkees TV show.
"We sent it to all their concert venues that summer by registered mail!" she remembered. "That was my first collaboration project and it was a ton of fun and exciting, too!"
She became serious about writing a book in the late eighties. She'd had back surgery and for four years was flat on her back.
"I needed something more than crocheting to keep me occupied," she told me. "I began with short stories that grew too long to be published. So I decided--why not a book? Since I’d read relationship novels beginning with YA romances and graduated to Harlequins, I thought a romance would be perfect. I wrote for six years and finished thirteen manuscripts before I sold. And then I sold two books in one week to two different publishers—Meteor/Kismet and Silhouette. "
The third and fourth books in the Reunion Bride stories are scheduled to be released next year. I asked her to tell us a bit about the series, which is set in the fictional town of Miners Bluff near Flagstaff, Arizona.
"These books revolve around the characters’ fifteenth year high school reunion. That night, many plot elements are set in motion. In the third book, Dawson asks Mikala, a music therapist, if she’ll consider taking on his son and helping him remember what happen the night his mother died. Eight-year-old Luke was in the car with his mom but can’t remember anything that happened the day of the accident or the accident itself. Now ten, he’s getting into fights at school and generally having a tough time. The book opens with Dawson moving back to Miners Bluff from Phoenix to start a new life for him and his son. This book has been a challenge. I’ve struggled with Luke taking up too much space in this romance. But I think I’ve found the balance that fits perfectly with the romance to make this a highly emotional story."
"How do you develop your plots and characters?" I asked.
"My plot and characters develop from universal emotions. I watch the news, talk shows, read human interest stories. Some element will trigger a desire to see my hero or heroine work out that situation. So a situation can be the trigger point. Or a hero or heroine’s profession can propel a plot. My books are definitely character and emotion driven. But there must be a situation that will spin those emotions into a healing story about love and commitment. I always say my characters can be anywhere doing anything if the conflict between them is strong enough. Conflict, plot and characters are all woven together."
Sometimes Karen with get the I-don't-want-to-write blues (she denies that it is writer's block, saying, "If I deny it, maybe it doesn't exist?"). She gets those blues when she realizes she is forcing writing.
"Sometimes I don’t know my hero or heroine well enough. Or maybe a scene isn’t quite right. Or maybe I need to switch points of view or go deeper into the character I’m focusing on," she explained. "When any of this happens and I get stuck, I have several different strategies. I take a long shower and relax and just think about what I’m doing with the book. I might listen to music—passionate songs that are my favorites, country songs if they better suit the book I’m writing. Music has always inspired me. Or… In the summer I go outside to write on the patio. Gardening is a hobby and I love the flowers, birds, and butterflies all around me. Or… I sit on the patio under the moon and stars and think about my hero and heroine doing the same. Usually one of these methods will move the scene again and I’m on my way."
She has an office where she does much of her writing.
"Years ago my husband decided he needed a garage. So when we added on to our house, I insisted if he got a garage then I needed an office over it! I love working there. I write many ranch books and the western mystique intrigued me from my first 'cowboy' book. I’m also interested in Native American culture. So, although I live in Pennsylvania, my office has a Southwestern flavor. When we were planning it, my son bought me a beautiful turquoise vase painted with wolves. I decorated the room around it using sunset colors, turquoise and off-white. I have an L-shaped desk and buttered-plastered walls with French doors leading onto a small deck. The room is filled with light."
Karen rarely writes at the computer. Other skeletal problems came along with her back surgery. She has fibromyalgia that also affects her eyes, so she's adapted the way she writes so she can keep on writing. She records her first draft on a tape recorder and has a typist that transcribes it. She then edits the hard copy over and over until she's satisfied with it. Even before the tape recorder, though, she would write everything in long-hand on a legal pad and then type it up.
When she's not writing, she listens to books on CD, gardens, or cooks.
"Listening to CD’s or books stimulates the creative flow," she explained. "Each year I look forward to winter ending. Usually in March I begin planting seeds for tomatoes and flowers. I love watching them grow. I love the colors and scents and textures they produce. Playing in the dirt is soothing and relaxing and takes me back to another time when I helped my grandmother plant in her backyard, when my mom would spill zinnia seeds into our garden for color, when my son was a small child and my husband and I showed him a rose in our apartment’s small garden. Cooking also takes me back to my roots. My grandmother and mom were wonderful cooks. Both made their own cannoli and ravioli and desserts galore. I like recreating their recipes and coming up with my own. When our garden begins producing tomatoes, zucchini, onions and herbs, I toss them together to make healthy dinners. But every once in a while I bring out those old recipes that are too good not to make."
"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I wondered.
"While I was growing up, women’s roles were beginning to change. But not a lot. My mother was a teacher. I went to Catholic school and she taught in public school. So when I would have days off, I would go with her. As I got older, I would help her, even taking a reading group now and then. Teaching seemed natural to me. Yet I thought I might want more than that. I took four years of French in high school and two years of Spanish. I decided to major in French and English in college keeping my options open to become an interpreter. But then I met my college sweetheart and after graduation, we married. I became an English teacher, then a home decorator, then a writer."
Finally I asked, "What do you want to know about the future?"
"Turning sixty gave me a new perspective on life. I try to enjoy every precious moment and love as much as I can. Friends and family mean more to me now than they ever did. So if I could see into a crystal ball, I’d want to know how long my husband and I have together."
You can keep up with Karen on her blog, http://karenrosesmith.blogspot.com.