(Here is the entire interview, as posted on Dames of Dialogue)
Today I am very excited to welcome Karen White to our site. She has written wonderfully evocative novels, and is about to release again an old favorite.
Please check out Karen’s recent guest blog post HERE.
1. Welcome, Karen…the Dames enjoy sharing writing experiences with other authors. I noticed in your “bio” that you loved “Gone with the Wind,” which was one of my favorite books as a teenager; you mentioned how that book triggered your dreams to be a writer. What other events (or influences) in your life led to your creative journey?
Put simply—just a love of the written word. I don’t think it’s possible to be a writer without being a voracious reader. I also think living out of the country and then returning to visit family made me a great observer of people—something every writer needs to be. My parents’ families are all from Mississippi so it was sort of like an anthropological experiment each summer when I’d return from whatever corner of the world we’d been living in to experience Southerners in their native habitat.
2. How did your London experiences add to or change your later writing journey?
Living in London gave me a huge pool of people to study—on crowded sidewalks, in the Tube, at the green grocer, standing in line at Harrods. Everything was so—different—which meant that I couldn’t ignore any of it. We lived across the street from the location of a house (now an office building) where Dickens lived in while writing David Copperfield and I took frequent school and family trips to Stratford—on-Avon, Bath, and other such places of literary importance like Jane Austen’s girlhood home. I saw them as—people—and maybe even imagined that if these ordinary people in these ordinary (but very old!) houses could do it, then why not me?
The original versions of Falling Home came out in 2002. It had a very limited print run and was out of print within a month. But ever since, I’ve had readers begging for it. Unfortunately, the only copies to be held were used copies at really ridiculous high prices.
I’m thrilled that I’m finally able to let all of my readers—old and new—read it in its new and improved version. The cover is MUCH better, and I’ve added two more points of views (originally the story was told solely from the protagonist’s viewpoint) to add depth to the story, but have left the plot and the characters alone since that’s what readers loved.
It’s a story about two estranged sisters and is what I call my “Steel Magnolias” book—with lots of Southern family dynamics and a story that will make you laugh as much as you cry.
4. I was fascinated by the “story behind the story” of On Folly Beach. Can you share some of your experiences in creating those settings and that story?
I always thought that I was a real history buff, until during a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina I learned about the German U-boat presence off the southeastern US coast during WWII, something I was completely ignorant of! Around that time, I read a terrific article in Charleston Magazine about Folly Beach in its hey day as the “America’s Playground” during the 30’s and 40’s. The Folly Beach pier was THE happening place, where the big bands (like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey) performed and the pier would be packed with dancers. It’s where the SC state dance, “the shag” was invented. Folly was such a unique place, then and now, and I knew I had to use it as a setting for a book.
5. Our readers enjoy immersing themselves in the writer’s world, so what can you share about your writing day?
I try to write every day—but where and when varies. I’ve got two kids, a dog, a husband who travels, a house, and well, a life! I have to squeeze everything in when I can which is why my laptop goes with me EVERYWHERE and why some of my books were written sitting in my car at football fields, horse barns, and carpool lines.
6. Promoting and marketing our work is often challenging. What have you discovered to be your most effective marketing tools? I noticed that you are on Facebook. What, if any, other online presence have you created?
I have a website: Karen White – Author, and I just started doing my own blog: Author Karen White’s Blog. I refuse to Twitter because really, do I need another time suck? Besides, my life isn’t that interesting. Every Tweet would be “working on my manuscript” or “doing laundry” or some combination of both since that’s really all I do all day. My publisher sends me on a physical book tour which is really fun, and I also do a “virtual tour” where I guest blog all over the blogosphere. It’s exhausting doing all the writing (especially when I’m on deadline!) but very, very effective in reaching out to new readers.
7. In writing your books, do your characters lead the way, or are your stories plot-driven? Or both?
I definitely let the characters lead the way. When I start a book, I have a general idea of what’s supposed to happen and will jot it down in a synopsis. Very often, though, I won’t even refer back to it if the characters take off in new and unexpected ways—and I let them! It gives my writing a fresh approach and I try to trust my gut instinct.
8. I like your attitude of creating a new resolution each day. How has this attitude contributed to your creative experiences?
It allows me to start each day fresh without any preconceived notions. It also derails unproductive things like writer’s block. If I set a goal of a certain number of pages or whatever, I just do it. I don’t care if I don’t feel like it or if I think what I’m writing is awful. Because it is—always—easier to fix a bad page later than to start each day with a blank page!
9. Do you participate in any writing groups, and if so, what is that experience like for you?
I have two wonderful critique partners, authors Susan Crandall and Wendy Wax. They are the BEST. They “get” what I’m trying to accomplish with my writing, and offer constructive criticism without killing my ego—a real tricky thing for a writer’s very thin skin! They’re great for brainstorming and commiserating, and our yearly writer’s retreats to Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains are something I look forward to all year long. We’ve all become very good friends, which is something every writer needs in this very tough business.
10. Can you share some of your experiences in your journey toward publication of your first book?
I was one of those happily ignorant writers who didn’t know there were “rules” I should be following when I sat down to write my first book. This was back in 1996 and I had just bought a computer with a modem (remember those?) and had a CompuServe account. I found a writer’s group and was thrilled to know that there were people out there just like me! Members there encouraged me to submit my first manuscript, and instead I entered it into a contest where the final round judges were top literary agents. I won the contest, and the judge in my category (who’d once been Nora Roberts’ editor) offered to represent me. She sold that first book to the second publisher she sent it to. Twelve published books later, she’s still my agent.
11. In addition to “Falling Home,” are you working on another WIP?
I’m currently working on my May, 2011 release THE BEACH TREES set in post-Katrina Biloxi Mississippi and 1950’s New Orleans. After I turn that book in (hopefully by November 1st!), I’ll get to work on the 3rd Tradd Street book, due out in November 2011 and tentatively entitled, THE TURRET ON MONTAGU STREET.
12. The Dames love pets, and I noticed a lovely dog in your website photo. What, if any, other pets do you have, and how have they added to your daily life?
My dog, Quincy, is a 4-year old Havanese and my favorite child (ask my two teenagers, and they’ll agree). He’s a true love-bug and can usually be found glued to my side. Our other pet is a guinea pig named Cappuccino. This pig is so well-loved and taken care of that she’s lived for almost 7 years (their life expectancy is 3-5 years). My daughter, who just started college, was crying on the phone yesterday because she missed the pig!
It’s so nice to have animals to share my life with—when I’m in the dumps from dealing with a manuscript that won’t seem to flow, or a demanding schedule, or any conversation with my teenagers, my pets love me unconditionally, never talk back, and are—always—happy to see me. An immediate mood boost. Quincy also keeps me trim since he insists on sitting next to me when I write—and if I gain any weight I’ll have to buy new chairs.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen. I’m very excited about reading your new, revised book, as well as the upcoming releases.
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