My guest today is Karen McCullough. Karen is the author of eleven published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie for fantasy.
Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She invites visitors to check out her home on the web at http://www.kmccullough.com and her site for the Market Center Mysteries series, http://www.marketcentermysteries.com
Anne - Welcome, Karen. I’m so glad you could drop by for a visit and talk about writing. What one or two lines best sums you up as an author?
Karen - Hmm… I’m not sure. I’ve been described as “prolific,” but I think that’s more just because I’ve been writing so long I’ve built up a pretty good inventory of stories.
“Eclectic”certainly describes me. I write in a number of genres, ranging from fantasy to mystery to romance, and my books often cross several genres. It probably hasn’t been the best thing for my career either, but I need variety.
Anne – I read a post this week that suggested just the opposite. Being versatile in a number of genres makes good business sense for an author. It may have something to do with the changing climate of publishing. With ereaders and a worldwide audience, it pays to be prolific! Tell us about your most recent release.
Karen - My most recent release is MAGIC MURDER AND MICROCIRCUITS. It’s one of my genre-crossing books. Primarily a contemporary paranormal romance, it also has a strong mystery element as well.
Blurb: A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death.
The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it.
When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it. Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.
Anne – Do you have a fear, phobia, or habit you’d rather no one knew about?
Karen - Of course. Doesn’t everyone?
Anne – No fair. You’re supposed to share. No? Ah, well, I tried! How long does it take you to write a book?
Karen - It varies a lot. I wrote one of my Avalon books in three weeks, working almost continuously, but that’s pretty rare. Generally it takes anywhere from three months to a year to complete a book. I’m not one of those people who can write every days, since I have a family and job that take up a lot of my time. Plus I need to be able to sink deep into my world, when I’m writing, so I can’t just grab a few minutes here and there.
Anne - How long did your journey from wannabe writer to published author take?
Karen - It took about ten years. I first began writing seriously around 1980, when I had to do something adult while my children were small. I began with short stories, but after a couple of years I realized my stories were getting longer and longer. It was still kind of a leap to tackle a novel, but it hooked me completely. I’m not sure how I would’ve felt if someone had told me I’d have to write five more novels before I’d finally sell one. I had a few short stories accepted by ezines and other small publications before that, including one that paid me ten dollars, but I didn’t really feel like I’d made it until I got the call from Avalon Books in 1989.
Anne – How many rejections did you acquire along the way? What kept you going?
Karen - Ohmigosh, I don’t think I ever counted them, but the file folder of rejection letters is at least two or three inches thick. And it’s not like I don’t still get rejections, but most of them come by email these days. That’s something I don’t think beginning writers understand. Being published once or twice or even a dozen times doesn’t guarantee anything beyond the current contract. It’s certainly not a given that you’ll be offered another one.
Before I sold I did get quite a few ‘nice’ rejections from editors and agents who actually liked one of my books even though they couldn’t buy or rep it because it was in a genre that wasn’t selling. Since then, I've sold enough stories and novels to feel reasonably confident of my ability to tell an interesting story.
Plus there’s that other thing: an impulse, a need to write that just won’t go away. If I don’t write for a few days I start to feel like my head’s going to explode. There’s so much going on in there that it needs the outlet of pouring out those characters and scenes onto paper.
Anne - If you could just snap your fingers and go, where would you visit, return to, or move? Why?
Karen - I’m happy living where I do in central
, but I love traveling and would go
almost anywhere given the chance. I probably favor North
Carolina because my
son lives there, and I love what I’ve seen of the country. But then I adored England when I
spent some time there many years ago and would go back in heartbeat if I could. Italy
Anne - What makes you cry? Laugh? Lose your temper?
Karen - Lots of things make me cry—sad movies, bad things happening to good people, courage under fire, etc. Lots of things make me laugh, too. I love clever word play, ironic situations, and sight gags. I’m a real sucker for sight gags. What doesn’t make me laugh is people doing stupid things, so I’m not a big fan of a lot of most screwball humor. I’m pretty easygoing, but injustice of almost any sort will make me angry. Abuse and violence, especially where children are involved, infuriate me.
Anne – Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?
Karen - Never give up, never surrender. Just grow a thick skin. Writing is both art and craft. The “art” part is a gift, but you have to learn the “craft” part, and it can take time. You’ll get lots of rejections along the way, so make your peace with it.
Anne – You’ve graciously offered to give a copy of one of your books to a reader. What question would you like them to answer to qualify for the draw?
Karen - Will you read books that cross into more than one genre? What are your favorite genre blends?
Anne – Great question, Karen, I look forward to reader’s comments. The winner will be announced here on February 10. Thanks for chatting with me today. I wish you every success with Magic, Murder and Microcircuits.
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