Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Karen Robbins. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Karen. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Karen: Northeast Ohio near the Cleveland area is where I swelter in the summer and shiver in the winter. I do love our seasons but I would settle for just spring and autumn. After those horrendous essays and papers I had to write in school being a writer was the last thing I would have thought to pursue. But we had a new computer and my children had challenged me to learn to use it. The only thing I knew how to use was the word processor program (it was an old Tandy TRS 80). I played with it and ended up writing a book about adopting our two youngest children. Sadly it was lost when the Tandy became obsolete. I have since learned to back up my work on updated technology.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Karen: I’m rather eclectic in my genres as I am in my reading. I love writing cozy mysteries and women’s fiction mostly but I do have a work in progress that is a historical as well.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Karen: I have had several novels published. Murder Among The Orchids and In A Pickle are the most recent. No pseudonyms. It’s just me, although I am tempted to start including my middle initial since there are a couple of other Karen Robbins writing as well.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Karen: Murder Among The Orchids is self-published. I had originally written it for a publisher with a book club that featured cozy mysteries for its members each month but the line was discontinued before it was published. Then it seemed no one was looking for cozy mysteries so I decided to venture out and try the self-publishing venue. Since authors are doing most of their own marketing, it didn’t seem to be so farfetched and the set up was not difficult for the paperback and eBook formats. (I blogged about my ePub experience: http://karenrobbins.blogspot.com/2011/09/traveling-writer-why-epub-book.html)
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Karen: Both of the recent novels are offered as eBooks as well as paperback. A few years ago my husband bought me a Sony Reader because he was tired of lugging a library with him every time we travelled. Now I have a Nook and I am enjoying eBooks even more. I can order a book any place we find with free WiFi when we travel but I usually stock up on them and download before we go. I still like the feel of a paperback now and then though.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Karen: In A Pickle is my absolute favourite of everything I have written so far. I love my pickle lady, Annie Pickels and hope to continue on with her for a few more books. I have a hard time imaging who might play her in a movie. It would have to be a mature actress. Annie is 65. But she would also have to be very spunky. Any ideas?
Morgen: Helen Mirren springs to mind. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books?
Karen: Martin Sisters Publishing was wonderful to work with. They communicated their excitement over my book immediately when they offered the contract. There were no title changes and the cover they designed was just perfect! I was allowed input on the whole process.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Karen: Death Among The Deckchairs is the next book in the Casey Stengel Mystery series. Poor Casey seems to find bodies even on a cruise ship. She doesn’t like being called a sleuth but that seems to be what she has fallen into since her curiosity leads her to solving the mysterious death of a cruise ship passenger. The first draft is almost finished and I’m hoping to be able to find time on our next cruise to work on it a bit more—that is if I don’t find any mysteries on board to solve. Pickledilly, the second in the Annie Pickel series is in rough draft form and needs some work but hopefully that will be ready early next year as well.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Karen: Once I have the idea, I run like crazy until I’m out of breath. Then I sit back and try to see exactly where my characters are taking me and loosely plot the rest. In Murder Among The Orchids, I got all the way to the final chapter and discovered something about one of my characters I didn’t know. Suddenly there was a whole new twist to the ending. I know it sounds crazy to say your characters begin to talk to you but they really do in a sense.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Karen: Research. I love it. Probably too much. I find myself getting off on bunny trails that lead me away from where I intended to go. The internet has been such a boon to doing research. In Death Among The Deckchairs I’ve had to research a bit to make a shark expert Casey listens to in a lecture series sound believable. While writing In A Pickle, I researched some festivals in the U.S. and found one that had a tiller race. The hilarious results of that research are in the book.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry or non-fiction?
Karen: No poetry but I have done a lot of non-fiction in the way of magazine and newspaper articles and columns. My favourite interview was with a plastic surgeon in the Cleveland Clinic who travelled to South America to work on kids with cleft palates. He was also a health nut and instead of taking the elevator, he walked up the stairs to his office—five floors or more! I was huffing and puffing so much I could hardly ask the questions I’d prepared.
Morgen: Oh dear. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Karen: Rejections are a way of life for a writer. I always compare my rejections to the ones received by my niece who is an actress. At least my rejections are not because my hair’s not right or my nose is too long or my eyes are brown. I would have a hard time dealing with those types of personal rejections. I understand that a publisher may be looking for a certain type of book and mine doesn’t fit. And then I say, “Their loss.”
Morgen: Absolutely. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Karen: Marketing is a cruel taskmaster and cuts into my writing time. Right now I am doing a lot online with social media, my blog, and several other blogs I am now writing for. I also speak at women’s functions like retreats and banquets. Because I write in so many different genres, I chose to use my Wandering Writer as a brand rather than channelling myself into one specific area of writing. It fits with my lifestyle and my blog and since I use the travel experiences in my writing and speaking, it seems to work for now.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Karen: Keep your day job!
Morgen: Oops… I gave up mine in March 2011. 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Karen: There is a scripture verse that I keep near to my heart. Paraphrased it says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.” It comes from Philippians and helps to keep me centered on what is important in life.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Karen: Besides loving to travel, we are also scuba divers. Talk about party tricks! Try donning 20-25 extra pounds of gear and swim fins and look graceful walking to the back of the dive boat to jump in. Did I mention that a dive skin shows off every bulge you never wanted someone to see. No, it’s not a glamorous sport but it is amazing.
Morgen: I can imagine. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Karen: All my travel adventures are logged in at my blog (http://karenrobbins.blogspot.com). There is also a book page with links to my books online. I’m on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KarenRobbinsAuthor), Twitter (www.twitter.com/karenrobbins) and Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/krobbins). You can Google my name as well. Just remember I am not the photographer, the lawyer, the jeweler, the dentist, or the convict that may come up in your results as well.
Morgen: And I’m not MorgAn Bailey the transsexual porn star (or the coffee company / construction company). 🙂 Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Karen: Can we get together over some fish and chips the next time we are in England?
Morgen: Oh, absolutely. I love fish and chips, especially with mushy peas or baked beans. 🙂 Thank you, Karen.
I then invited Karen to include a synopsis of one of her books and this is of In A Pickle, Annie Pickel Series Book 1…
Annie Pickels, a 65-year-old widowed pickle entrepreneur is in real trouble. One of her city farmers is growing marijuana on his rented plot of land. Annie, thinking it is marjoram, uses it as a secret ingredient in her pickles.
Insisting Tommy is a nice young man, Annie discovers his beloved Mary Jane is not the name of his girlfriend after Annie is arrested for cultivation and sale of marijuana. But Annie knows God always takes care of her. On a cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2, Annie meets the man who might solve her impending legal dilemma, Arnie.
Elma, Annie’s best friend, knows that Arnie is just what Annie needs in her life. But is he?
Annie’s niece thinks Arnie is out to fleece her aunt. Is she right? Or is Arnie the one who can get Annie out of the pickle she’s in?
Known as the Wandering Writer, Karen Robbins and her husband have stepped foot on all seven continents and have almost circumnavigated the globe. The love of travel was realized fully after their five children were grown and out of the nest and having children of their own. Karen’s travel adventures enrich her writing and her characters often travel in her stories.
Most of her life, Karen has lived in Northeastern Ohio. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in art education and taught school until her twins arrived. Along life’s path in addition to being a writer and speaker, Karen has been a florist, a candle sales representative, and a paralegal student as well as wife, mother and grandmother.
Karen’s writing career started out with adult take-home papers for Sunday school. She wrote a column for a local newspaper and eventually for regional magazines. With five other writing moms, she coauthored two books, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts. The Chicken Soup For The Soul books have included several of her stories. Her first love though is writing fiction. She has written women’s fiction and cozy mysteries. Her most recent releases are Murder Among The Orchids and In A Pickle.
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