Karen McQuestion is visiting with us today. We are so excited she agreed to be our guest. Please give her a warm welcome.
For those of you who don’t know Karen, she is a national best-selling author who writes books for adults as well as for kids and teens. Her novels regularly place in the top 100 Kindle books, and each successive novel has added to her ever growing fan base, making her one of the preeminent Amazon Publishing authors. Karen lives in Wisconsin with her family and is always working on her next novel.
Let’s kick our chat off with questions from some PFHT members. Please be sure to post your thoughts and questions for Karen.
On PFHT, we have talked about our weird dating experiences. Do you have any to share?
Nothing weird, probably because I’ve never actually dated. Or not much, anyway. I met my husband at 18, we began dating when I was 19, and we married when I was 22. Once, when I tried to give my older son relationship advice he said, “Yes, you would know since you had the ONE boyfriend.” I thought that was pretty funny, because up until then I hadn’t thought of it like that.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to write books since I was in Mrs. DiFrances’s class in third grade and she assigned a writing assignment, a short story.
When it came time for Mrs. DiFrances to return our graded stories, she said that first she wanted to read one of them out loud. I was in complete shock when I realized she was reading from my story, and that the class was responding: leaning forward in their seats, laughing at the funny parts, gasping at the surprising plot twist. Something clicked in my brain then, probably akin to what addicts feel the first time they get a rush.
When she announced that I was the writer, and that she thought it was excellent, the other kids turned around in their seats to gape at me. I was the shy kid, the klutzy one who wasn’t good in gym. I was not anyone you’d notice. But I could do this; I could take something out of my head and put it on paper, and get other people to respond to it. That’s all it took. I was hooked.
How many books have you published? Can you give us a brief description of each?
Finally, I’ve written three novels in the women’s fiction category: Easily Amused, a chick lit, A Scattered Life, a family dramedy, and my newest, The Long Way Home, which is a summer road trip story.
In traditional publishing, writers are typically instructed to stick to one genre for several books before branching out. What made you decide to buck tradition? Has it helped or hindered you in establishing yourself with readers?
I didn’t deliberately set off to buck tradition, I just love to read and write all different kinds of books. Conventional wisdom in publishing is that it’s easier to market books if the author sticks to one genre, and that’s probably true, but I’ve also had crossover readers, so I don’t worry about it too much.
Which one is your favorite? Why?
My favorite is always the one I’m currently working on, probably because it’s fresh and new and full of possibility.
Which one was the most fun to write? Why?
Celia and the Fairies, because it was a gift for my goddaughter and I wasn’t thinking in terms of publication while I was writing it.
Do you do much traveling to research your books? If so, care to share some of the locations and your experiences?
I’m lazy when it comes to research, but it’s necessary to ensure accuracy. Oftentimes I can get information through Internet searches or phone calls, but for my last novel, The Long Way Home, I had specific details that could only be confirmed by being there. Things like, how dark would it be on a certain stretch of the Interstate if you had to pull over at night? And how does the landscape change from state to state?
After listening to me kvetch about this for days, my husband suggested we go check it out. So we loaded up the car and took an impromptu trip from Wisconsin to Colorado and back in the four days he could manage to get off of work. I was happy to see that much of my guesswork did correlate with the actual locations, and that the mistakes I’d made were fairly easy to fix.
Your book, A SCATTERED LIFE, was optioned for film. Has there been any progress on the movie?
Having a novel optioned for film was an exciting experience. Unfortunately, as so often happens, it never got past the development stage. At this time, it’s stalled and doesn’t seem likely to be made. It’s disappointing, but I’m still thrilled that someone in Hollywood envisioned it as a movie and was willing to put time and money into the project.
Are there messages in your novels that you want readers to grasp? Can you elaborate?
Readers sometimes see messages, so I think on a subconscious level I must insert them, but it’s not intentional. My goal is purely to entertain.
Can you give us a hint about what you are working on now?
I’d love to! I’m giving my editor fits by doing something completely different. I just finished the first book in a trilogy, a young adult novel with paranormal elements. The main character, Russ Becker, is a high school sophomore, who goes out walking at night when he can’t sleep, witnesses a strange astronomical event, and discovers he has super powers. Later he meets other teenagers who’ve had the same thing happen, and the story goes on from there…
Who inspires you the most in life and writing? Why?
In writing, other authors. So many great books, so little time!
And in life, I’m inspired by unsung heroes—teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, caregivers of the elderly and disabled. All around us people fight the good fight every day. It humbles me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The one that comes to mind: If you don’t plan your time, others will be happy to do it for you.
On PFHT, we’ve talked about our writing spaces/offices. What is your space like? Is there anything special in it or maybe about the way you set it up that inspires creativity? Do you have any pictures?
Recently, I converted my daughter’s old bedroom into a home office and I love it! I have a mahogany desk with my regular computer, a recliner in the corner for when I use my laptop, a bookcase, and an electric fireplace (which some members of my family think is tacky, but I don’t care. I like it.). On the walls I have framed prints—gifts from the artist, Vincent Desjardins, who did the illustrations for my book, Secrets of the Magic Ring.
When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do? Hobbies? Outdoor activities?
I’m tempted to lie and say rock climbing and whitewater rafting, but sadly, my interests are fairly sedentary, which may explain that twenty pounds I’ve been trying to shed like forever. For the most part I can be found reading, Internet surfing, watching movies, and taking long-ish walks with my husband.
Earlier this week, Jill Shavis visited with us. She has what she called her Lucy moments. Lucy refers to the show I LOVE LUCY. Weird and whacky things happen to Jill regularly, and she shares them with us on her blog. Do you have any of your own Lucy moments?
I’m not sure about actual Lucy moments, but sometimes I wish I were more socially adept. When I’m nervous or out of my comfort zone, I can be awkward and I find myself wincing at my own blunders. Sometimes I don’t recognize people out of context. Once, at a wedding, I congratulated the groom before the ceremony. Another time, I went on and on complimenting an acquaintance on her chic, very short hairstyle. The last time I’d seen her she had long hair and I made a point to tell her I thought she was brave to try something so radically different. Turned out she’d had brain surgery a few months before. I’m sure I turned all shades of red. Despite all this, people tend to think I’m outgoing and confident, so I must be doing something right.
Thank you for joining us today, Karen. Before we start taking questions from fans, do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Actually, yes! This is from the acknowledgments of The Long Way Home, but I think it bears repeating: If you’re one of those people who respond to my books, connect with my characters, and enjoy my stories, you have my heart. Because of you, I get to write for a living. I am sending infinite thanks your way. I hope you can feel the love.