And, I'm ending the week on another insightful journey-to-publication author interview!
Here we go...
Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams – which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing.
She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is currently hard at work on her next book.
Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father. As a member of the Music, the royal company of minstrels, Bess grows up within the decadent Tudor court, navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers. Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend, is her only constant. But as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.
Who are you and what do you write?
I'm Karen, and I write historical fiction. Lots of historical fiction. It's always been my favorite genre, and I've given up fighting it. My first book was published in November, 2019, and I'm deep into the third draft on my next book, expected to be published in April, 2021.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
That's a hard one. The writing life began for me as soon as I learned to write - because then I understood that someone had to write the books I loved, and why couldn't it be me? I wrote stories in grade school, novels in middle and high school, and I never stopped. I also never attempted to publish until 2015, when I got tired of my own excuse that I was "writing for me." I'm found my publisher because of a pitch contest on Twitter.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Once I decided to get out of my own way, it's been pretty smooth sailing. My publisher is small, and very collaborative - I had input on my cover and blurb, and we worked through edits together. If I hadn't gone this route, I would have probably gone indie, because I'm a bit of a control freak, and I find the process really interesting.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
Honestly, the hardest part for me has been marketing. Writers aren't good at talking to people, except through their published words. Being an online extrovert and figuring out how to "sell" myself has been an interesting experience. My first Facebook live reading - the day before my book officially launched - was an out of body experience.
The most enjoyable is the flip side of that. I did one bookstore reading and signing event before the world shut down for coronavirus, and it was a blast. More people showed up than there were chairs, and I managed to read the first chapter and answer audience questions while still really enjoying the process. People showed up that I hadn't seen in years, and they brought books to be signed. That was amazing.
Would you go back and change anything?
I would go back and tell myself to get out of my own way a lot sooner. I did start out writing for myself, but at some point it went beyond that, but I couldn't bring myself to query. It felt so exposed. And then I finally did query in 2015 - and got an agent - but she was never able to place the book, and I put it away for a few years before giving it one last chance.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
I would like to have many more books out in the world! I just completed my second Tudor novel and signed a contract for it with my publisher. A Wider World should be out in April 2021. I'm working on another book (set during the Great Depression) which got shelved because the Tudor story was calling to me more loudly. And then there's a third book in my Tudor series...which wasn't supposed to be a series, and really isn't, if by series you mean the same characters every time.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
To be patient with yourself, and your process. There's no one right way to do anything, and that especially applies in creative work. My methods won't work for you. They don't even always work for me. Be patient with yourself and realize that your first draft won't resemble the shiny idea in your head, but it's a start. Editing is the real work, where you polish that draft until it shines and becomes what you hoped it could be.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - Neither. Mustard, or garlic sauce.
Night or Day? - Night, for writing. Day, for gardening.
Inside or Outside? - Tough choice. Outside, because not only is my garden out there, but I've learned, during this last book, to dictate my first draft into my phone, so I've logged quite a few miles around my small town while "writing."
Dogs or Cats? - Cats (as pets, anyway). I approach every dog I see, and usually end up on the ground with them.
Twitter or Facebook? - Facebook for keeping up with people; Twitter for the writing community.
e-book or Paperback? - e-books for me. I'm blind as a bat, and the ability to increase the font size was a game-changer. I wasn't tired of reading, I was just tired of eyestrain!
Sun or Rain? - I get so much more done when it's raining! Plus it makes my garden grow, so then I can enjoy the sunny days.
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - All of the above, plus a notepad app on my phone. I dictate my first drafts - sometimes quite badly - and then I load them onto my computer and edit.
Comedy or Drama? - Drama, all the way. I love a book or movie that can make me cry.
Chips or Chocolate? - Chips. With guac and salsa. Or salt-and-vinegar potato chips. I had a sweet tooth as a kid, and somewhere in my twenties, I changed over to salt.
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
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