I'm very pleased to welcome another wonderful author to the blog today who happens to be celebrating the release of their debut novel this week!
Karen Grose was born in Canada and lives with her family in Toronto. After a long career in education, she turned her attention to writing. The Dime Box is her debut novel and she’s currently working on her second. When she isn't writing, she works in the EdTech sector and walks her high-strung French bulldog, Ruby, on the boardwalk of Lake Ontario. Connect with her online: @kgrose2 or at karengrose.ca
Buried secrets lie closest to the heart.
Greta Giffen barely escaped being murdered by the man she grew up with. She’s not sure who Ian is, or who she is, but she’s determined to find out. When she bolts from their secluded cabin in northern Ontario and flees to Toronto, her new life comes at a price. Ian dies under suspicious circumstances and a veteran detective believes eighteen-year-old Greta has the perfect motive.
A prime suspect in a tense police investigation, Greta finds it hard to make Detective Astra Perez believe the details of her dark and appalling story. Digging deep into her sordid history and forced to face the people from her past in a new light, Greta struggles to accept the secrets that have haunted her since childhood. Still, Detective Perez remains doubtful. And until Greta herself confronts the disturbing evidence in front of her, she will never truly escape that cabin in the woods.
Who are you and what do you write?
Thank you for having me on your blog, Kate. So humbled to be here with you.
My name is Karen, I’m from Toronto, Canada, and I write thrillers. My first novel, The Dime Box, was just released this week.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
As a young child, I loved to read and still remember the feeling of getting lost in a good story. I also loved to write. I have no idea now where all that early writing went, but I remember spending hours pouring over poems and short stories and essays through elementary and high school. When life moved on, I became a teacher and watching the students I served find voice in their own writing was one of the best parts of the job. If what I observed is any indication of the future, we’re going to have a huge number of remarkable and prolific writers in this world.
My own writing came a little later in life. After raising a family and a career of crafting school newsletters, memos and corporate reports, I decided the foggy pieces of The Dime Box lingering in my mind were taking up too much real estate. One day, I casually shared the premise of the novel with a colleague. He said, “Interesting. So why don’t you write it down? Giddy-up. How hard can it be?” Ha! Famous last words. Yet here we are today.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
The journey has been a lot of fun. I try to carve out time to write every day. If I don’t, or if I leave large gaps of time between writing, I’m not as present in the story as I want or need to be. This means writing early morning, after work, or on weekends and holidays. The beverage at my elbow varies by the time of day I write.
There are two specific physical spots I like to write. The first is at the kitchen table because it keeps me in the hub of family activity, yet it’s quiet enough to concentrate. The second is at our cottage in northern Ontario. There is nothing better to spur the mood of a thriller than sitting in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods beside a lake at night.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
I love everything about the process of writing. That first messy draft is exciting, and nothing beats the feeling of the plot emerging and the characters coming alive on the page. In subsequent drafts, the surprises I constantly encountered were equally as much fun. As the plot thickened and the interaction between the characters deepened, each character developed their own voice and suddenly wanted to make their own choices. There were times I was watching them, my mouth hanging open, and saying “What? Really? Alright.”
Through later drafts, and The Dime Box went through twenty-seven, I was deeply grateful for the feedback received from early readers. Writing can be myopic, and the insight they provided identified plot holes, opportunity to develop characters further or places better served by using a bridge or slowing down and staying in the scene. As The Dime Box moved closer to completion, I had a lot of fun working with and learning from my editor. When someone else with remarkable talent and experience takes your work and lets you know honestly where it shines and where it falls down, it can only get better. I humbly suggest every story needs an editor and a great editor makes every great story better.
I think the hardest part of being a new writer with a debut novel is getting the word out. It’s not easy in a crowded market, nor is it easy, nor does it feel natural, to market oneself. I’m learning this is important though, and am awakening to the wide array of strategies and tactics to do so.
Would you go back and change anything?
Writing The Dime Box taught me a lot. There were times the story or a specific scene in the story didn’t flow the way it needed to and it was frustrating. But I learned as drafts evolve, I could go back to those tricky scenes and write them with the detail, colour and depth they needed. This experience was helpful and as I’m writing my second novel now, I keep it top of mind.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
In five or ten years time, I’ll still be writing. It’s my passion!
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
It’s daunting to answer this question because I am a new writer. That being said, one thing I’ve learned in the early stages of this journey is that technology has revolutionized opportunity for writers of all genres. There are so many online communities where we can connect, ask questions, cheer each other on, lift each other up and work and learn together. I love Twitter’s #writingcommunity. I’m grateful for the advice and guidance those more experienced generously offer about the craft of writing and the business of writing itself. Technology has also expanded publishing options and I’m deeply respectful of every writer’s publishing choice. Whether writers self-publish, go indie, hybrid or publish traditionally, I’m in awe of the amazing artistic talent out there.
And some quickfire preference questions...
Ketchup or Mayo? Ketchup chips. Odd? In Canada, we have milk in a bag, Nanaimo bars, Swiss Chalet, Coffee Crisp, Peameal bacon, poutine and Bloody Caesars too!
Night or Day? Day
Inside or Outside? Outside
Dogs or Cats? Dogs (See Ruby below!)
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? Both, but I really love the feel of a book in my hands
Walk or Drive? Walk
Sun or Rain? Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Both. It’s situational
Comedy or Drama? Drama (but not my own)
Chips or Chocolate? Chocolate
Today's guest post is truly helpful for anyone who's finished their first draft and is about to embark on those all important revisions. Writing is re-writing after all!
Today's guest blogger is:
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She is very passionate about publishing and helping aspiring authors achieve their dreams. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading, writing, and plotting her own books.
Check out Reedsy on Twitter and Instagram.
5 Unusual Editing Approaches To Help You See Your Book With Fresh Eyes
It’s easy to look forward to editing your book when you’re still in the trenches of the writing process. After all, even reaching that stage is a sign that all the hours you’ve logged at the keyboard have finally born fruit — you’ve got a finished manuscript on hand!
Watch how quickly those feelings change once you actually put the period on your concluding sentence. At that point, the very idea of editing can make your stomach go icy with dread (perhaps especially if you’re a pantser). It’s like being told to take a victory lap when you’ve just huffed and puffed your way through mile 25 of a marathon.
Editing a book you’ve written takes more than superhuman stamina — you also need to scrutinize a text you know better than your own reflection, all while maintaining the perceptive freshness of a stranger. That’s why most people recommend taking a least a month off between drafting and editing — multiple months, if you can swing it. But once you’ve taken a break from your own writing, come back because we’ve got some unusual editing tips to make it even easier to see your book through new eyes.
1. Turn your book into an audiobook
Record yourself reading your manuscript, and then play it back — keeping one hand on the pause button to jot down notes. Believe it or not, the making of your DIY audiobook is as important to this process as listening to the finished product. So take it seriously, reading every line with all the sensitivity and showmanship you can muster. Let your voice amplify the emotional impact of your words.
Are there any lines you instinctively stumble on, because the rhythm is off or the meaning isn’t quite clear? Do you feel embarrassed reading certain scenes, because the feelings you tried to channel come through as over-the-top? Do you find yourself choking back laughter at a metaphor that seemed like a stroke of genius when you wrote it? Take these sorts of bobbles as indicators of what to revisit as you work through your manuscript.
Because this editing hack is very time-consuming, it’s best applied to shorter works like children’s books. But you can also try it for particular chapters or scenes from a longer work — slices of your story you aren’t sure about, or that are so crucial you want to make sure they land.
2. Get someone to do a table-read with you
Instead of reading — and recording — your manuscript by yourself, enlist a friend (or two) to go through the dialogue with you. To save time, skip all the attribution tags and surrounding narration: just go through the spoken lines, like you’re practicing for a stage play. That way, you’ll be able to check whether the speech itself sounds natural and appropriate to your characters.
The fellow cast members you enlist don’t have to be Tony-nominated thespians. In fact, finding some collaborators without acting experience might actually be more helpful. They’ll be better proxies for the readers who will eventually encounter your manuscript, and you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your dialogue from their unfiltered reactions.
3. Cut it up and read each character’s arc separately
Say you’ve written a sprawling saga with an ensemble cast big enough to populate a small village. Getting through the sheer bulk of your manuscript will be the least of your worries. With that many character arcs to juggle, finding ways to make every one of them be coherent and emotionally satisfying is a huge undertaking.
To make things easier, cut up your manuscript and read each character’s arc as a separate mini-novel. In other words, take all the scenes where Character A appears and copy-paste them into a new document.
Now, read it through to see if her characterization still makes sense once you’ve removed all the distractions — that is, the rest of your ensemble. Do her motivations come through clearly? Do the major revelations unfold naturally from the events of the plot? Does the heartwarming conclusion to her personal journey feel earned?
4. Read it backwards
By the time you’ve finished writing your book, you’ve probably read the whole thing so many times the sentences start to blur together. Your brain automatically fills in the end of every line as soon as you so much as glimpse the first word, and the typos slip right past your eyes.
To actually see your manuscript again, you’ve got to defamiliarize it — to shock your eyes into thinking it’s something new. The easiest way to do that? Reading backwards, going from your dynamite conclusion to your intriguing opening.
This particular hack won’t work if you’re looking to make developmental edits to your manuscript. But it’s a lifesaver for proofreading, and it can help you sharpen your line editing chops, too!
Go sentence by sentence if you’re focusing on fine-grained mechanical edits — things like catching typos and double-checking punctuation. But if you’re more concerned with refining your style, go paragraph by paragraph, instead. That way, you’ll be able to discern the effect of your sentences as they flow one into the other. Sure, your story will feel hilariously disjointed, but that’s part of the point. Let the absurd humor keep you alert through the long editing process.
5. Remove all your adverbs and adjectives — then slowly add them back in
This strategy is simple enough, but it works best when you implement it on a chapter by chapter or even scene by scene basis. Just cut all the modifiers from your manuscript — that’s right, every single adverb and adjective. Now, read through the whole book without them. Then, with a mindful eye, add back only the ones you think are necessary (or that add a dimension of beauty and clarity to your prose that you can’t achieve otherwise).
Of course, you don’t have to turn yourself into Hemingway. That’s not a style that suits every writer, and you want to preserve the distinctiveness of your own voice! But this exercise will stop you from tipping over into purple prose territory.
You’re written a powerful book. Don’t let the bones of your story get obscured by a layer of stylistic excess!
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!