Meow, my guest this week is author Karen Rose Smith!
USA TODAY Bestselling and award-winning author Karen Rose Smith was born in Pennsylvania, in the Susquehanna Valley.
In college, Karen began writing poetry and also met her husband to be. They both began married life as teachers, but when their son was born, Karen decided to try her hand at a home-decorating business. She returned to teaching for a while but changes in her life led her to writing fiction. Now she writes full time. Her first novel was published in 1992; her 100th book will be published in 2018.
A winner of New Jersey's Golden Leaf Award in Short Contemporary Romance, Colorado Romance Writers Award Of Excellence for short contemporary, as well as the Phoenix Desert Rose Chapter's Golden Quill for Traditional Romance, she has also been honored with Cataromance.com's award for Best Special Edition. Her novels have made both the USA TODAY list, Amazon's Cozy Bestseller List and Amazon Contemporary Romance Bestseller list. She is writing two mystery series now for Kensington Books in addition to her indie SEARCH FOR LOVE series and her Harlequin romances.
- Welcome Karen! Tell us a little about your background
Hi and thanks ROCCO! I'm Karen Rose Smith. I write mystery, romance and women's fiction. My 100th novel will be released in 2018. Besides writing, my passion is caring four our six rescued cats (We just adopted two new kittens.). In addition, we care for two outside strays (a sibling pair) who spend most nights in our basement.
An only child, I delved into books at an early age. I learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, and wished I could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though I escaped often into story worlds, I had many aunts, uncles and cousins around me on weekends. My sense of family and relationships began there. Maybe that's why families are a strong theme in my novels, whether romances or mysteries, along with couples finding true love.
I like to use different settings to give books a unique sparkle. Many of my first releases were set around my home town in Pennsylvania. One hundred books later, I now enjoy settings like Northern Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming where the landscape can become as integral to the plot as another character. There is something about canyons, mountains and the ocean that give me a sense of awe and I like to bring that to my romances as well as mysteries.
Readers often ask me about my pastimes. I have herb, flower and vegetable gardens that help me relax. In the winter, I cook rather than garden! And year round I spend most of my time with my husband, as well as my cats who are my constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding me life isn't all about work, awards and bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.
Something I always dreamed of, but I never expected, happened this year. One of my romances, HIS COUNTRY CINDERELLA, has been made into a TV movie—A VERY COUNTRY CHRISTMAS. It will air on November 23rd on the UP Network.
- Tell us a bit about your two series. How did those ideas come about?
After 20 years of writing romance, my agent suggested I write a cozy mystery. I was at a conference at the time, meeting with him. At first the idea was foreign and I told him I'd have to write about something I knew. He said that was fine. So I came up with the idea of a home decorator who turned into a home stager because of the economy. Fate led her to high-end clients and she is able to do quirky themes to stage their homes. As I developed the idea to include an open house, it only made sense that her sister would be a caterer. Using my favorite Italian names from my Italian background, I created the large De Luca family. My sleuth and home stager, Caprice De Luca, is my alter ego. She likes to cook, find homes for stray animals and have strong friend and family relationships. Of course, I've included romantic relationships over the course of the series until her heart tells her who is Mr. Right.
With my second series, Daisy's Tea Garden Mysteries, I use my love of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and liking for tea as a starting point. My Sleuth, Daisy Swanson, is very different from Caprice. She is a widowed mom of two teenage daughters. She owns Daisy's Tea Garden with her Aunt Iris. All the women in her mother's family have flower names. She named her own girls Violet and Jasmine. This series has a homespun quality that I enjoy delving into. Daisy will also become involved in a romantic relationship.
- Tell us about your latest release
SLAY BELLS RING, my November 2017 Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery, is a holiday cozy.
Christopher and Sara Merriweather have the perfect life. They are selling their beautiful historic home that Caprice De Luca stages with the theme Christmas Delight. They plan to downsize. Their grown children are in the vicinity and their craft shop is doing well. Blitz, the white Malamute Chris rescued, is always by his side. A Vietnam veteran, Chris has come to terms with his PTSD and even plays Santa Claus. When he is murdered at the sleigh on Santa Lane not far from Santa's cabin, everyone is shocked. (Blitz may have seen the murderer.) As Caprice delves into the Merriweathers' lives, she discovers more than one secret. The main one—Chris was dying from a brain tumor and had told no one.
Caprice meets with Chris's Vietnam buddies to see if she can gather clues and ferrets out secrets and complex connections that seem difficult to unravel. Blitz, whom her dad has adopted, becomes a vital part of solving the murder when Caprice realizes there is something hidden inside the dog's collar that gives her clues. A meeting at Santa Lane with one of the suspects is risky, but Caprice feels she has no choice. With Blitz and her dad nearby, she finally discovers who the murderer is. Her dad comes to the rescue and Blitz saves her life.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I choose a character's personality before I choose his or her name. Once I name a character, that name seems to bring with it traits that I develop along with the background. I write a full synopsis before starting a book so I know my characters fairly well when I begin chapter one.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I construct my plots according to the word length I need. Since I have been writing for thirty years, instinct takes over. I plot the specific number of chapters, three to four scenes a chapter. Once in a while, a character takes over a plot, but that's not a usual occurrence.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I consider character more important. A well-plotted book leaves me cold if I don't become involved in the characters' lives.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenges have been my physical disabilities. Back surgery that left me in pain was one of the reasons I began writing. About fifteen years ago, fibromyalsia began affecting my eyes, so now I use a tape recorder to write and I have a typist transcribe it. These days, a challenge is the time writers have to spend on social networks for promotion. They can become a real time sink. But raw writing is always a priority for me.
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Early in my career, I went to a conference and had several agent appointments. My first choice was Evan Marshall, but at that time, he turned me down. I did acquire an agent at that conference. When I left that agency five years later, I queried Evan and he took me on. We've worked together for over twenty years.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now, I am working on Caprice mystery #8—CUT TO THE CHAISE. I plan to keep writing mysteries...and maybe romances, too.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
At present, I am taking a break from promotion which was eating up 80% of my time. I've been devoting myself to raw writing, which I enjoyed the most early in my career. I am enjoying it now as well. In a few days, I will be editing CUT TO THE CHAISE. Those days, I read and edit most of the day to keep the continuity and to make sure I have the details right.
- If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
The latest Harlan Coben novel
The latest Lisa Scottoline
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write every day. Be persistent concerning everything about your career.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I rode a horse over a jump for the first time.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I write using a tape recorder.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
QUESTION: Can you tell me about your cats?
ANSWER: We have 6 inside cats from three months to 16 years old. We also care for a sibling pair that is still feral in many ways. We've trained them to come into the basement at night so they are protected from other creatures and cold weather.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
I have two websites, one that features all my books and a second that concentrates on my mysteries
Thank you Karen!
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? NIGHT
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) CAT (Good answer, merow!)
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Steak
Favorite Drink? Mocha Latte
Favorite Book? ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
Favorite TV Series? The Nightshift
Favorite Movie? Ghost
Favorite Actor: Colin Donnell
Favorite Actress: Drew Barrymore
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Michelle Obama
If I had just one wish, it would be to be pain-free all of the time.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be (I don't want to trade places with anyone!!)
You can find out more about Karen at:
Romance Website: http://www.karenrosesmith.com/
Mystery Website: http://karenrosesmithmysteries.com/
Karen will give away a $10 Amazon Gift Card and an advance copy of her January cozy mystery release, MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES.
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! US entries only, please. Contest closes midnight, November 17!