USA Today Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith's 104th novel will be released in 2020! Her passion is caring for her five rescued cats...and strays who are siblings. Her hobbies are gardening, cooking, watercolor painting and photography. An only child, Karen delved into books at an early age. Even though she escaped into story worlds, she had many cousins around her on weekends. Families are a strong theme in her novels in both her mysteries and romances. One of her romances about a country singer hero was developed into a TV movie aired on the UP network the past two Christmases. Watching A VERY COUNTRY CHRISTMAS with friends is one of her dreams come true. Besides romances and mysteries with Kensington, she has published with Meteor/Kismet, Harlequin/Silhouette and Harper Collins/Harlequin. She has also indie published over 20 titles.
Welcome Karen! Let's get started!
R: Tell us a little about your background.
Hi! I'm Karen Rose Smith. I write mystery, romance and women's fiction. My 104th novel will be released in 2020. Besides writing, my passion is caring four our seven rescued cats. 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.
R: Tell us a bit about your latest book.
MURDER WITH CLOTTED CREAM is book 5 in my Daisy’s Tea Garden mystery series. Daisy owns a tea garden with her Aunt Iris. It’s a peaceful center of community spirit and gossip. In this cozy, Margaret Vaughn escaped her Mennonite family to become an actress in NY. Now years later she has returned and her multi-millionaire husband has built her a Little Theater. But Margaret has old and new enemies. Daisy is serving tea at Margaret’s Lancaster County historic home, when Margaret is murdered.
Along with the mystery plot, Daisy’s romantic and family relationships continue in the series. She discovers a secret her mom has been keeping and helps her daughter deal with the birth of her first baby and post partem depression. Daisy’s caring about family and friends is one of the elements that I hope draw readers into the series.
R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing a book?
The advantage of writing a series is that the same core characters appear from novel to novel. Before I use a character, I develop him or her. For instance when I thought about my sleuth Daisy Swanson, I knew I wanted her to be a mom with qualities like compassion and kindness along with intuition that helped her sleuth. I decided to make her a widow with heartache in her past to give her depth. I decided that one of her daughters would be adopted so I would have future plot content to pursue. Once in a while as I write about a character, she or he surprises me! That’s what takes my book in a new direction.
R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or write by “the seat of your pants?”
I extensively outline. I began writing after back surgery. I was flat on my back for four years and needed a creative outlet to escape pain. Heavily outlining enables me to write each day no matter how I feel. It’s efficient for me when I’m under contract so I can pick up my synopsis and know exactly the point of my scene and where my characters are headed.
R:What do you consider more important, plot or character?
I consider my characters to be more important. I believe my readers connect with my characters. My characters go through universal emotions and situations that my readers can relate to. My main characters drive the plot and give purpose to each scene that propels the book forward.
R:What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer, and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I’ve been published since 1992. I wrote on an average 3 books a year. I was fortunate editors liked my work and sales were good enough to keep me under contract. The challenge is writing books I can put my heart into yet are also marketable. With every book I try to find a spark, an emotional challenge, or an issue that I feel strongly about. From my excitement over the wild horses in the Big Horns, to a pilgrimage to a primitive church in Chimayo, NM where miracles occur, to the challenge for a cowboy with a knee replacement, date rape and abusive relationships, each of those plot points have to touch me deeply. Contracts, deadlines and causes keep me motivated.
R:What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
At present, I’m working on Daisy’s Tea Garden book 7, MURDER WITH CLOTTED CREAM that will be released May 26. I will keep writing as long as editors like my work. I’ve written romance, women’s fiction, mystery and even sci fi short stories! Hopefully I’ll adapt to changing needs in the marketplace.
R:What is a typical work day for you and how many hours a day or week do you devote to writing?
My process is probably different than most writers. Because of back surgery, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve had to adapt my writing style. After back surgery, I wrote long hand, laid on the floor and typed manuscript from papers clothes-pinned to a waste can. I don’t write on the computer or laptop. Since the late 90’s, I’ve been using a tape recorder. I send the tapes to a friend who has typed for me all these years, and then I edit the hard copy. My husband puts editing changes into the computer for me. I do write synopses, blogs, and promotional tidbits on my ipad.
A typical work day used to consist of me writing all day! But with social media, that changed. Now, 80 percent of my time is probably about promoting my brand on Facebook, twitter and instagram. For a while with indie publishing along with traditional publishing my day was about uploading and keeping meta data up to date. I don’t write a certain amount of hours a day. I have writing quotas I adhere to according to deadlines. I like to write two chapters a week.
R:If you could take 3 books to a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which 3 would you take?
Three books I would take along would be The Prophet by Kalil Gibran, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Lady Chatterley’s Lover with essays by D.H. Lawrence.
R:What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring writer?
Cultivate your personal attributes of persistence, patience and determination. Then read until you know what you want to write. Find your own niche.
R:What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Rescuing 7 cats and treating them like kids! (R: Doesn’t sound crazy to me, meow!)
R:What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I learned to ride a horse and swim when I was 26.
R:Where can we learn more about you and your books.
I have two websites—a general one with romance included at karenrosesmith.com. And I also have a mystery website at karenrosesmithmysteries.com.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat (R: Yay! Good answer)
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Steak
Favorite Drink? White grape juice
Favorite Book? The Flame and The Flower
Favorite TV Series? Heartland
Favorite Movie? Ghost
Favorite Actor: Titus Welliver
Favorite Actress: Maureen O’Hara
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
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 for everyone to listen to each other and live in peace.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Thank you, Karen, for this great interview!
Karen will give away a $10 Amazon e-gift card to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section. To get extra entries, mention this interview and contest on Facebook, Twitter or your blog (if you have one). Don’t forget to mention where you’ve mentioned it in your comment so you get credit. Winner will be selected at random using random.org. Contest ends midnight, May 30