Thursday, April 3, 2008

Interview with Karen Wiesner

I met Karen years ago in Omaha at an Epic conference. When I first heard about the Jewels of the Quill, I hoped one day I'd be considered a member. And I have. Karen is a real go-getter and is great a promoting not only her own books but the books of the group. As you can see, not all her back list is listed but if you go to the Jewels of the Quill website, you can see more.

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 49 books published in the past 10 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 67 awards, and 17 more titles under contract. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestseller, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, available from Writer’s Digest Books. Karen has also sold a second offering to Writer’s Digest Books. FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINAL DRAFT {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}, a companion to FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, will be available September 2008. It'll also be a Writer's Digest Book Club Main Selection. Check Karen’s website for more information and to register to be notified of releases. Her previous writers’ reference titles focused on non-subsidy, royalty-paying electronic publishing, author promotion, and setting up a promotional group like her own, the award-winning Jewels of the Quill, which she founded in 2003. The group does two anthologies, edited by Karen and others, together per year. Karen is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), EPIC, Sisters in Crime Internet Chapter, BooksWeLove.net, and World Romance Writers. In addition to her writing, Karen enjoys designing Web sites, graphics, and cover art.

For more information about Karen and her work, visit her Web sites at http://www.karenwiesner.com, http://www.firstdraftin30days.com, http://www.falconsbend.com and http://www.JewelsoftheQuill.com. If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KarensQuill or send a blank e-mail to KarensQuill-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.


1. What comes first: characters or plot?

Truly, it depends on the book. I write a lot of character-driven books...in fact, I would have to say all of my fiction is based on characters first and foremost. Without amazing characters, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your plot is because the book won’t work. Usually, a character comes to me first, many times with a plot already attached. Other times, a character will come and I’ll have to brainstorm to conceive of a plot for them. Rarely, a plot will come first, and then I have to backtrack and figure out what kind of person fits with the character.

I believe that character, plot and setting must be absolutely cohesive for a story to work on all levels. My upcoming writing reference, FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINAL DRAFT {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}, coming September 2008 from Writer’s Digest Books, goes over the importance of this and how writers can create an unbreakable trinity with these three elements.


2. How do you create your characters?

Through daydreaming, brainstorming, researching, outlining, story plan checklisting (a new, almost foolproof method I’ll be unveiling in FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINAL DRAFT), writing and revising the book. Each of these steps are layers that bring the character to flesh-and-blood life.


3. Do you make a plan or go with the flow?

Considering the number of genres I write in, the number of series I’m working on, and the number of publishers I write for, I'm extremely disciplined. Everything is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be. For my novels, once a story has been brewing in my creative coffeepot for a considerable amount of time, I start with an extremely detailed outline, which is, in essence, the first draft of the book. The outline can take anywhere from a day to a week to work out, depending on the complexity of the book. Because of the way I’ve worked my schedule, I’m able to set my completed outline aside for a month or more, then come back to it and make sure it’s as solid as I thought before I set it aside. As soon as I’m ready, I can begin writing. In general, I’ll write 2 scenes per day (regardless of how long or short—this and the outline itself inevitably prevent burnout and/or writer’s block). My annual goal sheet can then include accurate timetables for writing and revising outlines and novels. I also use project goal sheets, so I can know down to the day how long it'll take to finish a book. Completing a 100,000 book generally takes me 2 weeks to a month. Once that “second draft” (since I consider my very detailed outline the first draft) is completed, I again set the book aside for a month or so before I begin revisions. Depending on the project, revision amounts to minor editing and polishing. In this way, I alternate my time between novels in various stages of completion, and I can write quite a bit per year. To show how well this works, look at my progress over the last several years:

2005: -wrote 3 novels and 6 novellas-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 11 novellas, 1 series, and 5 Jewels of the Quill anthologies-outlined 4 novels and 3 novellas-revised and edited 10 novellas, 5 novels, and 3 JOTQ anthologies
2006: -wrote 5 novels, 6 novellas and 1 writing reference-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 1 writing reference and 2 Jewels of the Quill anthologies-outlined 2 novels and 4 novellas-revised and edited 8 novellas, 8 novels, 1 writing reference, and 4 JOTQ anthologies
2007: -wrote 5 novels, 2 novellas, 1 writing reference-wrote proposals for 1 writing reference and 2 JOTQ anthologies-outlined 4 novels and 8 novellas-revised and edited 4 novels, 3 novellas, and 3 JOTQ anthologies, and 2 writing reference
2008: (so far)-wrote 1 novels-outlined 1 novels and 2 novellas-revised and edited 3 novels, 2 JOTQ anthologies, and 1 writing reference
As you can tell, I believe momentum is a powerful force in any career. If I stall because I have done a good job of juggling my tasks, I can only blame myself. And, lest anyone wonders, I do plan my vacations from writing carefully, too, to help avoid burnout or writer’s block. I keep track of my works in progress here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/WIP.html. You can find my list of books here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/genres.html and here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/jewelsbooklists10.html. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS and FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINAL DRAFT are the secrets to my success.


4. How much research do you do?

While I’m outlining a novel, I do a ton of research about basically everything that could ever come up while I’m writing the novel (though some novels—genre-wise—just seem to require more than others). While writing, I may also do some research to fill in those rich, wonderful details that turn a lifeless book into a realistic one.


5. How do you select the characters’ goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them?

Again, this is many times an organic process that comes about while brainstorming, outlining, researching and writing. My best way—the most solid, never-fails way—is through the use of my story plan checklist (coming soon!). Basically, this worksheet develops the major characters through each phase of the book, outlining goals and motivations, internal conflicts and paired to the external plot conflicts.

Whether a character’s goals and motivations are strong enough will be highlighted boldly on this checklist. If there’s weakness in any of my major character’s goals and motivations, internal conflicts, and the external plot conflicts, I’ll know it before I ever write a word of the story—and I can fix the problem before I commit it to hundreds of pages.

I’ve also used this checklist after I’ve completed a draft of the book—when that draft isn’t quite strong enough. As I said, the worksheet pinpoints the problem areas, the areas that aren’t cohesive... It’s really a lifesaver!


6. What are you working on now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time?

I’m always moving between books that are being outlined, written and revised, so, yes, I definitely have more than one thing going on at a time, but the process is very focused and disciplined, not sporadic or because I get stuck or bored. I believe a book is best if you give it time to “breathe” between these three stages. I complete what I need to for each step, and only then move on to something else (whatever’s on my annual to-do-list currently available here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/WIP.html). So, for instance, this year, I finished revising SHADOW BOXING, Book 2 of my Family Heirlooms Series; revising ROMANTIC NOTIONS, Book 4 of the Falcon’s Bend Series I write with Chris Spindler; outlined “In Cahoots With Cupid” (coming in MAGICAL KISSES, A Jewels of the Quill Valentine’s Day Anthology, February 2009 release) and “Behind Amethyst Eyes” (coming in TALES FROM THE TREASURE TROVE, Volume V, A Jewels of the Quill Anthology, September 2009 release), Books 2 and 3 of my Kaleidoscope Series; outlined FOOLISH GAMES, Book 3 of my Family Heirlooms Series, completed editor revisions for FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINAL DRAFT and BABY, BABY, Book 1 of my Family Heirloom Series (coming June 24, 2008); and wrote UNDERCOVER ANGEL (coming October 2008), Book 7 of my Incognito Series.

In April and May, I’ll be writing both “In Cahoots With Cupid” and “Behind Amethyst Eyes”, revising UNDERCOVER ANGEL, and writing FOOLISH GAMES.

7. What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?

I haven’t sold SHADOW BOXING or FOOLISH GAMES, but those are in the pipeline. I’m also trying to sell RETIRED AND ON THE ROCKS, the first book in a new romantic cozy mystery inspirational series, which my agent is currently shopping around to New York publishers. Plus, I plan to write the second book in the series this summer. Also in the pipeline are WHITE RAINBOW, Book 6 (the final) of my Wounded Warriors Series. I also have another idea I’m playing with for Writer’s Digest Books, plus getting to work on Books 8 and 9 of my Incognito Series (both of which *are* contracted and scheduled for release March and October 2009, respectively). Finally, I hope to finish writing all the novellas for FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume II this summer.


8. What's on your backlist?

Romantic Suspense:

NO ORDINARY LOVE, Book 1 of the Incognito Series
UNTIL DEATH DO US PART, Book 2 of the Incognito Series
BOUNTY ON THE REBEL'S HEART, Book 3 of the Incognito Series
DEAD DROP, Book 4 of the Incognito Series
UNDER THE SPELL, Book 5 of the Incognito Series
RENEGADE’S ROSE, Book 6 of the Incognito Series

1 comment:

Alan said...

Hi Karen,

I hope the title "Undercover Angel" works well for you, it did for me.

Alan O'Day (writer & singer of "Undercover Angel", Billboard #1, 1977)