I enjoyed meeting and interviewing Karen Rose. The best-selling, RITA-award winning author shared her love of writing, her passion for reading, and her own wonderful enduring love story with me.
Date of Birth: 29 July 1964
Date of Interview: 19 February 2014
Place: Clico Boutique Hotel, Rosebank, Johannesburg
The Book: Watch Your Back
1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I loved the adventures of girl-detective, Trixie Belden as a child. I still love Jo March from Little Women, and Mia Mitchell is my favourite heroine from my books. She appears in the novel, Count to 10.
2. What is your most treasured possession?
A wooden walking staff that belonged to my late father. He was stationed in Japan in the late 1950s and he climbed Mount Fuji with the staff. He completed all nine stations and each one is notched into the walking stick. When he passed, my brother-in-law crafted a beautiful wooden box from trees my father had grown in his garden, for the staff. It is my most treasured possession.
3. Which living person do you most dislike?
I could name so many politicians, with the exception of Nelson Mandela, of course. But I think Lance Armstrong is a good choice – for breaking the trust of so many people. He was a role model and he abused the privilege.
4. What is your greatest fear?
That something would happen to my children. And snakes. I’m terrified of snakes.
5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
My husband, Martin. We met on a blind date when we were both 17. We’re still together 33 years later.
6. What is your greatest regret?
I worked too much when the children were growing up. I missed a lot.
7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
Professor Sophie Johannsen from my novel, Die for Me. She is based, in part, on my novelist-friend, Sherilyn Kenyon. Sophie is an archaeologist who speaks 10 languages. She is handy with a sword. She’s funky.
8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
9. What is your favourite journey?
I loved visiting Wales.
10. What is your favourite quotation?
‘A successful man gets what he wants. A happy man wants what he gets.’ My boss used to say this.
11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
Dogs. I have two called Loki and Thor, but we do have a cat named Bella (Donna). My daughter has a lovely white cat named Geist.
12. What do you most value in a friend?
13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
Karen is in South Africa to promote her latest novel, Watch Your Back
14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
Count to 10. It was the first book I wrote without a detailed plot outline and writing it was an act of faith.
15. What are your favourite names?
- Samuel – if I’d had a son, I would have called him Samuel.
- Mia – also because of the Egyptian cobra, Mia, who went missing from the Bronx Zoo. She has 178 000 followers on Twitter.
16. What do you do as a hobby?
I work with horses, and I ride horses. My friend, Mandy and I rescue abused horses and try to heal them.
17. Which are your three favourite books?
- Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
- Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh
- Love Awakened by J.R. Ward
18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
When I worked in engineering, I used to do a lot of flying. I was scared of planes and I read a lot to distract myself. I found that I could never carry enough books with me – this was way before e-readers in 1993 and 1994 – and I started to make up stories of my own. I created characters and scribbled down their lives. I fell in love with them and their stories and writing became my hobby.
Now, I get stories from newspapers, from overhearing conversations – especially on cell phones, everywhere really. My husband is a great help. He is a mental healthcare professional and he gives me excellent ideas. He helps me work out motivations. He is also a good sounding board when I have a problem.
19. What is your Writing Routine?
I used to be a binge writer but I’ve recently changed my routine. I have decided it’s better to be consistent and to pace my writing. I write with a group of five people now. We’re all in different cities but we support each other and we have to check in four times a day at 10am, 1pm, 3:30pm, and 9pm. I get about six hours of writing done each day. I write in my office. It has red walls. I have three gargoyles and a collection of strange masks and statues that watch over me. I also have a smiling Buddha in my writing space.
20. What are your Top Five Writing Tips?
- Don’t write to get published. Write because you love to write. Write because you fall in love with your characters and your stories. Getting published is really hard.
- Give yourself permission to be imperfect. You can’t edit a blank page.
- The antagonist’s motivation must be important enough to carry the story. The villain must be smarter than the hero. Write to find out why the villain behaves the way he does.
- Make your villains more terrifying by making your victims more human.
- Write consistently. Don’t burn yourself out. Join writing groups for the energy. I always say writers are extroverted introverts. We need other people.
Interviewer: Amanda Patterson