|USA Today best selling author Karen Rose is a former Chemical Engineer. Her third novel I’m Watching Youreceived the Romance Writer's of America's coveted RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense for 2005. Die for Me her eighth book also received the Romance Writer's of America's RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense for 2007 and the Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence. Her books have been translated into five languages. Her latest novel is Scream for Me and is the sequel to Die for Me.
Ayo: You are pretty well known in North America and only just beginning to get known here in the UK. Would you like to give us a bit of detail about yourself? Karen: Of course! I live in Florida currently, but I grew up in the Washington, DC area. I earned a university degree in chemical engineering and worked for many years in product development before becoming a schoolteacher. Now I write full-time, which is wonderful! I’m married, have two children, a large hairy dog, and a small cat. When I’m not writing, I love all things Disney and have recently begun studying martial arts. I’m also seriously addicted to TV’s Law & Order, a police show.
Ayo: Since your launch over here by Headline in 2007 your books have done very well indeed. Were you surprised about how well they were received? Karen: To be truthful, I’ve been stunned – but pleasantly so! I get about as much reader mail from UKand Australian readers as I do American readers now. I’m so very grateful so many have embraced my characters and my evil villains.
Ayo: What made you want to start writing? Karen: I actually started writing as a hobby. It was not my intent then for anyone to ever read my stories! I’m so glad that changed. I was travelling a great deal for my job and could only pack so many books in the suitcase, so I began to write my own stories to keep myself company. My characters were friends and had all kinds of adventures as I sat in hotels and airports all over the world. After about five years of this, my husband urged me to “do something” with all those stories. I joined a writers’ organization, did some research on the market and decided writing “for real” was something I wanted to do. And I never looked back.
Ayo: Whom would you consider your influences and did they influence your style of writing? Karen: As a teen, I gobbled Agatha Christie and later I read John Grisham, Tami Hoag, and Nora Roberts. I’ve always loved mysteries and my interest in thrillers grew from there. I’d say that each influenced me in terms of how I develop my characters and in how the suspense is built. For example, I would study Ms. Hoag’s books to figure out just how she dropped her clues so that I was always surprised at the end.
Ayo: Do you plot before hand or do you just let the writing flow? Karen: Oh, I used to plot very analytically with spreadsheets and post-it notes. Now I plot the first three chapters deeply, and I always know how it ends. Between those points I know the high points, but now I let the story flow from point to point – it’s more fun that way!
Ayo: What is more important to you plot of characterisation or do you try and ensure that you maintain a balance of the two? Karen: I try to maintain a balance of the two. The plot is a structure within which the characters interact. They interact with each other, with the villain, and with each situation. Their decisions at each point drive the plot, and are driven by their character. So it’s like a big circle.
Ayo: Tell us a bit more about your latest book Scream for Me? Karen: Scream For Me is my eighth novel and a sequel to Die For Me, which was first released last fall. At the end of Die For Me, Daniel Vartanian, the brother of the evil villain Simon, possesses an envelope filled with photographs depicting women being assaulted. The pictures belonged to Simon and have haunted Daniel for years. Daniel vows to track down the victims in each photo and to see justice done. Little does he know the first victim will soon be dropped into his lap. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” There is a group in Daniel’s hometown that harbours a terrible secret and for years has kept an uneasy truce amongst themselves. No one speaks of it and they think it is forgotten – until a thirteen year old crime is resurrected, taunting them. Someone knows their secret and wants them to pay.As Daniel investigates these copycat crimes, his only help is nurse Alex Fallon, who has returned to their hometown after thirteen years away. Her past is intertwined with his own, and the body count rises as they race to stop a murderer who is methodically wreaking his revenge.
Ayo: Was there a specific event that made you want to write Scream for Me? Karen: There was a specific event that influenced the book, yes. I was invited to tour a medical examiner’s facility when I had just begun the book. As the tour ended, I found myself unexpectedly viewing an autopsy! As autopsies went, this one was quite gruesome, and it was the first time I’d ever seen a body outside a funeral home. For a split second, my mind refused to acknowledge the fact I was staring at a dead body, instead insisting I was looking at a doll. Even as I knew this wasn’t true, I believed it – and experienced a dissociative episode for the first time. It only lasted a few seconds total, but made me wonder about someone who’d seen something so horrible that their subconscious was unwilling to remember. The character of Alex Fallon was born.
Ayo: One of the things your books are known for apart from the suspense is your attention to detail. How do you manage to find the correct balance? Karen: Thank you! I try to get the details right. It’s the perfectionist in me, I fear. Plus, when I’m in the book, it’s like a movie for me. I see the setting, see the characters, and hear them speak. I write what I see and hear and the details are all there. I also research any topic with which I’m unfamiliar. I’ve made a few mistakes over the years, usually caught by an astute reader who becomes one of my new resources!
Ayo: The relationships of your characters don’t remain in one book. They seem to overflow into your various books. This is good because there is always an on going relationship which does not just terminate at the end of the novel. Is this intentional and how do you manage to keep track of all of them? Karen: It’s intentional now – I started doing this at the beginning because it felt natural to me, and readers seemed to like it, so I continued. As I said, I see and hear the characters and they become rather like virtual friends. (This is where my husband frowns in concern and says, “Youknow they’re not real, don’t you, Karen?”) I’ve been unwilling to leave my friends behind and they continue to live and thrive in my imagination, long after their story is over. How do I keep track of them? Like you’d keep track of your family, I suppose. They’re all justthere, in my mind. It’s getting rather crowded up there, ha! I also keep a spreadsheet of when each story begins and ends and any major births and deaths that occur. This helps me keep the small details straight.
Ayo: Do you consider that crime or mystery novels along with romantic suspense novels should be seen as imparting social documents or as moralists? Karen: Well, that’s a hard one. I think first and foremost, my responsibility as an author is to entertain, to provide a place to escape for a little while, and to give readers a great roller coaster ride along the way. But I do feel a responsibility to address social issues that plague society. If I can teach a reader something, or give them a new way to look at an issue while I entertain them, I think that’s a good thing. For example, my husband is a cancer survivor, largely because we caught his cancer early. In my second book, Have You Seen Her?, the heroine’s late fiancée died of the disease, because he did not practice early detection. In other books, I’ve had characters tackle issues such as rape and abuse. In all cases, I’ve sought to inform as I entertain.
Ayo: Your books tether or the edge of either being found in the crime section or the romance section, how would you prefer them to be seen as and where would you like them to be shelved? Karen: I’d like them to be seen as thrillers with human relationships. I think there are elements of both crime and romance in my books – and I hope they are balanced enough to attract a wide variety of readers. If I had my wish, they’d be shelved in both crime and romance sections!
Ayo: What are you working on at the moment? Karen: I’ve just started my tenth novel and it will bring back characters from my Chicago community. It’s too early to give a lot of details right now; the story’s still forming in my mind. I just finished Kill for Me, which is Daniel’s sister Susannah’s story and finishes the mystery begun with the evil Simon in Die for Me.
Ayo: How would you like your characters to be remembered? Karen: As real people, with flaws and strengths. I want them to be three-dimensional and fully fleshed. I want their actions to be consistent with who they are. Above all else, I just want them remembered!
Ayo: OK, now for some off-the-wall questions: What one luxury item would you take away with you if you were marooned on a desert island? Karen: Oh, wow. Maybe a VCR with some old tapes of Gilligan’s Island. That way I could build a radio out of coconuts so that I could get off the island. Of course I’d need a generator for the VCR …
Ayo: Is there a book out there that you would have liked to have written yourself? Karen: Yes – Death Note. It’s a Manga in which the main character finds a book with magical powers. He can write a name in the book and a method of death and a time – and that person dies in that way at that time. At first he uses his new found book for good, but then … the power goes to his head. He is truly a sociopath, driven by the power of his craft and with the challenge of evading the police. It’s chilling stuff. When I first saw the series, I said, “Whoa, I wish I’d created him!” So that would be the book I wish I’d written myself.
Ayo: If you could choose five characters, dead or alive, that you could take to dinner, who would they be and why? Karen: -Sherlock Holmes – I’d want to relive all his cases from his point of view- Roarke, from J.D. Robb’s In Death series – he’s sexy and rich and owns half the galaxy – what’s not to love?
- Jo March, from Little Women – she was my hero as a child, funny, smart and independent- Dr. Doolittle – I think it would be fun to find out what my animals are thinking about me- Perry Mason – I’d want to find out how he managed to get all the innocent defendants!
Ayo: What do you do in your spare time when you do have the spare time? Karen: I indulge in mini-marathons of Law & Order, Charmed, and Stargate. Thank you so much for a chance to talk to your readers!
Scream For Me is published by Headline May 2008 hardback £12.99
More information about Karen and her books can be found on http://www.karenrosebooks.com