The Write Way Café welcomes Lola Karns, who shares "what if" she hadn't been disrupted by a hurricane in working toward a PhD.
When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I grew up expecting to write a dissertation, not a book per se. I was working on a PhD in European History but a hurricane wiped out an archive central to my research on cultural exchange between Germany and Mexico. After some soul searching, I decided not to start over, but rather turn my research into a work of fiction with a female friendship at the core. At the time, Romance Writers of America included Women’s Fiction so I turned to my local chapter. I still haven’t written the dissertation inspired book yet, but one day I will.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
Winter Fairy was my first published work of fiction and it took about three and a half years. The editing process taught me so much that I’m glad I didn’t rush to publish. As for research, I watched a lot of dance videos and reached out to a few people I know who have danced professionally and asked questions about their career paths. I also read a lot of parenting magazines.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
Author Yvette Hines challenged me to write a holiday story. I can’t imagine the holiday season without the Nutcracker Ballet, which led to the creation of a ballerina heroine. I had the idea of making my hero a widower as a way to explore the challenges of being a single parent and to exaggerate the sense of being overwhelmed that I think all parents experience.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
I knew I wanted to set a scene at The Art Institute of Chicago. I love people watching there almost as much as the art. To see people of different ages and backgrounds coming together surrounded by beauty makes my heart sing.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
My characters come from real questions and real fears I have. Penelope stands at a cross-roads in her career when we meet her in Winter Fairy, much as I did with my dissertation. Eloise and Carson sprang from a moment when my daughter had a temper tantrum and my husband and I did some tag-team parenting to get her calmed down, which got me thinking about what would happen if I didn’t have a reliable partner. My favorite question in life and writing is “what if….”
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
Winter Fairy flowed easily, so I was fortunate. I did struggle a bit in sequencing plot events. I played around with post it notes and some blank calendar pages until I found the right combination.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
For me the biggest surprise has been the positive response from male readers. The cover is so pink! But I’ve heard from a number of men who looked past the cover and then enjoyed the book. I’m honored so many men find Carson relatable.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; a bout six-year olds, and professional ballerinas?
I learned that I love writing kid characters. Their honesty is liberating. I also learned not to be shocked by the initial list of edits. There will be changes, but the story will be better. As far as professional ballerinas, like any top athlete, there are a lot of injuries.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I have a small desk so I can’t add too much clutter and I have it facing a gray wall so when I look up, I don’t have many distractions. When I need a nature fix, I can look out the window to see a pond, a marsh and corn field. I wish I had a devoted office, but my workspace doubles as our guest bedroom and craft room so I get kicked out on a regular basis and then spend time organizing and reorganizing the furnishings.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
I recently reread Jane Wagner’s play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which is one of my go-to books for reaffirming hope. For a classic romance, I love E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. The playful humor in Jasper Fforde’s books make them must reads for me.
What are you working on now?
A writing experiment and plotting a new contemporary. I’m playing with ideas for a companion piece to Winter Fairy featuring Penelope’s brother.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
I’m working on a horror story. I enjoy the genre and wanted to push myself in a different direction. I may never publish it, but I’m learning a lot about setting the scene.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Anything? I visited a bunch of National Parks this year. Working for the National Park Service would be nifty. Usually, if I find a job appealing in some way, one of my characters will have that as a career. I was hung up on owning a bakery for a while until I wrote Bad Traveler and researched the reality of the job.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Getting sufficient words on the paper. This is a matter of both weak discipline and my tendency to write short.
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
It depends on the day and what I need to get through my daily challenges. That’s sort of a weak answer, but it’s true. Some days, I’m a fierce defender of my family and I channel my inner Katniss. Other days I observe the world around me and find everything as curious as Alice in Wonderland. The beautiful thing about literature is all the variety.
Thanks for inviting me to the Write Way Café.
Winter Fairy is currently available as a stand-alone work or as part of the multi-author Tidings of Love: 7 Holiday Romance Novellas bundle.
Tidings of Love: Amazon Barnes & Noble
Winter Fairy: Amazon Barnes & Noble
Having been a bartender, doctoral candidate, document translator, shipping clerk and more as I moved through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, and Virginia, I decided I needed a portable career. Writing fit the bill.
I currently reside in Minnesota with my husband, two children, two hairless cats and a fluffy ex-stray cat. My garden is a disaster, but I love experiencing all four seasons. (And yes, we have summer in Minnesota). When not writing, I enjoy baking, reading, drinking coffee and connecting with other book lovers.
Media links: Website/blog Twitter @lolakarns Facebook
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