Today, I’d like to welcome to my blog, Karen Harper, author of Amish Romantic Suspense novel Dark Road Home, book 1 in her Maplecreek Trilogy. Welcome, Karen!
**Karen has graciously allowed me to give away a copy of book 1, Dark Road Home to one lucky commenter. So stay tuned to the end of this posting for details!**
BRBM:Tell us your latest news and a bit about yourself.
KH: I’m a former college and high school instructor teacher of—you guessed it—English and literature. I divide my time between Ohio and Florida. I’m currently writing contemporary romantic suspense and historical fiction, two quite different genres. My husband and I try not to spoil our only grandchild, Sean, who turns 11 this month and lives about 10 minutes from us. My latest news? I just got a British publisher for my Tudor-era historical novels, which makes little old Anglophile me very happy. Oh, yes, I used to do Scottish Highland dancing for exercise, but these days I just walk or bike.
BRBM:When and why did you begin writing?
KH:I’ve been published since 1982 and have over 50 books in print, so I’m a survivor in this challenging industry. I was in England and got an idea for a novel set in Tudor times, and thought I’d try writing it—and never looked back. I got an agent, then a publisher.
BRBM:What inspired you to write your first Amish suspense book?
KH:For the last 30 years, my husband and I have enjoyed visiting “Amish country.” The east-central part of Ohio has the largest settlement of the Plain People, even more than Lancaster Co, PA. I had been writing historicals, and the Amish life style seemed to fit that. Besides, who hasn’t enjoyed the movie “Witness?” I realized that they were fascinating, admirable people and, since I knew the area, figured it would make a perfect setting for a romantic/suspense. This was 10 years ago, and that first book, DARK ROAD HOME, is being re-released this month to be followed by the other 2 in the trilogy. Meanwhile, I’ve begun another Amish trilogy which will debut next year.
BRBM:Do you have a specific writing style?
KH:A hard question to answer. I like to pull the reader into a culture (the Amish, Appalachia, Tudor England) she or he doesn’t know much about. I like to have my female main characters have a fascinating career: midwife, scuba diver, Amish painter, queen of England. I like to draw the reader closely into the heroine’s and hero’s thoughts and lives. Beyond that, I like a mix of genres: romance, mystery, adventure in each book. As a former teacher, I love to entertain but also to educate—to teach my readers something new about fascinating places and people’s lives they can probably never share otherwise.
BRBM:How did you come up with the titles for your Amish suspense novels?
KH:The Title for my stand alone Amish novel, DOWN TO THE BONE, just came to me out of the blue and really fit the story. The “Maplecreek Trilogy” all have titles with the key word ‘dark’ in them to suggest suspense—and perhaps the dark clothing associated with the Amish: DARK ROAD HOME, DARK HARVEST and DARK ANGEL, and those titles came easily. However, the new series, “The Home Valley Amish Series,” which begins next August, went through several title changes and my editor finally settled on FALL FROM PRIDE, RETURN TO GRACE, and FINDING MERCY.
BRBM:Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
KH:I can’t recall who said it but, “If you want to send a message, send a telegram.” Although, I must admit, I hope the admirable women in my books, struggling against overwhelming odds and coming out victorious, shine through. Also, I must admit, a lot of my books illustrate (usually through the villains) that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately, this can still be true today, but let’s not get into politics unless it’s in Tudor England!
BRBM:How much of your books are realistic?
KH:All my writing is grounded in research and realism. My historicals have heroines who actually lived, so that takes a lot of sticking to the facts. My suspense novels are also well-researched: places, careers, cultures, lifestyles.
BRBM:If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
KH:In my case, not a writer, per se, but others: I have been blessed along the way with wonderful, encouraging teachers and professors. But I must say, both of my grandmothers were wonderful storytellers and my love of the past and my fascination with people’s lives was greatly a heritage from them.
BRBM:What book are you reading now?
KH:The truth is that I stack up books and binge read between writing my own novels. Otherwise, I’m afraid someone else’s voice might creep in. I’m in the middle of writing a new book now (which I call the ‘muddle’ of the book) because middles always drive me crazy. I usually have a lot of character and plot “balls” being juggled at that point.
BRBM:What are your current projects?
KH:For the past four years, I’ve alternated between writing a contemporary romance/suspense novel and a historical novel. I’m currently half way through a book set in 1500, during the reign of Henry VII, whose son was much more famous, but there is a lot going on in the book. Part romance, part mystery. Last spring I completed book #1 in the new Amish trilogy and will work on book 2 this winter.
BRBM:Is there anything you currently find particularly challenging in your writing?
KH:As I mentioned, the middle of most books. I’m strong on beginnings, knowing I want to grab the reader’s attention fast. I usually know how I want to end the story, but those darn muddles… I usually panic in the middle thinking, ‘Do I have enough story here for a full-length novel?’ Then I tell myself that I’m a little crazy to be worried about that after 50 books. (BTW, it took my nearly 20 years to make the New York Times list—an “overnight success,” ha! But I’d made the USA Today list before that. Both of those milestones mean a lot to a hardworking writer.)
BRBM:Do you have to travel much when researching your books?
KH:My husband and I love to travel. It surely helps to be in the place where my characters must live and breathe. I have been to almost everyplace I’ve set a scene, from Ohio to England to Scotlandto France to Italy—well, someone’s got to do it!
BRBM:What is the hardest part of your work?
KH:Two answers to this one. (1) Daily discipline to write when the “real” world is calling. (2) Getting the words down for the first time so that they can be revised. Thank heavens for the computer age, because when I first started writing I had to type things over and over. Eeek—does anyone out there remember carbon paper?
BRBM:Do you have any advice for other writers or aspiring writers?
KH:More than I can say, but let me boil it down to blog-size. You need dedication and discipline to get the work done. And you need to believe in your work because you will run into circumstances and people who will put big roadblocks in your way. I have two quotes posted in my office: Nike’s motto, “JUST DO IT!” and Winston Churchill’s “Never give up. Never give up!”
Awesome, Karen! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! It is much appreciated. And for my followers, please stop by Karen’s website here and have a look around at all her amazing books!
Rules of the giveaway:
- Please leave a comment answering this question (you’ll have to visit Karen’s website-click the link above- to find the answer!): What award to Karen win???
- Please be sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you win! NO EMAIL=NO ENTRY
- Deadline to enter is 1159pmEST on Thursday September 30th.