June 10 2016
It is my pleasure to welcome author Karen Welch to Room With Books. Karen has graciously, and painstakingly, answered a plethora of questions to give our readers an opportunity to get to know her better!
Karen, please tell us about yourself.
I’m a Virginia native. I was born in Richmond and spent most of my childhood in rural Amelia County, where my family originally settled in the early 1700’s. Needless to say the roots there are deep! While I will always consider that part of the world my home, most of my adult life has been spent in North Florida and in Southeast Kansas, which is where I am now. I have two children, now with families of their own. My husband and I live in a 120-year-old house in a small town, enjoying the relative quiet of retirement—the perfect environment for an introverted writer to ply her trade!
Please tell us your latest news?
I’ve just finished a serial novella, All That Glitters, and I’m still working on the second book in the Welcome to Walnut Lodge Series. There are plenty of other ideas in the pipeline, but I do best working on one thing at a time.
When and why did you begin writing?
I must have started “writing” at about age 10, but I finally got serious at the end of my 50’s, when it occurred to me that I only had a couple decades left to get the job done. I was always going to be a “writer” because the ideas floating around in my head intrigued me enough that I wanted to see them on paper. I never gave any thought to who else might see what I’d written. I just wanted to write the stories so I could see how they ended. Now, sharing them provides me with a bonus thrill I never anticipated back when I was just scribbling my stories in notebooks for my own amusement.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not until I began to hear response from readers of my first book. I was reluctant to put myself in that exalted position until I realized my work had moved someone else enough for them to reach out to me. I still find it a little bit surreal when I see a review or open an email from a reader. They consider me a writer without question, so I guess that means I must be doing my job right.
What inspired you to write your first book?
This goes straight back to the when and why of writing. I had a number of ideas sketched in my mind and when I sat down to write, what became Hearts Unfold seemed to be at the front of the queue.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I always start with “What if?” Then I try to let the story tell itself through the eyes of the characters. I’m a “pantser,” so many times I’m surprised by the way things unfold, but I try to resist manipulating a story for the sake of genre or style. I suppose I’m a storyteller, much like my grandmothers, who both loved to tell long, detailed stories about people they’d known and places they’d seen. That tradition is sadly dying in our faster paced present, so for those of us who write in that tradition there is a responsibility to keep it alive.
How did you come up with the title?
That varies. Sometimes I know the title first—such as with Shannon’s Daughter—but more typically the title comes from something significant that emerges as I write. For instance, I used quotes from hymns and scriptures for the titles of the Valley Rise series because they appeared somewhere in the stories.
Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Again, that varies depending on the story. The Valley Rise books are clearly about the transforming power of love. The Walnut Lodge books seem to have a “second chance” message. I don’t start out with the idea of conveying a message, but it often turns out there is one theme that stands out by the time I’m done.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There is definitely something of my life experience in what I write. I’ve lived long enough and known enough people to have gathered quite a few ideas and impressions. I often use places I’ve visited as inspiration for locations, and music I love plays a role in many of my stories. Most of my characters are purely fictional, but they often have some small part of a real person at their core. For example, the character of Bernard Silverman, the famous conductor who appears in the Valley Rise books and Shannon’s Daughter, is based rather obviously on Leonard Bernstein, who had a great influence on my love of music. The only time I’ve come close to writing about a personal experience is in Katie Lost and Found. I did travel to Europe and meet a very nice young Dutchman, who is the obvious inspiration for Peter, but the story is otherwise a work of fiction.
What books have influenced your life most?
It would be impossible to name a few specific titles. I’d rather say that reading everything I could get my hands on as a girl, from Alcott to Hemingway to PG Wodehouse, as well as lots and lots of historical fiction, influenced my love of a well-told story. I still read constantly and believe firmly that a writer must not only put words on paper, but fill her mind with as many words and images as possible to keep the imagination fueled.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d probably say Jan Karon. When I read the Mitford series, I was impressed with her personal story as well as her work. It’s never too late to change course and follow your dream.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished reading An Echo in the Bone, the seventh book Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
I’ve enjoyed sampling the work of Indie authors. There’s a lot of good writing out there.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on the second novel in the Walnut Lodge series, which focuses on a couple who were close friends in high school but lost touch for many years. When they meet up again in their hometown, the old attraction is still there, but their current responsibilities and life experiences make rekindling the relationship a bit tricky. Never fear, there’s always a happy ending at Walnut Lodge!
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Early on I shared my work with a couple of friends who convinced me that I should keep going. I knew they would be honest with me, brutally if necessary, so I took them at their word.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t pay to rehash once you’ve published. Better to move on to the next project and hope to improve with each work.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My father was an aspiring writer. He died when I was very young and I expect I wished that I’d inherited something of his gift.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure! This is from Where We Left Off—Welcome to Walnut Lodge Book Two
“So, how did things go with my sister?”
Jeff avoided Cami’s expectant gaze, wondering how best to answer. Even he was smart enough to recognize, from the moment Cami casually mentioned Connie for the job, that Mitchell sister number two was up to her old tricks. They might be co-workers now at the Lodge but Cami would always seem more like a little sister to him. They’d shared a lot in the past, much of it too hard and deep for a couple of teenagers to share without bonding them beyond friendship.
“Well, if the goal was to find a sitter for Mother, it went great. Connie starts next week. If you’re asking whether we did more than talk about the job, not really.”
“Come on, Jeff. Be patient with her. She’s been through hell and back since the two of you were close. Connie’s leery of opening up to anybody, even her family. Give her a chance to get to know you again.”
“I hear you, Cami. But there’s not much gain in ‘getting to know me’ now. You’d have better luck putting your matchmaking skills to work on old Cyril here.” He nodded toward the Lodge’s resident mascot, a white muzzled Pomeranian who shared his shift most nights. Currently Cyril was performing what he considered his primary duty. Curled in his bed, he was snoring softly into the elegant golden plume of his tail, the occasional twitch of an ear the only sign he was following the conversation.
“I’m not match making, I’m just trying to help two people I care about. But I think it’s exciting. I mean I’m sorry your mother’s condition is the reason, but putting the two of you in the same place day after day, that’s a good thing. You’ll see. Connie needs a friend who remembers what she used to be like, who doesn’t walk on eggshells around her.”
“Is that what you girls do, walk on eggshells? That doesn’t sound like the Mitchell sisters I remember. You guys were brutal.”
“We tend to take it easy on Connie now. She never mentions her marriage. It’s like if she doesn’t talk about it, it never happened.”
“What about Lily? Doesn’t she talk about her father?”
“No. Never. I guess they talk about him with Lily’s therapist, but never in front of us.”
He thought for a moment, sorting what he knew from what he was willing to reveal. “That’s rough. I’m sorry it’s taking so long for them to move on.”
“That’s why I say Connie needs to be around people who really knew her before. And you knew her better than anybody. Maybe better than we did.” Cami shot him a challenging look, one he couldn’t ignore. “Think back, Jeff. You and Connie were always together, from the time you moved here. You remember what she was like, so optimistic, so determined. Now it’s more like she’s pushing a big rock up a steep hill, just waiting for it to roll back on her. And the worst part is, she seems to think when it does, she deserves to be crushed.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding time to write, pushing aside all the other responsibilities in my day to just sit down at the computer, seems to be my biggest challenge. I’ve recently become the fulltime caregiver for my husband, so changing the focus from that level of activity to the internal work of writing is difficult. I’m slowly finding the discipline to do that, but it’s definitely a change from the way I worked when I first started writing.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’d have to say Hemingway because of the clarity of his writing. He doesn’t merely paint a picture with words. He takes a photograph.
Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
It isn’t necessary, but I would love to get out to more writers’ conferences and do more signings. Unfortunately, my current situation doesn’t allow for that, but perhaps in the future I’ll be able to meet more readers and other writers face to face.
What is the hardest part of writing a book?
Knowing when to stop revising. There will always be a better word or phrase, so you just have to say “good enough” once the story’s told, and stop agonizing.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve learned a lot of things. I suppose the most important is to trust my instincts. I set out in the beginning to write a book I wanted to read. If I’ve done that, I now know there are others who will feel the same about it.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Do it! Whether you set out to find a publisher or to self-publish, write, rewrite, let someone you trust read your work and then get it out there. We live in a very exciting time when the industry is going through so many positive changes. Take advantage of them!
Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I remember the first book I couldn’t put down was Little Women. I read it over and over until my mother finally made me find something else to read because I was constantly crying over certain parts of the story. I guess you could say it really grabbed me!
What makes you laugh or cry?
The same things can do both—children, dogs, my husband, a good book, a good movie, music. It changes as I get older, but I’d much rather laugh than cry.
Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
There are many! I guess I’ll have to go with the first to come to mind. I’d love to meet George Harrison. I was crazy for him as a teenager and then so inspired by him later in life.
Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love to garden. I enjoy cooking. I take great pleasure in restoring old houses and furniture. Like writing, they can all feel like work at times, but unlike the writing, they are done simply for my personal satisfaction.
What TV shows or films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch much TV, mainly a few programs on PBS, but I’m currently obsessed with the Outlander series on STARZ. I enjoy historical films, mysteries, and occasionally a good tearjerker love story.
What is your favorite food, color and music?
Anything baked—bread, cake, muffins. Yellow. Classical.
If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Do you have a blog or website? If so what is it?
The address for Lost in the Plains is http://valleyrise.blogspot.com/. My blog about writing, life, and anything else that comes to mind.
You can find out all about my books and other things at my Amazon Author Page.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to our readers?
THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR SHARING THIS JOURNEY WITH ME!!!
Thank you, Karen, for spending so much time helping me by pulling up a chair with us on Room With Books! I hope you’ll come back in the future with more answers to questions and books to read!
Karen Welch was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in nearby Amelia County, where her family had originally settled in the 1720’s. After a twenty-year sojourn in North Florida, she now resides in Southeast Kansas with husband John, a cocker spaniel named Raleigh and an eccentric calico cat who on occasion answers to Patches. Her long delayed writing career began in 2012 with the publication of her first novel, Hearts Unfold. This inspirational romance quickly grew into the Miracle at Valley Rise series with the release of Entreat Me Not, Heart of My Own Heart and Offered for Love in the following year. Karen is also the author of the holiday novella, Christmas at Valley Rise, and Shannon’s Daughter, a romance set in the mid-twentieth century revolving around one of the characters in the series. In August 2014 her new series Welcome to Walnut Lodge premiered with the release of Katie Lost and Found.
Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org, find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Welch/, follow her blog Lost in the Plains at http://valleyrise.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter @welchkaren1.
Karen has compiled a 40-week serial novella, published on her blog Lost in the Plains, into her latest offering as ALL THAT GLITTERS. It is a novella of approximately 60,000 words.
Max Evans is at the top. Labeled the Blonde Adonis, he’s idolized by millions around the world for his golden voice and his blonde good looks. He might be every woman’s dream, but for rising TV journalist Lucinda Cramer, he’s a troublesome glitch in her already complicated schedule. Filming a documentary about a pop idol on tour is hardly the kind of hard hitting assignment Lucy longs for, and the timing of the job couldn’t be worse. With her private life full of responsibilities and the shadow of a past tragedy looming over her family, the last thing she has time for is trailing after a pampered celebrity. Two weeks on a tour bus is plenty of time for Lucy and Max to discover that first impressions can’t always be trusted and second chances are never too late.