Today I’d like welcome crime fiction author, Karen Long, to the blog. Karen is the author of the Eleanor Raven series. The Safe Word and The Vault are both available on Amazon. When she’s not writing, Karen is kept busy caring for birds including crows, ravens and rooks.
What was the first thing you wrote that made you think ‘I could be good at this’?
My first novel was titled, ‘Zinnia Buckle and the Queen’s Conjuror’. It is set in 1888 and is a YA novel about a girl who discovers she has the ability to slip through time and across death’s threshold. When manipulated by her employer’s spiritual guide to enter Limbo she accidentally releases an ancient creature that spreads pestilence and death in Victorian England. The book sits on my shelf gathering dust, as it has done for the past ten years. I’m not sure that it’s any good, as I’ve never had it read by anyone but myself but it did prove to me that I could structure and execute a story. If I hadn’t written ‘Zinnia’ I couldn’t have written the Eleanor Raven books.
What do you wish you had been told about writing/publishing before you started?That the buck stops with you! Don’t expect anyone else to pick up typos or bad grammar. I was slack on ‘The Safe Word’ but learned to be much tighter on ‘The Vault’. Also, don’t assume anyone is going to be promoting your work. Get on Twitter and Facebook, do the talks, buy and distribute the flyers and the advertising space. It’s your job. I really did think naively that a mysterious ‘someone’ would do it all.
Who or what has been the biggest inspiration to your writing?
Mainly the enormous discrepancy between my earnings and my husband’s. That sounds flippant but writing gives me substance as an individual. In terms of inspiration on the writing front I find newspaper articles the biggest supplier of ideas and ‘what ifs?’.
Do you enjoy the whole writing process, or are some parts more enjoyable than others?
Sometimes writing anything feels like pulling teeth. I moan and groan over the first few sentences and then generally begin to love it, particularly if I’m finishing a chapter. That’s my favourite bit.
How do you start your writing day? How do you motivate yourself?
A bowl of coffee and the news on radio 4, alongside a couple of chapters of whatever book I’m reading. Then it’s up my office with my three dogs (they know the drill) and to work.
Who is your favourite fictional character and why?
I love Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Their cold, calculating search for the truth using science and deduction is perfect. Their intuition and infallible ability to spot the villain, alongside his or her motivation for the crime, is neatly balanced by their slightly borderline personalities. Nobody wants a perfect hero, flawed is much more interesting.
How much of yourself and the people you know end up in your books?
All of the characters I create are mosaics of people I have known or performances I have seen. They exist within the context of my Toronto world, which in itself is a collage of the places I visited and those I research online. There are little tics and gestures that I am familiar with, either because I generate them personally or see them in others, which punctuate the visuals in the stories.
I see in an interview with Crime Thriller Fella you’ve done a lot of research for your writing. What have you found the most interesting topic to learn about?
Anything even vaguely connected with, or to, the process of death. Decomposition is a scientifically predictable, non-negotiable event that happens to us all. The concept of autopsy, the analysis of the mechanism of self, is fascinating and anything that relates to its process has got me hooked.
I read an article recently about crows and rooks who gave gifts to those looking after them and even found lost items of jewellery. How did you start adopting birds, and have you ever been given any gifts?
I have been looking after corvids for over a decade and found my first baby crow on a walk to our local river. He’d fallen out of the nest and was sitting miserably below a beech tree. I grabbed him and took him home and find life without these clever, cunning and outrageous birds a little stale. I have never been presented with anything, other than a mess but items they believed were ‘gifted’ to them was an on-going hazard. My first raven, Mortimer (of course) would flap onto my arm and stare intently at me, lulling me into a false sense of anthropomorphic security. He’d then lash out his beak and yank out my earring, swallowing it and flapping off, shrieking with pleasure. Crowzie, a carrion crow, used to steal peanuts and hide them in my husband’s printer, which eventually became too oily and clogged to produce anything other than abusive language from my husband and tantrums from our crow.
When I’m not writing I can normally be found learning blues guitar. What hobbies do you have?
I run, not fast, nor particularly far but with pleasure. I also love to walk and look for stuff. Birds, plants and bugs are my big interest.
Many thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Karen.