Introduce yourself to the rest of the class. Who are you and what makes you tick?
Ah, what makes me tick? You’ll have to read to find out (haha). Seriously though, I think that to read a book is to know the author, and to get a sense of what makes her tick. When it comes to character development most writers would agree that, while the majority of our characters are composite figures—you know, bits and pieces of people that attract and impress us along the way—there’s always one character who is a fictious representation of the author herself—the leading lady, I guess. So the way I experience the world, my feelings, beliefs, fantasies, philosophies, even the things I love to do and places I like to be, are all there on the pages. Sometimes, reading my own stories helps me figure myself out.
What does it mean to you to be an author? What makes a writer a writer?
Hmm…I suppose authors and writers both have a talent or at least a penchant for wordsmithing. But not all writers have a need to tell a story. I have friends who write beautifully. They enjoy writing letters, emails, keeping journals, recording their observations of nature, etc. It’s something they do for personal pleasure, without a need to share it with the world, you know?
Authors are a different lot and, personally, being one isn’t always a pleasurable experience. Writing is probably the closest I’ll ever come to the S&M experience when I say that it hurts so good! Some days the words flow (when my co-author, the muse is on point) and I’ll knock out a whole chapter; other days I spend hours agonizing over a single paragraph. Those are the times my muse decides she’s going out for the day and disappears without even the courtesy of leaving a note. So being an author isn’t always easy, but I keep at it because I cannot not write…it’s that thing that completes me.
Are you promoting a specific book?
Yes. That would be As the Crow Flies. The story follows two romances. One between a middle-aged couple (age gap), the other between a young couple. Samantha Weller is a mystery writer determined to find a match to a vintage bookend she purchased at a yard sale. She enlists the help of her younger cohort, Liz Bowes, who owns an antique shop in Manhattan. Together they begin a search that leads to the Massachusetts estate of Gwen Laraway, a wealthy philosophy professor whose family owns a paper company. Samantha instantly falls for Gwen. And Liz, the experienced player, finds herself falling for Gwen’s niece, Isabel. As clueless as she is sensual, Isabel has avoided dating since her high school graduation ten years go. Romance begins blooming all around, but problems arise when an unlikely ghost emerges from the ether to roam the dark corners of this story.
Tell us about your biggest guilty pleasure. For example, to you sit naked in your pantry in the middle of the night and eat Nutella with your fingers?
You know, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never had Nutella. Am I the only one? I probably should feel guilty about that because, generally speaking, I tend to experience more guilt over the things I don’t do (like eating Nutella), than the things I do.
If coffee counts as a guilty pleasure, then that would be it, only because I spend exorbitant amounts of money on the stuff and waste a lot. I’m a sipper, not a gulper, so when my cup gets cold, I dump it and go for a hot refill. After an hour I consider a pot stale and brew another. The good thing is that if you’re a fellow coffee lover and stop by, you can be sure there will be a fresh pot waiting. At least until 7PM. After that you’ll have to settle for a margarita.
Tell us one thing that you’re passionate about. For example, would you strap yourself to an oil rigging a la Lucy Lawless with a Greenpeace sign in your hands?
Animal welfare. All proceeds from my writing supports animal rescue. As a mental health professional working in the school system and in private practice I’ve spent my career helping people. But when it comes to volunteering and supporting causes, it’s the animals that get me. Dogs and cats can’t go to school and tell a guidance counselor that they are being neglected or abused; animals in factory farms can’t organize and protest against awful living conditions and inhumane treatment; wild animals can’t lobby against gun control and ask for protection when trophy hunters begin their “home invasions.” We must be the voice of those who cannot speak.
What’s your writing process? That is, do you have a particular place you write and/or time of day? Do you have any particular things you do before you write? (e.g. do you listen to music, drink coffee, take dance breaks…)
Yes, yes, and yes. I have a house in NYC and a country home in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, but I do my best writing in the country. My best ideas come to me when I first wake up, so I like to pour coffee and go sit in the woods while the dogs run around. Then comes the music. In fact, a lot of my writing is music-dependent. Certain songs will trigger certain scenes, and I will play that song on repeat for the duration of the chapter.
Also, in the true fashion of the collector that I am, I surround myself with objects related to whatever novel is in progress. My first novel, Love Spell, took place on Halloween and so the house stayed decorated for Halloween for ten months. I mean, I did put up a Christmas tree but…you get the point. And then, while writing Meeting Ms. Roman (about a werecat) I had a four-foot-long black leopard on canvas hanging over my desk. Same with As the Crow Flies—all my crow collectibles (yes, my tastes are odd, I know) were perched on shelves, the fireplace mantel, etc. And now? For the past month there’s been wood-carved coyotes hanging from my rearview mirror. That should give you a hint of what’s coming next.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you (unless you’d have to kill us, in which case tell us something that some people don’t know).
I’ve always liked older women. In my youth my biggest fantasy was having an affair with a professor (I’m sure it’s a common one). Dr. Gwen Laraway, the love intrigue in As the Crow Flies, is sort of a wish-fulfillment as far as that goes. Of course, being in my fifties now, I’m older than the older women I used to crushed on. And my real-life professor-friend find this all very amusing.
Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written?
Sure. Any one of those New York Times bestsellers that earn millions of dollars. Maybe King’s Pet Sematary. It would be nice to live well off the royalties of one book, wouldn’t it? I’m joking here (not) but to really answer the question, I think every author sits down to write the book they want to read. Does that makes sense? For me, that book (my book) will have all the ingredients that I myself look for in a romance. I enjoy heady, slow-burn courtships. They say sex happens in our brains, not in our…well, you know…so by “heady” I mean that I like a character who can seduce a woman’s mind. I’ve never been attracted to a specific physical type of woman. Butch, femme, tall, short, black, white—I’m easy that way. But I do have a definite mental type. What turns me on more than anything is a perceptive, insightful, and inquisitive mind. That’s the type of leading lady I like to both read and write. Add to that some outdoor scenes, well described natural landscapes, some kind of animal, a few spiritual elements, and… I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you read someone else’s book you may get a lot of the things you look for (which is why we all have favorite authors), but when you are the author you can include every last ingredient on your list and write the book you’d like to read.
If time and money were no problem, where would you most like to go in the world?
Well, having several dogs, two cats, and two turtles make it difficult to travel anywhere on short notice. I’ve been to Asia, I’d like to see Australia, and I really do love the UK—enough that I’d spend longer periods there if not for the stringent quarantine laws regarding dogs. I’d like to see more of America, too. I live in the northeast and I have spent time in the southeast, but I’ve always dreamed of renting an RV and heading west, northwest. I love the natural world and the romantic notion of the Great Frontier.” Plus, I like women wearing cowboy boots, worn jeans, crisp white shirts and driving pickups. Mmm.
As for money, the biggest appeal is the privacy it buys. I’m a private person. My dogs are very private people, too. It’s one of the reasons I bought property in the country—so we’d have our own private park and not have to share it with the public. I’ve taken my dogs to dog parks here in the city. They just don’t want to go in. As soon as we get to the gate they put on the brakes on and look at me as if to say, Do we have to? We don’t know those dogs! And then I look at all the owners who obviously know each other and meet on a regular basis and I think: I don’t know those people. They seem kind of clickish. It gets awkward all around and we end up heading in the other direction, toward the ice cream truck, and then go home. So, yeah, having our private place in the woods is awesome. And if I had the money I’d go for a private beach as well. I love the lake and mountains, but something by the ocean would be wonderful.
And finally, what sorts of writing projects are next for you?
My newest novel in progress is Coyote Blues. The main character, Riley Dawson, is a psychotherapist with a lycanthropic affliction; she’s a werewolf (a werecoyote to be exact). A foundling adopted by wealthy parents, Riley led a privileged life until, at the age of seventeen, she fell in love with Fiona Bell, an evangelical preacher’s daughter. Raging hormones, the pull of the full moon, and the pull of Fiona Bell on her teenage heartstrings triggered that first transformation. Unfortunately, her parents witnessed the grotesque change and quickly sent her off to college with a trust fund and an agreement never to return home.
Now, twenty years later, Riley shares a lucrative psychotherapy practice with Dr. Peggy Spencer, her colleague, former professor, and trusted keeper of her secret. Relationships are too risky and her love life is restricted to online hookups, but life isn’t so bad. She has her friends, her career, and a pack of coyotes who share her property (and sometimes her couch). But when a family is referred for treatment and Fiona Bell walks back into her life, all the rules of the client-therapist relationship are broken and Riley’s world is turned upside down.
Karen is a writer, psychotherapist and wildlife rehabilitator. She loves theater, dance, romantic comedies and speculative conversation, but most of all enjoys communing with nature, hanging out with her canine buddies and howling with the coyotes that share her property. You can visit her at https://karenfwilliams.com/