Today I’m talking to Karen King, multi-published author of children's books, romance novels and YA fiction.
Hi Karen, how long have you been writing?
Hi Trish, I’ve been writing for years and years! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories and poems, right back to when I was a child. I was first published in the eighties, with Jackie magazine, then other teen and children’s magazines. I then moved onto children’s books too. My writing has changed a lot over the years, as I expanded out into different genres. I now write mainly Young Adult novels and contemporary romance. I keep writing because stories keep popping into my head. 😊
Trish: I remember Jackie magazine. It was good to have something to read that was in between the kids’ comics and the women’s magazines. I had quite a few pull-out posters of different pop stars from the magazines on my bedroom wall, too!
You have written well over a hundred books. Where do you get all your ideas for your novels?
Karen: Anything can spark an idea for a new story. An overheard remark, a real incident, a dream, a throwaway comment, a place I visit, someone I see. If I have a notebook on me, I write my idea down straight away in that. If I don’t have a notebook, I write on anything that’s available, a serviette, the back of a till receipt, my hand, anything. I’ve learnt from past experience that if I don’t write it down, I’ll lose it. I have a couple of notebooks that I try to transfer my ideas to, so that they’re in some sort of order but it doesn’t always work out that way. I have a folder of scribbled-on pieces of paper too.
Trish: Is there something of you in your characters?
Karen: There is definitely a spark of me in my main characters, but also of other people I’ve met too. Most of my female characters are not looking for love, love finds them and they try to resist it because there are other things they want to do with their life – don’t look for love is definitely a motto of mine. The Year of Starting Over, my latest book, is based in Spain, where I now live, and some of the incidents actually happened to me.
Trish: What about the settings of your novels?
Karen: Most of the settings in my romance novels are places I’m familiar with. I’ve set two books in Cornwall (The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, and Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel) where I lived for several years. The Bridesmaid’s Dilemma is set in Majorca and was inspired by an anniversary visit there with my husband. And as I said, The Year of Starting Over is set in Spain. If I haven’t been to the place my novel is set, I’ll research it online, as when Cassie went to France in I do? or do I? The towns and villages though are completely fictional.
Trish: Do you want your novels to get people thinking or are they for pure enjoyment?
Karen: My Young Adult novels are certainly aimed to get people thinking but obviously, I want them to be enjoyable too. My first YA, Perfect Summer, is set in a dystopian society obsessed with perfection, where people who don’t have ‘perfect looks’ or are disabled in any way are looked down upon. The main character, Morgan, has a four-year-old brother, Josh who has Down’s Syndrome and he is kidnapped. So here I’m trying to challenge the idea of how far society’s obsession with perfect looks could go. My second YA, Rise of the Soul Catchers, is set in the afterlife, young lovers Will and Sapphire are killed in a car crash in the first chapter, and search for each other in the afterlife because they promised to love each other forever. As well as the message of eternal love, this story is challenging the concept of a Heaven and Hell, where people are damned forever. The message of this book is that you are judged by your heart and even after death have a chance to redeem yourself.
My romance books are mainly entertainment, but there is an underlying message of being your own person and not giving up your life for someone else, that love is setting each other free, not tying each other down.
Trish: We hear a lot about young people being influenced by social media to achieve a perfection that is unrealistic.
When do you write? Do you have a special place to write?
Karen: Now I’m semi-retired and living in Spain I write when I feel like it (except when I’m on a crazy deadline like recently when I was writing every breathing moment!) I have an office in our upstairs studio apartment so often write there, although I also write sitting at the table in the lounge (like now) or out in the garden by the pool.
Trish: Are you a keen reader yourself?
Karen: I’ve always loved reading. For me, the love of reading inspires the love of writing. Whenever I read a good book, or watch an entertaining film, it inspires me to write. I like reading most genres, it depends on the mood I’m in. Romcoms and light romances are a favourite, as are autobiographies. I loved Becoming by Michele Obama, Dreams From My Father by Barak Obama, and am presently reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - and have a pile of other autobiographies to read. I mingle these with romcoms by Sophie Kinsella, Sue Moorcroft, Mandy Baggot and Heidi Swain, to name just a few.
Trish: Do you like a series or a stand-alone books?
Karen: I prefer stand-alone mainly because I don’t have much time to read and by the time I’ve got to a second book in the series, I’ve forgotten who’s who. There are times though when I don’t want to say goodbye to the characters and would love to read a follow-on.
Trish: What kind of books would you like to see more of?
Karen: I like the current trend for uplit and would like to see more books with older heroines – my latest book (Single All the Way, out later this year) features a daughter and mother whose marriages have broken up at the same time. I think older characters, who have lived life, have fascinating stories to tell and hope to write more books featuring these myself.
Trish: I must admit, I had to google uplit ! Actually, it is the kind of novel that would appeal to me - with empathy, kindness and optimism at its heart - definitely uplifting! We need more of this at the moment!
Thank you so much for talking to us today, Karen.
Thanks for inviting me over, Trish! x
The Year of Starting Over
What if – to find yourself – you had to run away?
Last year was meant to be when Holly got her happy-ever-after. But stuck in a job that’s going nowhere, and a relationship that feels more like it’s going backwards… this year Holly has decided it’s time to change her life. She just has to:
– End the relationship with the commitment-phobic boyfriend
– Go on a proper adventure
– Learn to be herself again
– Definitely, categorically not fall in love.
Cramming her belongings into her little yellow Mini, Holly drives on to a ferry bound to Spain, to stay at a remote farmhouse near a beautiful village in the Andalusian hills.
But the day she arrives she nearly crashes her car into a gorgeous guy on a motorbike. He’s called Matias and their paths keep crossing, much to Holly’s irritation. Because as she learns to speak Spanish from the locals, finally starts laying out plans for her own design business, and sips sangria in the sunlit village square, Holly is beginning to remember who she is and what she wants.
So she won’t allow herself to be distracted by Matias. Because this year – for Holly – there are more important things in life than love. And she won’t let yet another bad relationship ruin everything… will she?
A moving and uplifting romantic comedy about living each moment and learning to trust yourself again, for fans of Jenny Hale, Debbie Macomber and Sophie Kinsella.
Karen King started her writing career writing for Jackie magazine and children's comics such as Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh. She is a multi-published author of children's books and romantic fiction. She has had 120 children's books published, two young adult novels, seven romantic novels and several short stories for women's magazines. Her latest two romance novels, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel and The Year of Starting Over, are both published by Bookouture.
Karen now lives in Spain and intends to spend her time writing romances whilst her husband, Dave, grows vegetables and tends to the zillions of fruit trees on their land – when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is!
And here are some of the books that Karen recommends: