Karen E. Osborne is a delightful person and an interesting author. Not only do we share the same publisher, but she also writes in my genre, thriller-crime-mystery, though not exclusively. One other note of commonality is that both of us have a background as educators. Karen worked in higher education, while I worked at the secondary level, though I did adjunct work at the collegiate level.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with her for a live interview, which she will post at some point in October, and after speaking with her, I decided it would be interesting to return the favor and interview her. I think you will enjoy the interview, and I hope it will spur your interest in checking out her work.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
Like many writers, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have stories I wanted to share. My early attempts were short stories and bad poetry. A college professor urged me to try something longer, like a novel, but I found the thought daunting. Many years later, Kara and Alex – the protagonists in my first novel Getting It Right – started talking to me. They had a story they wanted me to tell. I listened and acted.
What genre do you write and why?
Women’s fiction, suspense, and mystery. I read many different genres – but feel most interested in, at home with, stories about strong, flawed, but likable women who must navigate huge life obstacles. Most suffered a life-changing or shaping trauma.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and had a major impact on you, what would they be and why?
I read all of Shakespeare’s plays long before I saw one staged. The tragedies gripped me. I learned about story arc, the importance of mixing humor among the tension and tragedy, character development, and writing in ways that readers can visualize the action.
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple kept me up all night. A complete novel written as letters. She taught and inspired me.
What authors do you read regularly?
My choices are all over the map. I read for entertainment (romance, spy thrillers); I read to learn and enjoy (literary fiction and poetry); There are a ton of children’s books on my Kindle so I can keep up with what my grandchildren are reading; and I read author-friend’s books. We support each other. Right now, I’m reading S. A. Cosby’s second novel, Razorblade Tears, because I loved Blacktop Wasteland. Kristin Hannah is excellent. I just finished The Four Winds.
If you were to have dinner with five individuals, living or dead, who would they be and why?
I’m fortunate that the people I care about the most – family and friends – join me for meals on a regular basis. But I’d love to have dinner with writers I admire and learn from – Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Amanda Gorman, and both President and Mrs. Obama. And I’d invite more than five. Make it a BIG, three-hour meal. The one other person I’d love to dine with is my deceased grandmother. I’m writing a book about her life and still have many questions.
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
Is there a third choice? For novel number one, I didn’t know where I was going. I let my characters and experiences take me to new places. For example, a happenstance conversation with a man sitting next to me on a plane landed in my book. For number two – Tangled Lies – which released this July, I had to plan. It’s a murder mystery, so the clues and buildup had to be thought through. Still, the lead characters spoke to me, so I made a few detours. Reckonings, which comes out in June 2022, had a well thought out plot and characters in my head, but not written down. The two I’m writing now – one is planned, and the other is pretty fluid.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I read and write every day. And yes, in and out of my genre.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you?
Becoming a published novelist. I wanted it all my life, from college on. But life, career, family, took up my time. When I finished my first manuscript, the published novel that ultimately became Getting It Right, I sent out queries, spoke to everyone I knew, all in search of an agent. When I finally found one and she landed a contract, I cried. Number two was equally overwhelming. Rejections are not fun. When my current publisher made an offer, again, it left me in tears of relief and joy. But sweetest moment came one week after Tangled Lies came out. My publisher contacted me and asked, “Do you have another book.” “Well, yes I do,” I said. Boom! I’m 73 years old. One is never too old, and rejections are part of the journey.
What tips would you give to a new or even experienced writers?
I have a blog post, “13 Lessons I learned on my Writing Journey.” https://www.kareneosborne.com/post/13-lessons-i-learned-on-my-writing-journey and another on “Submission and Rejection Fatigue.” https://www.kareneosborne.com/post/submission-and-rejection-fatigue Your readers and fans might find them useful.
How do you handle a negative critique?
No one likes to read or hear a bad review. However, I know every book isn’t for every person. I try to keep that in mind and not be obsessed. Also, I believe in constantly learning, improving my craft, so all reviews and critiques offer observations to consider and possibly learn from.
Is there a type of writing/genre you find difficult to write? Why?
I haven’t tried horror or fantasy. I generally don’t read those genres, but I read Nora Roberts’ Year One (the first in a trilogy) as well as the other two books. Magic, fantasy, horror, and compelling characters and plot. Might try it down the road.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
For me, characters are the most important part of everything I write and all that I enjoy reading. Plot driven stories don’t keep me reading. I must care about the people, worry for them, miss them when the story is over. I spend the most time developing my characters’ personalities, backstories, quirks, strengths, and flaws. I listen for their voices. Setting and atmosphere enrich the story. Plot keeps pages turning.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
Oh sure. Bits and pieces of me, family members, friends, and, as I mentioned, strangers I meet. I observe mannerisms, facial expressions, body language, psychology, and motivations. It’s all fodder for a current or future character.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character who will not leave your head?
Memorable characters, absolutely. Shakespeare’s King Lear and Hotspur, Alice Walker’s Celie. So many more. But they don’t stay in my head. It’s already crowded with the characters of my latest novels and especially the two I’m currently writing.
Tell us about your most recent book.
How did you come up with the concept?
I wanted to write a murder mystery – a new challenge. And to make my protagonist an older woman. I created Vera, thought about her life and how and why she hit hard times. Then the murder of her son, Charlie. Who was he and why, and how was he killed? That gave me chapter one. Dani is 25 and a hot mess. Homeless, on the run, and a compulsive liar. How do they meet, connect, and become partners in solving the crime? I keep all my novels within a tight timeframe so that things move fast. Landed on two weeks in May. Then I was off and running.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted “lies” in the title. Researched all the books on Amazon and B&N with that in the title, so mine wouldn’t be the same. Tangled Lies came to me because the story is a tangle of lives, secrets, and deceptions and I didn’t find another at the time.
From your book, who is your favorite character? Why?
I have a real soft spot for Dani. She’s trying hard to be a good person, to be useful, and loved. It’s a struggle. I was rooting for her throughout the creative process.
You mentioned you have another book coming out June of next year. What is it about?
Reckonings is a family saga of suspense, secrets, retribution, and redemption. Your readers can find out more as its publication date gets closer, as well as enjoy What Are You Reading? What Are You Writing? – which highlights authors, their creative journeys and book recommendations – by subscribing to my webpage, www.kareneosborne.com
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Karen and I hope you check out her work. Links to Karen’s books are below: