We have with us today on my blog Karen Jones Gowen, author of Uncut Diamonds, a new release from WiDo (pronounced Widow) Publishing.
Me: Karen, I really feel like I've gotten to know you over the past month. I admire you and your writing. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me and my humble blog. I don't know how you manage to do what you do with so many children! Can you tell me, how long did it take you to write Uncut Diamonds?
Karen: I started it 10 years ago when my youngest child started first grade.
Me: Ten years ago! That sounds like my book! It must feel like a huge triumph to finally see it in print. How did the story change in the editing process?
Karen: It has gone through so many changes. It originally was first person and written in a diary or journal format, with the chapters being the seasons of each year. That was back when blogging became a word, and I thought, Oh of course people will want to read this long book that sounds like a blog. Ha! It got about three rejections, then I reworked it into a novel format, third person POV, from Marcie’s viewpoint.
Me: Good for you. Sometimes it really takes courage to see the need for change in our writing! One thing I'm dealing with right now is trying to come up with a new title. Did the title change?
Karen: The original title was "Writings from the Table," and I had a vision of the cover art being this young mother with her blond ponytail sitting at the kitchen table typing away while her children played around her feet.
Me: Hm. Yeah, that would've been a good cover. So you covered most marital/financial drama in the first novel. I'm very curious about the second. Can you give us a hint about the sequel? Does it have the same characters? Any major plot twists?
Karen: It will have the same characters, although of course Marcie and Shawn have a couple new babies! Cindy and Karl have a second child about 6 months old, the same age as Marcie’s seventh, only there is something not quite right about Cindy’s baby. This becomes part of the plot of the second book.
Me: Ah. I'm so glad you chose to touch on that. Many women have to deal with a special needs child. I imagine they often feel overlooked or forgotten. It's nice when our own trials and situations are recognized. What writers/books have most influenced you?
Karen: The writers who have most influenced me are Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, when I’m in my classical literary mode; and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain when I’m in my get real mode. My favorite light reading is Agatha Christie and other mysteries. I grew up loving Nancy Drew and my lifelong goal at age 8 was to own every one of the Nancy Drew mysteries, which I never did.
Me: You were more advanced than me! I was stuck on Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter's Club. What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Obviously mystery, but what else?
Karen: Well, can you tell from Uncut Diamonds that I love relationship novels? I think it’s fascinating how people develop relationships that are lasting, and how couples find one another. I love the everyday elements of daily life, and I believe in the enduring quality of family life, how people can survive great hardship and grow stronger as a result.
Me: I feel that way too. I always think how interesting my life is. I'm sure my diary would make dreary reading, though. What about movies? Which ones do you enjoy watching over and over again?
Karen: Again, probably relationship movies, which is why I love Woody Allen films. They’re all about relationships and how people find and lose one another, with brilliant dialogue and subtle humor. And sometimes very odd and tragic twists, as in Manhattan or Interiors. I have seen Sleepless in Seattle countless times, for the same reason...funny, good dialogue, and the mystery of how these two people find each other. Same with Green Card, I’ve watched it a million times.
Me: How did you start writing?
Karen: Like most writers, I started young, knowing this is what I wanted to do with my life. My favorite card game was Authors, do you remember that one?
Me: No. LOL. I think that was before my time.
Karen: I took writing courses in college, but found the study of great books was a better path to teach me writing than classes on creative writing, for me at least. I wrote all through my adult life, sold a few stories to The Friend, and wrote copiously in my journal, but my home and family took so much of my time that I couldn’t complete any major writing projects. When my youngest started school, I thought, Okay, now it’s my time. I see so many young LDS mothers writing and publishing tons of books, and I don’t know how they do it. I don’t think I was organized enough to write much when my kids were young.
Me: I'm not organized. I neglect my diet and my house. But not my kids. [Big smile.] Do you have any other books besides these two?
Karen: Before Farm Girl, I wrote “The Gowen Family Food Book,” with recipes and a collection of everyone’s food memories, as a class assignment. We had it bound one year as a Christmas gift for the family. I don’t think it counts as a real published work!
Me: Who has been your biggest supporter? Who reads your rough drafts?
Karen: My husband has been incredibly supportive, also two of my sisters, and several of my children. They have all read numerous rough drafts and have always been very encouraging.
Me: Do you have a writing process, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
Karen: It happens that one day I know I have something to say, that needs to be said. And before long, characters in my head are saying these things, and I have to start writing it all down. I never have much of a plot when I start writing. I think people are way more interesting than plots, so I have to force myself to plan some kind of action, or it would be a book of people talking and nothing much happening. The people always come to me before the plot.
Me: I'm like that too. All of my books start out as just day-to-day life. And then I realize (or get told by someone) that while nicely written, it's just not engaging. That's when I try to figure out some exciting thing to happen. Hard! If you could write any kind of book, with unlimited funding to travel and do all the research you need, what kind of book would it be?
Karen: I would go to Great Britain with my husband, we would live in London as our home base and tour England, Scotland, Wales, where our ancestors came from, and get to know the people, and I would write their stories. I would probably be channeling Agatha Christie and Miss Marple, so there would be some kind of mystery involved with each book. It would all be very British.
Me: I hope you get the funding to do that! It sounds like fun. What sort of legacy do you hope to leave behind with these books?
Karen: I hope to leave a literary legacy, that a Mormon woman can write exceptionally well, without sentimentality, without an agenda, just to write about people who may or may not be LDS, and to do it well. Does that sound too vain?
Me: Um. No. I think it's a great aspiration. A bit more noble than mine, which has a lot to do with money and fame. Anyway. What do you enjoy doing besides writing?
Karen: I like to read, knit, daydream, eat meals out, sometimes cook, spend time with family and friends.
Me: Do you find writing fulfilling, or is it kind of a crazy obsession that you have to do, like it or not?
Karen: I find writing very fulfilling, except for when I’m finishing a project and am in the mad phase of revising and editing, it can get crazy. Spending hours on my laptop, not answering the phone, or talking to people, or getting out, just completely involved in the environment of my story. When it’s all over, I can feel quite weird and strange, like I’m not normal. So I have to take breaks to avoid the insanity. Yes, I guess that does sound like a crazy obsession.
Me: Wow. I haven't had to go through that yet. Karen, thanks again for doing this with me! I sure enjoyed getting to know you more! For those of you who've stopped by to meet Karen, stop over at her blog (link at top) and say hello. Better yet, buy her book and support her as an author!