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Interview with Karen Harrington, Author of Janeology

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Karen Harrington's novel, Janeology, is a controversial work about a man trying to understand why his wife suddenly snapped and drowned their toddler son. This psychological thriller was just released by Kunati Books. In the short time Kunati has been on the publishing scene, it has become known as a company with a taste for controversial subjects. In this interview, Karen talks about her inspiration for the book, her writing habits, and a few other things of interest to writers.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

It was a dark and stormy night. No? Well, I wish it had been. It wasn’t that mysterious when I decided to write. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories or making up plays with my siblings. And I’ve always been fortunate to write for a living. Most of my corporate gigs – from receptionist to speechwriter – involved lots of written communications. Besides writing, I am a full-time domestic diva.

harrington_26bcroppedweb_nyodTell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Janeology is about one man’s struggle to understand why his wife Jane suddenly snapped and drowned their toddler son. The story revolves around Jane’s genetic inheritance and nature and nurture in a search for clues about who she really is.

Two things really jump-started the writing of Janeology. First, I have a passion for genealogy, mostly because I never knew any of my grandparents. I had their pictures and many of their belongings. All my life, I looked at these things and thought, “What if these pictures could talk? What if this necklace could tell me something about my grandmother?” So I wanted to write about a character from the perspective of her genealogy.

And second, as a new mother myself, I wondered how mothers of previous generations handled the everyday stresses of caretaking. At the same time, I could not ignore the headlines about mothers who kill. What would make a mother take the life of her own child? This question wouldn’t let go of me. I wrote this book, in part, because it seems to me that this grim story is a recurring issue in American society today. Thus, Janeology is a cautionary tale about one man achieving an understanding about his wife, despite it being too late to reverse her deeds.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I first wrote a short story about Jane at the age of nine. I wanted to be a “fly on the wall” to a pivotal day in her childhood that altered the course of her life. After writing that story, I decided to write about her as an adult. Then, I began wondering about Jane’s mother and father and so on. Before long, I had a string of stories about her ancestors that really formed the first draft of the book.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

The process took several years, mainly because I had two other productions working (read: I had two children) during the time I was writing Janeology.

Describe your working environment.

I’m very fortunate in many ways, not the least of which includes the fact that my study overlooks our pool. I have a huge window facing the water and a replica of the Bird Girl statue (the memorable figure from the movie Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil) looking back at me. It’s a wonderful view. I come into this room every morning, open the windows and listen to the fountains run while I’m working. And inside my office, I have pictures of all the places I’ve traveled or would like to travel to. Travel is my motivator.

Are you a disciplined writer?

I think I am. I was a speechwriter for most of my 9 to 5 career. That role requires that you sit down and leap into the page within minutes. I was always writing on deadline. I think that experience was a God-send for a fiction writer. I don’t have a writing schedule now, but when I sit down to write, I can.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think it’s writer’s fear – fear of being perfect. Sometimes I wish I suffered from perfection. Writer’s I know who are perfectionists are spectacular when they write, but sometimes limited in what they produce. If I have something I want to write about, I can’t wait to get it on the page. I subscribe to the advice my writing professor told me. Use the BIC method. Bum In Chair. You can always write a sentence or two if you are in your writing chair.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes, I would love for everyone to stop by to say hello, read an excerpt of Janeology, read my blog or view the haunting trailer for the book. Let me know what you think!

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.
  • Janet Riehl

    I love how you describe your process. It’s a case of building, somewhat intuitively, yet with direction. With your background of hit the desk writing from your speech writing days, I can see how this combination worked for you: directed, disciplined intuition. I’m glad you shared this approach, because I believe it’s one writers need affirmed…to combine both sides of our talents.

    Janet Riehl

  • JM

    Excellent interview. It’s interesting to hear from an author who doesn’t believe in writer’s block. :)

  • karen harrington


    Thanks for your comments. I really don’t believe in writer’s block. But I suppose I should qualify that statement by adding, I personally have never experienced it. I’ve certainly experienced writer’s frustration. Then I realize it’s my desire to make a first draft perfect. Ha! Has that ever happened? Legend has it Jack Kerouac did that with On The Road, but who really knows.


    Karen Harrington

  • Andrew Jalbert

    Nice interview Karen. I recently ordered the book and can’t wait to jump in!

    Andy Jalbert

  • Margay

    Karen, great interview, as always. What a great tour you’re having!