Chris Karslen was born and raised in Chicago. Her father was a history professor and her mother was, and is, a voracious reader. She grew up with a love of history and books. Her parents also loved travelling, a passion they passed onto her. Karslen wanted to see the place she read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated her. She’s had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.
She’s now a retired police detective who spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. Her desire to write came in her early teens. After she retired, she decided to pursue that dream. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.
Thanks for this interview, Chris! When did your passion for thrillers and action/adventure fiction begin?
I don’t know if I could put a specific timeframe to my interest. I can’t remember a time it wasn’t there. As a child, I loved the old horror movies where folks were chasing or running from the Mummy or Dracula etc. and the thrillers like North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Manchurian Candidate. When I got into my teens, James Bond became popular. I loved the movies and devoured Ian Fleming’s books. Along that same vein, I enjoyed The Jackal, and Three Days of the Condor. Who didn’t love Indiana Jones? Now, I can’t wait to see movies like The Avengers, Iron Man, The Bourne Identity and still love the Bond movies.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I wanted to write since I was a teenager. But by the time I was ready for college I lacked the confidence to try so I went with the “safe” route and became a business major. Once I retired, I was ready to take a risk and live my dream.
Tell us about your latest novel, Golden Chariot.
The heroine, Charlotte Dashiell, is a nautical archaeologist. She’s working on her Doctorate in that field. Her thesis is very controversial and approval by the Doctoral Committee for her thesis is at risk if she doesn’t find evidence to support it. A shipwreck found off the coast of Turkey may hold her proof. She manages to obtain a position on the recovery team. En route, the Turkish government agent assigned to the wreck is murdered, and she is on the scene at the time it occurred. Her close presence at the time of the crime coupled with a loose connection to a private collector of black market artifacts makes her a person of interest to the Turkish authorities. Atakan Vadim, the hero, is the Turkish agent sent to investigate her further. He becomes her dive partner. As the story progresses, he discovers smugglers plan to steal certain high value relics from the wreck and frame Charlotte for the theft. He also learns the thieves plan to murder her in the process. For her own safety, he presses her to leave the recovery team. She refuses. If she leaves, she loses all hope of finding proof of her thesis. Together, he and Charlotte work to find out who is behind the smuggling operation. During the course of the story, the relationship between the two turns from one of wariness and distrust to friendship, trust and love.
What made you decide to set it in Turkey?
I love Turkey. I’ve visited several times. I knew after the first time, I would set a story there. It’s such a fascinating country. In Istanbul, the exotic Ottoman architecture mixed with the modern immediately captures your interest. There’s the hustle and bustle of the bazaars, which I enjoy, especially the Spice Market. It’s a colourful place. You can’t throw a rock in Turkey and not hit something historical. Their history goes back to the Bronze Age. Turkey’s been part of the Hittite Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire and a secular, independent modern nation. The people are nice. The food is excellent. The landscape is remarkable in its variance. There’s the beautiful coastal area along the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean and the starkly different coastline on the Black Sea. The region of Cappadocia with its fairy chimneys and underground cities is other worldly in appearance. To the east are mountains and grassy plains.
Did you have to do a lot of research about police procedural there?
Not police procedural per se. Atakan is actually a representative of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I was fortunate enough to have a contact/advisor who is an archaeological diver and Turkish. He told me that all legitimate archaeological sites in Turkey have a representative of the Ministry present to watch over the safety of the site and relics. I took some dramatic license and gave Atakan more police authority than he’d have in real life. For the SWAT operation, I did research weapons used by the Turkish authorities and how they would interact with our military stationed at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey to obtain intelligence information needed. Again, I was lucky. I have a friend who headed up a SWAT team for a major US city and who was a Marine reserve who served in Iraq and trained our soldiers in urban-crisis entries. My friend was familiar with how the flow of intelligence gathering is handled. He also advised me on some of the SWAT tactics.
There are a lot of Turkish words in the story. Do you speak Turkish?
No. I’d like to learn. I do have the Rosetta Stone program for Turkish but it is an extremely difficult language. It uses the Latin alphabet that we are familiar with but the conjugation and pronunciation is not what you’d expect. My Turkish diver friend helped with the translation as did another Turkish friend who’s a tour guide. I cannot understand it when spoken to me (rarely anyway). I am better at reading it and then I really only know some basic words and phrases.
I found the myth about Troy fascinating. To this day, do they know for a fact that Troy existed?
Yes, Troy definitely existed. There have been archaeologists working the site for many decades. When we speak of Troy, it usually the kingdom associated with the Trojan War. At the time the war was supposed to have taken place, the kingdom was known as Wilusa and part of the Hittite Empire. Excavation at the site is ongoing, and they have made some incredible discoveries in the last couple of decades. *I should mention that not all archaeologist/historians agree that the war occurred. Personally, I tend to believe those who do think it happened.
There are many underwater scenes in the story. Do you scuba dive?
No, I don’t dive. I had the benefit of an archaeological diver to advise me. I also did a lot of research on the subject and had books that documented many shipwreck recovery projects. The books had pages of pictures showing the divers working a wreck. I had pictures of the entire process from building the camp to cleaning the relics. Twice I’ve been to INA (Institute of Nautical Archaeology) in Bodrum, Turkey. I was given a tour of the facility and shown some of their photos, the conservation lab, the desalination tanks and the hard work and time involved in the piecing together of artifacts.
How long did it take you to write Golden Chariot?
Two and a half years, mainly because of the research. While I worked on one of my paranormal romances, I began the research for Golden Chariot. I’d done eighteen months of research before I wrote a single word. Then, I did several drafts over the next year before I was happy with the result.
Are you disciplined?
Yes, for the most part. I have to admit that I do have days when the smallest shiny object can distract me. I do try to get some writing in at least six if not seven days a week. I don’t always get the number of pages done I want. Some days I consider it a success if I get a few paragraphs finished but I try to make an effort.
Describe a typical writing day for you.
I try hard to get all my errands and appointments done in the morning. Then, I take a break and have a bite to eat. I am usually at my desk by 12:00 or 12:30. I work on promotion, answer emails and try to read at least a few chapters of stories from writer friends for review purposes. After that, I pull up my work in progress. I read the last few pages I wrote to get my head in the same place again. I spend the next four or five hours writing or rewriting as needed. That’s a typical “good” day. Like I said, there are those days I spend hours writing, deleting… sighing…writing, deleting and again…sighing.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an author?
When a reader tells you how you’ve moved them or which character or scene they loved. It’s so wonderful to have a reader say “I felt like I was there.”
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Writing is hard work. You’ll have days that are pure frustration, days that you can’t seem to get three lines right. Keep at it. Keep studying the craft. Every workshop I attend, I take something useful away. If you’re stuck on how to approach a scene, one thing I find that helps is to read a similar scene by an author you like. Analyze what you like about it and how they handled the scene and see if you can recreate the feel in your story with your spin.
What’s on the horizon for Chris Karslen?
I am currently working on book three of my Knights in Time series. The first two are: Heroes Live Forever and Journey in Time. This is a paranormal romance series. I hope to have my current story, Knight Blindness, done and ready for release later this year. I’ve also finished the draft of the sequel to Golden Chariot. I hope to have the final finished and ready to publish early next year.