Chris Karlsen is a Chicago native. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her late teens where she later studied at UCLA. She graduated with a Business Degree. Her father was a history professor and her mother a voracious reader. She grew up with a love of history and books.
Her parents were also passionate about traveling and passed their passion onto Chris. Once bitten with the travel bug, Chris spent most of her adult life visiting the places she’d read about and that fascinated her. Her travels have taken her Europe, the Near East, and North Africa, in addition to most of the United States. She most frequently visited England and France, where several of her books are set.
After college, Chris spent the next twenty-five years in law enforcement with two agencies. Harboring a strong desire to write since her teens, upon retiring from police work, Chris decided to pursue her writing career. She writes three different series. Her historical romance series is called, Knights in Time and is set in England but with a medieval time travel element. Her Bloodstone series, which is set in Victorian London, features the life and work of Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone. Her romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters and is set in Turkey.
Her latest book, In Time For You, is book four in the Knights in Time series.
She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four wild and crazy rescue dogs.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, In Time For You. When did you start writing and what got you into?
I got started late writing. I was always a big reader and used to think how I’d change certain stories and I’d talk about it to my husband. When I retired I was bored silly and he suggested I sit down and write this one story I’d been talking about writing for years. So I did. I started going to conferences and workshops to learn the craft. I bought books on the subject but while I did that, I worked on the story. I wrote every day. As I learned, I self-edited. Then, I went to a few writer’s seminars, week long intensives, which were incredible learning experiences. I started with romance as I enjoyed reading the genre. I love Julia Quinn, Julie Anne Long, Jill Barnett, Diana Gabaldon, Jilly Cooper. I also have started a historical suspense series set in Victorian London. I love the setting and enjoy the period for mysteries.
What is your book about?
Sisters Emily and Electra Crippen are out horseback riding in the English countryside with Electra’s fiancé, Roger. The sisters go off to collect flowers and find themselves caught in a time warp. When no clue to their vanishing turns up, Roger learns a disturbing truth about the specific area the women disappeared from: that there has been past incidents of a time passage opening and there’s a link to a specific place and time. He realizes what has occurred. What neither sister knew, was Roger is a time traveler himself. He was brought forward in time from a medieval battle he was engaged in.
He knows he must go back and search for the sisters who face grave dangers in the medieval world they’ve been transported to. Complicating his search is the fact that they are in a time that England was at war with France and Roger is French. He was fighting the English when he was transported. If he is caught while searching for the sisters, he will face death as an enemy on English soil or imprisonment as a prisoner of war.
It’s the story of how the two sisters use their intellect and resourcefulness to survive and adjust to a very alien world. It’s about how in the craziest and most frightening of circumstances, love can make its way into our hearts.
What was your inspiration for it?
Roger, the hero for this book was the antagonist from the last book, Knight Blindness. He wasn’t a villain though. He was the hero’s enemy but he was fighting for his king and country and a cause he believed was just. I thought he deserved a story of his own. I introduced Electra, the heroine of In Time For You in the last book as well. She is the sister of the heroine in Knight Blindness as is Emily. I knew the most dangerous thing I could do to Roger was to put him in the middle of England at time when they were at war with his native France. To have him attempt to work his way through the countryside trying to rescue the sisters and not get caught was a formidable task.
As I got into the story, I realized I couldn’t short change Emily, so to speak. I wanted to give her a strong role as well. I needed to give her a strong hero. I went back to Simon, one of the knights in Journey in Time with a fierce and somber personality. Because he had that stern personality, I was inspired to give him a chance to fall in love. I also knew he’d be a tough customer for Roger to face off with.
What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?
This was like writing two books at the same time and combining them into one. I was always dealing with two heroes, two heroines, two settings and the various characters surrounding each and the different environments. I had to keep the limitations, dangers, and advantages for each in mind. Sometimes, I’d forget what a character, who I moved from one place to another, knew and I’d have to go back. The book took a long time to write, which is why I’d forget some of the tiny details. Thankfully, I do a number of drafts and caught many on the subsequent ones. My copy editor caught a couple as well.
Did your book require a lot of research?
All my books require a lot of research but I don’t mind doing research. My father was a history professor and I grew up with a love for certain periods and times. I use my love of those periods and places so the research isn’t a drudge for me.
I look up all sorts of little facts in addition to large facts. For In Time For You, I needed a good aerial view of Conwy Castle. I’ve visited the castle a few years ago but I wanted a detailed view of where the Irish Sea is in relation to it and where the Conwy River comes into play. I wanted a visual of the walled part of the town with an idea of how it would appear in 1357. I already had a lot of info on knights and armor and the Battle of Poitiers from previous books. I also knew a great deal on the Black Prince. He’s a support character to varying degree in all the books in this series. In addition to setting research, I look into certain language usage. I try not to use words the medieval characters wouldn’t know to speak with. I can have the modern characters employ the words at different times but not if it is in the presence of the medieval folks, they have to question the meaning, which can sometimes be funny.
The one heroine in this book is a chef. I wanted her to cook for the Prince. I found it interesting researching spices available to the medieval cooks and recipes for some of the dishes. I was surprised to see how many spices they had, even if they didn’t always use them.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
Before I include a scene, I ask myself what it will do for the story or the character. For me to write it and keep it, the scene has to change the character in some way or affect the storyline/plot. I also work to avoid wordiness, especially with the male characters. Men tend to be more cryptic when they speak nor are they given to flowery descriptions. I also like to sprinkle in scenes where the dialogue is what I’ve heard called “shotgun dialogue.” There’s not a lot of tags and unnecessary action.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
Yes. I write in the afternoons. I usually try to write every day or 6 days a week. I am pretty disciplined about it. I don’t think you can be a successful writer and not be disciplined. You either commit to sitting your bum in the chair and typing or you’re not getting any writing done. It’s a pretty simple.
What was your publishing process like?
Frustrating for many years. Like so many, I tried to get the attention of the big New York publishing houses and/or agents. I have a dear writer friend who started a small, indie publishing company that does mainly short stories and anthologies. Although I write full length books, because she was familiar with my stories she was willing to make an exception and approached me and asked if I’d be willing to give her company a chance to publish my books. I agreed and it’s been a great partnership. I haven’t regretted a moment. I have a tremendous say in the creative process, the design of my covers, when my book is released, what platforms, all of that. I’m never pressured on deadlines (I’m a horribly slow writer and don’t need to be pressured about deadlines, that would take the joy out of writing for me).
For me, the small, indie publisher was the right way to go. I could still be beating my head against the wall trying to get noticed by NY. Instead, I have seven books in release. I was able to get my stories out and hopefully entertained people with them.
How do you define success?
Completing the book. Many, many people will think or say they always wanted to write a book or they should write a book but very few will ever do it. To take the time to actually sit and write one from start to finish, to me, that is success. I don’t think it matters if you publish or if you never sell one copy. The fact you committed the time and thought to put what you imagine on paper is success.
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
Get into a critique group. If possible, try to find one close to you, where you actually meet in person. I’m not truly comfortable suggesting one should send off their work to total strangers. I wouldn’t do it. That said, I see critique groups advertised online and they might be great. I can only speak for myself. If that’s all that is available to you, then that’s something to try. I do think you need other eyes to read your work and not just family and friends who won’t be as honest as critique partners will likely be.
Learn the craft. Buy books on the subject. I’d suggest reading Writing the Breakout Novel or The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass or On Writing by Stephen King or Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. Go to workshops and conferences if possible.
Read books in the genre you want to write in. It’s a good way to learn what readers in that genre expect from those stories. When you see a scene that has made an impact on you, study it and try to understand what about it moved you and remember those elements when writing your scenes.
Develop a thick skin. There’s a lot of rejection in this business, not just in submitting to agents and publishers but you’re bound to get some bad reviews. Learn to accept not everyone will love your book. Move on and don’t lose heart.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
Seems a little Draconian to me, I’d go with Oscar Wilde. “Words! Mere words! How terrible they were. How clear, and vivid, and cruel. One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them. They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words. Was there anything so real as words?”
Photo and cover art published with permission from the author.