Please welcome my special guest, former police detective and now romantic fantasy author Chris Karlsen. Chris is currently promoting the release of Knight Blindness, the third installment in her time-travel Knight in Time series. She also writes romantic thrillers under the series name of Dangerous Waters. Born and raised in Chicago, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.
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Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Knight Blindness. When did you start writing and what got you into?
I started writing eleven years ago. I had this romantic story in my head for years about a woman who falls in love with a ghost. In my story, I wanted to give my hero and heroine some kind of tangible life. This became Heroes Live Forever. The sequel to it, Journey in Time, involved the best friends of the couple from Heroes and is a time travel tale. There’s a character, a knight, in Journey in Time that everyone who read the story loved. I decided to give him a story of his own, which is Knight Blindness.
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?
No, not in the beginning. I was quite lost and had no idea how to go about learning the craft or querying or publishing. After my husband retired, we moved to the Pacific Northwest. I had the opportunity to meet Jill Barnett. She read my early work and gave me lots of great advice and help. She was only my mentor for a short time but she taught me so much. After that, I joined a romance writer’s chapter and many of them pointed me to various instructors and seminars. I happy to say that Jill and I remain good friends today.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
Absolutely. As I said in the previous answer, I had no idea where to go to learn how to be a better writer. I had no idea about agents or the industry. I sent my story out when I shouldn’t have. It was far from ready. I was truly naive and in the dark. With each course and each conference I discovered more about how to improve my story. I went back many times and edited. Now, I’m very anal about editing. I write a couple of chapters and then go back and reread what I wrote the previous few days and always wind up rewriting something.
What was your inspiration for Knight Blindness?
In Journey in Time, the hero had a knight, Stephen Palmer, who served him and who was also a close friend. I actually killed Stephen off in battle. Well — my critique partners would have none of that. They all insisted I let him live. They adored him. I rewrote a scene which left the answer as to whether he lived or not open. When it came time to write another book in that series, I thought why not Stephen? He was so well received I figured I’d give him a book. I like time travel stories in that series but instead of taking a heroine back in time with the hero, which is what I did in Journey, I brought Stephen forward. Then, to add to his troubles, I made him blinded in battle. I wanted to show his strength in overcoming the difficulties facing him and I wanted to give him a woman who loved him for who he was, blind or not.
Do you have any plotting secrets? Do you use index cards or special software?
Not really. I don’t use cards and I’m such a dinosaur, software is truly beyond the pale for me. I do a handwritten outline. I know when I start how the story will end and generally how it will begin. The outline is for the middle. I always stray from the outline and let a story change as I write but it gives a way to document ideas for scenes and characters.
What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?
I tell her: “Just write something, anything. Put words to paper.” I have had times that I told myself that I was blocked. But I’ve learned over time and through experience that I am not able to tell myself that for long or it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for me. I have to, for my sake, force myself to write.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
I don’t relate to it much when I begin, but I start to fret midway. I either fret over not having enough word count for a full manuscript or I worry that my pacing is off and I won’t edit well at the end.
Do you have a writing schedule? Do you set yourself weekly goals for your writing?
I don’t set weekly or daily goals. I don’t need to add pressure to my writing. I do write every day or most every day from about noon to five with breaks in between. I am not a day person so writing early isn’t in me. At night I like to relax with my husband and watch television.
How do you celebrate the completion of a novel?
I tell all my friends. I open champagne and thank the writing gods for the help.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
I dearly love having certain characters in my mind and bringing them to life. I usually have the characters before the plot. I love fleshing them out, giving them a history, likes and dislikes and humanizing them. I love to hear readers tell me who they liked or disliked and why. The reasons fascinate me.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
To any readers who want to start writing or have recently started, I’d say there are a few pieces of advice that universally apply (IMO).
First: Develop a tough skin. There will always be editors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers who don’t like your story. Don’t take negative comments personally and never, ever engage the person with a rebuttal. It’s a losing situation for a writer.
Second: Accept the fact that your first draft in all likelihood is in need of major editing. I do several drafts.
Third: Learn the craft. Take as many courses as you can from the well know instructors (Don Maass, Chris Vogler, Scott Bell, etc.) If you can’t afford their seminars, buy their books on the topic. Join a critique group. You need someone other than your family and friends to read your work.
Stick it out. Some days the words flow and some days you’re lucky to put one decent line on the page. Even if you get a fistful of rejections, stay with it. Everybody has been rejected. Stephen King in his book, On Writing, said he had so many he threw the ms. away. His wife dug it out of the trash. Steve Berry said his first book was rejected over 80 times. So take heart.