Monday , February 26 2024
Romantic suspense author Chris Karslen talks about weaving history and archaeology into her stories.

Interview with Chris Karslen, Author of Byzantine Gold

A native of Chicago, former police detective and now romantic suspense author Chris Karslen grew up with a love of history and books. Her parents loved traveling, a passion they passed on to her. She’s had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. 

Though her desire to write began in her teens, Chris spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies before she decided to pursue her dreams. Chris is the author of the romantic thrillers Golden Chariot, Byzantine Gold and numerous other romance novels.

Now a fulltime writer, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.  

Learn more about Chris and her work on her website and blog

Listen to an audio interview with the author on At Random LIVE

Watch the trailer of Byzantine Gold on YouTube.

Congratulations on the release of your latest novel, Byzantine GoldWhat was your inspiration for it?

Charlotte and Atakan from Golden Chariot—I like them and wanted to show how their relationship progressed. I also liked many of the support characters. I wanted to bring them back. The best way is another shipwreck. I liked using Turkey, as I did in Golden Chariot but also liked the idea of keeping the setting in that region but not necessarily Turkish waters, but someplace a bit different. I needed it to be a place that Atakan still had authority. I set it in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The setting is beautiful and it still, for Americans, has an unusual flavour.

The next thing was what to do with Atakan and Charlotte. I had to resolve the issue of Tischenko, and I welcomed the idea of fleshing him out more. I knew I’d set him on a path of revenge, but I needed something more for the plot. Terrorism is a global problem. Artifact smuggling is one source of funding for terrorist organizations. I did not want to do the usual Al-Qaeda situation. I chose a terrorist organization that originated in Turkey and is in Iraq and Iran now too, the PKK. The extreme militant wing of the PKK presents an on-going problem in Turkey.

I picked a Byzantine ship because I love some of the art and jewellery from the period.

How long did it take you to write it?

I am not a fast writer. It took me six months, not including the research, which I started while finishing Golden Chariot. 

How would you describe your writing style?

I have so much research with all my books that I start with an outline. That helps me set the parameters of the story. It also helps me to know what research I’m going to need the most and I can narrow what I have down. Once I begin writing, then the story changes as I go along. I’ll see an event on the page, and a question will arise, and I’ll build in a scene or character or problem that didn’t occur when I worked on the outline.

How do you weave history and archaeology with your stories?

That can be tricky. I never want to rattle off a bunch of facts. I use cultural finds, jewellery or pottery or coins and see them through a character’s eye. What does the find mean to the team, to the history books, and to the character personally? I have them discover, tag, handle and often discuss via dialogue the artifact and/or ship. In Byzantine Gold, the wreck is of a ninth century Dromon, which was a warship. When Charlotte and her dive partner are taking pictures they come across a bow spur. She knows her partner has never worked that type of shipwreck, and I employ that as a means to explain the purpose of a bow spur (which was used to break the oars of an enemy ship rendering them almost defenceless as they now cannot manoeuvre.

I try to do the same as they work their way through the wreck itself. Atakan believes this might’ve been a pirate ship due to the unusual cargo for a warship. Under the galley, the hold is filled with hastily stored amphoras, a factoid of how sailors a thousand years ago secured cargo can and was inserted there via dialogue.

What are your writing habits?

I try to write every day. I make an effort to run errands and do other personal or household business in the morning and then sit down to write midday. I write until 5:00 or so. That doesn’t mean I write all I’d like to put on the page, but I try.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Do join a critique group. You need other eyes to read your work. Your family and friends will avoid hurting your feelings and as a result are often not as honest as you need them to be.

Take classes or if you can afford it, go to conferences and seminars to learn the craft. If you can’t afford workshops, then buy books from the experts. Three I like and keep in my desk and reference are: Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction by Don Maass, and Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Deb Dixon.

Develop a tough skin and accept the fact that your early drafts (and that’s what they are, drafts) are not ready to send to an editor or agent or to self-publish. Every new writer believes what they’ve written is perfect. Perhaps there’s someone out there this is true for but I can’t think of any. Hemingway said, “There’s no such thing as writing, only rewriting.” Stephen King in his book On Writing, said he never lets anyone see his first draft.

Read books in the genre you want to write in. This is important. You need to have an idea of how stories in that genre flow, how tension and action and characterization is handled. Literary fiction is generally not the same style as a thriller. The readership of different genres have different expectations.

When you read a scene that is especially moving or well done, or one that stands out to you, then dissect it. See what it is that “makes” the scene work so well for you and try to do the same but with your own spin.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I am finishing the draft of book three of my Knights in Time series. Those are paranormal romances set in England. This one is called Knight Blindness and like Journey in Time is a time travel. I hope to have it released by late spring.


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.

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