Author interview part 2 – Karen Brooks … all about writing

PART 2 of my conversation with author, Karen Brooks, celebrating the release of her new book, Votive

Karen's work space

Here’s where I question Karen about some insights and hints about writing. (I know this will interest many of my writerly friends, for a start!)

Welcome back, Karen! Now to the writing side of things…. 🙂

Q.  Did you plan out the trilogy before you started writing Tallow, the first in the series? And how do you plan, on big sheets of paper, sticky notes?

I had the beginning, I knew that Tallow would become a courtesan and I have the end – everything in the middle is happening as I write…

So, I both plan and free form. I have sticky notes all over my computer, I have a corkboard in Scrivener, and I have scraps of paper, notebooks and all sorts of things scattered throughout the house and in my handbags.

How I don’t drive my very patient husband nuts is beyond me – I wake up in the middle of the night and begin to scribble stuff down. I open my iPad and send myself emails in the wee hours from bed.

If we’re walking the dogs, sometimes I stop, because I haven’t really been listening to the conversation so much as participating from a distance as my mind wanders and I come up with a plot fix, or character foible and need to write it down. If I don’t, I often don’t remember. Mind you, sometimes what seems like a brilliant idea at 3am is, in the cold light of day, utter crap! LOL! 

Q.  Are you a writer who can keep going with a first draft without stopping all the time? Or are you (like me) can’t resist a bit of editing as you go?

Both. I have to have a first chapter. Absolutely. I am linear. If I can’t craft a reasonable first chapter (the first chapter in Votive is the 9th version I wrote and, when I say version, they were all completely different), I can’t continue. But then I do try to revise what I did the day before and move on. However, when I get towards the end of a book, I just write…Fix it all at the end.

 Q.  What would be the best piece of advice you would give new and developing writers?

This was given to me a long time ago and it still stands out as the best I’ve been given (apart from read, read, read and write, write, write – the latter which implies, editing, deleting, revising etc.), is to read successful and unsuccessful books in the genre you’re writing in but read as a writer, not to lose yourself in the narrative.

Read to understand how the author has developed character, set place, created a ‘voice’, arrived at the tone, crafted dialogue. It’s a completely different way of reading – you deconstruct the book, analyse as a writer and pick up so many useful tips along the way.

Q.  What do you wish you’d known before you started writing The Curse of the Bond Riders?

Because I’d already written a few books, I thought I had a good idea of what it was like to draw all the narrative threads together… Ha! I should have given myself more time… it’s a more precious commodity than I realised.

Q.  What are you writing at the moment? A new series on the horizon we can look forward to?

I am just bringing the trilogy to a close with the third book, Illumination. It’s already far too long and I will have to cut it (over 200K!!!!) without losing the all-important narrative threads and making sure I tie them off satisfactorily (hence above comment).

After that, I plunge straight into a new series that is tentatively being called (and you read it here first): The Arwen Chronicles. This is for adults. It’s a story I came up with straight after Tallow– in 2006 as well (what was I drinking that year?). I have been steadily developing it and collecting my research. I am very excited about it. I also have another novel I will start after that which is set back in Italy and other parts of Europe and moves through time.

Karen's interview with ABC's Peter Thompson at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Thank you again, Karen. Like most authors, I loved hearing how you plan your stories and how you write and I’m sure many other readers on this blog will too.

All the very best with Votive – I hope the bookshops are swamped with readers clamouring for their copies.  I’m over half-way through the book, and although trying to stop reading so I don’t finish too soon, I’m afraid it’s looming on the horizon!  

More of Karen’s work as a social commentator. She also writes a regular column in Queensland’s Courier Mail newspaper.

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8 thoughts on “Author interview part 2 – Karen Brooks … all about writing

  1. Lynn, I have to force myself NOT to be precious. Frankly, i’m struggling a bit at the moment with the first edit of a complete draft of the third book… But I am working through to the end and will do two more edits before it goes to publisher.

    Sheryl – mwaaah! You’re so sweet.
    Elaine – thank you xxxx to you too.
    John, I also know the end when I start but how I get there is anyone’s guess. 🙂 Sometimes, characters I never knew would take such a major role when I introduce them just grow and refuse to leave the page 🙂 My endings are generally pretty much as I envisage them at the outset. I know that’s been the case for these books 🙂
    Thanks for the lovely comments. Xx

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  2. I just had a call from the bookshop to say Votive has arrived at last. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m sure it is a masterpiece. It is what we expect from our amazing author friend. xx to Karen and to Sheryl for sharing the interview.

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  3. yes. good advice. read as a writer. the one thing I learnt from this interview is to read not only successful books in the genre but also unsuccessful ones to see HOW they don’t work.

    I also know that Annie Proulx knows the ending of a story before she starts writing it

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  4. Lynne, I’m on the the last 25 pages of ‘Votive’ and I so don’t want this journey to end as it’s another year for the next in the series – but it’s so exciting, I CAN’T STOP!!
    I’m in awe of Karen’s brilliant brain!

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  5. I always enjoy reading or hearing about another writer’s process. I find it helps me understand my own process, because I make comparisons. I tend to get ‘precious’ at the end of a first draft, trying to fix everything as I go. I am teaching myself such to plow on and get the story down. Knowing how Karen works gives me hope that this new approach is more sensible.

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  6. I always enjoy reading how another writer thinks and works. And Karen is one of my favourites. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. Thanks so much, Chris! Lovely of you to say. Frankly, if I could remember what I was drinking in 2006, I’d be bottling it and marketing it LOL! If I was true to form, it would have been whisky! :))) I would really like to say bubbles, but if there were, that would be the diet coke I ruin my scotch with 🙂

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  8. Thanks, Karen and Sheryl for the great posts. It’s always fascinating to me to read of other writers’ processes. And Karen, please let us know if you recall what you were drinking in 2006, because we all want some of it. LOL.

    Seriously, congratulations on your series and latest book. I will be looking out for it now.

    Best wishes,
    Chris

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