Welcome, today we are talking with Karen Kay! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.
Can you share a little something about Karen Kay that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?
This question got me to thinking a bit, because, on my website, I really do tend to share my life with my readers. But, here’s something I don’t usually share: I’m pretty much a food purist, so to speak. I don’t eat anything that comes in a box and nothing processed by another. I make all my own catsup, mustard, sauces, etc. Takes a bit more kitchen time and tends to make my life constantly busy. It has taken me a bit of time, a lot of research and a couple of illnesses to reach this point, because I have loved fast food as much as anyone else. But, not any more.
How long have you been writing?
Twenty-six years round about.
What have you found most challenging about it?
Golly, what don’t I find challenging about it? I’m not a slow writer, but I’m also not a fast writer. I ache and struggle over sentences and descriptions that really matter. Promotion also tends to make me a little high strung when a new release comes out.
But, the things I do love, which keeps me going, is the research about the American Indian long-ago way of life — I’m always learning…taking on new things, i.e. recently I’ve become very interested in really learning to speak the gesture/sign language in common use all over America before English came in and replaced it. And, love. I truly believe that the love and love-making between a man and a woman who are truly committed to each other are probably one of the most beautiful creations on earth, their love, of course, creating a whole new generation.
There are factions at work, in my opinion, who work to make us think that this (love-making) is filthy or dirty in some way and they go out of their way to make it appear this is true.
But, love and love-making between two people committed to one another is God’s plan, and, being God’s plan, is naturally one of the most beautiful things still found on this earth. I do believe this to be true, and so in my stories, I try my best to make the love scenes as beautiful as I possibly can.
What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional?
Great question — I had to go and look up the word, cathartic, to make sure I understood it…and it means using some sort of medium to purge or cleanse some emotional aspect about something. Okay, so I admit that sometimes when it comes to the bad guys in my story, I sometimes am writing real dialogue and real happenings — not always — but I’ve noticed when it comes to the bad guys in the story, I generally am working from real life, unfortunately.
A story where I specifically remember doing this is PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN — and even then, I went back and edited out much of the bad parts because I thought no one would ever belief a man could say such things to a woman.
Actually, I get very emotional about the stories and try to make them as light-hearted as possible, given the subject and the fact that one is writing a novel which must contain conflict. In Native America, there is so much real trauma from the past, and even today, that I like to make my stories somewhat light-hearted, even when dealing with subjects that are not light-hearted.
And, of course, they must always end well.
Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood?
I’m pretty disciplined. I’d had to be when I wrote for two major publishing houses in New York.
No, I don’t have to be in the mood. But, I do like to look at pictures of what I’m writing about or pictures of a possible hero before I sit down to write. I’ve tried to get rid of that habit, but I still do it, nonetheless.
Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job?
Actually, no to both. When I was growing up, my life was filled with music — I play piano and clarinet. I practiced everyday and I loved it. It filled a creative need. When I had young children and my ex-husband was often gone (out-of-town), I began to feel the need to bring a creative influence back into my life.
I began to read love stories to fill that gap, but even this wasn’t enough. I began to yearn for a piano or clarinet to play. We were mighty poor and the thought of getting a piano was out of the question. But, I discovered that it didn’t take much cash to buy paper and pen. That’s when I started to write.
What inspires you?
Golly, a lot. My husband is number one inspiration. Native America and doing my best to “set the record straight” on what happened here in America also inspires me. It makes me hunger for doing the research and so I have my nose in some sort of book almost constantly — history books or another Indian book. And, I love to tell stories. When I pick my grand kids up at school, I often tell them stories I’ve heard, but sometimes I make them up.
Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.
What are your pet peeves?
Many of the old movies tend to irritate me. They tell bad history, tell lies about Native Americans, have non-Indian people playing the major roles and don’t show the facts as they were. Rarely, do they present the truth. And, always those old movies end in a bad way for the Indians.
The truth is that the Native American of old was honest almost to a fault, deeply spiritual and religious, trained his body so that he could run miles in order to save his people if the need ever arose. He respected (as a rule) women and their voices and their roles in the Indian culture. He was often wise, could track better than anything we’ve ever known, and if he were a true medicine man, his ethics had to be without fault. He did not deal in magic, as the movies depict — this is the true medicine man I’m talking about — he healed by being completely ethical in his life so that God could work through him to heal others.
Yes, some men pretending to be medicine men, were not true medicine men and went astray and often ended up on the black side of magic. But, these were not the men whom God chose to work through.
I’m only learning this now because of the series I’m writing about the medicine man.
Who is your hero?
Give us one thing on your bucket list.
Okay, back to the dictionary…I didn’t know what a bucket list is. Am I showing my age? I’d say the one thing on my bucket list is that I try to do in my writing is to depict the American Indian of the past in as true a picture as I can paint him, given that I am writing some 150 years after the fact. I try to do this by reading and learning the writings of George Catlin, James Willard Schultz and others, who lived with the Indians and saw them with a contemporary view.
What would readers find surprising about you?
Perhaps that I love reading and learning about law and common law, as well as our Founding Fathers. Often, I search for and read their own documents, not what others say about them. There’s a book entitled, the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Although I haven’t read it cover to cover, it certainly is interesting.
If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?
Many people. My parents, my sister, many of my friends, and people I admire, including but not inclusive of, John Trudell, Russell Means, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and L. Ron Hubbard. The first four I didn’t know personally in this life, but the last I did, and he was always one of my best friends.
Please tell us a little bit about, She Steals My Breath.
This book was inspired by being in a point in my life when I truly desired to have a tough, rugged hero who was also very kind. The story was one I began to tell my grandchildren, but was also inspired by several different things, one of them being that in Montana there is a lot of snow and many blizzards that can kill a man in minutes. I’d never written a story set in the snow. While visiting on the Blackfeet reservation a few years ago, I became aware that they’d had 8 feet of snow that winter. Eight feet! Wow! This added to wanting to write a story set in the snow.
At this time period in history, there were supposed to be no white women in the West, but this wasn’t quite true…although almost true. There were women married to traders and their daughters who sometimes made the journey upriver. While they may not have gone completely up to Fort Union, why not? They often traveled on the steamships and went north and this was considered acceptable at this time.
So the heroine is the daughter of a trader and the hero is a Blackfoot medicine man, who has come to the fort to find his missing brother. When the hero first sees the white woman, she is so beautiful that she takes his breath away, thus the title of the book.
She is caught out in a roaring blizzard, and, when the hero discovers this and that she is out there alone, he leaves the fort to go and find her and save her if he can.
What was your hardest challenge writing this book?
The ending of the story. All the while I was writing the book, I had no idea how to end the story. Yes, I knew how things had to be at the end, but how to get there. I brainstormed with some of my readers and a good friend, as well as my husband and it was their input — especially my husband’s– that showed me how I might get from where I was to where I needed to be to end the story. Those readers who were corresponding with me at the time often heard me mention that I had no idea how to end the story. Finally, I had to sit down, and, using the ideas from my husband, I just wrote it and then went back through it several — many, many times — to get it “right.” I hope I accomplished it.
What kind of research did you have to do?
Lots of research on the medicine man including a book on an Apache medicine man, two medicine men of the Lakota, Fools Crow and Black Elk. Also, the writings of James Willard Schultz and his observations of the medicine men and women. Also, I had to research snow storms and blizzards and shelters and gullies and Fort Union and the surrounding landscape, as well as a little about steamboats.
What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
For me, I think they have to really be in love with each other, though it’s not acknowledged, and they each one have to have solid, hard and firm reasons or beliefs why a union between them is not possible now or ever. Their beliefs can be completely 180 degrees different. The American Indian culture makes this a little easier than other sub-genres in romance, I think.
How many books do you plan in the series?
Right now I plan four books in this series.
Any other works in progress?
The book I’m writing now is about half done and is the next book in The Medicine Man series and right now is called, SHE CAPTURES MY HEART.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
It’s my belief that storytelling is the most important thing in writing a fictionalized novel. I would say to forget about grammar, spelling, punctuation and other things if you don’t think them helpful or if knowing about them keep you from writing what is in your heart. You can go in later and fix them.
Set a time each day and write. Don’t worry about page count, just write as much as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you sit for 4-5 hours staring at a blank screen. Get in there the next day, same time, and write. Tell your story.
This is what I would suggest.
Although my heritage is mostly European, I figure I am about 1/8 or thereabouts Choctaw Indian. My grandmother used to talk to her best friend about her Indian heritage and I learned that she was proud of it. When I was growing up, I was sure I must have Indian heritage. One has only to look at my features to see it is there. But, my mother insisted there was none in our family tree and I know she did this to protect me because we lived in a small, southern town. But, when I finally discovered the history passed down verbally from my grandmother, I. at last, knew why I had always felt I had so much in common with the American Indian. And, so I did.
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