Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Welcome, Special Guest Author Karen Harper:
1.  What inspired you to start writing?  When did you first get the idea to pursue publication? 

I’ve always been a huge reader and was an English major and teacher at the college level (Ohio State—taught the infamous English 101, 102, 103) and high school level.  I wrote only poetry, then on a trip to England got an idea for a novel and never looked back.  This was in 1980, and I was first published in 1982.  It’s been a great career—so may changes in publishers, popular genres—and of course the e-revolution. 

2. How does my publisher promote my books? 

I’ve been blessed in my long career to have publishers who have promoted my career through traditional and innovative means.  I’ve always had a good agent who worked on this too.  However, I’ve done a lot to promote myself:  written articles for journals; guest blogged; author appearances and talks; attended conventions; bought ads; and went on author tours.  Of course, author promo has changed greatly with the internet, and I’ve had to change with the times.  The conflict was and especially now is—how much time should I spend promoting vs. writing?  I do have deadline dates for my contracts, which demand staying disciplined. 

Also, the fact my contemporary novels had made the USA TODAY and New York Times lists have given my career a big boost.  The historicals have not been on the big bestseller lists in the US but have made lists in the UK.  One real thrill is to see the novels in foreign languages, even if I sometimes can’t read one word.  Foreign publishers do their own publicity, and I’ve not yet been asked (except in England) to do any foreign promotions.  Perhaps since I’ve had a lot of sales in Turkey and Russia lately, that’s a good thing!

3.  How has my writing grown/developed over the years? 

I began writing genre fiction, which has pretty set expectations.  I enjoyed historical romance, so began with that.  However, I loved reading/writing suspense so segued to contemporary suspense, which I still write today.  My big love has always been England, especially Tudor England, so I’ve also written novels set in that era:  THE LAST BOLEYN, MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE, THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS and others, as well as a nine-book mystery series THE QUEEN ELIZABETH I MYSTERIES.  It’s a challenge to write both contemporary and historical—a different mindsetmm structure and voice for each.  I can research both genres at once, but can’t write both at once. 

4.  Do you have a literary agent? 

Although today self-publishing makes having an agent not as much of a  necessity, I have always had an agent located in New York City.  Agents currently get 15% of what the author makes, but I have found that worthwhile.  Although bad agents can harm a career, I’ve had ones who helped me find good pub houses, negotiate contracts, and generally advise me about the big, bad world of publishing.  In the beginning my agent helped me prepare my novels to attract an editor, although now I work more directly with the publisher/editor on things like manuscript revision.

5.  Do you have any tips of advice for writers trying to get published?   

One thing I’d say, at least for a traditional publishing career, (besides getting an agent, if possible) is to concentrate on one genre at first.  A prospective agent or editor wants to be able to build a new author in one type of novel, not have a new author who writes all over the map.  (This can be confusing for building an audience too.)  I’ve heard writers tells agents, “I’ve written a romance, a mystery and a sci fi fantasy, so which should I send you?”  Nope.  Until you’re John Grisham or Nora Roberts, build your brand in one area, then branch out, if you want to.  And keep writing.  The bad news is that the only way to learn how to write (especially something as big as a novel) is to write.

Also, although this seems like a no-brainer, build relationship with other authors, successful ones, if possible.  When I was first published I knew only two published authors, but today that world is wide open.  I belong to Mystery Writers of America, The Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Central Ohio Fiction Writers.  Through these organizations and their conferences and workshops, I’ve learned a lot, met editors and publishers and made lifelong and supportive friends.  Writing is a lonely occupation (obsession?) so reach out to the people who understand you along the way. 

I have never belonged to a critique group but I know they benefit some writers, so that’s a consideration.  But don’t get hung up at that stage:  get a completed manuscript ready and submit it.  Check out publisher’s hints and agent’s websites—that’s an education in itself.

I was with a group of about 30 published authors once and someone asked, “How many of you published the first novel you wrote?”  About 2 of the 30 had done that; the others actually first sold their 3rd, 4th, or 10th book.  If you really want to be published, never give up.

6.  How about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us?

 Please visit my website at www.KarenHarperAuthor.com  There are links there to “Look Inside the Book,” see an author interview and read background on my novels.  Of course, the world of Google allows readers to research authors through their websites, write them and even read about them in Wikipedia!  Happy reading and good writing!   

FINDING MERCY, is nominated for best contemporary cover of the year at www.CoverCafe.com.  After May 2, readers can vote for their favorite cover.  Please check  out the Cover Café site on or after May 2nd and cast your vote for Karen's beautiful cover.  

I want to thank Author Karen Harper on behalf of Crimson Frost Books Publishing for her time to do this interview and her helpful information.  I look forward to reading her newest book. 
Happy Reading, Celeste

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