Welcome to Part One of Confessions of a Reviewers’ interview with a lovely lady that many of you will maybe not know of, Karen Malena.
If you don’t know a lot, or indeed anything, about Karen then read on. In this interview, Karen was kind enough to take the time out to give us some detailed and, inspiration inducing answers to all the questions I threw at her.
In Part One, tonight, we find out some general information about Karen and her writing and inspirations. In Part Two, tomorrow night, Karen will give us some specifics on her new book, Sound of Silence and she also takes on the mighty Ten Confessions.
On night three as always, I will be posting my review of Sound of Silence.
Nothing left to say other than go grab some nibbles and a drink and sit back, but most of all……enjoy!
COAR - So tell everyone a bit about yourself in general?
KM - First of all, I’d like to thank Nev for having me as a guest on his blog. (Nev blushes) It’s extremely fun to connect with other bloggers, and I found that his questions are refreshing and different. So, something about myself. . . Reading, gardening, taking long walks in the woods, writing and spending time with my loud Italian family are all of my favorite things.
COAR - Why writing? What makes you want to pour your heart and soul into a book?
KM - Adversity: Out of it can come great pain and sometimes great rewards. Growing up the daughter of a mom who had a mental breakdown, I know a little about this. When I was in fourth grade, it was a love of reading that would carry me through the toughest moments of my young life up until then. With the world around me turned upside down, the love of a good father and my Italian Nonna, books, and the desire to create my own stories would become the catalyst which held me together. After a time, Mom was restored to us whole and well, a true miracle. It was then another bit of adversity would strike in the way of my health. I developed scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. A year’s worth of hospital visits, major surgery and an all-encasing body cast would follow. Once again, it would be books and the world of my imagination that would help me through.
I’d like to think that it was all the challenges I went through that shine in my writing. The fact that I know a thing or two about tough times. When I write about a dysfunctional family, I know because I’ve been there. When I write gritty, and from the heart, I bare my own soul hoping perhaps to touch someone else who may be encountering difficulties.
COAR - You have worked in the dental industry for quite a long time. I would imagine you come across some interesting people doing this? Do they help you with developing your characters or do you just go with the flow when you’re writing?
KM - The dental field is truly a way for my love of people to shine. I like to feel that I’ve been of service to help others and yes, there have been some extremely interesting folks from time to time. I actually chose a patient recently who fit the perfect pattern for my futuristic police: The Stewards of Order. I pictured him the whole time I was writing. Now when he has an appointment in my office, I get kinda funny chatting with him, feeling as if one of my characters truly came to life! A very surreal moment.
COAR - Take us through your process for a story. How do you start it and follow it through to the final product?
KM - Stories are in my head almost all the time. When an idea truly takes hold of me, I usually like to take a few long walks to sort everything out. Where others may like to write everything down, I find that a walk or long drive alone, is almost like a clean sheet of paper before me, and it’s there that my best ideas sprout. Even though I do take a few notes here and there, I don’t work with a true outline. I find it is way more refreshing to let the characters tell me what they’d like to do next.
COAR - You mainly write inspirational stories. Simple question is why? Is it just your personality or something totally different?
KM - I write inspirational for one simple reason. To be a blessing to others. As I stated earlier, the adversity I’d gone through has given me a sense of compassion towards people. It is this love of people that makes me compelled to reach out, touch them and hope that they come away with a sense of peace that something bigger than their problems is at work in their lives.
COAR - How do you define a scenario as falling under the inspirational bracket or how do you take a particular situation and turn it from despair to inspiration?
KM - Any scenario whether it’s in a book or in our lives can be turned into inspiration if you look for it. Many of my characters are dark and brooding. There’s a young man, Aaron, who stutters in Shadow of My Father’s Secret. He is seriously thinking about suicide. His alcoholic father treats him indifferently and all Aaron wants is to be accepted. The story is dark, before there is light.
We find that Aaron’s father had a tragedy from his past that moulded him into the man he’s become. I think even in our own lives, it’s easier to forgive someone who’s wronged us when we really take a walk in their shoes for a bit and see where they’ve come from. Perhaps we will be a little more forgiving of ourselves also.
I also wrote a character, Tim McMillen in Love Woven in Time, who is an adult with Asperger’s and has many problems because of it. He was one of my favorites. If all our characters were cookie cutter stereotypes, our writing would be boring. So yes, inspiration is wonderful, but dysfunction leading to inspiration is priceless.
COAR - How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you carry a notebook with you everywhere or write stuff on the back of your hand?
KM - A lady recently bought me a little notebook to keep in my purse. Up until then, I was usually the type to have ideas cramming themselves into my head at all hours of the day, and unfortunately, the night. While writing Sound of Silence, I awoke many times around three a.m. with a brainstorm of some sort, and then I couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I finally put a pad of paper and a pen next to me to scribble out ideas in the middle of the night when they came. Mostly I still enjoy alone time to sort through my thoughts.
COAR - Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
KM - It’s a scary thought especially when you write dark characters to realize that they are parts of you. For how else could we make this stuff up? You dig deep down into yourself. I also like to joke with people I know and say, “You better watch. You never know when you’ll end up as a villain in one of my books.” But seriously, I think all writers to some extent utilize people and situations they know. Or at least parts of them. Once again though, I’ve never so totally thought of someone as one of my characters as I had done recently in Sound of Silence with the Steward of Order Gilbert Santiago.
COAR - Coming from a close knit Italian family I can imagine they have a lot of support for you. Do you ever find the other, more forceful side of the Italian nature comes out and they try to influence your writing?
KM - When I was fifteen, my mother laughed at a short story I’d written which was meant to be sad. I tore the offensive story to shreds and didn’t write for many years after that. I never found my family to be a huge support of my desire to write. But the Italian aspect, yes, it does come out in the writing at times. In Reflections from My Mother’s Kitchen, I use my own family as the backdrop to the story. I write about a lot of the issues that went on in my mother’s life and my own, coupled with our Italian heritage to write what I call a “fictionalized memoir.”
COAR - Who would be the authors you would give the credit of being your influences and who do you just not “get”?
KM - I adore the writing style of Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course my all-time favorite Stephen King. When I read one of King’s books, it’s almost like I’m sitting in class learning from the master. I read and re-read some of his paragraphs many times over when I love the wording, and it’s there I’ve found the greatest teaching tools of all time. His book Stephen King On Writing is also one of the most valuable books for any aspiring author. Perhaps some of the books I don’t “get” are many of the Amish books. Although I like some of them and they are extremely popular, to me, they all feel like it’s the same story being told over and over.
COAR - What sort of books do you like to read for pleasure? I can’t imagine an inspirational writer liking slasher stories or horrors?
KM - Ha-ha! Horror stories are actually my favorite! The above-mentioned Stephen King is my long time love. The Shining, The Stand and Salem’s Lot are among the best books I’ve ever read. The creepy feel of the inherent evil in these books is what makes them so appealing. However, having said that, I do enjoy some of the classics and of course my Bible. I like to think I’m an eclectic reader as well as writer. I am multi-genre in both.
That’s it for Part One of the interview. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night for Part Two when Karen gives us more on her writing, talks about the new book, Sound of Silence, and answers The Ten Confessions.