Saturday, July 30, 2016

Author Interview with Karen J Carlisle

Welcome again,

Today’s author is Karen J. Carlisle.

Karen J Carlisle graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute (now University) of Technology with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry. She lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who as a four-year old (she can't remember if she hid behind the couch). This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk - in that order.

Karen writes speculative fiction including steampunk, Victorian mystery/crime, gaslight and fantasy. She published the first of The Adventures of Viola Stewart series, Doctor Jack and Other Tales, in 2015. She has has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition.

Karen's short story, Hunted, is featured in the Trail of Tales exhibition in the Adelaide Fringe, 2016. She currently writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures. Karen has always loved chocolate - dark preferred - and rarely refuses a cup of tea. She is not keen on the South Australian summers.

Thank you for joining me today on the blog Karen. 

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?Why didn’t I do this earlier?! (well I did. Sort of.) I’ve always loved books. When I was in high school I wrote a SF/comedy – typed on my portable typewriter. It’s in the shed. Somewhere. I was gently persuaded to follow a stable (paying) career, did university and spent the next twenty-seven years being an optometrist. During this time, I wrote research articles for historical re-enactment and costume newsletters. I had articles published in the (now defunct) Australian Realms (Roleplaying magazine). I even did some artwork for a local indie comic.

Life happened. I put away my pens and continued in Optometry.

In 2012, life hiccupped in a most spectacular manner, resulting in leaving my current seventeen-year position. Let’s just say I needed a massive sea-change. I was advised to follow my bliss. There was no question what that was – writing and art. So, after a few false starts, I found myself writing again.

In 2013, I entered over twenty short story competitions. I was short listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. This year, I was asked to feature one of my shorts, Hunted, in the Trail of Tales exhibition in the Adelaide Fringe.

I not only write steampunk (Victorian steampunk mysteries, steampunk adventures and gaslamp) and fantasy – all of which have proven cathartic and excellent anxiety-busters – but also do my own photography, artwork and book trailers. Art + writing = my creative heaven!

What are the hardest parts of being an author? 
My chief issue is procrastination, procrastination and health issues, procrastination, health issues and not enough time to write all the stories I get ideas for.


My chief issues are procrastination, health issues and not enough time to write all the stories I get ideas for. And my proclivity for Monty Python quotes.

Seriously though, fighting procrastination is a constant battle for me. I am often found spiralling down the research rabbit hole, and enjoying the ride (there are so many fascinating things in the world!). Health issues are an ongoing issue; I suffer from anxiety (reason for quitting my previous career), anaemia and recurring migraines. This has led to over two months lost writing-time so far, this year. I’m just about to have major surgery which (hopefully) will help relieve some of the underlying causes.

Some writers fear running out of ideas. I have enough to last the next decade (and possibly beyond, if they all pan out). I have notebooks full of scribbled titles and story seeds and boxes (both digital and physical) to compile notes for various projects. I need to constantly remind myself to finish one project before flitting off to new adventures and characters. This is one problem I hope I will never lose. (see previous comment on writers’ fears of running out of ideas.)

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
I love creating and I love learning. When I don’t create, I get grumpy (just ask my husband). I feel complete, I am less anxious. And I can’t deny the buzz I get when someone likes my characters or stories.

Research rabbit holes are a two-edged sword. I learn something new every day, which comes in handy for quiz nights. I love the serendipity of finding a fact, which sparks an idea, which (in turn) leads me on a trail of discovery. So many of my stories get filled with little tidbits I find on my journey. It’s like weaving a tapestry – and I love it!

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Realistically, every book I have read has influenced me – even the bad ones. I was an avid reader of Doctor Who and Star Wars novels, as a child. I love the epic themes of Lord of the Rings, the adventure in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Gail Carriger’s humour, Simon R Green’s voice… I could go on.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?
Yes. I’ve read so many articles on writers’ block. It’s a curse. It’s not real. Go for a walk. Get over it. Everyone has a theory. Whatever you call it, I get stuck – usually in the ‘soggy middle’ or when I know I have to do something I don’t want to (like kill a character). I usually switch gears and write a short story, do a writing challenge (where I have to work to a brief), read a favourite book, watch a favourite movie or television show. Mainly, I drink copious amounts of tea and scoff down dark chocolate while the original story bubbles away in my subconscious until it is ready to spill.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write? 
I have a standing desk with a view of the front garden. At the moment it is covered in notes. I have a sewing table that gets bathed in light, with a view of the garden too. Right now I am sitting at the kitchen table, watching the birds in the back garden. When the weather is pleasant I write under the verandah, with a view of the back garden. Is there a running theme here?

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
In the morning and early afternoon, before school pick up or in the evening. I often get inspiration late at night (especially after a long, hot shower). I really should get more sleep.

How do you like to reach your readers?
I love meeting people. That was the great part about my old career. I love to gasbag. I attend local steampunk events, local conventions and do talks. Most of my social media conversations revolve around FB, twitter or various forums.

Can you tell us about your latest book? 
My latest book is the second set of Viola Stewart’s adventures, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales. It is a Victorian steampunk mystery with elements of gaslamp. It will be released as two eBooks – Three More Shorts and Eye of the Beholder (novella), followed by a paperback compilation, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales. I wrote out of my comfort zone with Three More Shorts, which has a strong romance theme – a comedy of etiquette. Eye of the Beholder returns to the gaslamp feel with mummies, murder and madness.

The Men in Grey return – with plans for Viola.
Will the lure of technology seduce Viola? Will she lose Henry forever?

With her friend, Doctor Henry Collins, at her side Viola runs foul of mummies, curses and the paranormal. But this time, the threat of Bedlam looms over them…

How long did it take you to write the book?
Technically about a year. Actual writing time was six months. As a self publisher, I also do my own photoshoots, cover art and design, film and edit my book trailers. Then there is setting up marketing (which I am still learning).

Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?
I am increasingly drawn to psychological ambiguity of stories. How characters manipulate others. Villians are intriguing. They are the heroes of their story. If I can just get the reader to understand the villain – for even just a second – I am ecstatic. It’s the “oh poor, Jack… you evil bastard” moment. I love to show their point of view – show both sides of the story and let the reader make up their mind who they are rooting for.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?

Hi, my name is Karen. And I’m a (mostly) pantser. I enjoy the discovery of a story. My process goes like this:
· Get an idea or title

· Scribble down notes and shove them in a folder. I will often have a ‘feel’ for the story, a visual – like the opening scene of a movie, an idea for a gadget, a specific plot point I want to weave in, or a plot twist.

· Do background research – usually on the original history of an event, person or area involved in the story. I like to check scientific facts (I even bought a book on the Chemical Analysis of Firearms, Ammunition, and Gunshot Residue.)

· I write down ideas I get for characters, possible clues or plot points as I go.

· I usually have an idea of characters (sometimes they come to me complete with names and faces), sometimes they are vague ghosts

· Sometimes I just start writing.

· Most stories are in vague chronological order. I will skip some scenes due to procrastination or its vision hasn’t yet solidified in my mind’s eye. When things are progressing well, I can see the story, complete with music track, and occasionally the dum, dum, dum of the cliff hanger.

· I wish I could plot more. It would speed up the process.

Do you have plans for further instalments? 
Journal #3 of The Adventures of Viola Stewart is scheduled for release in 2017. It will complete the Viola-Henry relationship and address the long story arc concerning Viola’s sister, Anne. (Spoilers!). I won’t rule out future adventures or short stories.

Do you have a plan for your next book? 
The next series planned is The Department of Curiosities, set in the same steampunk world.

A steampunk tale of adventure, a heroine, mad scientists, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
Physical books: I get eyestrain reading eBooks. I love the smell of books. I do have eBooks – mostly reference or shorts, but I will buy a physical book if I get the option and can afford it.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?
I self-publish. I did a lot of research on this very question. The industry is changing. Traditional publishing doesn’t provide the same level of editing and marketing as in the past. Most require the author to do their own publicity. If I’m going to do most of the effort, I would rather self-publish and get a better royalty for my effort, even if that means the hassles of doing my own marketing.

I get the freedom to create my own covers and trailers and control my own deadlines. This allows me to work around my anxiety and health issues. I may be a control freak, but self-publishing creates less stress as I am not being pushed to adhere to others’ timetables.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write because you love it. Not because you want to make a fortune. That doesn’t happen often. Only 5% of those who want to write, actually write. Of that, only 5% finish their story. Don’t give up. Write your story. Finish your story. That puts you ahead of the pack.

Write because you love it

Thank you so much for appearing on my blog today Karen. I have found this very interesting and I think readers will too. So how can readers find you?

Amazon Author Page:


Thanks again Karen for joining me today on the blog. Please go to her listed links and check her out. If you'd like to be interviewed on this blog or have a great story to tell please drop me a line.

Until next time.


Amanda Howard

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