WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
KW: I grew up in California then moved to Texas to attend school at Abilene Christian University. I majored in Psychology and received both a B.S. and M.S. Along the way, I met and married my studly computer nerd husband, Wes. We both still work at Abilene Christian. He's a data analyst and I'm the testing coordinator, which means I'm in charge of administering all those tests students love, like the ACT and CLEP exams. We have three great kids who run us ragged with soccer, baseball, band, Math competitions, and a host of other activities. In my spare time, which is rare indeed, I enjoy cross-stitching and, of course, reading.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer?
KW: I had always been a bookworm and toyed with the idea of maybe someday trying my hand at writing a book of my own, but I never got around to it. First there was college to get through, then babies. But in 2003, my husband learned that his position was being eliminated. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and wanted desperately to do something to contribute to the family income. That's when I decided that if I was ever going to be a writer, now was the time to get serious about it. Well, as any author will tell you, writing doesn't make money for you overnight. So I ended up going back to work (got the testing job), but by then, the writing bug had bitten hard, and I recognized this was a calling Good had placed on my life. So I pursued it with the best I could give. Six years later, I signed my first 3 book contract with Bethany House.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
KW: My big break into publishing came at the 2007 ACFW conference in Dallas. I was there to pitch my first published and was nervous as could be. Bethany House was my dream publisher, but I was too intimidated to request an appointment with their editors, so I scheduled appointments with two smaller houses. God had different plans, however. I went early and worked as a pre-conference volunteer and was busy stuffing envelopes with another lady whom I had never met. Her name was Karen, too. I thought that was kind of fun. It turns out she was none other than Karen Schurrer, an editor at Bethany House. I couldn't believe it. Well, I kept myself from throwing my pitch at her, thinking it might not be the appropriate time. But after the conference started, I made a point to sit at the table she hosted for one of the lunches. One brave lady at our table asked if we could send her our proposals, and Karen was gracious enough to say yes. Well, I sent mine in the day after I got home. Before long they had requested the full. I was thrilled. Then came the rejection. They had already published something similar to my story. However, they liked my writing and asked me to submit again. By conference time the next year, I had my second manuscript completed, and I met with them again. This time with a pre-arranged appointment. They liked what they saw, and by January 2009, they officially offered me a contract.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
KW: The only complete novel I finished before my first contract was the manuscript I mentioned above that my publisher rejected. However, I had written a collection of short stories based on the lives of women in the Bible that I had hoped to sell, and that one is still sitting in my computer waiting for the right moment
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
KW: As you can probably tell from my explanations above, I didn't have one single "call" moment. It kind of came on gradually. I did receive an actual call when it came time to sign with an agent, though, and that was fun. At the same 2008 conference where I met with the editors from Bethany House about my second book, I also met with Rachelle Gardner. I had queried her earlier and was in a something of a holding pattern. When I was able to share that I had gained the interest of a major publisher, however, I sparked her interest. A week after conference, Rachelle called me to discuss how we might work together and then she offered me representation. It didn't take me long to accept.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
KW: Being published has also opened a door of ministry to me that has given my life a deeper sense of purpose. Being able to make a positive impact on readers' lives whether through my stories or my personal interactions with them is a huge blessing.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
KW: It has made my life incredibly busy. I feel like I have three full-time jobs. I have my day job at ACU, I write full-time, and I'm a full-time wife and mother of three. I still go to baseball and soccer games, Math meets and band concerts, and somehow I find time to squeeze some writing in. It never ceases to amaze me how God provides, though. I haven't missed a deadline yet.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
KW: I write whenever I can find the time. Lunch hours, evening, weekends.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
KW: Instead of giving myself a daily word count goal, I have a larger, more flexible goal of finishing one polished chapter a week. My books tend to be around 40 chapters long on average, so this allows me to finish a book in about 10 months which works well with my one-book-a-year publishing pace.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
KW: Nope. I like quiet when I write, otherwise I get distracted. When I write at home, I don't have a home office, so I usually prop up pillows and write on my laptop sitting in bed. It allows me to close the door and keep the kids out. Most of the time.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
KW: I do a lot of big-picture plotting up front. I need to know the major events of the story ahead of time and figure out how to move my characters logically from one to the other. Once I have these big pieces in place, I open up a blank page and just start writing.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
KW: These two really develop together for me. I usually have a basic idea of who the main characters are, but as I brainstorm the plot, I find the characters evolving. Sometimes they evolve to fit the plot ideas; other times the plot changes to fit who the characters are becoming.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
KW: I tend to write characters that I can relate to and who I think are fun. My heroines almost always have a feisty streak while my heroes tend to be a bit stubborn and arrogant—in a protective way, of course. My themes seem to echo the spiritual issues I'm dealing with at the time.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
KW: One of my strengths is that I am an avid student of the craft. When readers tell me that my characters come to life on the page, that goes back to the craft of writing in deep POV and infusing the narrative with emotion. When they say that they couldn't put my book down, that ties into the practice creating good hooks and building tension with action scenes that raise the stakes.
I believe that an author must always have a teachable spirit and be willing to work hard to improve her craft, even after she is published. This is what I try to do.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
KW: Kids. My day job. Oh, and did I mention kids? Ha! Obviously I love my kids and treasure the time I have with them while they are young. So I try to set aside time to be with them after I get home from work, through dinner, and whatever athletic event or homework is on the agenda for that night. But I also have trained them to let Mommy have her writing time, especially on the weekends. My husband is a great help with this, too.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
KW: I write what I love to read—historical romance. I read historical romance almost exclusively, so when I decided to write there was no question in my mind what genre I would choose.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
KW: At this point, I have no desire or plan to veer away from historical romance. Although it might be fun to participate in a novella project in addition to the full-length novels I usually write.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
KW: Work hard to learn the craft. Develop a thick skin that can withstand rejection. Persevere. Read and study the work of authors you admire. And attend writer's conferences. Conferences are a great place to learn the industry firsthand, to network with other writers as well as editors and agents, and to pitch your projects to publishers. I don't think I would be published today if I hadn't attended that conference in 2007.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
KW: I have to admit that I'm a review junkie. I read all my Amazon reviews and every blog post that pops up in my Google alert. Thankfully, most of the response is positive. But no author is going to please everyone, so like most writers, I've fallen prey to 1 star reviews and harsh criticism. I try my best to remain as objective as possible. Sometimes, I can gleam truth from the criticism, and will use that to make my next project stronger. When the review is just mean, though, it hurts. I do my best to shake those off, to imagine that the person was just extra sensitive because of something she had suffered in her own life or maybe her dog died that morning and she was in a foul mood when she started typing. Sometimes I go back a re-read a favorable review to get me in a better frame of mind.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
KW: I'm still a bookworm, so I've always got a novel going just for pleasure. I also enjoy cross-stitching. My favorite self-indulgence is chocolate chip ice cream.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
KW: A math teacher. Not exactly what one would expect from a writer, huh?
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
KW: Even though I adore historical novels, history was my least favorite subject in school.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
KW: I love old Hollywood musicals. In fact my newest book, Short-Straw Bride, was inspired by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I love the romance of them and the fun music. I was a band and choir nerd for too many years not to get excited about a good old-fashioned musical.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
KW: My two favorite quotes are Bible verses that I keep close at hand.
Philippians 1:6 ~ He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – This one keeps me going when it seems like the story is never going to end.
Psalm 115:1 ~ Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory. – This verse keeps me humble and reminds me of the reason that I write.
KW: All Travis Archer has ever cared about is his brothers and his land. But when a good deed goes wrong, he's stuck with a bride that endangers both.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
Here's the official blurb:
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.
Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.
Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
KW: As I mentioned above, Short-Straw Bride was inspired by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My story has four brothers instead of seven, and the men don’t sing and dance while they do their chores. However the spark came when I thought about this movie and then asked, what if? What if instead of having the heroine agree to a marriage of convenience at the beginning of the story, the brothers drew straws to see who would marry her when a good deed of hers goes awry? And what if instead of all the brothers being named in alphabetical order after Bible characters, my four brothers were named for heroes from the Alamo?
From there, the Archer clan was born—Travis, Crockett, Bowie (who only answers to Jim), and the baby of the group, Neill. When Meredith Hayes infiltrates their isolated, bachelor ranch, things are never the same.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
KW: My editor has always preferred that I write stand alone novels instead of series. However, after falling in love with the Archer brothers, she agreed to let me write a second Archer story. This one follows Crockett to a new setting and a new adventure.
On his way to interview for a preaching position, Crockett Archer is abducted from his train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as a birthday gift. Joanna Robbins needs a preacher to fulfill a promise made to her mother, but how will she ever convince Crockett to stay and secretly help her win the soul of the very man who kidnapped him?
The working title is Stealing the Parson. It should release late spring/early summer 2013.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
KW: The best place to find me is through my website: www.karenwitemeyer.com You can find background on my characters, deleted scenes, information on new releases, and my monthly contests where I give away two historical novels a month.
You can also find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/karen.witemeyer and at my group blog: http://petticoatsandpistols.com/
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!