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Tell me a little bit about yourself and LionheART Galleries:
I started LionheART Galleries with my partner, Peter Mutanda, soon after we met. It had been his dream for a long time to own a gallery and sell African art, craft, jewellery and literature, and I'm disabled and was looking for something to do from home which I could build into a viable business, yet manage my health. An internet-based business is perfect; we are both creative and enjoy designing and making jewellery, and we are both writers so it was very natural to expand into publishing as well. We publish our own books – novels, poetry, children's books and non-fiction – and also offer reasonably-priced publishing services (editing and formatting) to help other authors to self-publish, especially if they are not comfortable with computers or live in countries where the internet is not widespread.
Where did you grow up?
In a small North Yorkshire village near Harrogate.
When did you start writing?
Whilst I've been a total bookworm since I first learned to read, I didn't start writing seriously until I injured myself sailing in the European Championships. I was sailing an extreme dinghy called a Contender, and at the time was the only woman sailing this class of boat in the UK. I was used to sailing on an inland reservoir in Yorkshire, so a storm on the Baltic Sea was a bit of a shock – especially for my body. I hurt my back badly (although did come home with the Ladies title!) but struggled to get a diagnosis. By the time I worked out (after consulting 42 doctors and therapists) what was wrong, my body had learned a different way of working, and I now suffer from fibromyalgia – an extremely painful and debilitating condition which flares up regularly. I was unable to sail, but sailing was my passion so I took on the sailing club newsletter and filled it with my scribblings until I was unable to even travel to the sailing club.
What made you start writing novels?
As part of my quest to find out what was wrong with me and why my body wasn't working properly I did a number of courses. One of those was counselling and psychology, which I found fascinating. Also, being forced to talk about myself and write a journal 'unlocked' me somehow. One day I picked up a pen and notebook and just started writing. Soon I needed a new notebook, then another and another, despite only being able to hold a pen for ten minutes at a time, and I realised I was writing a book. A couple of rewrites and an awful lot of editing later, I have published it as Dead Reckoning – Caribbean pirates and those wonderful old ships. At least I can still go sailing in my imagination, and I don't even get wet!
Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
To be honest, the thought of writing a book was so daunting it didn't occur to me that I could do it, but looking back, it's the obvious career for me. I have always loved books, and most of my earliest memories are about books. I can't think why I ever tried to do anything else.
What is your favourite genre to read?
I think historical fiction, although I also enjoy horror and thrillers and like to read in lots of different genres. I love being transported to another time and/or place and love any book that can take me there.
What about to write?
Historical fiction so far, although I am currently working on some ideas for contemporary novels as well.
Do you write full time?
I would if I could, but I find it physically and mentally impossible. I write longhand and have trained myself to use my left hand as well as my right, but am still very limited. Also constant pain does not help the creative process. I'm happy if I can manage a chapter a day, even if they are short, and I do think that being restricted this way does actually help me – I'm forced into more thinking time.
Who are your favourite authors and or books?
I can't give you favourite books, there are just too many! My favourite authors are Stephen King, Philippa Gregory and Barbara Erskine. Oh, and CJ Sansom, Ken Follett, Tony Parsons, Zoe Sharpe, Mo Hayder . . .
About your books.
Well, Karen, you actually have a couple of titles under your belt, so feel free to tell us about them all.
Title/plot, and who it’s signed with.
I currently have two books in the Valkyrie Series published, An Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning. This is my pirate series and follows the fortunes of Gabriella Berryngton and Leo Santiago. I'm currently working on the third, Ready About! and am planning at least another half dozen, which will all stand on their own so readers have a choice and are not pushed to read the whole series or read them in order – in fact I wrote the second book, Dead Reckoning, before I wrote the first: An Ill Wind!
I have also written two children's books with my partner, Peter Mutanda, based on African Folktales: Rabbit and Elephant's Tug of War and Meerkats Come to Dinner and we plan many more.
My newest book is Thores-Cross which is a dual time-line book, set in the present and the 1700s. It's a haunting tale about isolation, superstition and persecution and centres around Jennet who is orphaned in 1783 aged 15, falls prey to an older man and is then shunned by her, already isolated, community in the North Yorkshire Moors. Things do not end well, and she continues to affect the lives of the descendants of the villagers in 2012/13.
All my books (and Peter's) have been self-published through our publishing company LionheART Publishing House and are available as paperback and for all e-readers.
An Ill Wind
Gabriella Berryngton is an unhappy and oppressed fourteen year old girl from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1683. She dreams of escaping her bitter, ambitious stepfather and sailing off into the unknown.
Her dreams come true when her stepfather sells her into marriage.
Aboard the Freyja, she is hopeful that her new life in the Dutch West Indies will be an improvement – a hope that dies when she is given a slave (Klara) and a whip. She discovers that her soon-to-be father-in-law is a ruthless slave trader in league with pirates, and her fiancé is cold, unfriendly and disinterested in Gabriella. She is little more than a vessel to provide the next generation.
Largely ignored and desperately unhappy, she and Klara develop a friendship which makes life bearable – at first. Once married, Gabriella's life takes a turn for the worse and she descends into a world of horror and abuse, until tensions explode. Life will never be the same and she has no choice but to take fate into her own hands.
Title of the second one.
A haunting novel set in the North Yorkshire Moors about isolation, superstition and persecution, Thores-Cross follows the story of Jennet, a fifteen year old girl orphaned in the Eighteenth Century.
She lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep they rear. When she tragically loses both parents, the local wool merchant (Richard Ramsgill) takes an interest in her. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by the father, but by the entire village, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have effect through the centuries.
Emma Moorcroft is a present-day writer who moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, David. Emma had played in the fields around the reservoir as a child and still has an old inkpot she had found in one of the dry stone walls. Jennet's inkpot – and Jennet wants revenge.
Emma is compelled to write her story, and to embark on an affair with her neighbour, Mark – a direct descendant of Richard Ramsgill. As Jennet and Emma become further entwined, how will Emma escape her clutches? Can she break the curse that Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family and which has been killing Ramsgills for over two hundred years?
What made you decide to upload them onto authonomy?
Authonomy was recommended to me by a friend in a writer's circle I go to. When I first joined, I wanted to promote An Ill Wind and hopefully bring it to the attention of Harper Collins. In actuality I have found the feedback and support of the other authors on the site invaluable. I've also found some wonderful books and friends there and have learnt a great deal.
When I uploaded Thores-Cross to the site my objectives were very different and were basically to invite feedback to help me through the editing process and make the book better. As a writer, it is extremely difficult to take that step back and look at your own work objectively – the authonomy authors help me to do that, whilst giving honest and valuable advice and support.
What are your hopes for them?
My hopes for all my books are simple, to engage readers and transport them to my characters' worlds. To receive a review or message from a complete stranger saying how much they enjoyed the book and asking when the next one will be ready has to be one of the best feelings in the world.
How long did they take you to write?
That's a difficult question. Because of my physical limitations they can take a long time – Dead Reckoning took about eight years from first picking up the pen to publishing it, but then An Ill Wind only took about three months, partly because it's a novella rather than a full-length novel, partly because I had already written Dead Reckoning so knew the characters extremely well. Also because I managed to write it in-between flare ups, and was able to get on with it.
I learnt a great deal from writing Dead Reckoning, and so thought about the characters and plotted Thores-Cross over about three years before I started to write it seriously. The actual writing took about four months, then I edited for a month. I'm letting it settle now, while authonomy and writing friends are reading it and giving me feedback. After about two months I'll edit it again and am expecting to publish it in June 2013.
Whichever book I'm currently writing, I'm researching and thinking through ideas, characters and plots for at least three others. I need to manage my physical activity, even writing, and find ways of being able to do the things I want to with the least amount of pain, and I've found that the longer I think a book through before I write it, the less rewriting I will have to do in the end. Speech to text software helps as well!
What gave you the idea?
I have absolutely no idea! Although saying that, when I looked back at the first draft of Dead Reckoning I did spot some patterns, eg: the main character, Gabriella, was married to her abusive husband for the same length of time I had been suffering from fibromyalgia (which I once described as like living with an abusive partner you can't escape). Also my main 'baddies' are Blake and Hornigold – which I always wrote as B&H in my notes. At the time I was stopping smoking, and my brand was B&H, and had many battles with them! (Ha ha ha, brilliant!)
I think my books are the result of me either working issues out in my own life or trying to understand why people do the awful things they do to each other, and the only way I can do this and stay sane is through metaphor.
Who is your favourite character out of all the books that you have written?
I write in the first person, and my favourite is always the one I'm writing at the moment. To write from their point of view I kind of put them on and wear them like a favourite coat. For that time I am them and they are me – until I move to the next one. Being asked to pick a favourite is like my nieces asking me which one I love the most. They're all in my heart.
Do you ever base your characters on anyone that you know?
I don't base characters on people I know, but I do watch and listen and somebody's actions or behaviour will give me an idea for a character, which I'll then expand and explore – quite often to an extreme.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given in regards to your writing?
It is a privilege for someone to buy one of my books and invest time in reading it, and that privilege should not be taken lightly. I think one of the best pieces of advice I've been given is to write the first draft for myself, but to write the second and edit for my readers.
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