Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Author Interview - Karen Bell VBT Jan 31

Click on the image to view Meet and Greet with Karen and the book tour.

Today I'm pleased to have Karen Bell on my blog. Karen is here to chat about her debut novel Walking with Elephants. This book is definitely going on my TBR list, but I have to say I wish Karen had published this book when I was a single mom juggling kids, college, back into the dating world and all the other responsibilities I had. I could have escaped at night lying in bed alone with her book! LOL

There's a giveaway to one lucky commenter; details at the bottom!

A bit about Karen:
Walking with Elephants is my first novel, although I am not new to writing. I was a theater critic and celebrity interviewer for a weekly tabloid in Jacksonville, Fl and I earned a Master’s in Mass Communication from Oklahoma State University. For 15 years I worked in Corporate America as a technical editor/editor/writer. I experienced first hand the politics and intrigue that goes with that territory and the balancing act that comes with being a working mother. I salute all those mothers who are the glue that holds their families together while pursuing the nine to five brass ring.

Louise: Karen, welcome to my blog! I’m so excited you could join me for a chat. When did you first decide to submit your work to be published? Tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

Karen: I remember finally after the long years of writing Walking with Elephants—ten to be exact that I thought wow—I did it!!! I thought that was the hard part. Boy was I wrong. I thought the book was great—inflated sense of importance—just knew it would be grabbed up. So I started submitting right away to literary agents. At that time, there were not many agents that had an online presence. So I sent those emails, sent snail mail to others and always sent hard copy samples of ms. That was quite costly. Over time, I stopped doing that and only sent electronic partials. So that process took ten years before a small indie publisher said, “yes.” Awful and discouraging process. That publisher just closed its doors in December and I have had take over. I really dislike the business. I just want to write, but if you want people to read what your write you must embrace the business.

Louise: Please tell us a little about your new release Walking With Elephants without giving too much of a spoiler away.

Karen: My protagonist, Suze Hall, is my everywoman, my Willie Loman, if you will. She represents all the older women in the workforce who entered later in life after raising their kids. She discovers that she and her husband defined their roles when she was a stay-at-home mom and she is stuck in that role--continuing to run the house while also working full-time. She also is not good at deciphering the intrigue at work. I tried to make her very likable with a good sense of humor. I think I achieved that. It is a light-hearted slice-of-life story. A reviewer described the book as Bridget Jones meets Erma Bombeck. But it also has an important message for women in the current era.

The title of the book is the title of an essay that Suze writes at the end of the novel. She suggests a paradigm shift from the patriarchal societies that have been in place for millennia to matriarchies like a herd of elephants. In the elephant world the herd comprises females and their young. Males are peripheral and only come around to mate. She poses the notion of what would the society look like, be like, if women were truly in charge—not women mimicking men.

Suze Hall is at a crossroads. Her nemesis at work, Wanda, has been promoted and now will be her boss. Her husband, Bob, is leaving her and the three kids for a six-month sabbatical down under. To top it off, her best friend, Marcia, is missing in action--playing footsie with some new boyfriend!

Adding to this disaster stew, David, the gorgeous hunk who broke her young-girl's heart has coincidentally popped back into her life and has something she desperately needs to keep her job.

Walking with Elephants, a lighthearted slice-of-life story, brings to the table the serious work/family issues facing women today. It explores the modern dichotomy of a workplace that is filled with homemakers who still must cook, clean, carpool on nights and weekends, shop for prom dresses, and "create" the holidays—such as Suze. But it also is filled with women who have the same drive as men, have no family responsibilities, and will do what ever it takes to get ahead. 

So step into the shoes of Suze Hall and commiserate over workplace politics, titillate your sexual fantasies, ride the wave of a working mother, and fall-down laughing.

The cover is a symbol of the message of empowerment of women. The protagonist, Suze, writes and essay at the end of the novel suggesting a paradigm shift from the patriarchal societies that have been in place for centuries to a matriarchy, such as is found in nature. Like elephants, hence the title.

Louise: Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?

Karen: No. I am a seat-of-the pants writer. I have a kernel of an idea and that could change as I write and usually does. The writing process is very organic for me. I never really know what will happen but somehow it comes together. That is really mindboggling for me.

Louise: How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?

Karen: The Internet is fabulous. I jump on it to find clothing styles in different periods. I needed that for the time travel sequences for Sunspots. I also set the story in Austin, TX where I lived several years ago. I googled the restaurants to see if they still were in business. I had a signing there and stayed with my dear friend and we drove around for me to get the new vibe of the city. My third novel will deal with goddesses and I have bought several books on mythology. But the Internet is key and what a boon to writers who don’t have to spend hours in the library away from the computer. During a passage, I just jump on the Internet to find what I need and keep going. I was a market researcher for one of my jobs and I have a talent for finding information.

Louise: What is your writing process? Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants (Pantser) or a combination of both?

Karen: Yes as I said before—no real planning. I go where the story takes me.

Louise: Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer or still do?

Karen: No, I have never spent an entire day writing. First with WWE, there was the distraction of working full-time and raising a family. By the time I would get back to it, I had to reread to remind myself where the story was and the names of the characters—no kidding. Now I’m distracted becoming the publisher of WWE after mine closed doors and all that it implies—printing, marketing, advertising, PR. Now I’m sending out queries for Sunspots. Oh, that I had an agent and publisher. I’m planning on working on my third novel today—maybe. Before I wrote WWE, I worked as an editor and writer of business materials for a major accounting firm.

Louise: Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place.

Karen: Here is the ritual: Get your butt to the computer. Don’t avoid the process by checking mail and checking sales. Don’t go to FB, Yahoo news. Just open the file and start. But ha—I never do that. All the other stuff comes first and then…I open the file. So I guess that’s the ritual.

Louise: Ha! Me either and I spend more time playing around online than writing! Describe a typical writing day for you.

Karen: I go to my water aerobics class, I play mahjong, and I watch the real housewives. Just kidding—or am I? At least I keep my blog current.

Louise: Oh, I love Mahjong. A game before bed time relaxes me! Please give us a sneak peek at your future books. What’s on the horizon?

Karen: My next novel that I am shopping around is Sunspots. It’s kind of a paranormal romance, ghost story.  It explores the woeful journey Aurora Stein takes when her husband Jake dies in a car accident after just two years of marriage. Aurora was an aspiring actress so she views the world through the lens of characters in novels and film. Although the topic is somber, there are many moments of mirth as Aurora tells her tale of meeting Jake and her present situation. My third novel will weave the goddess realm into the real world. I like to think of myself as writing magical realism. I’m not as good as the Spanish-speaking writers or Alice Hoffman who do that. But I’d like to get there. Even WWE had a spirit who gave advice.

Louise: What is your favorite genre to read and who is your favorite author?

Karen: I used to have favorite authors like Maeve Binchey. But I don’t read that soap opera stuff anymore. I loved Peace like River and that had magical elements. I’m more about the book than the writer. You can get disappointed when the collection of books doesn’t pack the same punch. I read all the Harry Potter though and wasn’t disappointed at all. I don’t read genres; I read books that appeal to me.

Louise: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on?

Karen: I wrote WWE as a platform to reach out to working mothers. As a working mother myself, I lived the stresses that come with that territory but I was lucky. I was able to raise my babies before I went back into the workforce. Women today, by and large, are not so lucky. In the ladies room at work, I came upon a young woman pumping her breast. This is crazy, I thought. She should be home nursing. Maternity leave is way too short in this country. In some countries a woman has two years leave. I felt that woman should be dialoguing about this. It's one thing to be political about abortion but that's where the discussion ends. What happens after the baby is born is very important and there is no consensus or discussions on how to blend families and work. I wrote this book way before other books have come out on this topic but no one would publish it then.

Louise: Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web? 

Karen: On my Web site and my Blog.

Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

B&N on Nook and paperback is being modified so a new copy is not available at the moment.

The book is available in all e-formats and at all online outlets.

Thanks Louise!

Louise: Karen, thank you again for joining me today!

Readers, Karen is giving away a copy of Walking with Elephants in PDF format. Please leave your email address in your comment so I can contact the winner in a timely manner. Drawing will be held Feb 1.


  1. Awesome interview Karen. Thank you so much for hosting today Louise :).


  2. Thanks Bk!
    Karen, it was a pleasure having you here today.

  3. Thanks, Louise. It was great fun.