Author Interview - Karen Cantwell (Indie in Summer)

It's time for another fabulous author interview!  My guest today has a bright and witty personality, topped only by her talent as a writer.  Her debut work Take the Monkeys and Run was a quarter-finalist for Amazon's Breakthrough novel award and it's sequel Citizen Insane has leapfrogged up my TBR list.  Please join me in welcoming Karen Cantwell!

*applause, applause*

Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get started as an author?

I'd like to say it started with a delightful (if I do say so myself) book I wrote in the sixth grade called The Adventures of Frog and Mr. Toad. However, any success I hoped to achieve in publishing THAT masterpiece ended when I discovered a little novel titled, The Wind in the Willows. Gee, I thought I was being SO original! Well, my mother thought it was good (thank goodness for mothers), so she encouraged me to keep at it. In high school, I wrote for the yearbook, and in college I studied literature and wrote screenplays. Then came real life, jobs, and kids. I finally hit the ol' keyboard more recently, determined to write and complete a novel. That novel is, Take the Monkeys and Run.

You have a great talent for writing from the perspective of a wife and mother. Are you a family woman?

Oh yes! I'm married and have four amazing kids. No, really. I mean it -- They're AMAZING.

Barbara Marr was a wonderful protagonist and she encounters some crazy circumstances from witnessing suspicious activity at a house in her neighborhood to a yard full of monkeys (just to name a few!) How much of your own personality is mirrored in your character? Do you think you would react the way Barb does in similar circumstances?

My relationship with Barbara Marr is . . . interesting. She has curly hair like me, but that was an accident. She was supposed to have straight, dirty blonde hair. She didn't care for it. So, many people think Barbara Marr IS me. This isn't entirely true. Many of her thoughts are thoughts I have had, but I would say that these are the universal sorts of thoughts many women and mothers my age have had as well. I put Barb into chaotic scenarios, because let's face it, the everyday life of a mother often lacks the adventure we crave. THEN I watch her react. Barb never reacts the way I would -- that's because she's not a royal chicken when the rubber meets the road like I am! Nope, I'm a freaky foul through and through. Ultimately, Barbara Marr is the heroine I dream of being.

The mystery in your book was really well done with multiple layers that kept me guessing - and laughing - throughout the story! Was it hard to balance the suspense of a murder mystery with your humor and wit?

YIKES! Yes, it's the hardest part of writing these books. I write humor, because I think there's enough sadness on TV and in the world today, and I'd rather give people a chance to escape from that. BUT, it's hard to inject humor into a story about murder and keep it believable enough to entice the reader to continue reading instead of throwing the book out the window! I feel like I'm walking a very thin tightrope when I write these Barbara Marr mysteries.

How did the different aspects of the mystery develop as you constructed your ideas for this story? With all the classic elements - motive, suspects, clues, red herrings, suspense, and intrigue - where did you begin and how did the novel come together?

I started with an idea for WHODUNNIT (the end), then went back to the beginning and wrote my way there. I knew I wanted monkeys and a long-vacant house in the tale. The rest came as I wrote. When I got to the end, the WHODUNNIT had changed enough, that I had to write a few more drafts before it was cohesive enough to say THE END. I'm not sure I could write another Barbara Marr novel that way now though. Many of those characters in her life, sprung from my twisted imagination, but now they exist, so writing future stories for her, I find I have to plan more - outline.

I noticed that Take the Monkeys and Run is one of many books you authored. Will you share a bit about your other works? Do you have a favorite among the pieces you've written?

Thank you for asking! (You ask wonderful interview questions, by the way!) I released a Barbara Marr short story collection in November of 2010 titled The Chronicles of Marr-nia. One of the stories in that collection is a between-the-novels short, "Missing Impossible" - it takes place between Take the Monkeys and Run and the second novel, Citizen Insane (just released). There are also three other family life stories in that collection. I also co-authored a fun chick-lit, Foxy's Tale, with women's fiction author, LB Gschwandtner which we released just this year.

I've also had a historical mystery, "The Recollections of Rosabelle Raines," published in the anthology, Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin'. I'm very proud of that story.

I will say, that the piece that holds the most special place in my heart is a short story titled, "Taming the Hulk" - one of the family life shorts found in The Chronicles of Marr-nia. It's funny and touching at the same time, and mothers often tell me that it actually made them cry.

What would you say are the biggest perks to being an indie author? What are the greatest challenges?

The biggest perk is the freedom. I choose my own titles and covers. I publish when I want to, not when it's convenient for a publishing company. I have instant access to my sales numbers. I'm paid on a timely basis. It's all great stuff. I love every minute of it.

The challenges are that I must promote on my own. Finding an audience is much trickier when your access to the greater purchasing population is limited.

I first checked out your writing because of a recommendation from author J.C. Phelps! In the spirit of paying it forward, who is/are your favorite indie author(s)?

Oh! JC is great, isn't she???? She's amazing, so of course, she's on my list! Also, I love LC Evans, Michael Wallace, Debbi Mack, Maria Schneider, Barbara Silkstone, LB Gschwandtner, Michael Crane (gee, I have a thing for Michaels, don't I?), Cathy Wiley (I'm just reading her mystery, Dead to Writes, right now, and it's wonderful - she's a very good writer), and Misha Crews. There are more I'm sure, that I'm probably missing, but these are all authors that I have read and absolutely LOVED their writing.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, I just finished and published the second Barbara Marr novel, Citizen Insane, so I'm going to get right to work on the third - Silenced by the Yams. I would also like to write another between-the-novels short story, as well as finish a middle-grade novel I started some time ago, called My Cupcake Summer, about a rather dramatic young girl who thinks her problems are the worst in the world, until she meets another young girl who is suffering a serious illness. Not only does she realize her problems may not be so bad, but she learns to reach inside the caring part of herself, and find a way to help her new friend.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

I love for people to stop by my website - !

Thanks so much for being part of Indie in Summer!

Thank YOU, Lisa! This was such fun, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to blabber on about my passion for writing. :)

1 Response to "Author Interview - Karen Cantwell (Indie in Summer)"

  1. EJ Says:
    July 6, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Another great interview! Karen's books sound like lots of fun!

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