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Friday, May 3, 2013

Virtual book tour: author Karen McQuestion answers questions

I’m having fun "blog-hosting" my writing colleagues on their virtual book tours. Today I introduce you to Karen McQuestion, who once took my writing class (she didn’t need it), and who has helped me immeasurably in my own publishing life. She is a national best-selling author who writes books for adults as well as for kids and teens. Her novels have been published by Amazon Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brilliance Audio, and have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Wisconsin with her family and is always working on her next novel.
Karen is the most accomplished author I know. Best of all, she keeps her feet - and her attitude - firmly on Mother Earth. At the end of the interview, you'll find links to her books and sites.                 -- Gail

From Karen McQuestion:

I love hearing from all my readers, but the emails I get from kids are the ones that amuse me the most. My adult readers are usually polite and complimentary. They say they love my books and what author wouldn’t love that?

Kids say they love my books too, but they usually have questions. And sometimes they have school assignments that require help from me. An email I received recently from an 11-year-old girl was typical. It said, “I am working on a career choice project in my English literacy class. Now I need to interview an author.  So I have some questions that I would like you to answer about your job and how it works.”

When I first got this kind of email, I was flattered but a little floored at the time required to fulfill a request like this. I now keep a file of my responses so I can tap into them when need be.

For those who are curious, here are the ten most commonly asked questions:

1. What professional qualifications would I need for this career? Explain them.

To be successful in writing novels, you should love to read and write, and have a knack for storytelling. Studying creative writing and story structure is essential, but in my opinion it’s not absolutely necessary to do so in a formal school setting.  One of the most widely-read authors in the world, Agatha Christie, never attended school but was tutored in the basics at home. Personally, much of what I know about writing a novel was learned from studying fiction, reading books/online articles about the craft of writing, attending workshops, and going to author readings. All those things, plus dedicated, thoughtful practice, led me where I am now.

2. What environment do you work in? Do you work with others?

I have a home office and I occasionally write at the library. I don’t write with others, but I do exchange finished work with other writers for feedback.

3. Do you have extra time for relatives or other activities?

Yes, as much as anyone else who works a full-time job.

4. Are there deadlines you have to follow?

So far I have not signed a contract for books that weren’t already written, so the only deadlines I have are self-imposed. I try to write 1000 to 2000 words, five or six days a week, but sometimes I can manage more. Other times, life interferes and I don’t get as much done as I’d like.

5. How does a story form in your head?

I usually come up with a fragment of a beginning—either a character or a situation. The idea kind of percolates for a while and I wait for it to take shape in my head before I start writing. With my young adult novel, Edgewood, I knew it would be about a teenage guy who went out walking late at night because he couldn’t sleep. I knew he was going to witness something incredible, and it would change his life, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that would be. When it turned out that he’d acquired super powers, the story took off from there.

6. Do you remember the first book you wrote? What was it about?

The first book I wrote was really, really terrible. I still have the pages, and they are embarrassingly bad, full of rookie errors like point of view shifts and hokey dialogue. I should throw the thing out, but haven’t yet, for some reason. It was about two kids, boy/girl twins who have to solve a mystery that takes place at their uncle’s restaurant. Seriously, it’s awful, but at the time I thought it was pretty good.

7. What genre do you like to write about? Describe it.

I love kids’ fiction, especially middle grade and young adult. I also write women’s fiction, but I have to have just the right idea to make it work. Writing for kids gives me more latitude to be creative, I think.

8. What is the least favorite thing about your job? Why?

The least favorite thing about my job is that other people tend to not understand that I’m really working and so they think I’m free to socialize during the day. It’s hard to say no, but novels don’t write themselves, so I try to stick to a schedule.

9. Do you think the world improves/changes because of your books? How?

I once got the loveliest email from a reader who said she was grief stricken after a death in her family, and that reading one of my books gave her a few hours relief from her sadness.  So if my books can give people a lift or a few hours of entertainment, I think they are making the world a better place, in a very small way.


10. How many books have you written?

Nine so far. I’m currently working on the tenth.


  1. This the excellent post which I have seen and it helped me a lot , Thanks for sharing it!!
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  2. Peter, Karen is a gem who is always so willing to share with others and help them in their writing lives.