I realize this isn't Wednesday...oops! But either way I'm excited for you to get to know Karis a little better. Enjoy!
A little bit about Karis...
Writer. Photographer. Globe-trotter. Believes dark chocolate aids creativity. Editor at Crosshair Press. Author of action and space opera.
Connect with Karis...
Crosshair Press: http://crosshairpress.com/
Get to know Karis...
How did you start writing?
When I was young I would mentally rewrite book endings that I didn’t like. In early high school a couple friends invited me to write stories with them, and I’ve been writing fiction ever since.
What has kept you writing?
I love the power of words and character to ignite the imagination and transport you to someplace new. I love meeting new characters and seeing other people have the fun of getting to know my imaginary friends.
What or who is the biggest influence in your writing?
Some people say my book reads like a movie, which makes sense because I draw inspiration from a variety of movies and tv shows. Other than that, my co-author, Carrie Lemke, and my best friend, Amy Williams (whose is also my business partner and I edit many of her books) have the most influence.
Why do you write?
I love seeing worlds take shape and characters come to life. My imaginary worlds and friends are my safe place in a crazy world, and I just can’t stay away. It makes me sound crazy, but my characters feel like the type of friends who are family. I can’t stop writing, because as long as I keep writing, they keep living.
Let's talk about your book...
Do you have a favorite character in this work?
I love them all for different reasons—Stef’s hilarious antics, Jena’s kindness, Kris’s passion for her work, Eser’s snark, Savas’s grumpiness hiding the softie inside, Kenan’s…Kenan-ness…but Bener is perhaps a shade dearer than the rest. Tough, fiercely protective of his family, gentle, funny, thoughtful, smart. What’s not to love?
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope readers are challenged to see people and stereotypes in a different light and remember we are all people in desperate need of a savior.
What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
What was a challenge you faced while writing it? Carrie and I wrote the entirety of Kenan long-distance using Skype and Google docs. I lived in England and traveled frequently, and she was working night shift as a nurse at the time, so scheduling writing times was definitely a challenge!
Is there a funny story associated with writing the book?
This series actually began as a Star Wars fanfiction! After writing a four-book series, we decided we had something really special with the characters we’d created and “transported” them into a completely new universe with an original backstory. The initial legwork to shift the characters into a new context and find their new interpersonal dynamics has been a challenge and on-going process, but we are absolutely in love with the result.
Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
The base-line for the characters was very well established when we started writing Kenan, but the details and nuances of interactions have been pleasant surprises along the way.
What made you choose the setting for the book?
Due to current events, I was really interested in exploring the tensions between Europe and the Arab nations and how racial friction is shaping the landscape of these countries. This concept fit well with the characters and provided a backdrop conducive to the story we wanted to tell.
What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Probably where to shoot a person so they don’t die immediately. We also used Google maps extensively to plan our routes and nail down a realistic timeline for the book as our characters went on the run across Europe.
What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book?
When we decided to “revamp” our characters into our own original storyline, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to capture the relationships and characters we fell in love with in our fanfiction series. To our surprise and delight, apparently they like having their own space to play and have brought even greater dimension to their story in “Kenan.”
What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Starbursts are my bread and butter. Cadbury Royal Dark chocolate is my special treat, and cold Pepsi over ice is my choice of desperation.
Let’s talk about your writing life...
How long did you write before you got published?
I’ve written fiction for 15 years, give or take, and completed 11 novels or novellas before Kenan was published May 2015.
What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Write the book you want to read. I struggled for a long time with feeling like my story and characters had to fit in a certain genre, had to have this incredibly complex plot like this or that popular writer. I love stories with action, romance, humor and strong characters tied together by deep and interesting relationships. I love books with fascinating settings that allow current events and life’s big questions to influence the characters. So, I wrote a character-centric action story interwoven with romance and humor that explores deep themes of stereotypes and racial prejudice. Because, why stick with one genre when you can have a bit of all of them? But seriously, your most valuable writing tool is your authentic voice.
How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
My publishing journey is a whole different story with many twists and turns and would probably be a whole blog post in and of itself! Lol! Suffice it to say, I didn’t take the usual road.
What does your writing process look like?
Usually Carrie and I determine the main story and themes for our books and hash out plot and character arcs using a few key scenes. Then we start writing and sort out chapters, scenes and finer plot points as we go. We don’t necessarily write linearly either. Sometimes we’ll jump around, writing the scenes that are clear in our minds and coming back to fill in scenes later.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I love that moment when the characters just run with it and take over a scene, leaving you crying or laughing or a bit of both. I hate plotting and research, and having to slow down playing with the characters to make what’s happening actually realistic.
I love to study character-centric movies and tv shows for their use of humor and character relationships (Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis are great examples). Carrie and I will also bounce ideas off each other and play the “What if” game. Our funniest scenes usually come from one or the other of us saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if CHARACTER A did/said A, B, and C?” And we find a way to fit it into the story.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
Pretty much any Skillet song is a Katiller theme song, but when I’m actually writing I listen to my vast soundtrack collection. My most recent favorite is the new Jungle Book movie soundtrack.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Strive for professionalism and be willing to learn. The biggest problems we run into at Crosshair Press (where I’m the primary content editor) are young authors who don’t do their research on the fundamentals and/or aren’t willing to accept correction.
Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
“Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass is a good one. Amy Williams also has some great posts on writing on her blog, http://www.amycwilliams.com/category/telling-tales/
How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously, it is a tricky balance that requires a great deal of organization. I definitely have to maximize my time and have one thing serve multiple purposes as much as possible. It can be tempting to isolate yourself to try and get writing done, but becoming a hermit isn’t the answer. If you’re not living life, how will you experience a story worth telling? But, on the other hand, life has a tendency to take over. Make time for the things that refresh your soul and are important, if not urgent.
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How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
I celebrated the 4th out at my grandma’s house in the country with fireworks, toasted marshmallows, and 35+ relatives. It was glorious, and now my introvert soul is going to become a hermit for the next few weeks.
What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Summer is my favorite! I love swimming, eating BBQ on the deck as the sun goes down, watching the fireflies dance in the ditches.
Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
The last three years I’ve spent living in England and traveling all over the world, mostly to Third World countries. Now that I’m back in the States I’m enjoying the freedom to walk the streets by myself without harassment, to dress comfortably in the way that I prefer, and to be valued as a woman in my society. These are freedoms I never realized I enjoyed until I had to give them up for the sake of the Gospel.
What are you currently reading?
I’m in the midst of reading and content editing “New Name,” book 3 in the Destiny trilogy by A.C. Williams that’s releasing from Crosshair Press in December. It’s awesome! If you love strong characters, adventure, and amazing space opera world-building (a la Firefly) you’ll adore it as much as I do.
Emilie here: Thank you so much for being my guest Karis! Loved getting to know more about you :)