Ask the Author: Karen A. Wyle
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a lifelong reader in many genres. I’ve probably read science fiction and historical fiction the longest, but in recent years I’m increasingly reading romance and historical romance. That must be why I finally wrote a historical romance of my own.
I’m also a lawyer, concentrating on civil appeals. Except for my SF series Twin-Bred, set on other planets and involving human-alien relationships and conflicts, this is the first book I’ve written in quite a few years that has no litigation in it (though it does involve legislation at one point).
I used to be a part-time photographer, and still have images with a stock agency.
And I’m short. When I’m looking for something in a grocery store, I frequently forget about the top shelves.
What is What Heals the Heart about for those who haven’t read it?
It’s a romance set in the fictional small town of Cowbird Creek in 1874-1875 Nebraska. It is also about superficial versus deeper attraction; conventional versus original personalities; standing up for one’s beliefs; and PTSD. As to the latter, it deals with the process of at least partially recovering from that trauma.
What has been your inspiration for writing What Heals the Heart?
I can’t point to any single book or event. Soaking up stories and historical accounts for decades no doubt contributed – as did my own life experience.
What was your favorite scene or part of What Heals the Heart to write?
Despite some “expert” dicta condemning it, I have a fondness for scenes involving dreams. (Never fear – I don’t start a book with some thrilling scene and then have the character awake from it.) In this book, there are two scenes involving nightmares and the reactions of others to those nightmares. The scenes may be viewed as bookends of a sort, and I enjoyed crafting the set.
I also got a kick out of elderly Jewish widow Freida Blum’s sharp (though benevolent) tongue. (Caveat: she sees herself as elderly, and at the time, that perception wasn’t too far-fetched. From my modern perspective, I’d call her middle-aged.)
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
That might depend on which time I became a writer. I first decided to write novels at about the age of nine or ten (if not earlier). I’m not sure what I’d read by then. I had definitely read books in the Carolyn Haywood series that started with B is for Betsy, but I’m sure I’d read quite a few other books, possibly including some of Edgar Eager’s or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s. I might have discovered the Narnia books by then as well. (I vaguely recall having difficulty with a school librarian who didn’t want to let me read “third-grade books” when I was in first or second grade.)
After one and a half novels, written at ages ten and fourteen, I wrote poetry for years and dabbled briefly in short stories before putting aside my writing almost entirely. For perhaps fifteen years, the closest I came to nonprofessional writing was a haiku now and then. I started writing picture book manuscripts in 1990, while pregnant with my first child but before reading many picture books. I didn’t try a novel again until 2010, after much more reading.
One of the novels I admire most is Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. However, the brilliance of the dialogue and the depth of emotion intimidate me as much as they inspire me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Don’t take any writing “rules” as mandatory. Find the process that works for you and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of it. (Plenty of people will preach rules at you, whether to tout methods that worked for them, to sell you something, or to show off their knowledge.)
If you have trouble getting started or finishing what you start, and especially if you compulsively self-edit as you write, I highly recommend National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short), which takes place every November. Writers from all over the world try to write at least 50,000 words of a very rough draft entirely within the month of November, though it’s fine to research and make notes beforehand. At that pace (an average of 1,667 words a day), you don’t have much time to second-guess yourself. You can brick up your inner editor in a closet and let your subconscious guide you. Afterward (and I recommend taking a month or so off first), you can take as long as you like to finish, revise, and polish your draft.
Seriously consider self-publishing your work — after you’ve edited it or had it edited, and have run it by a few beta readers. If you self-publish, it’s a very good idea to hire a good cover designer, unless you’re gifted at graphic design and familiar with book covers in your book’s genre. You can spend very little or a great deal. Based on designers I’ve used and others I’ve considered using, I’d say you can get a terrific cover for between $150.00 and $600.00. There are complexities to working with a cover designer, mostly having to do with how well your personality and assumptions fit with those of the designer. For example, an author who expects to have a great deal of input throughout the design process will have trouble working with a designer who considers such input amateurish interference, or who haven’t allocated time for such interactions.
If you do seek out traditional publishing, don’t rely on an agent to catch land mines in your publishing contract — and there are more nasty land mines in such contracts than ever. Hire an IP (intellectual property) attorney to do a quick review of the contract — you can find several good ones online — and be willing to walk away from a deal that could cripple your future writing career (all too common). Vet any publisher by checking Writer Beware at https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/.
What Heals the Heart is, as I write this, available for preorder at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VH1Q6C6. The same link should work when the book becomes available on October 15, 2019.
All my books can be purchased on Amazon. (My Amazon author page is at https://www.amazon.com/Karen-A-Wyle/e/B005WK7D26.) Most of them are also available from many other online retailers. All the novels, as well as my nonfiction book attempting (hubris in action!) to summarize American law, are available in paperback as well as ebook format. The short stories are only available as ebooks.
Where to find Karen A. Wyle:
—Twin-Bred series: Twin-Bred, Reach, Leaders (tag line for first book is “Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?”)
—Near future SF: Division, Playback Effect, Who, The Link
—Afterlife fantasy/family drama: Wander Home
—SF with aliens and no humans, also a coming of age story: Water to Water
—Nonfiction resource for authors, law students, and others: Closest to the Fire: A Writer’s Guide to Law and Lawyers