Me: You wrote your first novel when your children "were just babies." How did you juggle the roles of mother and author? How did you find the momentum - not to mention the energy - to complete that book?
KW: I get asked this question a lot and the answer is really simple: writing is my passion. If I didn't feel driven to do it, I wouldn't. It's too hard, and I've made too many sacrifices to simply call it a 'hobby'. Ask any NBA start or concert violinist why they practice so long and it's the same answer--because it's they're passion and they make it a priority. Despite crying/whining children, a bad day, rain, a sick pet--whatever. I write because it's what I do. Nobody else will make it happen if I don't. As for juggling--I think it's good for my children to see their mother working hard to pursue her dreams. I think that makes up for the frozen dinners. :-)
Me: I've read (and loved) two of your novels, both of which were set in the South. Both were so atmospheric - obviously, you have a great affection for this region of the U.S. I know you've lived all over - tell me a little bit about your relationship with the South and why you find it such a compelling setting for your novels.
KW: Both of my parents were born and raised in Mississippi, and I've had family living in the south since before the Revolution. No matter where we lived, I always demanded a trip to my grandmother's house in Indianola, Mississippi each summer. It's where I hung out on Main Street with my cousins and ran into people who'd known my mother and called me 'Catherine Anne's daughter.' It was a connection to my roots that I felt I missed out on because we moved around so much. The sights, smells, and accents of the South became for me what I identified with as home.
Me: Several of your books deal with mother/daughter relationships. What made you start exploring this subject? And do you think mothers and daughters will ever find common ground?
KW: I'm a granddaughter, a daughter, and a mother--so I think I'm well-versed on the subject of mothers and daughters.
Growing up watching my mother's relationship with my grandmother, and then experiencing the growing pains of my relationship with my own mother gave me plenty of fodder to explore in my novels. My own daughter is 17 now, and wow! I think that alone gives me enough material for a whole new series! I've seen how my relationship with my mother has mellowed over the years as we find common ground with raising children and experiencing loss. I look forward to experiencing the same shifts in the relationship with my own daughter. If I survive her teenage years...
Me: Speaking of daughters, I noticed that Meghan is a book lover. What has it been like to share a love of reading with your daughter?
KW: It truly is one of my greatest joys! We talk books and share books all the time. She also reads mine and has been known to say nice things about them.
My mother wasn't a reader so this has been such a treat for me--which is why I never say no when she wants to head to the bookstore. I'm a real pushover!
Me: I've heard it said that you had to confront a personal fear of deep water in order to write THE MEMORY OF WATER. THE LOST HOURS deals with horses - Is this another fear you had to overcome? Or are you an accomplished equestrian? What kind of research - if any - did you do in order to write about a horse ranch, horse-related injuries, and riding in general?
KW: Because I had to do so much sailing research for THE MEMORY OF WATER, I was determined to go easier on myself this go round for THE LOST HOURS. I live in the middle of horse-country and my daughter rides so it wasn't so difficult to come up with an equestrian setting for the book. Meghan was a huge help with the research as was my good friend, Andi Winkle, who owns her own horses and was so helpful with all of my questions that I stuck her in the book as the stable manager at Asphodel Meadows.
Me: THE LOST HOURS is really about healing - from wounds both physical and emotional. How were you able to write about grief and recovery with such authenticity? Did it require research or just imagination?
KW: I've been very blessed and have never lost a close family member or friend. But I've always been one of those people who cry reading obituaries or Hallmark commercials or news stories. It might be part of my artistic makeup to be able to empathize with another's grief, and I borrow those feelings to create realistic emotions in my novels.
Me: You've mentioned Margaret Mitchell and Diana Gabaldon as favorite authors. Who else do you enjoy reading? How do these authors influence your own writing?
KW: I love Jodi Picoult, Khaled Hosseini, Nelson deMille, Pat Conroy and a host of others. They inspire me by 'feeding the well.' When I read their words, it truly is oiling the writing cogs in my head.
Me: Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
KW: Sleeping! I'm a dedicated napper. ;-) I also enjoy reading, scrapbooking, and playing piano.
Me: I ask this question of every author I interview, just because I love the variety of answers I get: What is your writing process like? Do you write for a certain amount of time each day or do you write only when you feel like it? Where do you write? Do you outline your novels or just let the ideas flow? Is there anything you absolutely have to have by your side when you write? From where do you get the ideas for your stories?
KW: I live with two teenagers, a demanding dog, two guinea pigs and a husband who travels. There is no such thing as a 'process.' My laptop goes with me everywhere and I write when and where I can. I don't have the luxury for waiting for my muse--I have to go out and find her! I actually wrote most of THE MEMORY OF WATER in my car while waiting at my daughter's horse barn for her riding lessons, or in carpool line, or at football practice with my son. As for outlining--no. I'm a horrible example to writers because I do it the 'wrong' way. I'm a very organic writer and just let the characters take me where they want. I don't recommend writing a book this way because it will drive you crazy! The only thing I must have by my side when writing is my Havanese dog, Quincy. :-)
Me: Lastly, I'd love to know what you're working on now and what else you have in the works.
KW: I have five more contracted books: three more books for THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET series and two more 'grit lit' southern women's fiction novels. The one I'm currently working on is set in Folly Beach, SC. I've rented a house there for a week this summer to research. Hey, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!
Me: Thanks so much, Karen! To find out more about Karen and her books, visit her official website.