Nov 11, 2008

Karen White and the Writing and Publishing Process

I want to thank Karen White for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit! Her novel The House on Tradd Street debuted on Nov. 4, read my review. Without further ado, Karen will discuss her writing and publishing process.

I’ve done it! I’ve just completed not only my second novel in a single calendar year, but I’ve also worked through the agony of simultaneously promoting two novels published within the same time span. Am I Superwoman or Super-insane? Sitting here still in my pajamas at 11:47 am, I’m not sure I really know the answer.

I’d like to say that my decision to double my output was a calmly calculated one intended to increase sales and bring in more readers. But then I’d be lying. The fact is, I was happily writing a single southern women’s fiction novel for my publisher each year. I was relatively successful with growing sales and a solid reader base who would loyally buy each book I published. My royalty checks were respectable although certainly not big enough for my husband to chuck in his desk job and spend his life out on the golf course (which is what I might have promised him once upon a time when I stopped cooking so that I could devote more time to writing).

What happened was really an accident. I came up with a really cool ghost story/mystery/women’s fiction novel idea. It was different enough from my earlier books that they couldn’t be published by the same imprint, but it was still enough of a Karen White book for me to keep my author’s name on the front cover. But my publisher still wanted one of my straight southern women’s fiction books out once a year. The only way my new story idea could find a home would be if I squeezed those books in between my other books. That would mean two books (averaging over 100,000 words each) a year.

Sure! I said, recalling Steve Martin’s words when offered The Cruel Shoes. How hard could it be? Yes, I’m the mother of two teenagers and a small dog and I have a husband who travels incessantly. But my daughter is driving this year (and saving me 7 hours a week—yes, I calculated it) and I figured that those extra 7 hours per week would be exactly what I needed to squeeze in that extra book per year. Or so I thought.

It turns out that just because I have seven extra hours doesn’t mean that I want to squeeze in more work time. Writing is exhausting stuff. It hurts my brain. It really isn’t physically possible for me to sit in front of my computer for long hours at a time writing creatively. I need time off to ‘fill the well’ so to speak. You know, reading, playing piano, goofing off with my kids and dog. Scrapbooking. That sort of thing. It’s as essential to writing as sitting down at a desk and typing—just harder to calculate its worth since I can’t measure it in word count.

Basically what I’ve ended up doing is not so much increasing the amount of time I spend writing and doing writing-related stuff (such as writing blogs like this), but decreasing the amount of time I have to well, live my life.

The result? I’m exhausted—both mentally and physically. My daughter is starting her college search and my son has started high school which means they’re both requiring more one-on-one attention from me. My husband has been traveling more than ever making me a single parent in charge of everything from grocery shopping, to bill paying, to filling out those incessant forms kids always seem to require for school, sports and camps. When we have ants invading our kitchen or a water spot on the dining room wall, it is up to me to call the appropriate people and be here at the scheduled time. On top of all of this, I need to write two novels AND promote them.

But is it all bad news? Hardly! Sales of my backlist and pre-orders for my November book (The House on Tradd Street) have increased by leaps and bounds. As a reader, when I discover a new author, I want to buy everything he/she’s written. Apparently, my readers (old and new) think the same way. I’ve really broadened my exposure to a whole new reading audience. The House on Tradd Street is a bit of a departure for me—I add ghosts to my known mix of southern women’s fiction/romance/mystery. I think that my current readers will love this book, and I know that new readers who like it will enjoy my backlist. And, to add to the excitement, The House in Tradd Street is the beginning of a series—the second book, The Girl on Legare Street, will be out in November 2009.

The momentum created by a quick succession of books is evidenced by an increase of sales in my backlist as well pre-orders of my next book. Another reason for this is an increase in paid promotion and a new publicist—made affordable by two advances and two royalties checks in one year.

The best part is that I’ve learned that I can write fast; that the way I was writing before (a couple of hours in the morning and then I was done) was completely self-indulgent. I’m a more efficient writer now, and a better writer. When I don’t linger too long over a book, I don’t find myself getting bored with the characters or the plot, or fiddling with things that don’t need fixing. It’s all new and fresh.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. The plusses so far outweigh the negatives. It’s pushed my career to the next level in a shorter amount of time than my former path of one novel a year would have. Will I continue to do this? Absolutely not. Being exhausted does not make a fun mom/wife/friend to be around. I value my family and my friends too much to do this to them for much longer.

I just signed a new two-book contract and made sure that I had nine months between novels. Not as long as a year, but much longer than six months to write a book. It’s my light at the end of the tunnel when I’ll be able to breathe a little slower. And (hopefully!) watch my sales continue grow in response to my efforts.

Thanks again, Karen, for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts with us.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on my review post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on this guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks again to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Karen White, author of The House on Tradd Street. For a list of other Virtual appearances for Karen, go here.

Don't forget that Karen will have a sequel,
The Girl on Legare Street, out in November 2009.


Anonymous said...

I want this book, no I need this book. Seriously. I have read so much about it. I am glad to know another book of hers is releasing in 2009. I'll add that to my 2009 reading challenge. Please enter me.

Sue A. said...

Karen congratulations on the new 2-book deal! And for surviving such a hectic year!

I just hope you're pacing yourself, as we wouldn't want you to burn out.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Sue--

I'm trying not to burn out. Chocolate helps a lot. (grin)

Yes, a sequel is coming out in November 2009 (assuming I make my deadline to have it finished by February 1st) but my next book, THE LOST HOURS, will be out in May, 2009.

Then I'll get some sleep.

rb said...

I can't wait a year! But sequels, no matter how long they take are excellent.

Anonymous said...

Great guest post. I've never read any of Karen's work, but I want to now.

Serena said...

Karen: I totally agree. Chocolate is a saving grace for me. Its a great reward and pick-me-up when working on a novel. I'm crazy doing NaNo this year with all the book tours and reviews and a full-time job...but what the heck!

I will have to put the lost hours and legare street on my tbr list.

This was my first Karen White book. I love discovering new-to-me authors!

teabird said...

This book sounds awesome - I'd love a copy!

teabird 17 *at* yahoo dot com

darbyscloset said...

I would say you are superwoman!!!
Way to go! What a way to remember a year! I love it when a good book has a follow up book!
Thank you!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

KyleeJ said...

It's great to know that, even with the exhaustion and insanity, you'd do it all again!

Katherine said...

This book still sounds awesome! I'd love to read it myself.

Iliana said...

Congrats on the book deal Karen!

The book sounds great so please throw my name in the hat :)

Anna said...

What a great guest post! I always love reading what writers have to say about their writing/publishing experiences. I agree that writing can drain you mentally and physically. But it's so rewarding.

Congrats, Karen, on your latest book deal!

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

Super woman. I definitely vote super woman.

Darlene said...

Wow, great post. Karen, I don't know how you keep up to that crazy schedule. I still have Memory of Water on my nightstand and fully intend to read it soon. This newest one sounds so good, I'd sure love a copy.

katayoun said...

i agree with the bloggers, this review and a couple of other out there, really make me lust after this book. it sound great, and also congrats on the sequel

The Bookworm said...

This sounds like a great book, wonderful interview as well.
Congrats to Karen on her book deal :)

Beawhiz said...

Thanks for giving an aspiring writer some insight to the writing process and the challenges of balancing writing with family!

Cheryl said...

Excellent article Karen. I've posted an excerpt and a link back here at The Aspiring Author blog -

Best of luck!


Margay Leah Justice said...

Great interview, Karen! Best of luck with this.

Serena said...

Thanks for posting the referral to Savvy Verse & Wit, Cheryl! Very kind of you!

Jo-Jo said...

Congratulations Karen! It sounds like you really extended your writing career by pushing yourself. 6 months sure isn't a lot of time for writing a book though! I'm looking forward to reading this one.

gautami tripathy said...

It made an interesting read! Congratulations, Karen!

Anonymous said...

I thought I did write a comment and entered for this giveaway! but it sure doesn't look like I did!

Thanks for such a wonderful giveaway! PLease ENTER me!

and Congrats to Karen :)

Even if you are not getting big enough royalty checks- you are definitely giving US good books to savor!

so keep on the good work - and I hope I win this :-)

Anonymous said...

This book really does look great.

djecse at yahoo dot com

Ladytink_534 said...

This sounds like such a cool book! I love ghost stories and mysteries too so I know I would enjoy it.

Shana said...

Sounds like a great book, but I'm holding off on contests until I catch up.

I cannot even imagine Karen's schedule with the two books a year, and the pressure! I do think that the more you know you have to get done, the more efficiently you work.


Sheri S. said...

Kudos to Karen for all of her hard work and ambition! This book sounds really intriguing - I love the idea of combining different genres like women's fiction with mystery!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the guest post withi Karen White! Please add me again to the drawing!


Linda said...

This book sounds great, and I think I need to look at the other books by Karen.
lcbrower40 (at)

Carol M said...

I enjoyed reading your post, Karen, and would love to read he House on Tradd Street! I really like reading anything about ghosts.
Thank you!
Carol M
mittens0831 AT

Keyo said...

pls include me. i heard bout it from a friend earlier too! sounds like a lot of interesting pages to it!!

i also left you a comment on the other post for a second chance at winning! thanks

avisannschild said...

Wow, congrats on writing two books in a year. I'm impressed. Definitely Superwoman!