Today on Awesome Authors I have the pleasure of interviewing paranormal romance and romantic thriller author, Chris Karlsen. I met Chris at a Donald Maass workshop in Washington a few years back, and we’ve been critique partners ever since. A fellow Midwesterner, Chris worked as a policewoman in Chicago, later moving to the west coast to become a detective in southern California. Here’s Chris:
D: Hi Chris–thanks for joining us! Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:
C: I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively in my life. I grew up with a love of history. As a result, my stories are set in places I love. Once I choose the setting, I look into historical events and on occasion modern events to build a story around.
I was born and raised in Chicago. My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader. I grew up with a love of history and books.
“…I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.”
My parents also love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.
I am a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired, I decided to pursue that dream. I write two different series. My paranormal romance series is called Knights in Time. My romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters.
D: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
C: I knew in high school but never pursued it. I waffled when I went to college, afraid to go after a writing career, afraid I couldn’t earn a living at it. So, I chose the “safe” path and got a degree in business.
C: A man, a knight, from the past must overcome what seems like insurmountable challenges if he’s to adjust to the modern world and find a measure of happiness.
D: What compelled you to write Knight Blindness?
C: Time travel was a common discussion at the dinner table in my house. It was a fascination for my parents and me. The many aspects of it were debated.
When I decided to write my own versions I went back in one story with my characters (Journey in Time). For the next, Knight Blindness, I wanted to do something very different with both my hero and the antagonist (who is not a villain though). I wanted to follow each man as he struggled to function in a world they had little context for.
D: You write in two different genres: time-travel romance and romantic thriller. What do you enjoy about each genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?
C: The characters for each series are similar in that they are ethical, honorable, intelligent, resourceful, and have a good sense of humor. What I enjoy and what keeps them “fresh” for me is they all have a specific way of looking at their circumstances and various views on how they can and should overcome obstacles and threats.
The characters have cultural differences that come into play, even the ones who are born and raised in England. The heroes have all experienced life in another time. The heroines who have only known the modern world must learn to relate the past that still holds some influence over the men they love. In the thrillers, the heroine is American and the hero is Turkish. The melding of her bold American attitude and candidness and his far more reserved and traditional heritage has proven both interesting and fun.
Writing in different genres, for me, is a nice break. If I’ve spent a long time with a book and really the characters, like Knight Blindness, which took a year to write, it is refreshing to spend time with characters who are leading totally different lives.
I can’t really think of what I dislike about writing the various genres. If I found myself not liking it, I’d not continue with whatever genre was bothering me.
I do a tremendous amount of research for each series. I fill large binders with information, I interview experts, I collect DVDs on the subjects, read a huge number of books and tab them according to topic, I subscribe to magazines, visit websites of all kinds (but verify any info from a site before using the material).
D: Your time-travel romances deal with the fallout of time travel from the medieval era to present day and vice versa. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your characters? What were the challenges you faced?
C: I love medieval history and English medieval history in particular. I have been to England many times and always knew if I ever pursued my writing ambition I’d set at least one book there. I had already read so much over the years on the history and events and real people of the time that putting the time travels in that period seemed a natural choice.
A real challenge, and on the surface you would think it wasn’t an issue, but I always had to keep the limitations of the time in mind. I couldn’t allow the characters who were back in time to have any environmental advantage. They were compelled to use the tools available. Intellectually, they could be clever and resourceful but even that modus operandi had restrictions when it came to the heroines. Women suffered many limitations in the period and to not abide by them could prove dangerous.
The challenge bringing the hero forward in time I mentioned earlier was unique. I had to constantly remind myself what he could put into context or figure out the meaning and purpose for and what was totally alien to him. Take one of us back and we’d pretty much be able to identify much of what we came into contact with. We’ve seen tools, “surgeon’s instruments,” farm equipment, kitchen utensils, and everyday life objects in books and/or museums etc. How extraordinary, confusing, and even scary are some things he’s seeing for the first time? How would he understand the concept/science behind a square box capturing the images of living beings, or a machine that can cook food in minutes without flame, or an immense vehicle that can leave the ground and fly through the air?
“…I used the beauty of traveling through the English countryside in the settings. I also used the damp, cold dark of some castles to enhance the fear in my heroine who is stuck in the middle ages and must face the king alone.”
D: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?
C: Yes, I have and do. I used one of the two trips I made to the ruins of Troy as the basis for an event that happens to the heroine in my Dangerous Waters thrillers. I incorporated my time in Istanbul walking around the Old City and the Spice Market into those same books.
Same with the time travel romances. I used the beauty of traveling through the English countryside in the settings. I also used the damp, cold dark of some castles to enhance the fear in my heroine who is stuck in the middle ages and must face the king alone.
D: What are you currently working on?
C: I’m working on book one of what I hope will be a new series. It is set in Victorian England and is a romantic thriller/suspense. It’s early days yet so I’ll have to see how the story progresses.
D: Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?
C: Study the craft. If you can take classes with some of the great instructors out there, then do. If you can’t afford them, then buy their books.
Expect to write several drafts. However good you believe your first or second draft to be, it is not. For me, I usually wind up doing 4-5. I submit the first to my critique partners who make suggestions. I rewrite keeping those in mind. Then rewrite again with just me as the editor. Then, I give it to a couple of writer friends who are generally a couple of my critique partners. Rewrite when I get it back then give it to my 2-3 Beta readers to go through for content and plot holes etc.
READ!! READ!! READ!! Learn from successful writers. If you love a scene, dissect it and try to see what they did that made you love it. It’s especially important to read the genre you want to write in so you have an idea what that reading audience expects.
“…Favorite authors who I always bought the hardback of, I now only buy the absolute keepers and either get the new one in e-format or wait until it’s out in paperback.”
D: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
C: I’d love to still have story ideas. I always worry I will run dry. Most of all, I’d love to have my books made into either a television series or tv movie.
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?
C: I don’t know if anyone has a handle on that subject. I believe there will still be print books. I continue to buy print and hardbacks. I think hardbacks might go away as they’re simply getting too expensive. Favorite authors who I always bought the hardback of, I now only buy the absolute keepers and either get the new one in e-format or wait until it’s out in paperback.
Overall, I think e-books are going to dominate for a variety of reasons. I do believe there will be a slowdown in the amount of self-published works, which are a heavy force in the market. The time needed to promote a book and the cost of good promotion I believe will have a powerful effect on writers who aren’t committed.
D: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go?
C: I’d like to go back to the medieval period and the Bronze Age. That said, I’d prefer to be either invisible or have the ability to snap my fingers and come home. Otherwise, I know my luck and I’ll wind up on the wrong end of a pile of kindling🙂
Not sure about going into the future. Star Trek makes it look pretty nifty but it could just as easily be Planet of the Apes or like the original Time Machine by HG Wells with man-eating Morlocks😦 I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to dealing with Morlocks.
D: Totally get that, Chris🙂 Thanks for being with us today. Below is the description and an excerpt from Chris’ new book, Knight Blindness. As always, the links to her information is below. Enjoy!
Ready for battle, Medieval English knight, Stephen Palmer, charges into the French enemy’s cavalry line. Heeding a warning given months before, he hesitates as he comes face-to-face with the knight in the warning. Struck down in the year 1356, he finds himself landing in the year 2013. Grievously wounded, he’s taken to a nearby hospital. Confused by the new world surrounding him, he attempts to convince the staff he’s from another time, only to find they think him mad.
Rescued by friends, who, to his surprise, have also come through time, he must find a way to function in this odd modern England. He is quickly enchanted by the kind Esme Crippen, the young woman hired to tutor him. She too is enchanted by him. Tempted to deepen the relationship, she hesitates thinking him adorable, but mad. He must discover the means for getting her to believe the truth, all the while, unknown to him, he didn’t come forward in time alone. The enemy knight has also traveled to 2013.
French noble, Roger Marchand, doesn’t question why the English knight who charged him hesitated. That fraction of a pause gave him the advantage needed and he brought his sword down upon the Englishman’s helmet hard, unhorsing the knight. He moved to finish the Englishman off when the world changed in a rush of sensations as he is ripped through time.
Seeking a reason for the terrible event, he enters a nearby chapel. There, thinking God has chosen him for a quest to turn French defeat that day in 1356 to victory, he sets out to find the English knight. The man he is convinced holds the key to time. If he returns to the day of the battle, he can warn his king of mistakes that snatched victory from them.
Stephen woke from the dreamless sleep groggy. Since the Frenchmen took him from the field, he’d lost all sense of time. Bits and pieces of events faded in and out of memory. He recalled at one point he’d tried to fight and they’d stuck him with a small spiked weapon. It hadn’t hurt, no more than a prick from a lady’s sewing needle. Then, he was floating and had the sense of angels lifting him.
Not angels but his captors.
The delicious scent brought him awake. He might’ve slept hours or days, he didn’t know. All he knew was the food smelled like fine fare and his stomach felt stuck to his backbone, he was so hungry.
“Is the food for me?” he’d asked, stomach rumbling.
A new man, one whose voice he’d never heard answered, “Yes.”
He attempted to rise but tethers kept him prone. His wrists and ankles were tied to the bed with padded cuffs instead of chains. A small but curious kindness.
“How am I to eat it tethered as I am? Smell alone will not get it to my stomach.”
“I’ll release you, but first you must promise not to fight or to touch your eye wrap.”
“Yes, yes, I promise.” He’d agree to most anything for a full belly.
Stephen sat up as soon as he was free.
The man put the tray of food on his lap and set cloth wrapped utensils into his palm.
“What is this?” Stephen poked the tined edge of a four-pronged eating tool to his fingertip.
“What is it? It’s a fork. You know—for sticking your food with and bringing pieces to your mouth.”
Seems silly. Why bother with cutting then sticking your food with the fork before bringing it to your mouth, an eating dagger is faster, more sensible? Stab and eat.
The aroma of meat and bread filled his nose and he put the fork aside. His head low to the tray, he shoveled the vegetables into his mouth with the spoon. A juicy, plump chicken breast nestled next to the vegetables. He tore the meat from the bone with his fingers, licking the buttery drippings from the tips as he devoured it. He last ate chicken in July and then it wasn’t a fat hen but a wiry, tough rooster. The captors brought two more plates and he finished those before he was finally full.
Stephen sensed someone enter the room as the man left with the last tray.
“Who is there?”
“I’m here to give you a sponge bath, if you like,” a female, young by the sound of her said.
“You wish to bathe me?”
The pass of his hand over his hair told him somebody had washed it. No dried blood was caked anywhere. He sniffed his forearms. They smelled of soap and had also been cleaned. He had no need of a bath. The woman offered something other than a wash.
He smiled with knowledge. It had been a long time since he’d enjoyed the services of a bawd. Tempting as the harlot’s offer was, he suspected enemy devilry and declined.
“Would you like to listen to music?” she asked.
The bawd traveled with minstrels. He wasn’t in the mood for her other services, but he’d welcome a cheerful tune. “I would.”
“What station do you wish,” she asked.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ll turn it to a classical one.”
A tune different from any he ever heard came from across the room. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” the bawd said. Her light footfalls told him she left.
Classical station? Lovelier than any minstrel’s music, he dozed off still baffled by weird words and goings on of his captors. They’d woken him an unknown amount of time later and said it was the day and hour for his eye surgery. A man told him to make a fist. He said perfect when he found a vein and then stuck a needle into the crook of Stephen’s elbow. That was the last he remembered.
“Monsieur, monsieur,” a female voice said, patting his hand. “Wake up.”
Stephen yawned and propped himself up on an elbow. “Ugh.” His mouth tasted like sour milk and his tongue felt like it was wrapped in a mitten. “I’d like some water.”
“Here.” The woman slid a flexible spout between his lips. “Suck.”
He didn’t know what the spout was made of, nor did he care. The water tasted sweet to his parched mouth and he sucked the cup dry. “More.” When he’d sucked another cup dry, he asked. “What day is this?”
“September 22,” the woman said, taking the empty cup.
Three days had passed since the battle. Why had they let him live? There could be no good reason for it.
“This is Dr. Berger. Do you remember me speaking to you two days ago about your eye surgery?”
“Dr. Monette is here too. We want to talk to you about the day they found you. The more we know about you, the more we can help.”
“Who is the woman?” She didn’t sound like the first woman, the one who smelled like a garden. This one carried no scent of any flower. Nor did she sound young as the bawd. What was this one’s purpose? The first, he suspected, had created the potion that put him to sleep. He knew a bawd’s.
“She is Nurse Cloutier.”
Probably Witch Cloutier. “Ask what you will.”
“What is your name?”
“What’s the last thing you remember before receiving your injury?”
“I am a knight in service to the Baron Guiscard. He rode to the aid of his friend. I saw your men surround the baron. They were trying to pull him from his mount. I was about to ride to his aid when one of your knights, his heraldic symbol was of a panther on a field of orange, challenged me.” Stephen thought again how Guy’s warning had made him falter. “I…I hesitated and your man struck with his sword.”
“Monsieur Palmer, your eye injury is serious. If this answer is an attempt at humor, then it is a poor time to engage in such a jest.”
“You asked what I remembered. I told you. I’m not in the habit of making jests with my enemies.”
“Monsieur Palmer, we are not your enemy. We are not at war.” A long moment passed and then Berger asked, “What year do you believe it to be?”
“The year of our Lord, 1356.”
“Mon Dieu,” Cloutier said in the background.
“From what the paramedics told us you said when they arrived, and your answer today, I am convinced that you do believe this is 1356. Monsieur Palmer,” Berger covered Stephen’s hand with his own. “The year is 2013.”
Find out more about Chris Karlsen by visiting her website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.