Author Interview: Karen Heenan

Author Interview: Indie Book Spotlight

Follow Karen Heenan on Twitter!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Ebooks for me! Far easier on the eyes, and they take up less room in my small house. Beyond that, paperbacks. I like to carry my books with me – another reason for ebooks.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

I’m a historical fiction reader since childhood. I read widely, but historical fiction will always be my first love.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

It was a book about a family of bears. I don’t remember the name, but I made my mom read it so often that I memorized the words and what pages they appeared on, and then I tricked my parents into thinking I could read. (It was still one of the first books I read, followed quickly by Dr. Seuss).

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. It was about three friends growing up in early 20th century Minnesota. There were grade-school level books and then another set for high school and beyond. I loved the friendships and the book Betsy and the Great World made me want to travel. And I did.

5.      When did you first start writing?

In grade school – second or third grade, as soon as I realized that books were actually written by real people. It seemed like something I could learn to do well, just by reading a lot and writing more, and it didn’t take lots of art supplies or expensive ballet lessons.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

If I didn’t write, the stories would have driven me crazy. I feel the exact same today – once I write a story down, it gets quiet in my head for a while.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I’m most proud of Songbird, my first book, because even though I think my writing has gotten stronger with each book, that was the book that finally made it off my computer and into publication.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I published my first finished book. There are several on my computer that have large pieces of plot missing, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to them. There was some good writing there, but it was good for who I was at the time. If I could figure out how to finish them, they would need such massive rewrites that it would be easier to start fresh.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

My Tudor Court series is up to 3 books, with 3 more planned. My next book, Coming Apart, is the first in a new series.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Historical fiction has been it, so far, though I do have an idea for a contemporary, and there’s a dual timeline historical suspense lingering in a dark corner of my brain.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Writing historical, you can’t escape research. And that’s fine, because I really enjoy it. Reading a lot history and biography gave me enough embedded information that I could begin my Tudor series without doing a lot of research to start with, and the knowledge to know where I needed to research further – not to mention that something I read in a biography of Henry VIII actually gave me the idea for my first book.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I’m half in, half out of the boat on that one. I plan very loosely – mostly just the beginning and end, and a few points in the middle, and then I let the story take control, knowing there’s a destination in mind.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

Back in 2015, I got an agent who tried to place Songbird with publishers. After a year with no results, we parted ways and I stepped away from the idea of being published. In 2018, I decided to go over the manuscript one more time, and decided to give it another shot. I participated in a pitch contest on Twitter, and signed a contract with a small press. They published Songbird, and its sequel, A Wider World, but in October, 2021, I requested my rights back and republished the first two books myself, and released Lady, in Waiting in February, 2022. I just realized that I want to be too involved in the process not to be in charge of the whole thing.

14.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes! I’m working on the second book in my 1930s series. No title yet, but it picks up in 1933, a few weeks after the end of Coming Apart.

15.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

That would be Robin Lewis, the main character of A Wider World. He appeared in Songbird, mostly as a child, but even as an adult, he wasn’t really likeable. I thought I was done with him (and with the whole Tudor world, honestly), but one morning I heard the words, “They said I would not end well,” and it was Robin, and he wanted to explain himself. It took an entire book. He’s a prickly, introverted man who doesn’t really understand how to people, and following him through life, where all he wants is to be left alone with his books, and the world keeps throwing complications at him, was tremendous fun.

16.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

My Tudor Court series. There are three books, with another two full novels in mind and a collection of miscellany to round it out. There’s a novella about a side character, two additional epilogues, and a few short stories that stem from incidents in the books.

17.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I love my romances (even though I don’t consider my books to be romances) but I’m going with friendships instead. Robin, who wants nothing more than to be left alone, has two true friends who love him whether he likes it or not. Ned Pickering forcibly befriended Robin when they first began working together, not taking no for an answer, and he is a complete opposite: boisterous, outgoing, a ladies’ man. Sebastian came along when Robin was alone, and becomes almost like a son. When Robin is exiled, Seb goes with him and watches over him.

18.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I can’t write with music; I’ve tried, but lyrics distract me, and even instrumental music can sometimes get in the way.

19.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I haven’t had any art made, but I make collages for each project, partly because looking at them is a way of tricking my brain into thinking the book already exists. I write my blurbs first, for the same reason. The collages are locations from the book, or pieces of jewelry or clothing, plus an actor or two for inspiration.

Covers for Karen Heenan's Songbird, A Wider World, Lady, In Waiting. All three are books in The Tudor Court series.
Cover for Karen Heenan's Songbird, surrounded by medieval images.
Covers for Karen Heenan's A Wider World, surrounded by medieval images.
Covers for Karen Heenan's Lady, In Waiting, surrounded by medieval images.

20.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Be as patient with yourself as you would be with a friend in the same situation. Writing takes time, and your book will never look like the shiny idea in your head, at least not without several rounds of edits. Do the work, and don’t expect instant results.

21.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I haven’t entered any specific contests, but Songbird did win the Coffee Pot Book Club’s Book of the Year for 2020. It was entered automatically when I submitted it for a review.

22.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

So many. Too many. In traditional publishing: Dorothy Dunnett (her Lymond Chronicles are my favorite books ever); Barbara Kingsolver; Mary Doria Russell; Marge Piercy; Laurie Colwin. For indie writers: Marian L Thorpe, Laury Silvers, Eva Seyler, Annie Whiteheadd. It’s a privilege being part of the indie author community, because I get to read and meet so many fabulous writers.

23.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Universal links for series: Books2read: Tudor Song Bird | Books2read: A Wider World | Books2read: Tudor Lady

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