OH! I'm Totally Thrilled to Have Karen Robbins On My Blog!
She is Such a Talented Wonderful Person with an interesting blog filled with tidbits of her traveling adventures.
Enough gushing. Now on to the interview!
Tell us about your latest release. The cover looks fantastic!
Thanks for the compliment! Murder Among The Orchids is a cozy mystery with one of my favorite characters, Casey. She is a professional Household Manager, not a housekeeper, and one morning discovers her boss among his beloved orchids. Mr. Popelmayer lay as if he'd gone down swinging. Casey and her detective friend, Max, discover more than one bizarre and exotic turn to the mystery of Mr. Pop's death. Did his daughter, Cattelya, or his son, Garo, want an early inheritance? Or perhaps his first wife has had her revenge. The answer lies in the Costa Rican Forest of Orchids. It was a lot of fun to write and I hear from readers that it’s just as much fun to read. Casey is a fun sleuth.
What was the hardest part to write?
Probably the hardest part was trying to keep from giving away too much too soon in the mystery. You want to drop hints. The fun part of reading a mystery is trying to figure out the who-done-it but you don’t want the readers to discover that too soon. But this ending surprised me. When I got there, I suddenly discovered something that even I didn’t know about my characters. That’s where I credit God. I wouldn’t have thought it up on my own.
That is so true. I love mysteries! We all have choices of items that help us write. What’s yours? Can you give the readers a glimpse into your writing space? What’s your favorite writing reference tool?
Yikes! A writing space? As you know, Carole, my husband and I travel a lot so my “writing space” is anywhere I can plug in my laptop for a few minutes or hours, if I’m lucky. As a matter of fact, a good part of Murder Among the Orchids was written while we were in Hawaii during the whale season. I didn’t adjust well to the time and was waking up really early. I used the time to write.
As for items that help me write, I’d have to say my old worn dictionary and my thesaurus. When I know there’s a better word and just can’t seem to come up with it on my own, I turn to those references. I’ve never been able to figure out any of those programs that are supposed to help you plot, build characters, etc. Although I do use Word Excel to set up a spreadsheet where I can make notes about my characters as they develop in the story. That way I don’t start out with one being blonde and making her a brunette later without the help of Clairol.
I hope I don't show my jealousy in you writing a book in Hawaii! lol. If you had to choose one person to go with you for encouragement to a secluded cabin, who would that be?
If I were going to a secluded cabin, it would be for writing and reflecting and spiritual refreshment. I don’t know that I would take someone with me. I would want to enjoy the quiet, leave myself open to God’s whispers, and pour my thoughts out in words on a page.
What are you working on now?
A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and I have just finished a new book, A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts, due to be released in April 2012. I’m also working on several other novels in various stages of completion. I have a historical that takes place during the Great Depression that has been a work of several years now. Another novel is being rewritten and hopefully will be ready for ebook release soon. Of course the next book in the Casey Stengel Mystery Series is cooking as well.
You're a busy woman! Loved your Christmas First books (Run out to buy it now, readers!) What is one of the happiest moments of your life or an accomplishment that you’re especially proud of?
The happiest moments of my life have been as a wife, mother, and grandmother. I’ve been married to the love of my life for 43 years now. We have five kids, three wonderful daughters-in-law, and eight grandkids who continually bless our lives with giggles, hugs, and lots and lots of crayon drawings. With all of that, it’s hard to pick out just one moment.
Sounds lovely. How could anyone wish for more? How do you choose names for your characters? Do you do a lot of research on them?
Choosing names for characters is kind of like going shopping for new clothes for a special event. I try them on. Knowing what the storyline is helps. Or the time period. Or the setting. Some names are more popular in certain areas of the country or world and fit better. Or sometimes the name needs to fit the picture of the character you have in mind. Just like when you find the right outfit and try it on, you know if it fits. Casey was like that. Her married name was Stengel. Putting the two together, made her a quirky kind of baseball fan even though there was no relationship to the baseball Stengel. That’s what makes the cozy mystery so much fun to write.
Love your explanation. Choosing character names is one of my favorite things to do. Can you tell us some of your favorite books or characters that you cherish?
I grew up loving Scarlett O’Hara. I still think she is a fascinating character. She had courage to stand up to what would have destroyed so many others. Her creativity in dealing with adversity was amazing (I’m thinking drapes to dress). Yet there was a sympathetic side to her—wanting to love and be loved however misdirected it may have been. She wanted to be strong and yet she wanted to be taken care of. She struggled to be the kind of person Melanie was in theory yet she couldn’t because her independent spirit and her fighting Irish spirit made her impatient with her circumstances. She was complex. That’s why she’s iconic.
And fun things about yourself that the readers might enjoy knowing?
I’ve already mentioned our traveling. We have touched foot on all seven continents including Antarctica! And have almost circumnavigated the globe. We are also scuba divers and have been diving in the Caribbean, the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, and Tahiti to name a few places. And I am excited about being an elf this Christmas season! We have volunteered for our local Polar Express on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. I’ll be the one with the red apron that says “believe” serving hot chocolate and cookies to wide-eyed kids (and adults) as they travel to the “North Pole.”
What fun! Is there one piece of advice that’s been especially valuable to you?
A few years back, I went to a CLASSeminar where we were taught some ways to improve our speaking talents and our small group instructor handed out scripture verses to each of us. She said she had prayed over them and asked God to put the right scripture in the right hand to meet the need of each of us since she didn’t really know us all that well. The scripture she handed me is one I continually remind myself of especially when life just seems to get complicated and I need to focus. It’s Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Please share information where readers can check out and buy your books:
Murder Among The Orchids is available in all ebook formats at http://www.smashwords.com/; also at Barnes and Noble for the Nook and in the Sony Online bookstore for the Sony reader.
A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts (and in April, A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts) is available at online bookstores such as Amazon, B& N, Christian Books, etc., or ask for it at your local bookstore.
There you have it, folks. A delightful interview with my friend, Karen. Hope you enjoy her book as much as I did.
Smiles and blessings!