Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Guest Post ~ Karen White

A Life of Making Stuff Up

I’m currently in the midst of what is known amongst writers as “deadline dementia.” With a book due in three weeks, I’ve been writing pretty much 24/7 for the last three months. I’m exhausted and I have few brain cells left. This will be my fourteenth novel (due out in stores in May 2011) so you would think that I’m used to this by now. But that didn’t stop me from having a full-fledged panic attack a few weeks ago as I stared at my blank laptop page and thought to myself, “Oh, my gosh. I have to make all of this up!” Like it was only just then occurring to me that to write a book there is no manual, or text book, or prepared outline; it really does all come from somewhere inside my head and, yes, it’s really all just made-up stuff.

People ask me all the time where I get “it” from. I assume they mean the ability to make things up and put it down on paper. To be honest, I try not to think too hard about its origins because I don’t really know other than to say it was probably something I was born with.

As a child, my mother never believed a thing I said because I always “embellished” my stories. I once convinced an entire neighborhood that I’d been abandoned in my parents’ back yard and adopted. My parents were a bit surprised to hear that repeated at a cocktail party!

And then there was my poor youngest brother, Steven. He was born when I was 7 ½ and my parents had promised me that he would be my much longed-for sister (I already had two older brothers whose favorite hobby was torturing their sister). My parents were so sure Steven would be a girl that they purchased me twin canopy beds so I could share a room with my little sister. See where I’m going with this?

Until Steven was about five years old and big enough to fight back, I dressed him in my doll clothes, a blonde dress-up wig, and called him Stephanie. I even told my teachers, friends, and neighbors that I had a new baby sister, Stephanie. Sadly, they believed me. I guess my parents spent most of my childhood years explaining things to our neighbors.

Not yet realizing that I could actually have a career out of making things up, I went to college and studied business and received a degree in business management. I even worked in the business world for a while, my last job as an operations manager for a software development company. Agh! Everything was so, well, black and white with no room for creative storytelling. At least not if I wanted to keep my job.

And then my husband was transferred, I left that job and had two babies and the rest, they say, is history. One day while the children were napping, I sat down at my computer and started making stuff up. That became my first novel. It did take me four years to write it, but that’s because pulling stuff from my imagination doesn’t mean it’s easy. I still have to translate it into characters and a believable plot that will last for about 400 pages, more or less.

But my writing career also allows me to live in an alternative universe that I’ve apparently been craving since childhood. As I mentioned, I’m the only girl out of four children. I always write about heroines who are either single children or have one or more sisters (see where that’s coming from)? In my latest novel, FALLING HOME (November 2010), it’s a story about two sisters who are reunited in the small Southern town that’s an awful lot like the kind of town I wished I’d lived in. There are friends and family members that are very much like my own (only more interesting), and a story line that made me laugh as much as I cried while writing it (which is a lot like real life). I love that book, but it was still hard to write, even though I was making it all up. This gave me real moments of fear as I wondered if I’d be able to once again pull something from out of the unknown.

I guess that’s the daunting part for me, even after writing so many books. I suppose it will always be, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that element of fear is what spurs me on to write the next paragraph, the next page, the next chapter. The next book. Which is a very good thing seeing as how I have a book due in three weeks and I’m very, very scared.

For the record, my brother Steven turned out okay and has never even needed therapy. He’s been happily married for five years and has two darling children.

About "me" ~ 

After playing hooky from school one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, I knew I wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O'Hara. In spite of these aspirations, I grew up to pursue a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University.
I have always been a voracious reader and was encouraged by my teachers to write ever since elementary school.  Writing a book was always in the back of my mind, but definitely something I'd "do later when I have time."

One day in 1996 when my children were just babies, I decided it was time and started writing my first book.  When I had a few chapters written, I sent it in to a writer's contest and by some miracle it won.  The finalist judge was a New York literary agent and she offered to represent me.  That first book, In the Shadow of the Moon, was sold and then published in 2000.  It was a double finalist in Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award.

I have since published eleven award-winning novels, including The Girl on Legare Street which debuted at #31 on the New York Times bestseller list. I have four more books scheduled including the next two books in the Tradd Street series (in 2011 and 2013, respectively). My next Southern women's fiction ("grit lit") novel, On Folly Beach, will be published in May 2010.

While growing up, I lived in London, England and am a graduate of the American School in London.  I currently live in sunny Georgia with my husband and two children.  When not writing, I spend my time reading, singing, scrapbooking, carpooling children and avoiding cooking.

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Karen's latest book ~ 

Falling Home 

In this revamped edition of the book originally published in 2002, Karen brings her readers to small-town Georgia where "everybody is somebody" and attempts to answer the question, "Can you really ever go home again?"

Cassie Madison, estranged from her sister, returns home to be with her dying father, intending to leave the sleepy Georgia town immediately after his funeral. Unexpectedly, she inherits the family home. Now she has to stay in Walton until it sells...which happens to be just long enough for her to learn how the power of family, memories and a former love can lead to the most amazing discoveries.

Other books by Karen ~