Y’all, I’m so thrilled for this month’s Bookish People interview with author Karen White! I know you all know and love her and her books–a mix of mostly southern women’s fiction and historical fiction, with some ghosts thrown in for good measure! I’ve been reading her books for many years, and always find new ways to love them. And she herself is a dose of southern charm and humor! Her novel The Last Night in London just came out in paperback last week, The Attic on Queen Street (#7 in her Tradd Street series set in Charleston) came out this past November, and the first book in her newest Royal Street series, The Shop on Royal Street, comes out in March. Whew! She’s a busy lady. You can find more information about her and her books on her website here. I hope you enjoy getting to know her better in the interview!
»»Give us a quick overview of the books you’ve written.
KW: I’ve written and published thirty-one novels—all of them still in print—since 2000. My first book was a time-travel set in Civil War Georgia, but since then I’ve written everything from historical gothic to contemporary domestic thriller. The common thread connecting my books is the Southern setting, complicated family dynamics, and flawed characters whose journey toward discovering their strength is always the main focus of the book.
»»What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received on your work, either as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?
KW: Being dumped by my 2nd publisher was probably the harshest criticism I have ever received. It took me a year of almost-quitting before I realized that sometimes the worst thing you think that could happen can sometimes turn out to be the best thing. If that publisher hadn’t dropped me, I wouldn’t have moved to my current publisher—a move that propelled my career in ways that I couldn’t have imagined at the time, including hitting the New York Times bestseller list multiple times.
»»Funniest thing that’s happened during a book signing or book tour?
KW: Being recognized by a flight attendant and then having her sit next to me and chat about books for most of the flight. I don’t even think I asked for extra peanuts!
»»Did you always know you wanted to be an author? Or was there a specific idea or event that spurred your desire?
KW: I never planned on becoming a writer (and even now, I have my doubts). I was, however, a voracious reader and was known for always having my nose stuck in a book. It wasn’t until my biggest book hangover to date after reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series that I decided to finally listen to my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson and try writing a book since I couldn’t pick up another book to read. That book ended up being my first published novel.
»»Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
KW: All of the above! As my life has changed in the twenty years since I published my first book, so has my writing process. When my children were home, I had a more scheduled routine since I knew I’d only have the hours when they were at school to write—although I ended up writing a lot of my first books in my SUV while waiting at practice fields! As my career has progressed, the demands on my time have also increased. This includes more public appearances, tours, and social media visibility. Even with just my husband and dog at home with me, I find it harder and harder to protect my writing time. I find myself storing snippets of my current work-in-progress in my head, and when I find that rare stretch of time of uninterrupted writing, I’m prepared to write as fast as I can.
»»Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
KW: Anything is game! I’ve covered so many genres and topics—I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve ever considered off-limits.
»»Assuming all writers are also avid readers, what’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book to read? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
KW: I’ve thought about reading in a lot of inappropriate places that I (fortunately) thought better about. However, I will admit to sneaking in a chapter or two at my kids’ sporting events because a) I don’t know a lot about sports and b) when you’re reading a good book it’s hard to put it down!
»»What books are on your bedside table right now? (Or in your bag, your car, or wherever you keep your current reads.)
KW: I adore Liane Moriarty and I am currently listening to her latest, Apples Never Fall, on audio while driving or walking the dog. I’m mainly a print reader, so on my nightstand is a book by a debut author that caught my eye somewhere…The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine. I just started it but I love it so far!
»»What are your pet peeves as a reader?
KW: I love being immersed in a story and really dislike when I’m pulled from a book by lazy writing—telling instead of showing, info-dumping, and dialogue that bears no resemblance to how people actually speak.
»»Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
KW: Definitely print. My retention of what I’ve read is so much better (and enjoyable) with a printed book. For my calendar, definitely paper (although I add events later to my iPhone calendar for a quick glance when needed). I’m a visual person and I need to see my schedule as a whole before I can schedule anything new.
»»Favorite ice cream flavor?
KW: Chocolate with peanut butter chunks. Or anything with nuts.
»»Coffee or tea? Or something else?
KW: Coffee, coffee, and coffee. And water. I switch over to red wine at 5:00. I’m very hydrated!
»»If you can, tell us what you’re working on now.
KW: I’m currently working on the second book in the new New Orleans-set series, THE HOUSE ON PRYTANIA, due out in spring 2023!
Thank you Karen! And thanks to all of you for reading. See you back here in two weeks for the Sunday Dish!