Chris Karlsen is a Chicago native. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her late teens where she later studied at UCLA. She graduated with a Business Degree. Her father was a history professor and her mother a voracious reader. She grew up with a love of history and books.
Her parents were also passionate about traveling and passed their passion onto Chris. Once bitten with the travel bug, Chris spent most of her adult life visiting the places she'd read about and that fascinated her. Her travels have taken her Europe, the Near East, and North Africa, in addition to most of the United States. She most frequently visited England and France, where several of her books are set.
After college, Chris spent the next twenty-five years in law enforcement with two agencies. Harboring a strong desire to write since her teens, upon retiring from police work, Chris decided to pursue her writing career. She writes three different series. Her historical romance series is called, Knights in Time and is set in England but with a medieval time travel element. Her Bloodstone series, which is set in Victorian London, features the life and work of Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone. Her romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters and is set in Turkey.
Her latest book, In Time For you, is book four in the Knights in Time series.
She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four wild and crazy rescue dogs.
Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
I’ve always been an avid reader. I am also an only child who spent a lot of time alone so it was easy for me to get lost in stories and I had a vivid imagination. I often found myself wanting to change a story to suit my ideal.
There was a story that I had in my head from early teen that I thought deserved a better end. I used to tell my husband if I ever sat down to write a book, I’d write my “better” version of a love story.
When I retired I did not know what to do with myself and my husband said, “write that book you’ve talked about for years.” So, I sat down and wrote my book. I also started studying the craft of writing and going to conferences and taking seminars and workshops.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
Yes and no. It’s much harder than I ever imagined. I thought once I had the idea the words would just flow and some days they do but most days they do not. It takes time to learn the craft. Like any other art, there are dos and don’ts. You learn not to rely on lazy writing using adverbs and too many gerunds and similar new writer mistakes. You have to learn how to grab the reader’s attention early on without feeling the desperate need to bog down the beginning with backstory. One of the hardest lessons is learning to kill your darlings as the experts say. You want to include a clever moment but it really has no place in the story. If it doesn’t add to the storyline or move the story forward or change the character in some way, dump it!!
The perks are when readers tell you how you drew them into a scene or how they love certain characters. I use medieval settings in my time travels. I love it when readers tell me how they felt they were walking in the period and talking to people of the time. My heroines in In Time For You are modern women thrown back in time and I love hearing readers tell me they shared the fear and same excitement as my sisters were moving through the story.
I also have a series set in Victorian London and enjoyed it when readers discussed the eerie setting of the city. This was a book that followed a killer and a detective. I’m working on the sequel now.
It’s a thrill for me to bring characters and settings to life for readers. It means a lot that I can translate an emotion through the written word.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
I tried the traditional route. I tried for several years to pitch NY editors from the big publishing houses and NY agents and didn’t get anywhere or frankly had poor experiences. After all those attempts, I had a friend who finally started up her own small indie publishing house. She asked me if I’d give her publishing house a chance and I thought, why not? All I wanted was to get my stories out and hopefully find an audience who’d enjoy them. That was 8 years ago. I’ve never been happier and I haven’t looked back since!! I have a lot of input in my covers. I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck about deadlines (I’m a terribly slow writer). I don’t have anyone nagging me to write more books a year. It was an excellent move for me to go the untraditional route.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
My mom is very proud as is my husband. I know he feels a bit neglected sometimes but overall he is very supportive. I just wish my father had lived long enough to see my first book published. My parents always encouraged me in all my “dreams.”
This is for pet lovers. If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
We have four rescue dogs. They do not allow me to postpone their dinners. My husband feeds breakfast but dinnertime is my responsibility. I write in the afternoons starting around noon. I write until 4 when the three big dogs all line up by my desk and one or two start bumping my elbow. The little guy spends the afternoon sleeping behind me on my chair. He’s like a canine fanny pack. I have to get up and feed them. Then, I pour a glass of wine and usually write for one more hour and then quit for the night.
This is for plant lovers. If you don’t own a plant, skip this question, but if you do, are they actually still alive?
I have a few and they are alive. But, I am not a huge plant person. Why they live I don’t know. I just pour a glass of water in the pot once a week and hope for the best.
In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
I’m retired so I don’t have a boss. Our kids are grown and live out of state so I’m lucky to not have too many issues there. I don’t have many interruptions period. I answer the phone and just keep calls short. My husband is very good about helping with meals. Since retiring, he has taken to cooking a lot, which is fine with me. I call him King of the Slow Cooker. He also is King of the Nu Wave Cooker, which I’m not allowed to touch.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
Not too much has happened that’s crazy. I’d have to say it would be pitching. A long time ago I pitched a well-known editor from a big NY publisher and she listened very intently to my historical romance that involved a love story where the heroine fell in love with a knightly ghost who haunted her house (my book Heroes Live Forever). After listening the editor just turned to me and asked: “Can you write a mermaid story? We don’t have any mermaid stories.” I politely declined. But I couldn’t help thinking did you hear a word I said. Nothing in my pitch involved mermaid or even the sea.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I always announce tours and good reviews on Facebook and my website. I think an Amazon author page is necessary and try to keep it up to date. I don’t have a blog and I don’t think they’re especially useful unless you’re a well-known author. I am part of a newsletter that comes out quarterly and there are 4 authors on it. I have a publicist who Tweets for me. I don’t know how much Tweets help as I don’t do it myself. I have a limited amount of time to spend on social media so I don’t chat on Twitter. Goodreads are supposed to be a help if you have reviews posted there. I don’t belong to any of their chat rooms or communities. I can’t comment on their site as to whether it is really helpful or not.
I avoid a lot of the really big romance sites now. Several have just so gotten busy I personally feel it is too hard to get noticed. Any ad space is lost in the mix. I don’t like to name sites and cast a negative light on places trying to promote authors. I’ll say when you visit a site before you buy ad space look to see how many books are shown on the home page and/or trailers etc. and will you get lost in the shuffle? How cluttered is the appearance of any particular blog? Also, is the blog or site suited to your genre and/or are the books suited to your taste level. For example: if the graphics are in your opinion too static or cartoonish (geared toward a graphic novel-like appearance) then that’s what I mean by not to your taste.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
That is the magic question. For those of us who are not the big time authors we are all just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. I do virtual tours and buy ad space. I stopped doing Facebook parties as those don’t seem to work, for me, anymore. Most of my friends don’t do them anymore either. Several friends are having their books done in audible form and that has helped. I have tried but I am having trouble finding actors as I’d have to do a royalty share and most actors want to be paid for the reading of a full length novel and that’s hugely expensive. My friends generally write short stories.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
I’d love to scream loud enough to get Hollywood to hear me and take notice of my books and maybe want to do a series. I don’t care who: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Starz, HBO whoever. I think my books would make a wonderful series!!
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
If I didn’t have my writing, I’d go bonkers. I worry all the time that I will one day stop having ideas for stories. I love seeing my books in print and being able to go to the grocery store and giving them to the clerks who know me and read me books. I love seeing the trailers come out for my stories and choosing the soundtracks, which is my doing. I love getting the concept for my cover and then working with the designer to get it just right. For all the times I sit and panic looking at the monitor and worry because I can’t seem to get a full page right, I have the days when a reader tells me she fell in love with one of my characters. That made it all rightJ