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Monday, April 2, 2012

Author Karen McCullough Juggles Several Genres!


Karen McCullough is the author of eleven published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent releases are THE NIGHT PROWLERS, a re-release of one of her backlist romantic suspense novels, MAGIC, MURDER AND MICROCIRCUITS, a paranormal romantic suspense now available in most electronic formats, her Christmas vampire story, A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, and A GIFT FOR MURDER, published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale Group Mysteries. She invites visitors to check out her home on the web and her site for the Market Center Mysteries series . 

Karen, you write in several different genres: mystery, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and then both short form and novels. Do you have a favorite genre, and what makes it your first love?

Actually I don’t really have a favorite genre.  I write in all of them because I enjoy all of them, and the story ideas I get seem to fall all over the genre spectrum. 

I grew up reading in all of those genres.  It’s probably not the best career move to write in so many different ones, since readers who like my mysteries may not like fantasy at all, but I find it helps to keep my writing fresher. I like letting my imagination roam into whatever odd corners it wants to explore. It keeps me interested in writing new and different stories.

You started out with a degree in Spanish and Anthropology, moved on to social work, went back for a Computer Science degree, and on to the land of computers, all before you wrote your first word as an author. Did you always want to write? Or did your path just lead you there?

No, I didn’t always want to write. Or at least I didn’t always know I wanted to write. In college I hated writing papers as much as the next student.  What has always been true is that I have a rich fantasy life, and I’ve been creating stories in my head for as long as I can remember.

The writing bug didn’t really bite until I was an adult and starting to burn out on computer programming. My husband one day suggested, almost out of the blue, that I try writing short stories. So I tried it. And I liked it!  It was so cool to create something completely new and original. My own world and characters that jumped out of my own imagination. I was hooked.

I wrote probably a dozen or so short stories before I ventured to try my first novel. It was bad, bad, bad, but I at least managed to finish it. I realize now I had the germ of an interesting story in that book, but I was clueless about storytelling techniques.

I joined a local writer’s group and several critique groups, bought books, and kept at the writing. And the books got better as I went along, until I made the first sale.

Tell us about your latest release, The Night Prowlers.

The Night Prowlers was my first published novel, originally released in hardcover in 1990.  It was the sixth complete novel I wrote.  I still clearly remember the day I came home from work and found a voice mail message on my machine from the editor at Avalon saying they wanted to offer me a contract for the book.  There was some serious celebrating in the McCullough household that day.

My contract had a clause that allowed me to request the rights back five years after publication if the book was out of print.  Once the five years had elapsed, I requested and got back rights to this book and all my other Avalon books. Of course, at the time (1997 or thereabouts) nobody had heard of epublishing and I had no idea what to do with the rights, so I let them sit.  I’ve had books from other publishers released in the interim and I’ve been collecting the rights to most of those as they become available.

Fast forward to 2011 and Amazon’s Kindle, B&N’s Nook and all the other ereader formats and now I’m thrilled I have the rights back to my books.  I’ve been working on making my backlist available in as many ebook formats as possible.

Here’s the blurb for The Night Prowlers, the first of my Avalon books to be re-released:

Graduate assistant Jan Lindell has her hands full supervising a team of archaeology students as they excavate the site of a Colonial-era inn in central Virginia. Sweltering heat, feuding students, vandalism, a visit from the local lunatic fringe, and complaints from the handsome son of the property’s owner are all complications she doesn’t need.

Her problems increase when it becomes clear someone doesn’t want them around. Vandalism turns into threats and then attacks on the students. On the bright side, when Gary Simpson, whose mother owns and lives on the property, assists her in the effort to thwart and identify the assailants, they discover a mutual attraction.

But someone seriously wants to stop them. When the attacks escalate and threaten to turn deadly, Jan realizes she’s fighting for more than a graduate degree and an archaeological site. All of their lives may be at stake.

I don’t usually associate Vampires with Christmas! What brought about this interesting combination in A Vampire’s Christmas Carol?

I have a romantic suspense novel published by Cerridwen press, the non-erotic imprint of Jasmine-Jade enterprises, better known for their Ellora’s Cave Erotic Romances. Several years ago, on the Cerridwen authors’ listserve, a couple of people were trying to put together an anthology of paranormal Christmas novellas. I loved the idea. As we brain-stormed stories for the collection, the title, A Vampire’s Christmas Carol, jumped into my head.  Honestly. Just like that. And with it came the main outline for the plot. I’d never done a vampire story but this idea was too intriguing not to pursue.

My story isn’t another retelling of the Dickens story with vampires, but some aspects of the plot were suggested by A Christmas Carol. It has the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, but in a somewhat different format. And there is a main character who needs to recover his soul and renew his spirit.

Here's the Blurb: Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family's home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap.

In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?

The original anthology, Beneath a Christmas Moon, went out of print a year or so ago and I was granted reversion of rights.  I managed to get the official letter in time to get the novella up on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords in time for Christmas!

Could you tell us about your Market Center Mysteries? (And what a great idea!)

Thank you!

After years of working in the computer industry, I made a career change to the publishing industry, taking a job as an associate editor at a trade publishing company. Trade publishing means magazines and newspapers focused on specific businesses and industries rather than magazines targeted at the general public.

Working for a trade publisher involves going to trade shows. The very first time I went to one, I looked around and thought to myself, “This is a perfect setting for a mystery. It’s limited in time and space; you have a lot of money, power, and prestige riding on the show; and most of the participants know each other – they’re long-time friends, rivals, enemies and lovers – sometimes all at the same time.”

It was several years before I got the first book written and then several more years before Five Star bought it. My heroine, Heather McNeil, is the assistant to the director of a market center where many shows are held. She’s good at her job, and she’s also the kind of person that people talk to and confide in, which lets her get inside information to help solve crimes at the center.

The first book in the series is called A Gift for Murder and takes place during a gift show.  Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly review, which includes a blurb:

Just before a busy gift and home trade show opens at the Commerce & Market Show Center in Washington, D.C., in this lively first in a new cozy series, Heather McNeil discovers a crowbar-smashed corpse in the center's dumpster. Figuring out who wanted Tim Bethel, the co-owner of Grantwood & Bethel, a supplier of gifts and accessories, dead is up to Det. Peter Gilmont, but plucky Heather, the overworked assistant to the center's director, and her potential boyfriend, security guard Scott Brandon, show they're up to the job and more as they get on the track of Tim's killer. Despite some padding and predictable twists, McCullough (A Question of Fire) shows real flare in describing the hectic trade show world, including an exhibitor with a smelly, malfunctioning popcorn machine.”

I’m currently working on the second novel in the series, tentatively titled Wired for Murder, and I have ideas for a couple of novellas to go along with them.  I just need more hours in the day.

There is an entire section on your web site devoted to dragons. It looks like you’re a collector. What do dragons represent to you?

Good question!  Honestly I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it too much.

Dragons appeal to me visually. There’s something amazingly graceful about their form, with long necks and tails and wings, and the way  their scales glitter.  

They’re a pretty universal archetype since they appear in so many places and cultures. I have no idea what that means, in truth, but it strikes me that possibly they represent incredible power. After all they’re huge, they fly, they spit fire, and you have to figure that a creature with such a big brain would have some intelligence as well.

And of course, being reptilian gives them an edge.  Dragons are really the alpha bad boys (and bad girls) of mythical creatures.

I love your book titles: Can You Jump Start a Reindeer? and  Magic, Murder, and Microcircuits for example. Do you have a title in mind as the subject of your story before you write? 

It varies. Sometimes I’ll think of a title and the plot together as happened with A Vampire’s Christmas Carol. It happened with Can You Jump Start a Reindeer? as well, but more often I struggle with titles. Magic, Murder, and Microcircuits started out as The Wizard of Morgan’s Island, which just seemed too bland, and then became The Wizard’s Shield, which sounded too much like epic fantasy. A Gift for Murder went through several iterations before it came to that. And The Night Prowlers wasn’t my idea at all. My editor suggested that title because she didn’t like Danger at the Dig.  Dang, she was right, too.

What's next for you?

A couple of things.  I’m currently writing Wired for Murder, the sequel to A Gift for Murder.  I hope to have it ready to submit by the middle of May. I’m also working on getting the rest of my backlist ready to release as ebooks. My second Avalon book, Programmed for Danger, has been scanned, re-edited by me, and is now in the hands of another editor to be sure the copy I release is clean and up-to-date.

And I’ve had an idea for a series of novellas about a man who channels a dragon, but those are still in the idea stage.  I do have a title for the first one, however: Breakfast with the Dragon.  I’ll likely self-publish those.

Thank you, Karen! And good luck with your many projects!





9 comments:

  1. After I thought about it, I wondered just exactly what dragon characteristics a man would channel! Or just the dragons thoughts? Either way, it's a cool idea.

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  2. HI Jackie -- First, thanks for having me on the blog! The way I currently envision it, he would channel the dragon's thoughts and be able to direct its actions for short spans of times.

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  3. Hi, Karen,

    I enjoyed learning more about you and your latest book projects. Wishing you every success!

    Best,
    Jacqueline Seewald
    DEATH LEGACY--new release
    THE TRUTH SLEUTH--now in large print

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  4. Thanks, Jacqueline! Same to you.

    Karen

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  5. Hi , Karen,

    I enjoyed your interview. Interesting that your husband suggested you try writing. My son did something similar. I'd been writing poetry for years when my son said I should try writing a mystery.

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  6. HI Gail -- This is interesting! I guess sometimes our families realize things about us we don't know ourselves. Kind of a scary thought, actally!
    Karen

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  7. Great interview, Karen! And I know you do a mean book cover. You do your own, right?

    Sharon K. Garner
    Free mystery short story/smashwords.com
    Suicide...or was he tickled to death?

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  8. HI Sharon -- Thanks for visiting! Yes, I did two of the books covers above. The one for A Gift For Murder was done by the Five Star art department, but the other two were done by me.
    Karen

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  9. Great meeting you, Karen, and thanks for this wonderful post, Jackie. Continued success, Karen!

    Madeline

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