After playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, Karen knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O’Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world to stay home with her children, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first book. In the Shadow of the Moon was published in August, 2000. This book was nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award in 2001 in two separate categories.
Ms. White has since published eight more award-winning novels. Her next novel, The House on Tradd Street, will be released in trade paperback by New American Library, a division of Penguin Publishing Group, in November 2008.
When not writing, Karen spends her time reading, singing, playing the piano, carpooling children and avoiding cooking.
Ms. White lived in London, England for seven years and is a graduate of the American School in London. She now lives outside Atlanta with her husband, son and daughter and is busily at work on her tenth novel, a “grit lit” southern family drama set in Savannah, Georgia.
You can visit Karen’s website at www.karenwhite.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Karen. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
I have written ten novels in four different genres, nine of them published and one destined to remain under my bed forever. I have two more books scheduled for 2009 and for 2010.
Unfortunately, my first four books are currently out of print, so I’ll only list the books available below:
The House on Tradd Street (to be published in November 2008)
The Memory of Water (March, 2008)
Learning to Breathe (March 2007)
Pieces of the Heart (April 2006)
The Color of Light (June 2005)
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
The first book I wrote, In the Shadow of the Moon (August 2000), was also the first book I sold.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I feel almost guilty saying this, but I sold this book to a mainstream publisher without having to even write a query letter! I entered the first three chapters into a writing contest because the first round judges were published authors. The finalist’s entries were sent to top New York literary agents. I ended up being a finalist and the judging agent offered to represent me. She sold it to the second publisher she sent it to.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
Although I got off to a fast start, I have hit roadblocks along the way. When I was dropped by one of my publishers, I was devastated. But I had come to learn that the last authors standing seemed to be the most persistent. I refused to quit and kept writing. I also surrounded myself with positive people who cheered me on when the going got rough.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My first publisher was Dorchester Publishing. The money was awful as was the print run, but I was so very happy to be on the proverbial publishing ladder—albeit on one of the lower rungs. I will be forever grateful to my first publisher for taking a chance of a time travel novel written in first person and set in Georgia during the Civil War!
In hindsight, I might have made my agent shop it around some more, but in the beginning I was just so hungry to be published I probably would have paid them to publish my book!
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I thought I’d ‘made it.’ (Looking back eight years later, I see how naïve that was <g>). My family took me out to a nice restaurant the day the book came out.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I had pretty pricey excerpt booklets printed. Considering how little my advance was and how small my print run, it would have made more sense to hang on to the money!
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
No. I’m very happy where I am now. I don’t know that I would be here if I hadn’t had my previous bumps in the road and learned from them.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
I’ve had eight more books published since then and am contracted for four more. I’ve been proud of each and every book I’ve had published and hope that my writing has become stronger and more vivid with each book.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
Honestly, it couldn’t have been any faster for me! I think going to conferences to meet with agents and editors and entering contests are the FASTEST way to getting your manuscript in front of the right people.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
With my last book, The Memory of Water, my book sales have finally reached the level I’ve been aiming for, and I continue to see an upward movement. I’m actually getting TV, radio, and print media coverage (like a real celebrity!). After seven novels, I feel like an overnight success!
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
Historical restoration of old houses. There’s a reason why an old house plays an important ‘character’ in all of my novels!
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I’ve definitely combined them by including historical restoration in all of my novels. As an added bonus, my daughter is planning on studying historical restoration in college.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully still writing and publishing books, but with the added bonus of having New York Times Bestselling Author on the front of all of my books!
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
To borrow from Nike, JUST DO IT. There are many reasons why you don’t have time to sit down at the computer today. But you’ll never sell a book you haven’t written.
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