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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

This weeks Guest Spot belongs to Karen Perkins, bestselling author of Dead Reckoning and Thore's Cross, and owner of Lionheart Galleries. If you enjoy Karen's interview check out her work here:

1. When did you start writing and was there any particular event that drew you to the pen?
In about 2005 I picked up a pen and just started writing. I had injured myself sailing ten years before, which had pretty much brought my life to a standstill. When I filled the first notebook I bought another, and when I'd filled that I realised I was writing a book – I had the bug and it was terminal, I cannot imagine not writing now. I'd always been a bookworm, apparently I was a very easy child as I spent all my time curled up with a book, yet it had never occurred to me that I would be able to write one until I actually did. That first book took a lot of rewrites and a lot of learning before it was fit to be published, in 2012, as Dead Reckoning and even then I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to publish without the encouragement and support of my partner, Peter Mutanda, also a writer and theatre director. We established LionheART Publishing House together (www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk) to publish our own titles (now numbering twelve between us) and also offering publishing services to other authors – copy editing, proof reading and formatting. Writing and books have given me a new future, and I'm very excited about travelling this new road.

2. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
A difficult question – there are so many! After much deliberation, I think I have to go with two. Charlie Fox – Zoe Sharp's independent, stubborn and extremely capable body guarding heroine and Stephen King's Carrie – I felt so sorry for her when I first read the book aged fourteen, and still do.
3. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
I'm a planner. If I don't plan I have to do a dozen rewrites, which can take years. I'll think about a book for a year or two, jotting down ideas as they come, then, as I get closer to putting pen to paper, I'll do an overall plan covering the main plot points. Then I'll plan out the first part in more detail, then each chapter. Of course, no matter how much I plan, my characters often have different ideas, sometimes taking me completely by surprise and the plan goes out the window . . .
4. Where does your inspiration comes from? What motivates you?
People. Writing novels is my attempt at trying to work out motivations, why we do what we do, and also to make sense of some of the horrendous things people do to each other. I'm on my fourth novel now, and have no answers, I suspect the search will take a lifetime.
5. Do you have a set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?
A bit of both. I try to be disciplined and write at least a chapter a day, and make a detailed plan of the next chapter for tomorrow. However, if the words won't come, the words won't come, and forcing it doesn't help me – forced chapters just end up deleted after having caused nothing but frustration. The times I do have a break of a few days, it usually turns out there's a reason – usually the next event in my plan doesn't work and I've needed to relax and think about it some more. Once I've worked it out, I usually embark on a bit of a writing frenzy and catch up on the lost time naturally.
6. How do you take writing interruptions?
Temperamentally. If I'm struggling with a chapter, I'm grateful for the interruption and the opportunity to blame my slow progress on the interrupter. If the words are flowing well and I'm lost in my fictional world, I can lash out. I often write in cafes and coffee shops and once came very close to burying my pen in another customer's eye after one to many 'excuse me, can you pass me the . . .' Well, ok, I just imagined burying my pen in his eye (the character I was writing was a ruthless, bloodthirsty pirate who wouldn't have thought twice about maiming someone, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it), but something must have shown on my face – he didn't interrupt again.
7. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
I love that moment when inspiration strikes, a new idea, a new character. I love starting a new book, the possibilities and potential of all those blank pages. I love each chapter, finding out what happens (despite my neurotic planning, I still enjoy those moments why my characters surprise me). I love finishing the book, knowing I now have some spare brain space ready to be filled with the next one. The one part I don't enjoy is the first read through – spotting all those holes and inconsistencies, but then I love filling them, fixing them and polishing until the book is as good as I can make it. I love publishing the book, seeing it there on amazon, the first sale (and all the subsequent ones), the first review (and all the subsequent ones), well, you get the picture.
8. Mostly for our other authors out there, what’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
Keep perspective – there is no book out there which is liked by every single reader. Think seriously about what the reviewer has said – is this an opportunity to improve as a writer? If not, ignore it; everybody is entitled to their opinion, and to be honest, books are more interesting when there is a mix of published reviews – I often buy to see who I agree with. Whatever you do, don't engage into a defensive tit for tat, it will only get worse, and can easily get out of hand – and in that case, the only loser is the author.
9. What other projects do you have on the boil? Are there any more books in the Valkyrie series to come?
I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. I'm currently writing the next two books in the Valkyrie Series (pirates, love and adventure), Look Sharpe! and Ready About!, both of which focus on one of the secondary characters in the first two books, An Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning. Henry Sharpe piqued my curiosity as I wrote the first two, and I wanted to know more about him. I've since had emails and messages from readers too asking about him. I had only meant to write his story in one book, but he's very vocal and is insisting on two!
I'm also at the planning stage of Cultural Exile, which I'm writing with my partner, Peter Mutanda (a true test of any relationship!). It is about a Zimbabwean family forced to emigrate to the UK and the challenges they face. We take so much about our own cultures for granted, but different cultures often clash in all sorts of unexpected ways. Then perspectives change, people change, and relationships change, and it all has fallout.
I've also been so overwhelmed with the way my historical ghost story, Thores-Cross, has been received, I'm thinking about another one in the same vein. A dual timeline with the past impacting on the present. No matter how hard we try to leave the past behind, it is sometimes unwilling to stay there.
10.  Do you have any advice to offer other Indie authors about self-publishing?
Go for it. There has never been a better time to self-publish and there are some great advantages, not least control over every aspect of your book. But it is hard work, especially the promoting and marketing side. It's also difficult to be objective about your own work and many authors publish too soon – if you're not sure, get an editor – there are good ones out there who do not charge the earth. Also have at least two or three friends and/or fellow writers read your manuscript and give you honest feedback. And I do mean honest – be as prepared to hear what doesn't work in their opinion as what does. Lastly, listen to your peers; the majority of Indie authors I have been in contact with over the last year have been extremely supportive and genuinely helpful, and I have learned so much from them.
11. Does any particular strategy work for you to boost sales?
I think my main strategy is cross-sales. I have regular promos offering the first book in the Valkyrie Series, An Ill Wind, for free, not much of a risk for a potential reader to try out a new author. If they like it, they will buy my other books. If they don't, they won't.
In my opinion, it is extremely important to not only write a good story, but also to make your book as professional as possible – no spelling or grammatical errors, consistency, clear and simple formatting (a must for eReaders). I do my best to make the reading experience as pleasurable as possible for the reader; I don’t want them to notice the words, the sentence construction, the formatting; I want them to get lost in my story, visit my world, meet my characters, and want to stay a little bit longer . . .
12. Does social networking improve your sales?
It's difficult to know for sure, but I think Twitter and Goodreads have been the most helpful – of course anything (within reason!) to raise your profile and put you in contact with potential readers is good – not only twitter and facebook, but podcasts, interviews, reviews by book blogging sites, giveaways, competitions etc.


Twitter: @ValkyrieSeries  @LionheartG

Email: publishing@lionheartgalleries.co.uk


  1. ..LUVVED this interview... I'm in sync with all of Karen's comment's... cheers :)

  2. Thank you, Seumas. Glad you enjoyed it :)