Paperback Writer welcomes today an author Karen Harrington as she continues on her virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Her novel, Janeology is in the genre suspenseful, mainstream, women’s fiction. Join us for her interview to see how she came up with the idea for the novel.
Tom Nelson is struggling after the death of his son at the hands of his wife Jane. While Jane sits in a Texas mental hospital for her part in the crime, prosecutors turn their focus to Tom. They believe Tom should have known Jane was on the cusp of a breakdown and protected his children from her illness. As a result, he is charged with “failure to protect.” Enter attorney, Dave Frontella, who employs a radical defense strategy – one that lays the blame at the feet of Jane’s nature and nurture. To gather evidence about Jane’s forbears, Frontella hires a woman with the power of retrocognition – the ability to use a person’s belongings to re-create their past. An unforgettable journey through the troubled minds and souls of Jane’s ancestors, spanning decades and continents, this debut novel deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman’s life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
Two things, actually. First, I have a passion for genealogy, mostly because I never knew any of my grandparents. I had their pictures and many of their belongings. I looked at these objects and thought, “What if these pictures could talk? What if this necklace could tell me something about my grandmother?” So I wanted to write about a character from the perspective of her genealogy.
Second, as a new mother, I felt a deep bond to my children. So when I read the grim headlines about mothers who killed their children, I had to ask “What would make a woman take the life of her own child?” I knew that would be the central question of my novel.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
I wrote screenplays for many years before trying my hand at a novel. I tend to work out a screenplay outline for my stories to jumpstart the conflict and begin the brainstorming process. Sometimes I stick to the outline and sometimes I don’t. It’s a great starting point.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
No, that hasn’t been my experience, which I must say, I like. I like to be surprised.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
It’s not so much a process. It’s more like me being a therapist and they being my patient and I keep pulling information out of them by asking why would you do that? What were you thinking? What happened to you in the hour before you made that choice? Would you do that again?
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
Let’s say there’s a scene in which a character is being dumped by her boyfriend at a train station. She leaves the train station and goes to a bar. Then what? I think a writer usually brings her own set of questions and experiences to the page at first and asks, How did I feel when I got dumped? How would I feel in that situation? Would I go to a bar? Would I scream at the boyfriend or would I walk away? I think these questions are the initial research a writer puts into a character. Sometimes they might follow the writers’ own sensitivities. Sometimes the character reacts opposite of how the writer would in real life. For me, I love to observe people and make note of how they contradict themselves over and over again. If there’s anything from myself in my characters, it’s that ability to contradict myself and not have a rational reason for doing so. I’ve never met a person who hasn’t acted this way, but I still want to know why we do it. And the great thing about being a writer is trying to unearth answers to this question.
What is your favorite part about this book?
The chapter that shows Jane at age nine is probably one of my favorite pieces. It shows the tender age at which her innocence was getting chipped away. There’s a seminal event in this chapter. Her life could have gone either way right then. Left or right, and despite her crimes later in life, this chapter endears me to her.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
I didn’t seek publication until I felt satisfied that I’d taken the story as far as I could. I had that “aha” moment several times that I had something special within this story and I hoped it would resonate with someone else.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
Like most writers, it’s a matter of perseverance. I sent out countless queries to agents and publishers and received as many “no’s.” But it only takes one yes. That’s what I kept telling myself.
What has been the best part about being published?
The whole process has proved wonderful. It’s a bit like finding out your pregnant and then having to wait almost a year with breathless anticipation for the end result. And now that the book is actually here, I’m still awe-struck that the ideas and thoughts once private to me are now out there in the world. It’s like finishing a race. There’s knowing you can cross the finish line. And there’s the feeling of the finish line ribbon breaking as you cross. That’s what it feels like.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
You’ve heard the story that just calling someone to invite them for a cup of coffee saved them from something horrible. That’s one of the seminal truths I found from researching overwhelmed mothers who were in decline mentally and emotionally. So I think I’d like people to remember to be more compassionate and observant towards those they love. Small gestures make a difference. Noticing signs about someone’s well being makes a difference.
Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes, I’m working on it now. It’s a modern take on the prodigal son story from the Bible.
Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
This has been an invaluable experience for me! The best part about this tour was knowing I had a partner in promotion. It’s a big, big world out there and writers need as many resources as possible.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
It’s available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and in most major retailers.
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Yes, it’s www.karenharringtonbooks.com
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
JANEOLOGY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Karen’s tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!