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  • Writer's pictureBecca Whitham

Interview with Karen Witemyer

Let me start today's interview with an apology to Karen. I asked her to be my guest for June--when her novel released--and I totally dropped the ball. Which she didn't deserve. Karen is one of my "buy it as soon as it releases" authors AND she offered to give away an autographed copy of the story to one US reader. I let myself get overwhelmed with my own stuff and didn't get this posted in June when her latest novel released.


Karen and I met at a writer's retreat sponsored by Tracie Peterson back in February of 2011. Her first book, Head in the Clouds, had just released. We've reconnected several times since then, mostly at ACFW where we've stood side-by-side singing soprano in the conference choir. I adore Karen. ADORE her! Her stories are full of history, humor, and suspense...all my favorite things. But as much as I love her writing, I love her more. She's a delight in a quiet, confident, witty way. Without further ado, here's Karen in her own words:

Fast Five:

1. Coffee or tea?

Tea, all the way. And none of those fancy herbal blends. Give me black tea sweetened with honey, and I'm a happy camper. In fact, that is my go-to "snack" every afternoon. I try not to nibble too much between meals, but I look forward to my tea breaks.

Oh...I knew we were kindred spirits. Tea, tea, and more tea for me.

2.Morning person or night owl?

Morning. I turn into a pumpkin at 10:00 pm.

3. Cashews or mixed nuts?

Cashews, especially if they are honey-roasted. Yumm!

4. Planner or go-with-the-flow?

My family would laugh at this even being asked. I'm a planner. Vacations – I have hotel reservations, itineraries, and activities lined out well in advance. In the day-to-day, I can let my guard down a little more and allow a bit more spontaneity, but I'm a planner at the core.

5. Curling iron or flat iron?

For years I was curling iron only. Now I actually use both. As I've gotten *ahem* older, my hair frizzes much more easily, so I use the flat iron to smooth the frizz then curl the ends to add some bounce.

But seriously…

1. How did you get into writing?

I'm not one of those authors who always knew she was a writer. Although in the third grade, I did write and illustrate a stunningly magnificent book entitled about an astronaut who discovered a purple planet full of purple people who were terrorized by the One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater.

No, for me, I always knew I was a reader. My mom used to have to force me out of hiding to socialize when we had guests because I preferred sitting in my room with my stack of library books for company. I would daydream romantic storylines, and when I grew into an adult, I started jotting those ideas down in a journal. Maybe someday I would give writing a try.

Then in 2003, my husband discovered he was losing his job. I had three pre-school children at home. Perhaps now was that someday I'd been waiting for. Six months later, both my husband and I had new full-time jobs, but by this time the writing bug had bitten hard. I haven't been able to shake it since.

This answer makes so much sense to me! I too was always a reader. Writing was a "maybe someday" thing until my husband deployed, my kids were launched, and I was staring down a year of solitude. Nathan made me promise to "do something with all those stories (I'd) written over the years." Not much I could say to that except, "Yes, sir!"

2.When you’re ready to throw in the towel, what motivates you to keep writing?

I would say there are three main motivators. First, my readers. Their love and support for my stories pushes me to keep going, and not only that, but to create the best possible story I can every time. Second (and this is squarely on the practical end but true nonetheless), the paycheck. Nearly all of the college fund money in my children's accounts have come from my writing income. Much of our retirement nest egg is supported the same way. Money is not my main motivator, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a factor. Third, and by far the most important, I remind myself that God has called me to this path, and I must be obedient to his call. I have witnessed his influence on my journey more times than I can count, and as long as he is equipping me for this ministry, it is my duty to follow where he leads.

3. What deadline has been the hardest for you to keep? Why?

I give myself mini deadlines to keep from getting in trouble when the manuscript due dates roll around. I am a very slow, careful writer who writes basically one draft. I edit as I go, getting feedback from critique partners along the way, but write only one draft. Since my books are typically around 36-40 chapters long, I schedule to write one polished chapter a week. This leaves me time to write one full-length novel and one novella a year. As long as I keep up with those mini deadlines, the big ones don't hurt. I rarely turn in a manuscript early any more, but I've never (yet) turned one in late.

Says the planner...whom I now hate. LOL!

4. Where has this writing journey taken you that you never expected?

Well, if I take your question literally (and I will), I'd have to say that I never imagined my books would take me to Germany and The Netherlands. I've been blessed to have my books published in a handful of foreign languages, and a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to visit both Holland and Germany to do book tours with my foreign publishers. I met wonderful people, saw beautiful sites, and fostered relationships that are still blessing me today.

That's so amazing! No foreign book tours for me, but maybe someday. (Although I am cruising down the Danube River in a few days. YEE!)

5. What have the characters from More Than Meets the Eye taught you as you wrote their story?

My themes and spiritual threads always seems to tie into my own struggles. I might not be an orphan with heterochromia, but I know the pain of rejection and the desire to shun conflict and hide myself away. I might not be an ex-gambler bent on avenging his father's death, but I know what it is like to lose my father at an early age and how that grief can change the trajectory of my life.

Our Lord came to bring hope to the outcast, to adopt the unwanted into his family, and to turn shame into glorious victory. Yet, too often, I am afraid to reach out to people who make me uncomfortable. I crave the comfortable and the easy. I need to do a better job of having eyes that are open to see those who are hurting and ostracized. And not only to see them, but to see them through the eyes of Jesus, to see them as people of value, who have a story that has led them to this point, a story that if I took the time to get to know might completely change my opinion of them. May I find the compassion and courage to reach out in kindness and friendship to those who are different than me and perhaps become an anchor for a lost soul in danger of drifting away.

And if y'all weren't anxious to read More Than Meets the Eye before, you are now. I know I am! (BTW, just for giggles, spellcheck doesn't recognize "heterochromia." It's suggested alternate is "petrochemical." Huh?)

6. My tagline is “Love. History.” In light of that, if you could go back into your own history and give yourself one piece of advice about love, what would it be?

For Karen's answer, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter which will include instructions about how to win not one, but two books! One from Karen and one from me. The newsletter will go live on Sunday, Sept. 2 and you'll have a week to be entered in the drawing for the books. I'll be selecting a winner as soon as I come home from my cruise. If I'm awake. If not, you might have a few more days.

A big thank you to Karen for joining us here, for letting us get to know her a little, and for her generous offer to send a signed copy of her latest release. And for being patient while I got my act together to publish her interview. Not that she had any say in the matter, but just the same...

More to come from me as I cruise down the Danube. I'm not sure if I'll get to post much while we're on the ship, but I'll do my best to share pictures and experiences. See you again soon!

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