And that's exactly what I get to do today - introduce you to a new friend. I met Karen Schravemade at the 2011 ACFW conference in St. Louis. She was absolutely lovely - both inside and out. As a fellow Genesis finalist, mom of boys, and lover of Jesus - we had a lot to chat about. God was so good that He even allowed Karen and I to 'Providentially' meet up in the airport on our flights back home. SUPER COOL! Not only that - but Karen and I both started the writing journey when we were SIX! (long-term dreamers, right Karen?)
So, here at the Alley we decided to interview Karen so you all could get to know her too :-)
Sit back and welcome our new AlleyCat - you'll love her accent :-)
If you weren't a writer, what would be your dream career?
It would definitely still have to be something creative. I think it would be fun to be an interior designer for one of those TV shows where they makeover people’s houses as a surprise. I’d have a team of spunky handymen to do my bidding and an unlimited budget to spend on gorgeous furnishings and décor.
Then in my spare time I’d freelance as an illustrator for children’s books, pottering around in a light-filled art studio beside the sea.
What is your favorite writing attire?
Oh, I’m extremely glamorous. When I get up early to write, I wear my PJ’s. On days when the kids go to daycare and I’m not teaching, I go to the library to write, so I have to be a little more respectable. I try to remember to wear shoes on those occasions.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Definitely the library. We have an awesome local library with soaring ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass windows down its length, so it’s flooded with natural light. There’s a coffee shop stocked with tasty treats, and there’s free Wi-Fi (for writing research, of course – I would never check Facebook on a writing day! Ahem). Besides which, there’s something deliciously inspiring about being surrounded by books in every direction.
What items do you need by your side when you write?
I’m very low-maintenance. I need my laptop, of course (love my MacBook Pro) and I always have a water bottle at my elbow. Other than that, all I require is to *not* have children clambering all over me and screaming for attention. That part is easier said than done.
This may sound a little odd, but I loved the character of Patrick played by Heath Ledger in “Ten Things I Hate About You.” (Remember back that far?) Patrick was totally not the sort of guy I ever would have been attracted to in real life – a rebel and borderline delinquent with long hair and an attitude. But there was something kinda adorable about his cheekiness. Maybe it was that cute dimple. Maybe it was because he had a good heart; he was just misunderstood.
Oh, heck, who am I kidding, I just liked looking at him. J Didn’t hurt that Heath was an Aussie, either.
Tell us something we probably don’t know about life in Australia.
We speak a different language over here. For years I couldn’t work out why those crazy Americans ate cookies with gravy, or spread Jell-O on their toast. (We call cookies “biscuits”, and spread “jam” on a slice of bread – for us, jelly’s the quivery stuff you set in the fridge.)
We also have lots of other expressions that I never realised were uniquely Australian until I joined an American critique group and began baffling them with my odd vocabulary. For instance, our cars have bonnets and boots (hoods and trunks). Oh, and we drive on the other side of the road.
In fact, there’s probably lots of things we do that seem upside-down and back-to-front. For us, Christmas falls in summer, so it means seafood on the BBQ and loads of fresh salads, cricket in the backyard, and a nap in the air-conditioning after lunch.
Australia is a very beautiful country, but it took me years to appreciate that fact. I grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton and other English authors, and craved after lush green fields and fairy rings in the woods and snow at Christmas. You can drive for endless miles in Australia and see nothing but the same khaki-coloured bush and glaring blue skies. The beauty of this country is stark and wild and raw, but once you learn to see it, it’s a beauty that gets under your skin. There’s a famous Australian poem by Dorothea Mackellar that says it much better than I can:
“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”
(Pepper here, lovely Karen. :-) AND I know for sure you have two Brit-speak lovers in the Alley Cat group, so we totally get the biscuits, chips, mushy peas, and jam thing. Love it!)
What is your favorite thing about living in Australia?"
We have the most amazing, unspoilt beaches in the world. It's also a very safe and peaceful place to live.
What does an average day for you look like?
I’m a (mostly) stay-home Mum to two little boys age 3 and 2, and I think the daily routine of Mums with small kids is probably much the same wherever you live.
Our home backs onto bush, so I wake to the sounds of white cockatoos screeching and kookaburras laughing. We go to the gym most mornings, where the kids play in the crèche while I do a workout (yoga being my favourite, because we get to lie on the floor at the end and do nothing at all. I have been known to fall asleep at this point. No doubt I drool, too.) Then we go to playgroup, or have a play-date with a friend who also has small kids. Home for lunch and a nap (I’m pregnant, so sleep features prominently in my schedule - LOL), then we usually spend the afternoon at home, doing craft or playing in the backyard until Daddy gets home from work.
Hmmm… sounds quite idyllic! Of course, that’s in between stopping fights, drying tears, wiping sticky fingers, changing nappies (oops, diapers), dealing with tantrums and trying to find the time to clean the kitchen and fold some laundry.
(Pepper again: Oh dear, loving the lingo, Karen. I'm pretty sure most of us don't hear kookaburras or let our kids play in a creche - but I think the nappies and kips are a staple :-)
How has your writing style evolved from your very first WIP?
My first novel was a Young Adult urban fantasy that I wrote at the age of 23. My current novel is Women’s Fiction. My writing style has grown with me. Although I’m working in a completely different genre now, the same themes still run through my writing – the search for meaning and the journey to find God. I think my writing still has the same flavour, too. I like my novels dark and dramatic.
How did you manage the time change when you came for ACFW conference? Was it harder to adjust here, or going back?
Okay, so I’ve already mentioned that I like my sleep. Overcoming jet-lag was tough for me. Switching day and night is quite an adjustment to begin with, and with all the adrenalin and nerves thrown in, the first two nights I didn’t sleep a wink. If you met me and thought I seemed unusually doughy, it was probably because I was having a body-detached-from-brain experience. I even missed my first editor appointment – got the time completely wrong. (YIKES!!!) Thankfully he was very gracious about it. And of course the whole conference was totally worthwhile. I caught up on sleep once I got home. J
I’ll give you three items and a genre, and you have to come up with a brief plot for the book, giving back-cover-copy length synopsis and having the 3 things be significant in the plot.
1.) Chinese Money
2.) Toe-nail clippings
3.) A Princess
Genre: Regency Historical Romance
Holy cow. Okay! (*Furtively Googles “Regency Romance” to disguise her utter lack of knowledge of this time period*) Ahem…
But when her young charge vanishes in Constantinople after a row with the governess, Patience worries that the disappearance could be her fault. Enlisting the help of the dashing Duke of Ware to help track down the princess, the two uncover a bizarre trail of clues including an envelope of toenail clippings and a purse of Chinese coins. The Duke suspects the worst – that the princess has been abducted by a Chinese acrobat with odd habits of personal hygiene.
As their journey carries them across the continent and closer to the truth, Patience finds herself falling for the adventurous Duke, but social convention will never allow him to court a governess. Should she reveal her true identity and forfeit the position that has opened up the world of adventure she’s always craved? Or remain silent and risk losing the one man she has ever dared to love?
(LOL - Pepper here, did she do a great job with Krista's challenge or WHAT!)
Thanks for having me – I’m so excited to be a part of The Writers Alley.
To learn more about Karen check out her BEAUTIFUL webpage!