Karen Booth is a Midwestern girl transplanted in the South, raised on 80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. Her lifelong preoccupation with Rock ‘n’ Roll led her to spend her twenties working her way from intern to executive in the music industry. Much of her writing revolves around the world of backstage passes and band dynamics.
When she isn’t creating fictional musicians, she’s listening to everything from old-school Cheap Trick to Duran Duran to Superchunk with her kids, honing her Southern cooking skills (she makes some mean collards), or sweet-talking her astoundingly supportive husband into whipping up a batch of cocktails.
1. As a Midwestern girl transplanted to the south, if someone greets you with “How are you?” do you actually answer them? Or do you just say “Fine, how are you?”
I treat it as a question, so I always answer and always ask the question in return. One thing about living in the south, your manners improve. Even if it’s just a façade, people are almost always exceptionally polite. Not to say that Midwesterners don’t have good manners, but I’d say they’re less generous with pleasantries until they get to know you. Then it’s all over—you’re getting an invitation for the neighborhood potluck, whether you want it or not.
2. If money was not a concern, how many pairs of shoes would you own?
As much as I like to shop for and look at shoes, I’m not a fan of conspicuous consumption. I actually had to start my shoe collection from scratch four years ago when we lost our house to a fire. Losing everything changes your attitude toward material things. They just don’t mean as much to me anymore. So, to answer your question, if I had to live with the shoes I already own for the rest of my life, I could do it. Granted, I have the most kick-ass pair of Coach lace-up boots ever—black suede, 4” wood wedge heel in dark green. Mmm. They would help to soften the blow.
3. Your Pinterest page has some gorgeous images! Have you tried any of the gardening ideas you’ve pinned?
I haven’t had a chance to try any of the gardening projects. I’m really into succulents, they’re the perfect mix of architectural and organic, so I would love to try one of the living wall art projects. The DIY cement planters look really cool too. I just need to carve out the time to do it.
4. What was life like when you were in the music biz?
Almost always awesome. I was nineteen when I got the internship that eventually led to my first music industry job—it was the greatest thing ever. I got to listen to music at work and it was part of my job to stay up late and see bands and drink beer and hang out with cute rock boys. I had the good fortune to live in two significant U.S. music scenes at pivotal times—Minneapolis during the era of Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Jayhawks, and Husker Du. Then I moved to Chapel Hill right when Superchunk was starting up and the scene went on to spawn an unbelievable array of bands—Archers of Loaf, Polvo, Squirrel Nut Zippers. It was all very exciting, but there were ups and downs. It will break your heart to truly believe in a band and watch them not get the recognition they deserve. That was the case more often than not. Witnessing the disappointment was the hardest part. Still, I love the world where I get to go backstage and be a VIP. I still get to do it every now and then and I love every minute of it.
5. How did your obsession with Duran Duran begin?
It started in high school, as all adolescent girl obsessions began at that time—courtesy of MTV. I fell for the whole package…the music, the image, John Taylor, the videos. Did I mention John Taylor? Anyway, all of my friends were into them and it was just what we did…live, eat, breathe Duran Duran. None of my friends had John as their favorite member. I think I would have had to stop being friends with anyone who thought she could claim him for herself. I’m better about sharing now. I admit that I fell off the bandwagon for a bit in my late twenties and early thirties, but I am so back on the Duran Duran bandwagon, it’s ridiculous.
I had absolutely no clue what I was doing when I wrote my first novel, Bring Me Back. I just started writing one day, fully expecting to write twenty pages and quit. Instead, I became obsessed and stopped eating and sleeping for the most part. I’m not exaggerating—I often wrote at 3 am and I lost 30 pounds.
Of course, I thought for sure that Bring Me Back would be my first published book, that the very first agent I queried would adore it. How could anyone not love my baby? Well, not so much. I queried 89 agents and 5 publishers. I got loads of flat-out rejections and the others were a mix of helpful feedback and manuscript requests. A few rejections were so awesome that I would read them over and over again. That’s how pathetic you get when you’re querying.
In the meantime, my critique partner, Karen Stivali, had contracted a novella with Ellora’s Cave after going through a similar querying process with her first novel, Meant To Be (out this August—look for it!). Karen and I had long discussed co-authoring a book, so we wrote Long-Distance Lovers, which was eventually contracted and published by Ellora’s Cave. I have since contracted two more novellas with Ellora’s Cave and Bring Me Back was contracted with Turquoise Morning Press, due to come out in January (yay!).
7. What was your writing process when you collaborated with Karen Stivali on Long Distance Lovers?
Karen and I talk every day over IM, so we did much of our work that way. We brainstormed the main story in about twenty-five minutes. It was uncanny the way we had very similar characters in mind without even discussing it ahead of time. We knew we wanted to write dual POV, so she took Tim’s character and I took Jenna’s. As petite and feminine as Karen Stivali is, she’s very in-tune with the male brain, much more so than I am. We mapped out the scenes, decided who would take which ones, and we were off to the races. When we were done writing our scenes, we traded for edits and then we would revise.
I do have a cover for Love My Way, but no release date yet. Hopefully late June or early July. That will be my first solo-authored novella and I’m super excited about it. It stars Katie, a photographer who had her heart stomped on, and Peter, a hunky rock star with a sweet and slightly nerdy side. He makes me melt just thinking about him.
9. Besides Love My Way, you also have a story coming out in the anthology Foreign Affairs from Turquoise Morning Press. How do you juggle promoting releases so close together?
Excellent question—I have no earthly idea! The anthology will be easier because you have other authors for brainstorming, everyone with their own set of connections. A single-author release means you have to not only steer the ship, you have to keep the ship actually moving forward. I expect it to be trial by fire.
I don’t have rules, I try to let the characters dictate it. I certainly try to push myself into new realms of steaminess if possible, but I usually know when it isn’t right for the scene or the story. I have a novella titled For Keeps coming out with Ellora’s Cave this fall. It’s an older woman/younger man story and at first, Cooper, my male main character, was extremely vocal in the bedroom. Much more of a dirty talker than any other guy I’ve written. I kept going with it, but then he fell so head over heels in love with my female main character, Allie, that I had to dial it back a bit. Not sure if I was forcing it or if I just didn’t know his character well enough. That’s the genius part of revisions—anything can be changed.
Wow—I could write a whole book on the memorable and disturbing things that Tiffany has tweeted. Yesterday, she tweeted something to do with speculum play. Everything Tiffany says is cute or clever or filthy and I adore her for it.
12. When you decided to contribute to Felt Tips, did a story come to mind right away?
It did, which almost never happens. That’s what made it so much fun. I wrote my rough draft in two hours on the day before Thanksgiving. I’d seen Tiffany tweet about the anthology and the mention of office supplies brought up memories of a friend who said the smell of a mimeograph machine turned her on. I’d just read an article about Mad Men, which is one of my favorite shows, so that gave me the time period and setting. After that, I thought about the role of women in the workplace in the 50s and 60s. Their sexuality was one of the few powers they had, which says a lot about our society at the time. My main character, Kathy, is young and naïve, but she finds a way to use her sexuality to her best advantage.
13. Have you ever been surprised when meeting another writer at a conference when you’d only known them on-line before?
I attended the RT Conference in April and I met tons of other writers whom I had previously only known on Twitter. The biggest thing I noticed was how exceptionally warm and friendly everyone was. I have yet to meet any writers in romance or women’s fiction who seem to have much ego wrapped up in it, which is so nice.
14. What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate?
In terms of writing, I focus on Twitter. I’ve really gotten into Pinterest, but it’s not as social, it’s more a means of making a visual statement about yourself and what you do. I’m very visual, so I embrace the idea, but I know it’s not for everyone. I have two Facebook accounts, one personal and one private, but that gets to be a pain—trying to keep one side of your life separate from the other. I don’t tend to do it very well.
15. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
My home office is a pretty damn ideal writing environment. I have a big desk, French doors, tall windows that look out over the garden. I really couldn’t ask for anything more. Maybe a seatbelt to keep me in my chair.
16. How do you find or make time for writing?
I get up at five every morning so that I can have at least one hour of uninterrupted writing time. I also manage a few hours late morning and early afternoon before my kids get home from school. My other “job” is as a handbag designer/maker, so I work from home, and juggling the two things seems to work pretty well, but I have to be disciplined about it.
17. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
I have a Mac Book Pro that my hubby gave me for my birthday last year. I don’t need much more than that. I don’t use Scrivener or any of the dictation tools out there. As long as I have MS Word and access to the internet for research, I’m good.
18. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
I am a very big fan of pencils—they even play an important role in my Felt Tips story. There’s something extremely satisfying about printing out a manuscript and doing edits with pencil. I like the sound of the pencil on paper. I even like my handwriting better in pencil.
19. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Twitter! It’s way too much fun. Oh, and You Tube. Every music video or live performance you would ever want to see at your fingertips? A clip of John Taylor walking a llama around a parking lot in Brazil while wearing a sombrero? Yes! It’s dangerous.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
I had to put some serious thought into this one (and go back and re-watch the original scene). I think Han shot first. Yeah, he’s hunky and cute and deep down a total softie, but when it comes to business, he’s a total badass.
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