Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Karen McCullough - Guest Author

Karen McCullough describes herself as a friendly, smart introvert who is thoughtful and organized. Her writing is intelligent and grounded and covers Mystery, Romance, and Fantasy.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

The reclining chair in the corner of my office. It’s quiet and isolated from the chaos in the rest of the house. I can relax with the laptop and let the story flow.

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

I actually have two productive times of day – the morning, after I’ve had enough coffee to get my brain going, until lunch time, and then in the evening after the house has quieted down. Since I still have a day job, the morning time isn’t usually available, except on weekends, but I do get a couple of hours in the evening.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I read around a dozen books in any given month. I generally don’t read in the genre I’m currently writing. My most recent great book was First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen.

Name three not well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

Jim Butcher – I don’t know if he really counts as not well-known since he is very popular in fantasy circles. His Harry Dresden stories are an amazingly creative combination of fantasy and noir detective story. The feature that sells these books to me is the main character--a wizard detective with a good heart who faces challenges that test him beyond anything he would’ve thought himself capable of dealing with.

Sarah Addison Allen – I love pretty much everything about her stories. They’re contemporary magical realism, incredibly creative, amazingly well thought-out and beautifully written.

Ellis Peters (aka the late Edith Pargeter). Her Brother Cadfael novels were the first historical mysteries I read and I scarfed them up. She was brilliant at bringing her settings to life by including just the right amount of period detail and weaving the historical background into the story itself. Although the political background of 12th century England was a critical part of many of her stories, it was worked into the story so organically I never felt the narrative was weighed down by history lessons.

What is the most challenging area for you as a writer? What are you doing to address the issue?

Plotting. I always have a hard time working out how all the strands of a plot come together, especially since I’m basically a pantser. I tend to start a story with just an idea of what the main problem is, how it begins and a notion of how it will end. Then I have to figure out all the other stuff along the way. I’ve done a lot of reading on how to do plotting and worked out a system that seems to work for me.

What motivates you to write?

I just love doing it. And if I go too long without writing, it feels like my head is going to explode from the pressure of all the characters, events, and bits of dialogue floating around in there, begging for release.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

I’ve just finished the second in my Market Center Mysteries, tentatively titled Wired for Murder. The story takes place a couple of months following the events in A Gift for Murder. Like A Gift for Murder, Wired for Murder takes place during a trade show, but this one is a business technology show. For the Market Center Mysteries I’ve been drawing on my background working for a trade publishing company for a number of years, which meant I attended a number of trade shows and talked with a lot of people in various industries. I realized that those events would make a great setting for mysteries, with its contained environment, short time span, and interesting group of people who tended to know each other and be competitors, friends, enemies and sometimes lovers.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

Elmore Leonard’s line about “Leaving out the parts readers tend to skip,” is still the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard. Of course, the trick is to know what those boring parts are. I’m an impatient reader, so I’ve looked at the parts of a book I generally skip over and tried to analyze why there are some books where I never skip a paragraph and (too) many others where I find myself skimming everything after the second or third chapter. That advice goes hand in hand with Donald Maass’ advice to have tension on every page.
For more information about Karen and her books, 
check out her website http://www.kmccullough.com 
catch her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor 
on Twitter https://twitter.com/kgmccullough 
or on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/kgmccullough/


  1. Karen -- Thanks for stopping by. I suspect being an impatient reader helps decide what is slowing down the story. Also, southern authors may not suit your taste. I'll be doing a week-long seminar with Donald Maass, so I will experience first hand his tension advice.

    ~ Jim

  2. Thanks for having me here, Jim! Great questions. Not all Southern authors are to my taste, it's true. But Sarah Addison Allen, one of my favorites, is one (from North Carolina). I envy you the chance to do the seminar with Donald Maass. I've heard him speak a couple of times and I always come away with ideas to improve my writing.

    1. You are most welcome. I enjoyed reading your answers. I smiled at your being productive in a reclining chair. My productivity in such a place usually involves snores -- not what I am trying to produce by my writing.