Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Interview with Karen Bell

Today's Reviews and Interviews guest is writer Karen S. Bell. We're talking long journeys, elephants, and, of course, writing.

Walking with Elephants is Karen Bell’s first novel, although she is not new to writing. After earning a graduate degree in mass communication she spent 15 years as an editor and writer of business materials. She says, “Inspiration for this novel came from my direct contact with the joys of Corporate America and the balancing act that comes with being a working mother.” Currently, Ms. Bell resides in Ponte Vedra, Fl with her husband and photos of her children, granddaughters, and grandsons who live everywhere BUT Ponte Vedra, Fl.

Please tell us about your current release.
The journey to get Walking with Elephants published was quite arduous. It took nearly ten years to write and another ten to find a publisher. I had a lot of stops and starts to find my voice but when I did the book flowed. My protagonist, Suze Hall, is my everywoman, my Willie Loman, if you will. She represents all the older women in the workforce who entered later in life after raising their kids. She discovers that she and her husband defined their roles when she was a stay-at-home mom and she is stuck in that role--continuing to run the house while also working full-time. She also is not good at deciphering the intrigue at work. I tried to make her very likable with a good sense of humor. I think I achieved that. It is a light-hearted slice-of-life story. A reviewer described the book as Bridget Jones meets Erma Bombeck. But it also has an important message for women in the current era.

What inspired you to write this book?
As a working mother myself, I lived the stresses that come with that territory but I was lucky. I was able to raise my babies before I went back into the workforce. Women today, by and large, are not so lucky. In the ladies room at work, I came upon a young woman pumping her breast. This is crazy, I thought. She should be home nursing. Maternity leave is way too short in this country. In some countries, a woman has two years' leave. I felt that women should be dialoguing about this. It's one thing to be political about abortion, but that's where the discussion ends. What happens after the baby is born is very important and there is no consensus or discussions on how to blend families and work.

The title of the book is the title of an essay that Suze writes at the end of the novel. She suggests a paradigm shift from the patriarchal societies that have been in place for millennia to matriarchies like a herd of elephants. In the elephant world the herd comprises females and their young. Males are peripheral and only come around to mate. She poses the notion of what would the society look like, be like if women were truly in charge—not women mimicking men.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am shopping my second novel, Sunspots. It’s kind of a paranormal romance, ghost story. It explores the woeful journey Aurora Stein takes when her husband Jake dies in a car accident after just two years of marriage. Aurora was an aspiring actress so she views the world through the lens of characters in novels and film. Although the topic is somber, there are many moments of mirth as Aurora tells her tale of meeting Jake and her present situation.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t really consider myself a writer now. Somehow, I see a writer as someone who makes a living at it. That eludes me. I put words on paper, I make up stories. It’s a happy diversion and comes fairly easy. I am a reader. They say in order to be a good writer, one must be a reader. So I’m a reader and the public will have to tell me if I’m a writer. From those that have read Walking with Elephants I have gotten great feedback, so describing myself as a writer is on hold and waiting. I’m already getting rejections for Sunspots, so I’m holding my breath on the writer thing.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I have never spent an entire day writing. First with WWE, there was the distraction of working full-time and raising a family. By the time I would get back to it, I had to reread to remind myself where the story was and the names of the characters—no kidding. Now I’m distracted becoming the publisher of WWE after mine closed doors and all that it implies—printing, marketing, advertising, PR. Now I’m sending out queries for Sunspots. Oh, that I had an agent and publisher. I’m planning on working on my third novel today—maybe.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not unique on this quirk. My characters come alive for me and direct the plot. They take over my psyche and shove their way into my thought processes and surprise me with their actions or tell me their names.

Also, rewriting sentences comes to me when I’m not at the computer.

When these things happen to me I know I’m in the throes of story telling and I love it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor. I laughingly tell people that I have saved more lives by NOT becoming a doctor.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I think people really need to stop and reflect on the wonder of being human. Of the miracle of being alive, and the beautiful world around us. All of it. Not take it for granted. Everything is a miracle, just like Einstein said. Live in the moment and love in the moment—that’s all we have. Make it count. If you are reading this, you are one of lucky ones that do not have to subsist on scarcity just to stay alive. Feel the blessing of that and be charitable to those less fortunate.

Thanks for stopping by, Karen!

1 comment:

Ann Summerville said...

So many of us can relate to this. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for posting.