Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet Karen Kirst

Who is Karen Kirst?  

I'm a Southern gal, born and raised in East Tennessee.  I'm married to a Czech man who also happens to be a U.S. Marine, so I'm a military wife.  We have three energetic boys and a chatty parrot.  I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.  Our house is never quiet!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

What free time?! Just kidding. When I need to get away, I find a friend to go with me to the local tearoom.  Spending three months in the Czech Republic turned me into a tea drinker and now I'm a fanatic!  I find the whole experience very relaxing.  I like coffee, too.  So sometimes my friends and I meet at a nearby bookstore and we chat over dessert.  Otherwise, I like to watch romantic comedies and read. 

Where do you draw inspiration from for your characters?

First I envision what type of relationship I want my hero and heroine to have.  Sweet and tender?  Strained? At odds?  Are they strangers?  Old acquaintances? Then I focus on who they are as people-their hobbies, strengths and faults, family life, etc.  I also use pictures of models and celebrities who resemble my characters and keep those handy for inspiration.

Of all the characters you’ve created, which one do you identify with the most and why?

I'd have to say the heroine of my second book, The Bridal Swap (March 2012).  Kate Morgan struggles to accept God's forgiveness for past mistakes.  Like her, I believe He is faithful to forgive us if we ask.  Sometimes, though, we allow shame and guilt to blind us from His truth.  I wanted to show how she overcomes these destructive emotions and moves toward love and healing.

Where do you get the ideas for your novels?

I daydream a lot. It's fun to think up different plots and scenes, and I think because I've read so much there are lots of ideas stored in my brain. lol

What are the major themes of your newest release?

Adventure.  Danger. Kidnapping. Secret identity.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book? (if any)

The Reluctant Outlaw is the first in my series Smoky Mountain Matches.  Because it's set in the real places of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I did a lot of research about those areas, visiting the local libraries and visitor centers.  There is an abundant supply of information about the national park, including the wildlife and plant life, which helped with the details. Cades Cove has many cabins, churches, and other structures open to the public.  Seeing first-hand how the early settlers lived was a huge inspiration.  The research involved in writing historicals has made history come alive for me.

What is your newest release?

My debut novel, The Reluctant Outlaw, is a Harlequin Love Inspired Historical (September 2011).
A Kidnapper—and a Gentleman?
The ruthless criminal who took Juliana O’Malley hostage was a thief and an outlaw—or so she thinks. But on a perilous journey through the Smoky Mountains, he becomes her unlikely protector. And when he pledges to return her home safely, she somehow finds herself believing him.
Evan Harrison has risked everything to find the men who killed his brother. Saving spirited, strong-willed Juliana could blow his cover with a deadly gang. Yet her courage and unwavering faith make him dream of the home and family he thought he could never have. And suddenly, that future is incomplete—without Juliana in it.

Smoky Mountain Matches: Dreams of home and family come true in the Smoky Mountains

Copyright [2011] by [Karen Kirst]
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

How did you get involved in writing?

I've been an avid reader all my life.  As a young woman, I got the crazy idea to write a romance.  I ignored it, of course.  But my major in college, Speech Communication, was writing-intensive and after that the prospect of writing a novel wasn't so intimidating anymore. I wrote and submitted my first two manuscripts about eight years ago.  They were politely turned down. I shelved my dream to focus on my young family.  It wasn't until I was expecting my third child (who's about to turn four) that I took up writing again.  A historical this time.  That's the one that sold!  

What do you enjoy most and least about the writing process?

My favorite part is probably the plotting of the story, visualizing the exciting scenes that may or may not make it into the book.  That's the fun part.  I can't really say I have a least favorite part about the process.  My challenge is carving out time to write.  That's a frustration for me sometimes.

What advice would you offer an aspiring author?

Decide what it is you want to write and read that genre.  That will give you a clue as to what's expected, what's popular, and what's unacceptable for that market.  Also read books on the craft of writing.  There are a lot of helpful tools out there.  My editor recently suggested Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, Conflict. It's a great resource.  Write much and often.  Then write some more.  The more you practice, the more honed your skills and voice.  I hope that helps!

What story ideas would you like to explore in the future?

That's a tough question.  I like so many types of stories.  Right now I'm writing historicals, but someday I might try a contemporary suspense.  I like to put my characters in perilous situations and see how they react.  Both The Reluctant Outlaw and The Bridal Swap have elements of danger.

What has God been teaching you lately?

A lot!  This is such a time of upheaval and change in our household.  As a military family, we don't have the luxury of knowing where we're gonna live in the next few years.  I'm a planner and so it's tough for me to not know.  God is teaching me to "bloom where I'm planted" but I have to admit I've resisted putting down roots. I'm working on that, though! He's definitely showing me to take life one day at a time.  To live it to the fullest and not worry about tomorrow.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

My website has information and pictures about the characters and books.  I also have a fan page on facebook where I post information.  Catch me on goodreads, too!

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