Ever since she was a little girl Karen Docter wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. That all changed the day she registered for her freshman college courses. The English class she wanted was full and she was forced to enroll in Journalism. The rest as she says on her web site, www.karendocter.com, is history.
Today, Karen is an award winning author who lives in Colorado. Her contemporary romance, Satin Pleasures, released Feb. 14 on Kindle & Nook. Satin Pleasures was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Contest. She has also won the Category Romantic Mystery Suspense unpublished division of the 2005 Daphne du Maurier Award. She is a four-time Golden Heart finalist and a charter member of The Golden Network® and RWA® PRO®. Also a member of Colorado Romance Writers, KOD and From the Heart chapters, she writes contemporary romance and psychological romantic suspense.
She’s developed her love of teaching by becoming a speaker and presenter to writer groups and has made numerous appearances at writing conferences around the country. During the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference, she will present a breakout session on Saturday and teach a 3-hour workshop on Sunday.
Her breakout session is called, “You Want Me To Do What?” and will help writers of all genres with character development. She will share nine crucial pieces of information writers should know about their characters to make them live in readers’ minds. Writers who are both plotters and pansters will also learn how to write character goal statements that will help keep the story progression focused.
“The W Plot…Or the Other White Meat for Plotters” is Karen’s Sunday workshop in which she will share the “W” plotting technique she’s used for years. Attendees will work to uncover the skeleton of their novels by applying the “W” plotting technique to the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” Karen will show how the technique works and highlight plot points for all the main characters, including the villain. This 3-hour class will offer solutions for writers who have run into a wall in their story and don’t know where to go next. Read a complete description of her presentations on the MWG web site.
Sarah: Karen, thank you for taking the time to give us a preview into your upcoming appearance at the Missouri Writers’ Guild annual conference.
Karen: Thanks for allowing me to share a little about my upcoming visit. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference. It’ll be fun!
Sarah: To get us started. As this interview is via email, can you tell us, where are you as you answer these questions?
Karen: I’m relaxing on the couch in my living room after fourteen hours in my office. Time to chat!
Sarah: How did you become an author? Did you do anything else before then?
Karen: A loaded question! I’ve written my entire life, mostly journals, short stories, and poetry for my own enjoyment. In college, I developed my journalism skills. By the time I graduated reporter jobs were scarce, salary was minimal, and I’d established a career in business management. That’s where I remained until I “retired” to stay home with my children. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to keep my brain functioning above a two-year-old level. J We lived in the mountains and I couldn’t get my hands on enough romance novels, so it was a no-brainer to write one of my own.
Sarah: As a writer, what are your best daily practices that keep you organized and feeling confident?
Karen: Working at home, it’s too easy to slip into “weekenditis” and not get anything done. I treat my writing career as a business, carrying over a lot of the management principles I used in the workplace. I no longer keep a time card now that I regularly work 8-12 hours a day on my computer (regrettably not all writing time). But I do write “To Do” lists and maintain a detailed calendar. My fingers are poked in so many pies (for instance, I schedule all of the blogs for RomConInc “Where Readers Rule” site in addition to running my career), I need to stay organized. I’m still not getting enough writing time but I’m working on my schedule. Adding a weekly Just Write session with my critique partners to my calendar has done wonders for my writing recently.
Sarah: You’ve won several romance awards. What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn as an author? What made it so difficult for you?
Karen: I have the hardest time muting my Type-A personality when I write. I’m both right and left-brained. This isn’t a problem on the business side of my career. It does mean I have an editor with twelve-inch talons embedded in my shoulder and she worries my scenes to death until she’s satisfied. Finding a balance is an ongoing challenge.
Sarah: In your breakout description of “You Want Me to Do What?” you explain the session will include nine crucial pieces of information you need to know about your characters to make them live in readers’ minds.” Could you briefly describe two or three of them?
Karen: We’re told as writers to create “larger-than-life” characters for our readers. But what does that mean? Your hero needs to be tall, dark and handsome, with a devilish smile? Your heroine has to be drop dead gorgeous? No. Physical appearance only touches the surface of a character. A character can only “live” when we dig deep into his personality, find out where he’s coming from and what’s important to him. We want to identify a character’s goal, her motivations in pursuing that goal. We’ll talk about defining her strengths. Her weaknesses. Her attitudes about life and how it all affects her characterization. This workshop is a great precursor to my “W” plotting workshop.
Sarah: For anyone who signs up for your Sunday Master Class, “The W Plot…Or The Other White Meat for Plotters” what will they take away from the session?
Karen: My goal in the master class is to not only teach how the “W” plotting technique works, but help you to apply the technique steps to your own story. So many times, we learn how a technique is supposed to work but then we go home and find ourselves struggling to translate what we’ve learned to our own work. There will be a number of hands-on exercises that will help you uncover the skeleton of your story. This is a great class for both the plotter and the pantser, the beginning or experienced writer. If you’ve already started a novel, that’s okay. It’s never too late to apply the principles to your developing story. Use the technique to pull apart the elements of your story so you can plug the holes, work through/over/around walls that loom in your path, and get moving on your story once again.
Sarah: As a follow up question to your Feb. 20 Monday Musing Blog, how do you think the past year and a half has made you a better writer?
Karen: It’s difficult to be a good writer when you’re pulled in too many directions. It’s impossible if you don’t take care of yourself. I learned that the hard way. I’m a bit of a Type-A personality – okay, maybe more than a bit – so I tend to set a path and bully on no matter the cost. On the one hand, it means I can stay focused on a goal longer. On the other hand, it also narrows my point of view and creativity. Learning to re-prioritize my life goals allowed me to see outside the box I’d built around my life and career. That, in turn, allows me to be more creative.
Sarah: You said in the above blog that you considered yourself a traditionalist, that you’d never publish a digital book. You changed your mind, however, and recently released your newest book, Satin Pleasures, on Amazon. Why did that decision make sense for you?
Karen: A lot has happened in the book industry in this past year and a half. It’s so much easier for an author to be her own boss these days if she has the skills to navigate the ins-and-outs of digital publishing. I was in the business world nearly 30 years and the concept of writing for me has always had great appeal. It’s also a wider business model than traditional publishing. I know I’m a good writer but, sometimes, that just doesn’t matter with traditional publishers. There are only so many available slots on their schedule. That means there are a lot of good writers out who may never get their stories in reader hands. With my wider perspective on what I want to write, I decided it was time for me to take the plunge into digital publishing.
Sarah: And finally, what is it about being a writer that makes you an addict?
Karen: A week ago, as I sat at the kitchen counter watching my husband make breakfast – got to love a man with a spatula in his hand! – I was going on and on about how thrilled I was to have finished a particularly difficult scene in my upcoming romantic suspense, “Killing Secrets”. At one point in the conversation, he looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face and said, “You do realize you’re talking about these people like they’re real.” The truth is my characters are real. They live and breathe in my head. They make mistakes, face dangers, and fall in love. How can I not tell their stories?
Don’t forget to register! If you’ve learned something from reading this blog and are interested in learning more from Karen in April, please consider attending the 2012 Missouri Writers Guild Annual writing conference. We would love to see you there!