Please welcome author Karen Docter to the Clog Blog!
Thanks so much for allowing me to visit your blog. It’s always fun to talk to readers!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I fell in love with stories when I was really young. My mother would take my sisters and I to the public library every Saturday. We’d load up on the maximum number of books we could check out and we’d start reading them the moment we got back to the car. We couldn’t wait to get home. I was out of reading material by mid-week but I’d just reread my favorite ones until we could trade them out. I went through the entire children’s section by the time I was nine.
I loved our librarians because they knew me and were able to transition me to the adult section. I read way beyond my years. I moved into SciFi (loved all of the greats, Heinlein, Asimov, etc.), Suspense (grew up on my mother’s Perry Mason and Ellory Queen stories from her Writer’s Digest Books) and Romance (ala Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer) I read everything those two ladies wrote (which was A LOT) and I got hooked on romance. SciFi and Suspense are also my “go to” reads, although I’ve since started picking up just about any romance across the sub-genres now.
I have a Technical Journalism degree and taught English Composition at a community college, but never really wrote for anyone but myself and English classes until I decided to write my first romance novel <mumble> years ago. J I have so many romance stories in my TBW, “To Be Written” pile I’ll have to live forever to finish them all.
How do you make time to write?
This has been a challenge in the past couple of years. I have been battling a number of health issues and my writing efforts were not productive. Last month, I climbed back in the saddle and am finally writing again. Marketing and social media cuts into my writing time so I seldom get to my writing until noon. But lately, I’ve been forcing myself into some new habits to get writing into my schedule.
I started a JUST WRITE session from noon to 4:00 every weekday with other writers on Facebook. Turns out I’m not the only one that is finding it a challenge to make writing time! J My Just Write sessions have grown a bit. We check in at noon and JUST WRITE for one-hour stretches. At the top of the hour, we check in with our progress (not word count generated, just progress – word counts make me crazy) and I encourage everyone to get up and stretch and take care of bodies. Too many of us don’t take proper care of ourselves and that is why so many of us experience health issues. Anyway, I run the JUST WRITE sessions until 4:00 when we sign off. I am creating another habit to go to the gym pool for a couple of hours weekdays.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, and no. I used to have problems with what people call a traditional writer’s block before I learned how to use the “W” plotting technique. I’m a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) at heart. But I’d get sidetracked and then lock up because I didn’t know how to proceed.
It took me a while to find a plotting technique that allowed my pantser self to create without shutting down my need for direction. I wrote my first three books as a pure pantser, and then had to spend years trying to revise my babies into something I could sell to a publisher. It was miserable. When I learned the “W”, it allowed me the structure I needed without compromising my creativity. Now, I seldom experience true writer’s block.
That said, I do run into times when I can’t write because of health reasons. I may want to create, but when I’m in severe pain I can’t. I also discovered I wasn’t getting enough oxygen (took doctors forever to figure this one out) which meant my brain wasn’t getting what it needed to climb out of the fog. I’m on the upswing and my brain is clear so I’m crossing my fingers that blockages because of health are a thing of the past.
I highly recommend finding ways to take care of you. It’s hard to be creative when your mind or body is stressed. If your writer’s block is caused by this don’t beat yourself up. That just adds to your stress. Take the time you need to decompress. Go outside. Do something fun. Get completely away from your writing. When you get back to the writing, it’s highly likely you’ll know what’s blocking you. That’s the way it works for me.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
I actually write two genres, contemporary romance as Karen Docter and romantic suspense as K.L. Docter. For years, I was focused on getting published at Harlequin/Silhouette. Because of my love for suspense, though, I was finding it challenging to rip the suspense elements out of my contemporary stories. The publisher lines I was aiming for didn’t allow for that element.
I was struggling to rip apart one particular story and ranting about it to one of my CPs (critique partners) about how difficult it was, and she told me to write it as a romantic suspense. I told her, “But I don’t write suspense.” She told me, “Karen, you already do. Just let it go.” I let go and K.L. Docter was born. It became much easier to write contemporary romance because I was able to switch personas and pour all of my suspense leanings into those books instead.
Interestingly enough, I started a contemporary romance series called True Love in Uniform that you would think would be filled with suspense but I’m able to focus the stories on the cops outside of their jobs. There is a bit of cop shop because let’s face it, police officers are cops 24/7 but it’s not the focus on the stories. I can go hog wild with my serial killers and woman-in-jeopardy stories as K.L. though so my muse is happy.
…and, related back to your question about writer’s block? I no longer face blockages that stop me cold because if a cop book isn’t working for me, I just turn my thoughts over to the suspense book. Something is always working now. The other benefit to splitting my personality! J
How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
I’ve gone completely Indie. Before my health issues reared their ugly heads, there wasn’t really anything that had the same distribution model as the traditional publishers. When I came back to my writing, though, Amazon was breaking loose and I could finally see a way for me to publish myself. I was tired of trying to break into the few spots the traditional publishers had available—I had several senior editors who liked my work but I could never get the right book on the right desk at the right time—and I decided that I had the background to do what I needed to do, as long as I was willing to work hard.
It was a no-brainer for me. I was in the business world for over 30 years and could run a business. Why not? I published a book I had at a traditional publisher for two years, through four senior editors, and never looked back. I had a few hits and misses as I got started but, once I identified my strengths and weaknesses, I hired professionals to do the stuff I couldn’t and did the rest myself. I have two professional cover artist (one for each genre) and a formatter (I’d rather have a baby than format my own books J ) and I do the rest. Someday, I’d love to hire a PA who can take a lot of the marketing off my desk because I’m spending half my day doing that when I want to be writing. Someday!
I can’t imagine ever selling to a publisher now. I like having control over my own work and hate deadlines. J
Are you an Introvert or Extravert? How does this affect your work? I’m kind of an introvert, although many who know me on Facebook would call me an extrovert. Like all social media, I can be a lot more open hiding behind my pages. I grew up an introvert, hands down. It took getting married to change that. My husband’s entire family is giving and gregarious and open. They taught me to be myself and not apologize for who I am. It was amazingly freeing. Because of them, I transferred my ability to manage businesses into runningan RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter for over 20 years. I donned a lot of hats, both on the board and as chair. The demands of the positions forced me to get more “out there” in the industry. I’m still not comfortable going into a new situation or talking to a crowd of people, but I can usually hold my own now.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play”~ Arnold Toynbee
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Karen – This is a hard one. I’ve given a LOT of advice to aspiring writers over the years. I even taught hundreds of writers how to plot using the “W” plotting technique. But the truth is there’s so much to learn, I can’t give you specifics in this space. However, let me try to talk generalities.
- Learn your craft. Join writers’ groups and take online classes. Build your knowledge base. Research. Do whatever it takes to learn your craft, including industry and marketing.
- Write the best story you can. I know it’s easy to say something is “good enough” but for whom? Ultimately, to me, that means my readers. I believe readers stick around for the authors who give them the stories they want to read again and again. I don’t think “good enough” is good for the long haul. Of course, that’s just me. I can’t publish a book I’m not behind 100%.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think any of us ever stop learning. Or we shouldn’t stop learning, no matter where we are in our career. The market is always changing. Readers change. You change. Stay up to date on the industry and beef up your strengths.
If you don’t know something or are weak in some area, either learn how to do it or pay professionals to do it for you. I don’t have the expertise to do my own graphics. I don’t want to learn. I’d much rather just write my stories. I’m stretched far enough as it is. So, I will always have a professional do my covers. Covers don’t have to cost a fortune to be professional. It’s one of the costs I’m willing to pay for my career because covers sell my books. Formatting makes me crazy. Friends keep telling me, “It’s easy.” Yeah, right. Did I mention I’d rather have a baby than format? J Getting a professional is soooo much less expensive and I can again turn that time to my writing. I can market and play the social media game but someday (hopefully sooner rather than later) I’ll hire someone to do that for me, too. I want to write full time.
- Always believe in yourself. The sad truth is that writing is a solitary career and you have to be your own cheerleader, first and foremost. Don’t let the naysayers control your dreams. If you want to write the book, you’ll write it…as long as you believe in yourself.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t surround yourself with like-minded authors and readers, filling your life with more cheerleaders. The more, the merrier! They’ll be there when you start to question yourself…and you will. Take my word for it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to throw up my hands, wondering why I’m beating my head against one wall or another. My support base is always there to help me over the rough patch. You need this support for those times when it’s difficult to believe in yourself.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Karen Docter FB: https://www.facebook.com/karen.docter
K.L. Docter FB: https://www.facebook.com/kldocter/
Book Bench for Romance Lovers (FB Group): https://www.facebook.com/kldocter/?ref=bookmarks
Karen’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Docter/e/B008TST8TY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1506370391&sr=8-1
K.L.’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/K.L.-Docter/e/B00JV92NFQ/ref=la_B008TST8TY_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1506370395&sr=1-1
Join me on Saturday when we read an excerpt from Karen’s book, Cop on her doorstep.~Tina