TIBA: Today we’re interviewing a brand new author in the paranormal genre, Karen Mead. Thousands of people have read her freshman offering, The Problem With Black Magic, and surprisingly, some of them have even exchanged legal tender for it. I spoke to Karen over the phone shortly after she arrived home from her day job as a newspaper editor. How she remains gainfully employed in that position is one of the many mysteries that surround this beguiling young wordsmith.
Q: Thank you for speaking with us today. So, let’s get started with a question near and dear to our hearts at Indy Authority: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: Well, these days if you want to publish professionally, you need an agent. And I knew that if I wanted to get a literary agent, I was going to have to go to New York, and, you know, that just seemed like a huge, intimidating undertaking. Self-publishing was a way to bypass all of that.
Q: Wait—I thought you lived on Long Island. Aren’t you twenty minutes away from the city?
A: Yeah, but I would have had to take the train. You can’t park in Manhattan.
Q: What’s wrong with taking the train?
A: It’s crowded. Sometimes you have to sit right next to someone you don’t know and there’s that awkward moment where your knees touch, and you’re like “Should I just pretend that didn’t happen? Is he pretending it didn’t happen? Wait, where’s his hand going?” Then there are all those strange smells, and I don’t mind if it’s a food smell or something—even if it’s not food I would necessarily eat— but occasionally you’re like, “Is the train breaking? Are we all going to die?”
Q: Let’s change gears. What kind of readers does your book appeal to?
A: I’m going for that broad demographic of people just a little too old forTwilight and a little too inhibited for 50 Shades of Grey. I just want to take all of that crippling insecurity and shameful, repressed desire and tie it all up in a neat little bow; I think my work really speaks to that.
Q: What if they aren’t too old for Twilight or too inhibited for 50 Shades? Will they still like your book?
A: That’s a good question; I’ll definitely have my people look into that.
Q: What people? I thought you were a one-woman operation.
A: I am, but in the event that I ever have my own people, that is something I would have them do. That is exactly how I would utilize them.
Q: What do you think of Harry Potter? Is that a franchise you intend to emulate in any way?
A: I have no idea. I don’t really like fantasy.
Q: If you don’t mind my asking, if you don’t like fantasy, then why do you write fantasy?
A: I don’t write fantasy: I write modern speculative paranormal literature, and I would prefer it if it you wouldn’t use that pejorative term.
Q: Okay. Moving on. Vampire fiction is very popular right now, and while not the main focus, your book does feature vampires. Did you include them specifically because teen girls seem to go crazy for them?
A: Actually, it’s quite the opposite- I hate vampires. What really convinced me to write this book, after mulling over the idea for a while, was that someone had to finally put those filthy, pasty bloodsuckers in their place. Like, in my first book, you’ll notice that the vampires are totally everyone’s little bitches and never get to win at anything. In the second book I plan to have all my primary and secondary characters kick the shit out of vampires nonstop.
Q: That’s a rather bold stance. Aren’t you afraid of backlash from genre fans?
A: I guess, but uh, don’t girls like seeing the guys they like get beaten to a pulp lately? I thought that was sort of considered a sexy thing now.
Q: Fair enough. Any other types of fantasy creatures that you hate, while we’re on the subject?
A: Does the kind of vampire that can turn into a bat count?
Q: That’s more or less the same as a regular vampire.
A: Oh….then I guess not. Maybe banshees.
Q: It’s a little unusual that your day job is also as a writer— only in newspapers. Is that a difficult balancing act for you?
A: Not really. Actually, the two complement each other sometimes. Like, I’ll be writing an article with the headline “County Budget Negotiations Grind To A Halt,” or “Two Die In Gardening Truck Crash,” and all the while I’m thinking “What aspect of this story would be improved by demons?”
Q: You know, some readers have raised concerns that because the main female character is subservient to the male in several respects, your book is misogynistic. Do you in fact hate women?
A: I don’t know—you know, being a woman myself I’d like to think that I don’t, but sometimes I wonder. You know those T-Mobile commercials? The one with the skinny girl in pink with that smug expression? I want to punch her in the face. Does that mean I’m a misogynist?
Q: No, actually that is a perfectly normal reaction.
A: Oh, thanks so much. I was getting worried there.
Q: Yeah, that bitch? Can go fuck herself. So, anything you can tell us about the second book?
A: Well the series is about Cassie’s journey as a witch, and she’ll take some very important steps in Book Two. Some of the questions readers had about her background, based on the dream sequence in the first book, will be answered. But more importantly, vampires are going to get shellacked. You will need a spatula to scrape their pale, undead asses off the pavement.
Q: Why do you hate vampires so much, by the way?
A: I had a bad experience.
Q: What kind of experience?
A: I don’t really want to talk about it, okay?
Q: Falling asleep halfway through an episode of The Vampire Diaries and then having strange dreams does not count as having a bad experience.
A: Okay first of all it was True Blood, and that wasn’t a question. I’m not sure I like the tone this is taking….
Q: Apologies. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
A: I sit down with my netbook. I write. Sometimes I bug my husband to turn down his video game so I can hear myself think.
Q: …is that all?
A: Well because you asked, I tend to keep the chapters in individual documents first, then later in the process I start combining them all into a draft. I write in order and I usually re-read at least the last 40 pages before I start the next chapter, so it’s a slow process of constant revision. After I have a satisfactory draft, I make any major mechanical changes for the second draft, then I do waves of minor edits. Sometimes I’ll do a run where I go in and take out some semicolons, replacing them either with full-fledged colons or by starting new sentences; it’s really a judgment call there. Then-
Q: Let’s start wrapping this up.
A: I thought you wanted to hear about my writing process?
Q: I was disabused of that notion. What kind of criticism did you get about the first book, and how has that impacted your process going forward?
A: A bunch of people said that I spent too much time describing what my characters look like, but then an equal amount of people said they kept forgetting what the characters look like, so it was kind of a wash. [Editor’s Note: this part is actually true.]
Q: When can readers expect to download the next book in the series?
A: My target window is either before or after Christmas. Unless I end up getting Final Fantasy X and/or Persona4 for the Vita; then it will be later. Much later.