Interview with Karen A. Wyle

When did you first start writing?
I vaguely recall starting to write poetry sometime around second grade. I remember more specifically a poem I wrote in third grade, which was published in the "Youth Speaks" column in the local paper. The poem offered and then (sigh) explained a simile: the days of school as peas in a pod.

I wrote my first novel at age ten, as a labor of love for my fifth grade teacher. We're talking 100 two-page chapters. In longhand (this was back in the dark ages). In pencil. My mother, who should go straight to sainthood for this alone, typed up the entire mess and put it in a binder so that I would feel "published." (That was the last novel I wrote for a very long time -- but that's another story.)
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was probably that first childhood novel, a picaresque first-person narrative about a boy and his dragon. The latter played a bizarre variety of roles in the boy's life, from pet to father figure to wild animal.
Why did you wait so long before writing more novels?
After that first attempt, I started and abandoned one more novel, and then returned to writing poetry. By the time I started college, I had grown tired of my own poetic style. I still saw myself as a writer, but didn't know in what form I should be writing. My more fundamental problem, of which I was only dimly aware, was that I didn't really have stories to tell or much of anything to say. Nor did it help that I found producing words an excruciating process.

I took a class in writing short fiction, during which the instructor, by devastating use of backhanded compliments ("Class, didn't she do that well for someone who isn't a born writer?"), gave me the excuse to give up my ambitions. Over the ensuing years, I became a practicing attorney -- and of necessity, learned to write fluently and with minimal fuss and bother.

I became a mother, and found myself writing picture book manuscripts, silly poems, and haiku, sometimes with one or the other of my daughters. When my older daughter took part in National Novel Writing Month for the second time, I decided to give it a try, for at least a day or two. To my delight, I found that my ability to churn out words survived the jump back to fiction -- and that I had by now done enough living to have stories to tell, and themes to explore.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Way back when I first yearned to be a novelist, publication -- in the traditional sense -- was a key part of that aspiration. Specifically, I wanted to be the youngest published novelist ever. I was ten years old, and soon learned that some nine-year-old British upstart had beaten me to it.

Fast-forward to my return to writing long fiction, several decades later. I wrote a rough draft of my novel Twin-Bred during National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or Nano), put it aside to cool, and then spent some months editing the novel and learning about agents, publishers, etc. By the time I felt ready to contact agents, I had largely lost interest in doing so. During my fallow period, ebooks and POD paperbacks came into existence, as did Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Self-publishing had become possible, practical, and inexpensive. As an indie author, I could maintain control of my text, my cover, my schedule, and my promotion -- not to mention the genre and content of my future novels. I could also avoid the increasingly voracious rights grabs to be found in traditional publishing contracts.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The book I'm expecting to publish in late October 2013, Division, grows from several preoccupations or fascinations of mine: family relationships, the nature of individuality, technological advancement, and -- twins. I don't know why I'm so interested in twins. Since doing a bit of research on "womb twin survivors" for my novel Twin-Bred, I've wondered if I actually had a twin at some stage of prenatal development.

I've planned for some time to write one or more stories about human cloning. I did write and publish one free short story, "The Baby," on this subject. Cloning is both crucial and incidental in Division -- it presents the choice that my twins Gordon and Johnny face, but once that choice exists, cloning isn't really the point.
Are all your books science fiction?
No. Twin-Bred and its sequel, Reach, are classic science fiction -- complete with aliens, other planets, and spaceships -- but the book I wrote between those two, Wander Home, is not. Wander Home is a family drama with mystery and romance elements, set in a re-imagined afterlife. I've yet to find a good genre label for it. (I'd welcome suggestions!)

My upcoming book, Division, could be called near-future SF, as it involves technologies we don't quite have yet -- but it's more general fiction with a bit of science-fiction flavor.
What is your writing process?
I write the rough drafts of my novels during National Novel Writing Month, in November (or, on one occasion, its summertime equivalent, Camp Nano). I leave the draft in the virtual drawer for a few weeks, and then do multiple editing passes over the next six months or so. Then I send the semifinal version to beta readers; do final edits; and publish.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love discovering unexpected connections between parts of my story! In Twin-Bred, for example, I added what I thought was an insignificant bit of descriptive detail, a sort of prop, that turned out to prefigure a major revelation.
Who are your favorite authors?
I'm glad this question is phrased as a plural -- because I don't tend to have a single favorite anything. I've been reading so long that any list is partial and somewhat arbitrary, but here are three of my favorites:
--Mary Doria Russell, author of science fiction and historical fiction, who combines brilliant and lovable characters, compelling plots, and thoughtful philosophical underpinnings;
--John Scalzi, current science fiction author, whose novels blend comedy and pathos superbly, and whose protagonists tend to be delightfully resourceful;
--George Eliot, 19th century British novelist, who was not afraid to confront the irrevocable nature of human decisions and errors.
What do you read for pleasure?
Most often, I read science fiction, other "speculative" fiction (e.g. alternate history), historical fiction, historical mysteries (if I like the characters), or straight history/biography. I follow a very few romance authors, and sometimes dabble in urban fantasy.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I follow a few authors, read updates from Goodreads friends, and check what's free or inexpensive on BookBub.
Are there themes you tend to explore in your novels?
Yes. Wherever I start, I tend to end up once again exploring issues of communication, relationships, personal identity, reconciliation, and unfinished business.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a part-time practicing appellate attorney (translation: my work starts after a trial judge or jury makes its decision). One of my two daughters is still at home and not yet driving, so I spend a fair bit of time getting her to and from her various activities. I take photographs, though less often than formerly. I follow various political events and controversies online, and listen to my husband rant about them.
Published 2013-08-21.
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Books by This Author

Playback Effect
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 81,310. Language: English. Published: December 9, 2014. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » General
The helmets record emotional experience for others to share. And when criminals are caught, they can be sentenced to endure the agony their victims suffered. But what else might the helmets be transmitting?
Division
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 83,670. Language: English. Published: October 29, 2013. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » General
Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Now, new technology gives them previously unimagined choices. But who gets to choose?
Reach: a Twin-Bred novel
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,470. Language: English. Published: May 8, 2013. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » General
In this sequel to Twin-Bred, scientist Mara Cadell and the Twin-Bred she helped to create embark on a new and perilous journey -- except for one pair who remain on Tofarn, attempting to live in the human and Tofa communities. Meanwhile, events on Tofarn approach a crisis, in which former host mothers Laura and Veda are deeply involved.
The Library (a short story)
By
Price: Free! Words: 6,560. Language: English. Published: March 30, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Rachel has few memories of love or safety. All her short life, she found refuge in reading. Now, in the afterlife, she is shown a wonderful library, where she can curl up in comfort, and lose herself in books. Can a new friend who understands her sorrow help her to leave the shelter of the library, and open herself to the people and places beyond?
The Baby - a short story
By
Price: Free! Words: 6,990. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2011. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Ellie Simmons lost the love of her life, her husband Daniel. And now, two years later, baby Daniel is born -- a clone of the man she lost. But human cloning is illegal, and Ellie must be very, very careful. . . .
Twin-Bred
By
Price: Free! Words: 92,350. Language: English. Published: October 6, 2011. Category: Fiction » Science fiction » General
Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists still know almost nothing about the native Tofa. Misunderstandings breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers carry fraternal twins, one human and one Tofa, who might understand each other better. (The sequel, REACH, now available!)