Interview with Karen Mead

When did you first start writing?
In elementary school, we would write short stories and read them aloud to the class. I soon came to love this practice, since even though I didn't have a lot of friends, the other kids seemed to like my stories. After a "story day," kids who wouldn't normally talk to me would high-five me and give me pats on the back. It was kind of confusing, because I didn't think the things I wrote were that different from the way I talked normally, but I realized that for some reason, even kids who didn't like me liked my writing. I'd like to say that ignited a passion for writing, but I actually didn't start writing regularly outside of school until much, much later. I'm not sure if it was laziness or contrariness, but despite these early experiences, I more or less ignored the call for a long time. Instead, I became obsessed with learning how to draw comics, and that kept me occupied for quite a while.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Failure! Well, kind of.

I was drawing a webcomic called Sterling for a long time, years in fact, but I could never quite get where I wanted with it. I was always unhappy with my art, and I didn't seem to have the temperament to keep to a regular update schedule. Eventually I started fantasizing about skipping the whole difficult drawing process and just writing down my story. However, I didn't just want to rewrite my comic as a novel; that would be dull. Instead, I was intrigued by the idea of exploring alternate-universe versions of my characters; whereas Sterling was fairly realistic with a slight fantasy twist, The Familiar Series became a proper fantasy story. So Sam, who was a (basically) normal human being who had some dark imagery associated with him in the comic, became a full-on demon in the books, and so on.

Sometimes I feel like I betrayed my original world; that the older version of Sterling is still waiting for me to come back and finish it some day. However, not only does writing seem to suit me far better than comics, but readers have reacted with much more enthusiasm to the books than they ever did to the comic, so I think it was a worthwhile move overall.

However, now that I know I like writing novels, I have ideas for books that weren't originally meant to be something else entirely...err, I mean, I hope I'm capable of writing a book without having to draw a failed webcomic first:).
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
At the risk of being repetitive, my experience in comics did a lot to enhance my appreciation for the pleasures of writing. For example, with comics, I would write a script and know it would take me so long to draw it that I wouldn't be drawing certain parts of it for a year, if not longer. There were parts of the story that I wanted to get to someday, but it was so far in the future, I wasn't confident I would ever get there.

With my books, getting my ideas to see the light of day is much faster. It's so satisfying for me to finish a book and know that all the cool parts that I kept obsessing about are all done, they've happened, and I can move onto something else. So finishing a volume of a series-- knowing that I've told a substantial chunk of the story and it won't take that long to get the next one out there-- is far more rewarding than anything else I've ever attempted artistically.
What are you working on next?
Well, The Familiar Series has grown from an original plan for 3 books to something much longer than that, so I'm always working on the next volume of that; right now I'm working on Book Four, which may or may not be called The Invention of Werewolves (I guess it depends on whether or not anyone gets around to inventing the werewolves, since no one's done it so far as of this writing.)

I've also been brainstorming a mermaid book for quite a while that may become a series, so I definitely hope to get that one out sometime in 2015. I've loved mermaid stories ever since seeing Disney's The Little Mermaid as a kid, and there just aren't enough sassy mermaids swimming around in urban fantasy. The challenge with the mermaid book though is that I need to learn more about the ocean so I'm not just faking it when I write about the main character swimming in the ocean, and I've never been scuba diving! I'm trying to find some Jacques Cousteau documentaries or something to flesh out my book knowledge.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Well I still try to do some drawing from time to time; I also like sculpting, although I haven't made a whole lot of progress with it yet. I'm a big fan of anime, so I'm usually watching a few shows per season at least. I love video games, especially fantasy RPGS, but I have to be careful with them; sometimes I can get sucked into a gaming spiral and get too obsessed to do much else for a while, so nowadays I use them to reward myself for finishing books.

Of course, I also love to read. A few of my favorite authors include D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Wolfe, Haruki Murakami, Terry Pratchett (love Discworld!), Umberto Eco, Patricia Briggs, and Madeline L'Engle. I also read a lot of nonfiction, and I admit that I will sometimes even read a book if I like the cover, which I should probably be ashamed of, but I'm not.

Sometimes, I wish I had another life just for books. And maybe another one for video games, although that lifetime would undoubtedly be marred by repetitive stress injuries.
What is your writing process?
I'm not entirely sure what my writing process is, and I'm kind of afraid to think about it too hard. Like, maybe if I try to determine what my writing process is, I'll discover I don't really have one, and then I'll suddenly lose the ability to write. I do think I start out with a much rougher sense of what a given book is going to be about than many fiction authors do; I definitely discover the book while I'm writing it, rather than planning it out beforehand. That's not to say I don't do any planning or brainstorming, but I don't think I could write a whole plot in outline form if I tried-- well, not a good one anyway.

Also, my process seems to require a treadmill. Whenever I get stuck in a book and I'm just not sure how to proceed, a session at the gym usually shows me where the story should go next. Hence my occasional complaints to my husband that "I can't finish my book because I haven't been to the gym enough lately."
How do you approach cover design?
For my first book, I was trying to match the style I saw on bookshelves, for better or for worse. I was thinking of how simple the covers of many successful fantasy books were-- think of Twilight, for example. Just an apple, really.

However, as I moved onto the second and third books, I started caring less about matching what was out there and wanted to just do my own thing. So I started doing comic style illustrations of the characters, matching the project's origins as a comic. I know some people probably don't like my covers because they're very cartoony, but well, what can you do? I have to do what feels right for me, even if it's not always the best idea from a practical perspective.

That reminds me; I really should redo the cover to The Problem With Black Magic to match the other books in the series...I swear I'll get to that one of these days....
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a basic Kindle from a few years back. Sometimes I get jealous when I hear about the cool features some of the newer ereaders have, but for the time being, it suits me just fine.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember my Dad reading The Color Kittens to me, before I could read myself. I think that book kicked off my love of art; it was just so cool, all those kittens sloshing paint around. I still get excited whenever I see paints or other art supplies, and I wonder if that's partially due to the Color Kittens. I also remember Grover and the Monster at the End of this Book, which taught me not to be afraid of monsters; an important lesson when you're three, but still important when you're a grown-up, I think.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Oh God why are you making me do this?

Look Homeward, Angel-- Thomas Wolfe
Sons and Lovers-- D.H. Lawrence
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle-- Haruki Murakami
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-- E.L. Konigsberg
Reaper Man (Discworld)-- Terry Pratchett

Ask me tomorrow and get a different list!
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything.
Published 2015-01-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Penguin of Fortune
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,230. Language: English. Published: February 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Badass bounty hunter Penelope Ripperson is tired of werewolves. What’s so great about them anyway? They’re just like dogs, only not cute. In contrast, Pen’s pudgy bird form is adorable and practical. Penguin of Fortune is spine-tingling, pulse-pounding urban fantasy novella in the hot-female-bounty-hunter-with-magic-and-an-attitude genre, but also completely original because it has penguins in it.
Random Acts of Sorcery
Series: Familiar. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 97,490. Language: English. Published: January 14, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Young love is tough as it is, but it’s much worse when the guy you have a crush on is technically your demonic master. As if Cassie didn’t have enough problems, now the whole entourage has to go to Las Vegas for Sam’s court hearing, which will determine whether he’s officially too dangerous to live; and unfortunately, Sam isn’t the only one playing with time, “playing” being the operative word....
Succession of Witches
Series: Familiar. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 85,430. Language: English. Published: January 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
It's not easy being a teenaged witch. Or maybe it is? Cassie wouldn't know, since she's still a demon's familiar. Technically she should be a witch already, and with the next demon court date looming, it's becoming a bigger problem every day. But who has time to meet the prereqs when there's another familiar to snatch, snotty vampires in suits to sort out, and an entire world order to save?
The Problem With Black Magic
Series: Familiar. Price: Free! Words: 75,160. Language: English. Published: January 9, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Cassie Tremblay just wanted to focus on getting into a good college; she didn't want to become a rare magical wellspring that every demon and their uncle wanted for their own. But now that she's become the hottest commodity in the paranormal community, she must quickly learn how to deal with black magic-- and even worse, the politics thereof-- or forfeit her freedom forever.