Interview with Karen Truesdell Riehl

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My hometown is Seattle, Washington, the setting for Saturday Night Dance Club. You can read about my 7-months in New York, living with an actor who later became a film star, in my memoir, Love and Madness: My Private Years with George C. Scott. In Freedoms Sins I drew inspiration to write a novel about small town scandal from living in New England and Terre Haute, Indiana. I now live in Carlsbad, California, one of the settings for my latest two novels, Hello Again and The Ghosts of Fort Ord. Experiencing life in different regions of the country widens my understanding of the characters I create.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Hello Again, a romance novel, is currently available as a preorder from Smashwords, with a publication date scheduled for Valentine's Day, 2014. It's the story of Shannon, a young woman about to graduate from college, who falls in love with Nate, a graduate student teaching assistant. Shortly before graduation day Shannon discovers Nate is engaged to marry Tally, the daughter of a man who's been like a father to him after his own father died. Nate promises to break his engagement when he heads back home to see Tally. But fate and faint-heartedness get in the way of that promise. Shannon discovers she's pregnant. Nate marries Tally, and Shannon raises their son alone, telling him his father is dead. After twenty years of separation, fate steps in again to bring Shannon and Nate back together, this time carrying with them the baggage of lies and broken promises.
What are you working on next?
My next work is a play, a comedic drama titled, Bad Girl, based on the true story of my own experience in the Florence Crittenton Home. In this fictionalized account, it's 1958 and eight girls await the births of their babies in a home for unwed mothers. They find solace from their friendship and gallows humor. As they leave the home, they say goodbye to their special sisterhood, determined to face the future as stronger women. The 50’s were an unforgiving, harsh time. The girls in the home suffered pain and indignities few can imagine today. This is a true story and one I hope many will read and see performed.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My computer is waiting to catch up with my storytelling.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about my characters and the next chapter of the book I'm working on. Reading, taking walks, or enjoying a movie with my husband occupy me the rest of the time.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don’t remember the first one, although I do remember the thrill of it. I am a dyslexic, and reading and writing came hard and late. So when I began to put words on paper that made sense and were spelled correctly, it was a huge victory.
Who are your favorite authors?
Contemporary: Laura Hillenbrand, Ken Follett, David McCullough,
Classic: William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, A.A. Milne, Mark Twain
What is your writing process?
I let my characters guide me. No plot outline... they tell me where they want to go.
How do you approach cover design?
I send a synopsis of my books to Ronnell D. Porter. He's a fine creative artist.
Which of your books is your favorite and why?
My favorite is Saturday Night Dance Club, the first book I wrote 12 years ago. In the bottom of an old trunk I discovered a box of early 1900’s photographs and memorabilia that had belonged to my grandparents and other family members. From that box and the stories my parents told me, I was able to piece together their lives. I gained a lot of respect for them, realizing the hard times they encountered during the country's first world war, a flu pandemic, the Depression, the rise of organized crime during Prohibition, and the approach of another war, following Hitler's rise to power in the 1930's.
Describe your desk
My desk is hard to describe because it’s hard to find. I’m much more comfortable and productive sitting in a crowded corner with my computer, surrounded by piles of paper, a telephone, odds and ends, a very comfortable chair.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Absolutely. I would advise any author to publish their eBooks on Smashwords if they want to see the fruit of their labors in print without waiting for an agent or publisher to string them along with high hopes. I especially like the opportunity to update and edit my books after publication, change covers, etc. You can't do that when the book is in print. Also, my eBooks will remain "on the shelf" for promotion and sales as long as I choose to leave them there, unlike printed books that retailers clear from their shelves as soon as sales don't pay for the space they occupy. Smashwords delivers my books to many other booksellers, expanding their marketing reach.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
All of it. I love to create. I love to write dialog. I love to wake up each morning with a story in my head waiting to be written.
What do your fans mean to you?
A book is meaningless without a reader, so we are nothing without our fans. My goal is to establish as many personal contacts with readers as possible. Only a few writers become rich and famous. My greatest satisfaction comes not from the money coming in, but from the feedback from readers who love my books. With every book I write, I envision the response of my readers to my plot and characters.
When did you first start writing?
I sat down to write my first book, a memoir of my hidden life with George C. Scott, shortly after we said goodbye for the last time. I knew little about writing at the time, and George was still alive, so I put away the manuscript for a few years. After he died I finished the book and was fortunate to find a publisher of a paperback version of Love and Madness. This was before eBooks were born. Ten years later I published it on Smashwords.
Published 2014-02-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Hidden: Diary of a Bad Girl
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 25,180. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs
Truesdell Riehl's memoir, spanning 62 years of her life, reveals how she had to hide her stay in a home for unwed mothers during the judgmental 1950's, broke free, only to hide her love affair with a returning Vietnam veteran, while being married to a wealthy, socially prominent man, followed by years of hiding her past from family and friends.
The Inn Game and Sins of Kot-Do-Init
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 30,150. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Set in 1970, this is the whimsical story of the owners of a ski resort in the fictional village of Kot-Do-Init, who try to entertain vacationers while small town gossip and the hunt for a madman swirl about them. Jim White's death from a fall from a skimobile while riding it late at night with another man's wife places the town's wealthy playboy under suspicion.
Six Women
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 33,910. Language: English. Published: June 23, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Feminist
The Chester Writers Club of Chester, California, established thirteen years ago by six women who met in a local community college writing class, meet the last Thursday of each month at noon. Their ages range from 42 to 93. Through the common threads of hardship and pain expressed in their writing, readers gain insight into the lives of the women of the book club — and possibly even their own.
Dancing Bears and Messy Pigs
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,520. Language: English. Published: February 26, 2016. Categories: Plays » American / African American, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
Dancing Bears and Messy Pigs is a fairy tale play for children.
Two Plays For Children
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 11,960. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2015. Categories: Plays » American / African American, Plays » Women Authors
These two children's plays, royalty-free comedic fairy tales, Alice in Cyberland and The Emperor's New Clothes, may be performed by actors of all ages, featuring audience participation.
Deception's Sins: A Roger Sundbee Mystery
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 33,430. Language: English. Published: August 29, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Roger Sundbee arrived on Deception Island after a failed attempt at writing a tell-all book about the residents of Freedom, Indiana, (Freedom's Sins). The small island off the coast of Washington seemed to be the perfect place for a fresh start. But when the town coroner's dead body is found on the beach, and Roger is the last person to be seen with him alive, he becomes the prime suspect.
Ghosts of the Queen Mary
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 52,080. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Toots, a writer of sexy romance novels, and Max, both in their sixties, enjoy a weekend “cruise” on the Queen Mary, a ship docked for forty years in Long Beach, California and thought to be haunted. At dinner in Sir Winston's Restaurant, the couple experience a ghost sighting of their own. It's the Duke and Duchess of Windsor!
Helga: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 58,600. Language: English. Published: July 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs
Ten-year-old Helga is forced to join the Hitler youth weekly meetings. Lies and treats are used to build her allegiance to the Fuhrer. As the war draws nearer to Berlin, Helga is sent away to a Youth Training Camp. Her slow disillusionment and harrowing escape home, is a coming-of-age story of a young girl's survival of Nazi mind control. A 2015 San Diego Book Awards Winner.
Bad Girl: A Play
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 15,680. Language: English. Published: May 10, 2014. Categories: Plays » Women Authors
From the playwright... I wrote this play as a reminder of the harsh, unforgiving times that were the 1950’s, when uncomfortable words and actions were swept under the rug. If the dialogue sounds last century, or events seem improbable, we can be grateful they do. It's a fictionalized account of what happened to "girls in trouble." But the story is true. I lived it.
Hello Again
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 66,090. Language: English. Published: February 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(5.00 from 1 review)
During her final semester at a San Diego university, Shannon falls in love with Nate, a graduate student teaching assistant. Before saying goodbye for the summer, the two pledge a lasting love. But there's another woman in Nate's life back in his Boston hometown. Tally is the daughter of his mentor and benefactor, Walter. Nate vowed to Walter on his deathbed that he'd marry his daughter.
Saturday Night Dance Club
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 67,930. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Biographical
Pearl's young world is shattered when Papa orders her to leave home. She takes with her the secret of catching Papa in the pantry with the maid. Pearl finds a job in the city. On weekends she heads downtown to the Canteen to volunteer as a "suitable young lady" to dance with the boys in uniform. Pearl considers this her patriotic duty --until Will sweeps her into his arms and heart.
Freedom's Sins
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 66,770. Language: English. Published: July 18, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
(5.00 from 1 review)
The author of a bestselling memoir, Love and Madness, My Private Years With George C. Scott, Karen Truesdell Riehl turns to fiction in this tale of love, sex, suicide and scandal in a small town in Indiana.The charred remains of the Cameron house is the site of an unsolved arson fire, evoking fear and fascination in those with hidden connections to it.
Love and Madness: My Private Years with George C. Scott
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 88,250. Language: English. Published: July 1, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs
Film and theater audiences were attracted to George C. Scott's powerful stage presence and charisma, as was Karen Truesdell, a Stephens College theatre student. After performing with him on stage, a long term love relationship developed. Her liaison with Scott spanned 30 years as his hidden mistress and mother of his child. Truesdell Riehl's account makes a compelling page turner.
The Ghosts of Fort Ord
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 34,160. Language: English. Published: May 18, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(4.67 from 3 reviews)
After she becomes pregnant with twins, Olivia Bauer is haunted by ghostly dreams of dead soldiers. Her husband Michael passes them off as nothing more than the result of indigestion. He doesn't believe in ghosts. Olivia and Michael move to an area next to an abandoned military base. As she explores the ruins of old Fort Ord, Olivia's recurring nightmare is about to become a reality.