Interview with Karen McKee

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on a farm in Mississippi where I learned to love and appreciate nature. I kept notebooks in which I described and illustrated the things I collected: insects, fossils, flowers. The habit of writing and recording my observations during my childhood and college years helped me later in keeping track of my research findings as a scientist. I learned to pay attention to details in nature and how to write accurate descriptions of my observations. These lessons have really paid off, not only in my technical science writing but in writing a book about science videography. I started blogging regularly about making science videos, and this routine quickly built up a lot of words—enough material for a book.
What's the story behind your latest book?
About ten years ago, I decided that I needed to share my scientific research more widely--with students and the general public. I chose video as a communication tool and began taking a camcorder with me on field trips to conduct research, for example, in the tropical, coastal forests of Belize and in the vast marshlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Before long, I had produced several videos that were published by the government agency I worked for. Colleagues and students began asking me questions about how I made these videos. I started a blog to talk about the lessons I had learned while making my videos and to provide tips and tutorials for those wishing to do the same. My book, The Scientist Videographer, grew out of those blog posts.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Being "retired", I think it's even more important to have a reason to get out of bed every day. One of the things that motivates me is a great writing project. As soon as I've had coffee and breakfast, I head to my computer to work on whatever writing project is underway. It may be a blog post, a book in progress, a journal article, or the script for a video I'm planning to shoot.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I travel. A lot. During these excursions, I spend a lot of time hiking and making videos of natural areas.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Some are recommended by friends. Others I find by reading book reviews and also looking at what other people are buying in a particular genre.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I've been writing non-fiction stories about the trials and tribulations of a research scientist for a long time. I think the first one I wrote, about twenty years ago, was about getting deathly ill and almost dying of dehydration during a field trip to the jungles of Belize. I was with a group of other scientists, and we spent a week in a remote region conducting research. Three of us were struck down with some type of stomach bug. Just one of the many problems that can befall a field ecologist. Although not enjoyable at the time, these mishaps make for great stories.
What is your writing process?
I'm a big believer in first figuring out what message I want to get across to readers. I think this helps me focus my writing, which is non-fiction and often highly technical. It also ensures that the reader comes away from the book or article with a clear idea of what it was about. I spend some time away from my computer pondering this point. That message typically ends up as the tagline or subtitle of my book or article. I guess some authors write the tagline after finishing their book and with the purpose of selling it, but I think it's better to write it first (you can revise it as your story changes). I always outline my chapters or article sections next. After that, I proceed in various ways. Sometimes, I might start at the beginning and work sequentially through each chapter or article section. Other times, I'll skip around and work on whatever I feel most inspired to write that day. In general, I get my ideas down first and then revise later.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
That was so long ago, I don't remember. Some of the first stories that I remember are science fiction--Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula Le Guin and many others. Their tales molded my feelings about the world and fired up my imagination and desire to be a scientist.
How do you approach cover design?
So far, I'm a DIYer. I also created a book trailer (video) for my book, The Scientist Videographer.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read fiction and non-fiction. I periodically reread the classics in a genre. I just finished rereading Orwell's 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. A great trio of stories to revisit and ponder.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer my iPad, but the backlighting is hard on eyes that have spent the day peering at a computer screen. So, I've gone back to my Kindle to read books.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I like the idea of being in control of my book and involved in the whole process.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It's a toss up between the feeling of satisfaction I get from writing something particularly well and having a reader tell me they love an article or blog post I've published. These joys are connected. Getting a point across clearly in my writing makes it easier for the reader to comprehend the content...especially important if you are writing about highly technical topics such as science. And when a reader compliments my writing, I feel inspired to try even harder.
Published 2016-03-20.
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Books by This Author

The Scientist Videographer
Price: $14.99 USD. Words: 49,420. Language: English. Published: March 20, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Photography - how to, Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Nature
This ebook is a detailed guide for science professionals who wish to make their own videos. It describes how to plan, shoot, edit, and publish an effective and professional science video. The information in this book is not just for scientists, either. Students, educators, and consultants will find that the instructions are readily transferable to other fields or different objectives.