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.
Are all your books science fiction?
No. Twin-Bred and its sequel Reach are classic science fiction, complete with aliens, other planets, and spaceships, and both Division and Playback Effect could be called near-future SF, but Wander Home is neither. 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. Women's fiction, plus?... (I'd welcome suggestions!)

And then there's my upcoming nonfiction book, Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers. (The second-to-last chapter does speculate about the story possibilities that will arise from various future technologies.)
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 third book in my Twin-Bred series is waiting for further revisions, and I expect to start a new near-future SF book during NaNoWriMo 2015 -- but right now, I'm in the final pre-publication stretch for my first nonfiction book. I decided to bring together my profession (lawyer) and my avocation (writing fiction), in the hope of showing other authors the tremendous dramatic possibilities inherent in legal subject matter. Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers should be available by mid-October, 2015. It's a fairly mammoth reference work, with a detailed TOC and Index, and it includes many ideas for stories or story elements, based on the various subjects I cover.
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.

My single nonfiction work, a writer's guide to law and lawyers, took much of two years, squeezed in whenever I had (or made) time.
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 exploring issues of communication, relationships, personal identity, reconciliation, unintended consequences, 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 2015-10-10.
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