Interview with Karen E. James

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in London and, for a time, also an industrial town just outside of London. I am used to living in a very multicultural environment, and I consider London one of the most exciting cities in the world because of the heterogeneity of its people. Other, similar, multicultural cities may suffer from pockets of ghettoisation, but London is truly a melting pot where, for the most part, cultural practices are shared and mutually respected. No city is perfect, of course, but I've experienced places where race or cultural background is a very big issue, and this has made me appreciate my home town even more.So I can't conceive of living in a place like my imaginary Eleyfa. Still, history informs us that political systems like Eleyfa's are not that far-fetched at all!
When did you first start writing?
I've always liked writing. I've always wanted to write seriously but never found the time. This book has been lying around on my computer for a good few years now!
What's the story behind your latest book?
I have a sequel to 'The Tourmaline' which I would like to complete.
I also have another story in my head which has no hint of supernaturalism, but a tormented teenage heroine caught up in a miscarriage of justice scenario.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Countless rejections from agents and inaccessible publishers. Things have changed so much in the publishing world over the past decade or so. Previously, authors could approach publishing houses directly, but this seems to be a rarity now - very closed shop. Also, most publishing houses don't want to take a risk on new authors. I'm so glad Mark Coker created this platform for would-be authors to express themselves. It's an amazing way of exchanging creative ideas.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's frustrating if you have a story you want to share, write a 100,000 words to tell it, and then can't share it with anyone. It's just fulfilling to have self-published something. Creating and sharing is success in itself.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Giving a voice to my ideas and creating characters. I find it great fun to create different characters and then get them to interact with one another.
What do your fans mean to you?
A great deal - especially if I reach my target audience. I would only hope that some people can relate to the voice I'm expressing and be inspired to write themselves.
Who are your favorite authors?
i have many: Victoria Hislop, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jamila Gavin, Philip Pullman, Christopher Paolini, Andrea Levy, JK Rowling, Thomas Hardy
What are your five favorite books, and why?
'Noughts and Crosses' by Malorie Blackman: I love the whole 'role reversal' idea, the 60s' civil movement references, the superb characterisation, the witty finer details - the band aid plaster which was the wrong colour, for example.
'The Amber Spyglass' by Philip Pullman: I enjoyed every word of his trilogy. I felt immersed in the most incredible imagination I've ever experienced. Such unusual ideas.
'The Island' by Victoria Hislop: I found the storyline gripping, enjoyed the handling of the leprosy theme, and I was fascinated by the historical and cultural setting.
'Small Island' by Andrea Levy: I was born during the time in which some of the book is set so I could relate well to the issues covered. Brilliant storyline. I read this book in 3 days when I was ill and had a very high temperature. I could not put this book down!
'Harry Potter' by JK: I love all the series and am a huge JK fan. I think she's a fantastic, generous-hearted person with a huge social conscience
What do you read for pleasure?
I like a variety of stuff. Fantasy is definitely fun to read. I like reading fantasy books aimed at teenagers! I also like books which take me to a specific historical era and teach me something about that era while entertaining me ('Half A Yellow Sun'). I like books which tackle social issues in an interesting way (Jamila Gavin's trilogy). I also like some thrillers (Stieg Larsson's trilogy)
Why did you write 'The Tourmaline'?
Not because I wanted to become a millionaire - no rags to riches story here! I knew that Science Fantasy was one of the hardest genres to sell anyway.
Somebody once remarked how all the people in 'Lord of the Rings' were Caucasian. That got me thinking.... Almost every artist from a marginalised group is expected to produce a creative work which is relevant to his/her particular background. I felt no such obligation but just wanted to get my story out. I wanted to see the effect of combining cliche (mixed race delinquent in urban setting) with mould-breaking (black Science Fantasy protagonist).
Published 2014-08-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Tourmaline
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 103,000. Language: English. Published: August 5, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Cultural interest, general
Volatile but talented, London teenager, Aaron, distrusts most people apart from his incarcerated cousin. When he attacks a fellow pupil to defend his birth mother’s honour, his head teacher gives him a fixed-term exclusion, and his foster parents send him to a residential camp for mild delinquents close to mystical Stonehenge. Once there, inexplicably strange events start to occur.