Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Kari.
Thank you, Christy! I’m thrilled to be here.
1. The first book in your Fortune Teller Mystery Series, Tempest in the Tea Leaves, is due to be released this month by Berkley Prime Crime. Congratulations! Tell us about the series and your protagonist.
I’m having a ball writing this series. In the fortune telling business there are a lot of pretenders, but Sunshine Meadows is the real deal–and her predictions can be lethally accurate… Sunny is a big city psychic who moves to the quaint town of Divinity, NY to open her fortune-telling business in an ancient Victorian house, inheriting the strange cat residing within. Sunny gives her first reading to the frazzled town librarian and discovers the woman is going to die. When the woman flees in terror, Sunny calls the police, only she’s too late. The ruggedly handsome, hard-nosed detective is a “non-believer.” He finds the librarian dead, and Sunny becomes his number one suspect, forcing her to prove her innocence before the real killer can put an end to the psychic’s future.
2. What an interesting protagonist. How did the idea for this series come to you?
I have always loved the whole idea of fortune-telling. I once had my tea leaves read and the reading was so unbelievably accurate, I was hooked from that day on. I’ve also had my palm read, my tarot cards read, and even a past life reading that was truly fascinating. When I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery, I took a look at what was already out there and then thought about what I “didn’t” see. Choosing a fortune-teller series where each book focuses on a different fortune-telling tool seemed like the perfect choice. A way to learn more about something that truly excited me and be able to share it with the world. I guess my excitement came through since the editor bought the series off just a synopsis. That alone is scary, but thankfully I must have pulled it off. Tempest just received a 4 1/2 starred review from RT Book Reviews, and that’s the highest rating they give. Guess I did something right. Hopefully, people will read it and agree 🙂
3. What an endorsement from RT! Mucho congrats. You also write a Paranormal/Sci-fi Teen Adventure Series featuring Samantha Granger, which was a 2010 Golden Duck Award Nominee for Excellence in Children’s Literature. Impressive! Tell us about this series.
Thanks so much. I was truly honored to be one in five middle grade books from all over the world to be nominated for that award. This series came about because I have four children who are obsessed with technology. One day when their noses were buried in their cell phones as usual, I snapped, “If you’re not careful, you might to turn into one of your gadgets someday!” Then I blinked and thought, Oh my God, what a great idea! Here’s the blurb for Samantha Granger: After Sam is fused with her cell phone, she’s ready to conquer the world! Or at least the 8th grade… When Samantha Granger touches a meteor while talking on her cell phone, her life is changed forever: her body now has all the capabilities of her phone (GPS, phone, text, camera). She secretly calls herself a “Digital Diva” as she rushes to answer emergency calls. But will her identity be discovered when sparks fly (literally!) between her and Trevor, her dreamy crush? Samantha has to get a handle on her abilities and quick, because when Sam gets kidnapped and the entire town is in danger, she is the only one who can save them.
4. Digital Diva – love it! Which do you prefer to write, fiction for teens or adults?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I love writing both, actually, because it keeps me from getting bored. It can be tricky remembering which book I’m in and keeping the language and voice appropriate. But no matter what I write, there will always be fun, quirky characters and humor. I love books that make me smile and laugh. And there always seems to be some amount of romance 🙂 as well as a certain amount of action, adventure and mystery. My agent also sold this book series off just a partial and got me 3-book deals for both. That part keeps me on my toes, trying to meet all those deadlines, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It took me fourteen years to sell, so I count my blessings every day that I can finally live my dream.
5. And what a dream it is, Kari. Do you yourself tell fortunes with tea leaves and how did you become interested in this?
I wish, but no. However, I do make sure I thoroughly research each fortune-telling tool and try to come up with a method that incorporates several approaches. And I always make sure I clearly state, I’m no expert…I’m just here to entertain and have fun 🙂
I have a masters in English Education, however, I have been an at home mom since the birth of my first child almost seventeen years ago. I have four children, three boys and one darling diva, who keep me very busy. Since the time they were little, I have worked during nap time or quiet time when they got older. I seem to still be conditioned that way. On a normal basis, I like to do email, social networking, blogging, promoting, etc, in the morning after the kids get on the bus and then spend the afternoon writing until the kids get home from school. I try to take evenings and weekends off to play Mom and wife. That’s my favorite regimen, but life sometimes gets in the way and with crazy deadlines, I sometimes have to write at all hours. Sitting in the car at one of the many sports practices I am taxi for can be a most productive time to write. No Internet plus nothing else to do equals lots of pages written 🙂
7. I used to do that while my daughter practiced soccer. We moms have to find time wherever we can, huh? What do you think works best for you re; promoting your work?
Because my life is still in crazy mode with four kids at home, traveling very often just doesn’t fit my schedule at this time. I find the Internet to be an amazing tool. You can reach so many people very quickly from the comfort of your own home. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, yahoo loops, list serves, etc. Chiming in and commenting with your signature line builds recognition over time. Also mailing out bookmarks and press releases and ARC’s to readers groups and book stores can also help spread the word. And blog tours can be huge. Reviews, interviews and guest posts get the word out there about your book. And all these sites have tons of followers who then tell their friends, and so on. Word of mouth can be a wonderful thing.
8. Speaking as an author and small business owner, I personally think word of mouth is the best promotion there is. I know it works for me. What do you love the most about writing? What do you dislike the most about writing?
I love the excitement of starting a new book. Brainstorming plot points and twists. Coming up with fun new characters. It’s all so fresh and thrilling. The beginning and the end always come easy for me and are fun to write. It’s that sagging middle that can be difficult. Trying to keep a book exciting and surprising while still getting from point A to B is not easy. Yet, I love when I am writing and some amazing new twist comes to me from out of the blue. Surprising myself is the best part. That’s when I call my CP and yell, “Oh my God, you’re not going to believe what I wrote today! I can’t wait for you to read it…hee hee hee.” Lucky for me she has the same personality, so she “gets” it. Meanwhile, my husband looks at me like I’m from another planet and just shakes his head 🙂
9. Mine, too! My son, though, gets me. Once, when I was staring off into space, plotting a scene, my husband asked me if something was wrong and my son simply said, “She’s writing, Dad.” What a great kid! I love your statement your life is your material and imagine your four children factor into that. Where, though, do you get most of your material from?
I do get a lot of character ideas and tidbits of dialogue from my family and friends. I always pay attention, often snickering, knowing I’m going to use that in a book. I just leave their names out 🙂 I also love people watching wherever I am. My mind is always working in writer mode. In the mall, at dinner, at sporting events, etc. The world around us is full of rich details, great dialogue, and quirky people. I carry around a notepad and even a mini tape recorder to jot down or speak ideas as they come to me. Also TV, newspaper headlines, and song lyrics are great places to find ideas. Life really is stranger than fiction. It’s true when you see something and say, “Oh wow, I couldn’t make that up if I tried, but man what a great story that would make.” Next time, write it down. You just might have the next best seller on your hands.
10. Tell us about your part of the country.
I like to base my books around places I have lived or been to. Samantha Granger takes place in the rustic Adirondack Mountains, while my fortune-teller books take place in upstate New York. Divinity is a fictional town, but there are a lot of small towns like that around here. We have all four seasons with lots of hunting, fishing, boating and white water rafting that goes on, as well as skiing and riding snow mobilles. New York is very pretty. There are lots of mountains, rivers, trees, flowers, as well as the finger lakes. Football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse are very big here. It really is a great place to raise a family with so much to do and so many opportunities for the future. Not to mention the Big Apple. That’s about four hours away from where I live, yet close enough to enjoy a couple times a year. There’s no place on earth like New York City.
11. NYC is actually a world unto itself, isn’t it? The Dames love animals. Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them.
I don’t have any pets. I had dogs (poodles) and a bird (cockatoo) when I was a kid, and my husband had a dog (German Shepard) when he was a kid. Our children would love a dog or fish or anything, but right now we are gone every night and most weekends to one sporting event or another and they don’t allow pets there. I am the only one home during the day, and I know how much work pets of any kind require. It wouldn’t be fair to the animal. One day when our lives slow down I am sure we will be proud pet owners. In the meantime I’ll just throw them in my books 🙂 I have an immortal cat named Morty in my fortune-teller books, and he’s a hoot. Pets really can be so much fun with their very different personalities and quirks.
12. Oh, I agree. I always feature pets in my books, most specifically Weimaraners and a cat or two, and occasionally throw in horses. And the last question: What’s your favorite saying?
“Now that’s funny right there!” I’m always saying that because frankly, I’m always laughing about something. I love love love humor of any kind. Movies, jokes, books. Life is so much more fun when laughter is involved and way too short not to enjoy it 🙂
Thank you, Kari, for what’s been a fun, interesting interview.
Thanks so much for having me. You can find out more about me and all my books at my website http://www.karileetownsend.com or at my group mystery blog called Mysteries & Margaritas http://www.mysteriesandmargaritasblogspot.com