Karen King: Writing In Different Genres
5 December 2018
It is an honour to welcome not only a multi-talented, multi-published author to the blog today but our very own blog co-ordinator, Karen King. Karen has had over 120 children’s books published, two YA novels, six romantic novels and many short stories for women’s magazines. I get the impression she might be a very busy woman. Today she’s here talking about ‘Writing in Different Genres’. Her new release, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, was released with Bookouture last month, and I am keen to find out how she manages to write so much in different genres.
I’ve spent most of my writing career writing in a variety of genres, and for a long time most of my work was commissioned – comic strips, short stories and activities for children’s magazines, and children’s books. I’ve written anything from picture books, joke books, storybooks to a set of 27 plays for performance in schools. My mantra was ‘know your market know your reader.’ I studied the market, read other books in the genre I was writing to get a feel of the characters and story plots that were popular, and I thought about my reader. What were they expecting from the story? What age group were they? What were they interested in? Nowadays, I rarely write children’s books or do commissioned work but I do write YA and romance and they are two completely different genres so this ‘mantra’ is still useful.
Whatever genre I’m writing for I always get to know my characters and the basic story plot before I start writing. Then I ‘write the story as it comes’, in the viewpoint and tense that feels right for it. My romance novels are all written in the third person and my YA novels in first person viewpoint. It’s not a conscious decision, but the two YA novels are fast-paced with a lot of action and seemed to flow better in the first person viewpoint, whereas I felt more comfortable using the third person viewpoint with my romance novels.
Being a ‘jobbing author’ and writing to publisher’s commissions, for so many years, meant that I was always prepared to try something new. So, when Bookouture asked me to write two books for them earlier this year, and for the first one to be a Christmas romance, I said yes even though I was a bit nervous as this would be my first Christmas romance. All my other romances are set in the summer, it’s all sun, sea and romance, and I knew this one would be a challenge in a highly competitive market. The only other Christmas book I’ve written is a children’s craft one for Scholastic back in the eighties (called Christmas Fun). I was excited though as I love Christmas books. Christmas is such a feelgood time of the year, a ray of light and festivity to break up the dark and gloomy winter.
I set the story in Cornwall because it is so gloriously romantic with its golden sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, quaint harbours and villages that it makes a perfect setting for a romance. Although setting the story in Cornwall in the winter is a lot different to setting it in the summer when the sun is shining, and especially difficult when you’re living in Spain (as I do now) and sitting beside the pool. However, I spent many years living in Cornwall and remember how amazing the beach looks with snow on it, how the stark winter sea has its own beauty and how magical the little villages look when they are decorated with sparkly Christmas trees and glowing lights. It makes you feel all cosy and fuzzy inside, like you want to go home and play some carols and drink mulled wine or hot chocolate and Baileys. That’s the sort of feel I wanted my readers to have. I hope I’ve succeeded.
Thanks, Karen, for an interesting insight into how you spin so many writing plates in the air and if there’s one thing I’ll take away, it’s definitely, know your market, know your reader.
And onto your latest release, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel.
Snowy rooftops, mulled wine, and a hot single dad. Not the Christmas Saffy wished for… but maybe the one she needs?
Twenty-nine year old Saffron Baxter knew her holiday plans didn’t stand a chance the moment her sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of being home before Christmas. Saffy would just have to abandon thoughts of wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall.
Because every year her sister hosts a huge Christmas meal for all the single parents in her village. And Saffy knows it’d break her heart to let them down.
Arriving as snow starts to fall over the thatched cottages of the little harbour town of Port Breok, she meets Logan – the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, devoted single dad who lives next door, with his adorable daughter Chloe. At first she thinks he might help her make Christmas Day extra-memorable, but he just seems convinced she’ll never manage – that she’s just a party girl who doesn’t care about Christmas, or anyone’s feelings.
Maybe he’s right. After all – she doesn’t want to settle down, she’s only there for a few days… But she’s still determined to do her sister proud with gorgeous decorations, the most beautiful real tree – complete with extra twinkly lights, and delicious mince pies. To make it a Christmas everyone will remember, especially little Chloe. Even if, when the mistletoe comes down, she knows she’ll probably never see Logan again…
This does sound like a Christmas novel with a twist! Having been a single-mum I know what a painful time Christmas can be for single parents. Where did your inspiration come from?
I wanted the story to really encompass the spirit of Christmas, of people coming together to celebrate, and to include lots of Christmassy stuff, putting up the tree, wrapping presents, Christmas shopping, carols, lots of sparkle and fun. I also wanted the story to be more than a romance between two people, to have a few characters in it, dealing with their own issues. Christmas means many things to different people, for a single person, or young couple without children it can be a chance to party and let their hair down, for families it’s often a time of worry trying to afford the presents and give everyone a good day and can be especially hard and lonely for single parents. So we have Saffy, the ultimate no-strings-attached party girl, Hannah, her community-minded married sister, single dad Logan, gay friends Robbie and Duncan and best friend Meg all playing their part in the story.
You are an established, successful author in several genres. I would love to know how you work; do you have several projects on the go at one time, or do you move from one project to the next? Plus, what is your favourite genre to write in?
I used to write for several magazines on a regular basis, as well as writing children’s books, so I am used to working on more than one project at the same time. Now I mainly write romance and YA novels, and the occasional short story, but I usually have at least two books on the go. I find this really helpful because sometimes one story flows easier than the other so I can work on the story that is flowing whilst I’m mulling over the other. My favourite genre to write in is romance, I love uplit – heart-warming stories that people can identify with and relate too. Most of us have experienced the ups and downs of being in love.
On top of your many capabilities and talents you have now taken over co-ordinating the RNA blog, thank you! Could you tell us a bit about plans for the blog in 2019?
I was honoured to be asked to co-ordinate the RNA blog, there’s such a wide range of articles published that are extremely useful and informative, written by a talented team. For 2019 we’re planning on making the blog more diverse, continuing with the LGBTQIA posts that we’ve recently introduced, and to also include posts from authors with disabilities, BAME authors, male authors, as well as a variety of publishers and bloggers. The RNA is an inclusive association and we want our blog posts to reflect that and to be of interest to as wide an audience as possible.
Thank you again, Karen, what an exciting time to be heading up the blog and I wish you every success with Snowy Nights and the Lonely Hearts Hotel.
Karen King started her writing career writing for Jackie magazine and children’s comics such as Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh. She is a multi-published author of children’s books and romantic fiction. She has had 120 children’s books published, two young adult novels, six romantic novels and several short stories for women’s magazines. She was delighted to sign with Bookouture earlier this year for two romantic novels, the first one Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, is out now, and the second one, The Year of Starting Over, will be out on 7 February.
When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.
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