Interview with Christine Karper-Smith , Author of “Uncharted Course”

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

I think it depends on the author if they’re a grammar Nazi or not. Personally, I am, but I have a degree in English, so that probably has something to do with it.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Research is very important.  First, it saves time when doing edits and revisions. Second, it can be embarrassing when your reader finds a big mistake that a few minutes of research could have prevented. Even if the writer is positive of something, they should still take two minutes to verify the information…especially when the internet is so close at hand.

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Definitely the computer works best for me. I don’t write in order, so cut and paste and I become good friends when I’m writing. Plus, I type faster than I write. However, I can’t type as fast as I think, so I often end up leaving out something. So, the computer works when I go back and have to add the missing parts.

How often do you write?

When I’m writing a book, I write every day. However, that’s not always in the literal sense. If I’m having trouble with a scene, chapter, plot, etc., I’ll go back over what I already have and edit. I may actually end up losing word count that day, but it’s still forward progression.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I can only write when I’m inspired.  When I force myself to write, it’s obvious what is inspired and what I made myself write.  It makes more work for me when I’m editing and revising, having to rewrite or delete scenes, instead of waiting a day for inspiration to move me.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

Sitting down and starting to write was too easy for me. I’d have an idea and write the first chapter or two. My problem was always the follow through and finish.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I always have a word goal each day. To prevent myself from obsessing, I cover the word count with a small piece of paper. I know I can turn it off, but I prefer being able to move the paper, when I want to know the count.  I’ve found I write better that way.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies;is there any truth to that?

The writers I know are outgoing, social people. I love being around and interacting with people. I had to teach myself to spend time alone and enjoy it. I still can’t eat in a restaurant alone.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’m somewhere in between.  I’ll have a basic plot, but I let the idea lead me. For example, I’ll know I want the story to begin with a certain event and that I want to get to what I see as the climax.  I then let my imagination run free between point A and point B.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing to me is having someone not understand what I’ve written. I don’t mean that as I didn’t get my idea across, instead they misread or just don’t understand it. They then proceed to write an essay on my “mistake” in their critique. It’s frustrating.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

The easiest aspect is coming up with the story idea. It seems like every week I say, “That would make a great book.” If only I had the time to write every one.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I have experienced Writer’s Block multiple times.  Usually it only lasts a few days. The worst time lasted over a month.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Write how you normally write, computer, pen, etc.  Even if you copy the same sentence over and over.  Don’t cut and paste it, actually type/write it. But try to add to it. For example, start with, “I saw a dog.”  Then, “I saw a dog at the park.” Add, “I saw at dog at the park yesterday.”  Then keep going adding words or a new sentence.  It gets the creative juices flowing.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I can’t read when I’m writing because it influences me in a bad way.  I’ve been reading Marissa Clarke, Nicole Flockton, and Lili Mahoney lately.  Out of my genre, I’m looking forward to reading Angie Taylor’s debut.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I think my ability to tell what can be done through dialogue and what can be done in prose. I have always written a lot of dialogue, but I have found a happy balance between the two.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I proofread and edit on my own, but I do have beta readers whose opinion I trust completely.

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes, in fact the first draft of Uncharted Course was written in 2010. Over the years I kept going back to it, revising it and making it better.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

I think the most important thing about a book is that the readers believe it. Whether it’s a romance or sci-fi, the reader has to believe that the world the writer has created is as real as the chair their seated in.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Both are very important. “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” is just a saying. People are drawn in if the cover is good.  The title has to make the reader want to read it as much as the cover.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

I wanted to get into broadcasting, which I did for four years.  I was a board op/producer and occasionally DJ. Some of the things in Uncharted Course really happened in some form or another.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I give my characters more of a voice than most authors. I like my readers getting to know my characters through their words as much as their actions. I hope my readers can hear each character’s voice the same way I do.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Definitely yes.  Every book I’ve written has something that I’ve done or has happened to me in real life. Uncharted Course’s basis is my experience working in radio.

How realistic are your books?

I try to make them as realistic as possible.  I want my readers to feel as though I’m telling them about something that happened to me or someone I know.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

I just started reading Jeff Lynne: Electric Light Orchestra – Before and After by John Van der Kiste.  I’m a big Jeff Lynne/ELO fan.  My daughter gave it to me for Christmas and I’m just getting to it now.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

I’m currently writing a baseball themed contemporary romance. It’s about a player who has been out of baseball for a few years who’s trying to return.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

My mother, who gave me my love of writing.  She passed away when I was young. And my godmother, who passed away a few months ago.  She liked what I wrote.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

All four of my children are equally supportive.  My oldest reads for me.  My second helps with character names.  The next in line is great with line edits and wording and my youngest is my sounding board for plot ideas.  They’re all adults and great at what they do.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

I wouldn’t call it a Muse specifically in my case.  However, each book I’ve written has had a person who inspires me to write and gives me ideas on how to create a lead character.

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

I love to travel.  I’ve been to thirty-six states and am hoping to make it to all fifty in the next few years.

Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

That’s not even close to true.  When I’m on a roll, my fingers move faster than my brain.  I leave out letters and words, make grammatical errors, etc.

What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?

Contemporary romance isn’t just a girl swooning over a guy who swoops in and rescues her from whatever her problem is, and then they have sex.  They are well-written stories about a woman who can live her life successfully without a man.  The male improves her life, not makes it.

Are you friends with other writers?

Yes, I am.  They’re all fantastic in helping me with whatever problems I bring to them and are genuinely excited at my accomplishments.

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Write sooner.  Finish the books you start so you’re not in your fifties before you hold your first book in your hands.

How critical are you in your evaluation when you are reviewing someone’s work?

I can be very hard on new writers, but I always give the disclaimer that I’m trying to help them learn the lessons quicker than I did.  That way they can do in their second draft what I didn’t know to do until my fourth draft.

Any particular writer in mind whom you would want to complete your unfinished works in the event of your death?

Marissa Clarke.  I speak to her regularly about what I’m writing, so she could come closest to what I have in mind.

Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?

No, I think all writers have characters who are real and 99% of the time it’s intended as complimentary.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I love biographies. Reading about people, and what they’ve overcome, is inspiring to me.

Have you ever written a character based on the real you in some part?

Yes. Corrie in Uncharted Course has a lot of me in her.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

Music plays a huge part in creating my “zone.” I have playlists of sad music, happy music, and comedy songs to help me feel the emotion I’m trying to evoke.  You can’t write a love scene to song about someone dying.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I sit on the love seat in the living room to write.  The only time I write other places is when I have Writer’s Block.

Did you specifically plan your studies around your interest of writing?

I did plan by studies around my interest in writing. I didn’t go to college until my late forties. At that time, I had written two novels. I majored in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis at New Mexico State University.

Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?

Yes I do.  The character Corrie in Uncharted Course doesn’t like egg yolks.  I’ve joked that it would be funny to listen to an English teacher discuss what it means that she doesn’t like them, when the simple answer is just that I don’t like them.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

I spend way too much time on Facebook.  Then my friends see statuses like, “I wanted to write 1,000 words today, but only did 50.”