BIO: I grew up in southwest Missouri and currently live near Branson with my cat Bobby Joe (who is deaf). I grew up in a Christian home with a minister for a father so it is a little ironic that my genre is erotic romance. I love the outdoors and enjoy gardening, fishing, and hunting. I have been a nurse by profession for thirty years and love helping others. I have enjoyed writing all my life. Through my stories, I am able to live vicariously through my characters doing things that I might not ever do myself.
GRACIE: I’m excited to have you here at The G-Spot, Karen! Please tell us a little about yourself (or a lot J) and how and when you got into writing?
KAREN: Thank You for having me Gracie, I am happy to be here. Hmm tell you about myself, well I lived a somewhat sheltered life growing up in the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri. I was the daughter of a minister, and spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years in church which kept me out of a lot of trouble I am sure. Growing up I always enjoyed reading but it wasn’t until the seventh grade that I took an interest in writing. My English teacher Mrs. Sears had us writing poems and short stories and it was then that I knew I wanted to write. I became obsessed with poetry and it opened a whole new world to me. It was in high school that I decided I wanted to write a book. I have started several books over the years but didn’t finish one until I was fifty. My first book Red Skies At Dawn was published the day after my fifty first birthday and that was about the best birthday present I ever had.
I would say that I have lived an interesting life. I have been to Sturgis four times two of which I rode my own motorcycle. I always liked the bad boys and that has given me my share of excitement, trouble, and heart ache. It seems that no matter how hard I try to be the bad girl, the good girl inside me always wins out. My experiences and my very vivid imagination have given me a lot to write about. I believe it is the collection of all our life experiences good or bad that make us who we are and I like myself so I have no regrets for the life I have lived.
GRACIE: Is there any one thing or person in your life that inspired your writing? Any one thing or person that influenced the genre you write in?
KAREN: I have always been an avid reader and according to my mother have always had a vivid imagination. I can remember reading the Little House series in grade school and thinking I wanted to write stories too. In my teen years I read every Harlequin Romance I could get my hands on and dreamed of finding my hero. If I had to credit a single person with my desire to write it would have to be my seventh grade teacher Mrs. Sears. It was in her class that I came to realize the power of words. As far as my genre, I guess I would have to give an ex husband the credit for that.
GRACIE: When did you get The Call and what was your first published book?
KAREN: By the time I reached high school I knew I wanted to write a book someday but it wasn’t until my 51st birthday that my first book “Red Skies At Dawn” was published. It is a story about a young woman who is involved with a biker and agrees to go to Sturgis with him. His true colors come out and she realizes he is the wrong kind of biker. He basically abandons her on the way and she is thrown into the arms of his half brother who comes to her rescue. There is a kidnapping, drugs, alcohol, and of course some hot sex scenes. This story was based in part on my own experience and of course my vivid imagination.
GRACIE: What do you know now about writing and the publishing industry that you wish you’d known before you started?
KAREN: It is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Writing takes time and working a fulltime job as a nurse doesn’t allow for much of that. I have also learned that just because I think my work is good doesn’t mean that anyone else will. Having a book published takes work and getting the book to sell now that is the hard part. I think that one of the secrets is to get your name out there and to do that you need to have several books out. Looking back, I wish that I would have kept up with my writing when I first had the urge years ago.
GRACIE: Please, give us a little story behind the story and what inspired your Siren Allure title, Red Skies at Dawn.
KAREN: I road my Harley to Sturgis one year and the experience made such an impact on me that I wrote a short story about the ride. When I was finished I read what I wrote and thought, gosh I could make a book about this so I started. There are many of my own experiences scattered throughout the book. I think to make your story interesting and believable it is important to know what you are talking about. The book was originally to be a sweet romance that I could send to Harlequin, but my characters had a mind of their own and the book has a few scenes that are quite dark and “in your face.” Of course love wins out in the end.
GRACIE: What is it you believe makes Sammie a perfect match for biker Mitch and vice versa?
KAREN: Sammie is rather innocent and is easily taken advantage of. She is mixed up with the wrong kind of guy, Jake. Jake is a biker and he is a selfish man who is always seeking his own pleasure. He doesn’t care who he hurts to get his way. Mitch, Jake’s half brother is a biker but unlike Jake, he lives by the biker code. He cares for his “family” and would do anything for them. He has so much more depth. He is a little older and knows what life is all about. Sammie is a little naive and needs someone to look out for her and Mitch knew the first time he met her that he was the one who could do it.
GRACIE: Mitch or “Cowboy” as the other bikers call him, seems to be a bit of a rebel. What is it you think is his Achilles’ heel and how do you go about stomping it?
KAREN: Mitch is a man who has always taken care of himself. He is strong willed and his job has always been his focus. Mitch is a man who has always been in control of his life and his emotions. He is a man of action and when things go wrong his first instinct is to go balls to the wall to take care of things. He doesn’t need to count on anyone for help because he can take care of himself. People think he is a little arrogant because he is so so sure of himself. His weakness is his love for Sammie, being thrown together with her has turned his world upside down.
GRACIE: Do you have any more books planned in the biker universe or sub-plot characters you think warrant their own book in the Red Skies vein?
KAREN: I am currently working on revisions for “Red Skies At Night” which is a sequel to my first book. It has the same characters and starts shortly after they return home. There are a few twists and turns that are sure to surprise. There are some strong secondary characters and two of them are the main characters in a third in the series which I have outlined. It is possible that there might also be a fourth book depending on how the third turns out. I have also written another “biker” novel that I recently submitted and I’m crossing my fingers that it will be accepted. I am thinking that the title for it will be Undercover Lies.
GRACIE: I know this is like asking a mother which is her favorite child, but which of your characters is your favorite and why?
KAREN: That is a hard question. Sammie is a lot like me in that she is very caring and maybe a little naïve. She is always looks for the best in others and that tends to get her in trouble. She has had pain in her life yet she is not afraid to take chances. She is strong although she doesn’t realize it. What is not to like about Mitch. I just wish that I would meet someone like him. I think that Grizzly is also a great guy and would be a great friend to have.
GRACIE: What about your characters makes them unique?
KAREN: They are all bikers yet each one has their own unique characteristics. Jake is hard core, seeking pleasure where ever he can find it. Sammie is young and naïve, and sometimes she does things that she doesn’t want to in order to please others. One of the things that makes her unique is that she has a distorted view of herself. She sees herself as average and in reality she is a beautiful woman inside and out. She is also very strong which she doesn’t realize. Mitch is always in control. He comes across as aloof or arrogant at times yet inside he is a mess of emotion.
GRACIE: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? Your least favorite?
KAREN: I love to sit down and lose myself in writing. I can interject things from my own life into the story and it is quite cathartic. I like to visualize the scenes in my head as I go and it is almost like being there. Writing allows me to experience things that I might never do in my own life. It is very liberating. My least favorite thing about writing is that it takes time and time is a valuable commodity.
GRACIE: Are you a pantser or do you outline?
KAREN: Well in Red Skies at Dawn I was more of a panster, letting my characters go their own way. Red Skies at Night was much the same, however in Undercover Lies I made an outline about half way through and finished it uisng the outline. I found that if I don’t have a little bit of an idea of where things are going next my characters would take off in their own direction and the story would change completely. My third book in the Red Skies series is already outlined and I think that will help me to keep on track. Although I do believe there are some stories that need to tell themselves, you know evolve on their own much like life does.
GRACIE: If you weren’t a writer, what other profession would you have chosen to pursue?
KAREN: Well I wish I was a full time writer but I do have a day job. I knew as a child that I wanted to make a difference in some way. I have been a nurse for the last 30 years and being a nurse has allowed me to touch the lives of others every day. I love helping people in their time of need. I believe that if we look hard enough, we can find something good in even the worst of situations. I strive to remain positive and like to encourage and motivate others. We all need encouragement and I try to make an inspirational post on my Facebook page every morning. We need to choose our word carefully because we don’t always know who is listening and how our words will affect their lives. I actually have started an inspirational/motivational book as well which I hope to finish before the end of the year.
GRACIE: Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Name some of your favorite books and why they’re your favorites.
KAREN: J.R.R. Tolkien is my absolute favorite. My sixth grade home room teacher read a chapter of The Hobbit to us every day after lunch. I had never read a book like that before and it awakened my imagination. It is still one of my favorite books. I love all his books. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is a classic romance and her characters were so developed you could feel their thoughts. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has always been a favorite as well. She was able to make each of the sisters so real, and so different. Both these women were remarkable writers. In my genre, erotic romance I am partial to Tymber Dalton, her Reluctant Dom is a real tear jerker. I love a book that evokes an emotion from the reader.
GRACIE: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?
KAREN: I am currently working on revisions to Red Skies at Night the second in the Red Skies Series which I hope will be out sometime this summer. I just submitted a third book which I think will be called Undercover Lies and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be accepted. The third in my Red Skies Series, Red Skies Again is outlined and I will be starting it as soon as I finish my revisions on book two. I am hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. As I said earlier I am also working on an Inspirational book which I hope to finish by the end of the year as well.
GRACIE: Do you have a website and/or how can readers contact you?
KAREN: The best place to contact me is by private message on my personal Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ksjohnsonrnc or by private message on my Red Skies page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RedSkiesAuthor.
GRACIE: Where and how can readers purchase and/or read samples of your work?
KAREN: Red Skies at Dawn is available at http://www.bookstrand.com/red-skies-at-dawn, as well as Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobobooks.com, and Goodreads.com. I will be posting non-adult excerpts from Red Skies at Night and Undercover Lies on my Red Skies page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RedSkiesAuthor on a weekly basis. Check out my web page as well http://karenbennett-johnsonauthor.com/.
GRACIE: What advice do you have for beginning writers?
KAREN: Write, write, and keep writing. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. There is no one else who can tell the stories inside your head. They are unique only to you, and you are meant to share those with the world.
GRACIE: Anything else about yourself or your writing you’d like to share with your readers?
KAREN: I don’t know who said it originally but I have always loved the saying: “Life is like a Piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it.” Don’t let life pass you by, get out there and play.