Karen Perkins #WiHM
G'day Karen and welcome to the Couch of Chaos,
You didn't bring Jennett with you, did you? Oh phew, that woman has some serious issues. Rightly so, but still. She gives me the heebie jeebies. I'm glad it's you today and not another runner. That Mar Garcia loves her hills and I'm paying the consequence for it this morning. In fact, I wonder if the flames on the Couch of Chaos would act as a full body Deep Heat patch. Do you mind if I... thankyou. aggghhhh. Now before I melt into blissfull reprieve, lets put you in the spotlight and get this party started.
From where do you hail? And what is your modus operandi with the blood-soaked pen?
Hi Lee, and thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your Women in Horror celebrations. I hail from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, and write timeslip ghost stories inspired by the local landscapes and the people from centuries past who lived in and shaped them. There is a vast amount of horror contained within the pages of history books, affecting many poor souls. No wonder their spirits do not rest easy.
All our characters have elements of ourselves woven into them. Which poor character is most like you?
An excellent point! I think each of my characters channel a particular aspect of my own character; usually something I’m struggling with at the time of writing – it’s great therapy! As to which is the most like me? Crikey! Emma from The Haunting of Thores-Cross shares my childhood, my dreams, and my nightmares, so she is a good contender, but then so is her nemesis, Jennet, into whom I channelled my darker side… Duality seems to be an important part of my novels: two main characters; two timelines; two points of view; two answers to this question.
Imagine I am filthy successful agent (I did say imagine) and we are stepping into an elevator. Hit me with your top three elevator pitches for three pieces of your work.
The Haunting of Thores-Cross: A Yorkshire Ghost Story
An evocative, dual-timeline novel moving between the isolation and oppression of life in a 1700s Yorkshire moors village and present day, The Haunting of Thores-Cross is perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine, Nicola Cornick, Laura Purcell and Susanna Kearsley.
Parliament of Rooks: Haunting Brontë Country
A haunting timeslip novel moving between the harsh realities of village life in Emily Brontë’s Haworth and present day, Parliament of Rooks is perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Bella Ellis, Barbara Erskine and Nicola Cornick.
Murder by Witchcraft: A Pendle Witch short story
Jennet Preston was an ordinary woman, with an extraordinary death. Pursued and vilified by her young lord and master, Thomas Lister, she was accused and tried – twice – for Murder by Witchcraft in 1612. This is the true story of her second trial.
Now I can’t start writing until I have a coffee and digestive biscuits to hand. Do you have a ritual before you start writing, or is it spontaneous venture?
I have different routines depending on where I am in the project. When the words are flowing and the characters dancing in my head, then I write in the mornings, after and with strong coffee to get all those synapses really buzzing.
But if I’m at the beginning of a book or section, or am just plain stuck, then I need to go out, to a coffee shop, have lunch at a restaurant, or a spa day/weekend and do a bit of people watching, and relax for the words to flow. Which has been a bit of a problem recently.
Is there one thing you would have done differently or known earlier in your writing career?
I wish I’d recognised that publishing independently means having two distinct mindsets (here’s that duality again!). As an author, I’m working with my creative, emotional side, and I love it. Here I find ‘The Zone’ and I’m living my books, my characters’ lives, and in my characters’ worlds. But the editing and publishing process needs the opposite. My readers deserve my books and the tales they contain to be the best they can be, and to do this I need to shift from focusing my right brain to the left analytical, logical and pedantic side.
This shift is not easy, and it’s difficult to recognise when it’s complete, and I think the most common mistake authors make, whether self-publishing or submitting to agents, is taking those final steps too soon. We need time and help to find our objectivity after we’ve finished writing the early drafts – getting my friend and editor’s feedback is a major step in this process for me, and I wish I’d listened more to feedback when I’d first started.
Other than this ground-breaking interview, what are you currently working on?
I’m working on two books at the moment – they are related, so it isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds! One is a pure historical novel about the Pendle Witch Trials (plenty of horror that history!), and the other is my second Ghosts of Haworth novel. Haworth lies just over the moors from Pendle, and this book will be a dual-timeline ghost story, set in the year of the trials, 1612, and explores how a community could turn on itself under the threat and fear of witches and their craft.
We all know horror people are just the warmest, friendliest bunch of writers around. Why do you think this is?
I couldn’t agree with you more! And I think the answer is simple: when we write, we release all the darkness floating around our subconscious. Our writing is our therapy, our characters our therapists, and we release our fear, anger and even hatred on to the page; then we face it, deal with it and defeat it. I hope.
How do you determine success for yourself?
Interesting - and not an easy question to answer. My accountant would tell me that success should be measured by stable finances, lol! But I measure success in a number of ways. Starting a book (always the hardest part for some reason, no matter how eager I am to write it), and then finishing it (almost as hard). But I measure real success by positive feedback from readers – that’s what makes me want to dance and turn cartwheels! Wonderful comments in my Facebook group, reviews, and best of all, people reading one of my books and going straight onto another, or rereading one they’ve already loved. Although having said that, I should really admit to a niggling desire to see how successful making the Sunday Times bestseller list feels…
Other than WIHM which is an amazing month for female horror writers. How do you feel other women can best support each other in this genre?
As in all genres – read, review, share, recommend. Remember we are not in competition, people who read my books will likely enjoy others in the genre that I also enjoy, so recommending not only supports authors, but those far more important people: our readers.
Where did you discover your love for all things that go bump in the night, or splat on the walls?
I remember it well. At age 13, on a family holiday in Wales, I was working my way through the small display of books the little shop on the beach had for sale – I can still remember the carousel stand they had! It took me half an hour to persuade the lovely lady behind the counter that yes, I was allowed to read Stephen King’s Carrie, and yes she was allowed to sell it to me. Thankfully, I was successful, devoured Carrie within a day and, needless to say, absolutely loved it. The next day I went back to the same shop and bought every horror book in that carousel. The lady behind the counter looked very worried, but didn’t argue, and I left with Ba’al, The Rats and Suffer the Children… That was a fantastic holiday!
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