Friday, September 17, 2010

An interview with Kari Lee Townsend

Okay, folks, so I' ve been MIA because my CP Barbie Jo Mahoney just sold a two book deal for a paranormal middle grade angel series called ANGEL ACADEMY and the first book coming out in Fall of 2011 is called HALO 101.

So we were celebrating. I just now joined the blog to chime in on any questions anyone might have on the interview I did for Cassy.....only to find it hadn't been posted yet.

Hope everything's okay, Cas, and I apolgize to everyone for being late. All that aside, read on to find out more about me. Mwahahahah!!!!

Cassy - Kari, tell us about your career path. What jobs have you had?

Kari - Well, let's see. I've been a babysitter, worked at an ice cream store, a grocery store, and been a waitress. Eventually I earned a Masters in English Education and did a ton of substitute teaching (I was even on one school's teacher volleyball team and in their school play). That same school gave me the chance to work as a full time teacher right when I had my first baby. That's when I decided to be an at-home mom and try my hand a writing instead.

Cassy - What then led you to being an author?

Kari - I had dabbled in writing on and off throughout most of my life, but it wasn't until my first child turned one that I decided to get serious. I just had no idea how much my "life" would get in the way. Soooo many demands after more and more and (yes, you guessed it) even more babies followed. Four in all, and boy oh boy oh boy...and they keep me hopping!

Cassy -How did you "find" your genre? You write in more than one, how did that happen?

Kari - I "found" my genre, on in this case genres, through an exhaustive effort. I started out writing both category and single title romantic comedy, and then classic chick lit, then mom lit, then chick lit mystery. When I realized I had missed the boat on those, I then tried young adult, paranormal YA, then tween, then finally paranormal / fantasy / sci-fi middle grade and that's where I fit. Soon after, an opportunity landed in my lap to write a mystery, so I stuck with paranormal and went for it. But no matter what I write, I still have a funny bone. As long as my books have humor in them, it's all good :-)

Cassy - You have a great sense of humor. Do you find you can easily incorporate that into your writing?

Kari - I think as long as you stick within the confines of the genre you're writing in, you can do a lot with humor. People are still people, so it's easy to give them cooky quirks and see what they can do. Humor for me is all in the way characters react to various situations. While I love funny one liners and witty comebacks, my favorite type of humor is physical. I am such a visual person that I picture literally everything! I love describing reactions on a character's face, or something physical they have to do to get themselves out of wacky situations, or the goofy things they wind up saying to "save face"...those are some of the elements you'll find in any one of my books, no matter what genre I'm writing in. And if I've done my job at all, hopefully, you'll be smiling by The End.

Cassy - What are the settings you use for your books?

Kari - I love writing about small towns. You can get such mileage out of small town quirky characters. And I often write about places I have lived such as Massachusetts and Upstate New York. I take an existing small town and then make up a fictional one, giving it the same elements so it will ring true. I simply prefer fictional towns so no one can call me out on something that's not actually there :-)

Cassy -As the mom of a full household, do you find plenty of "material" right at hand?

Kari - have NO idea! My three sons are all close in age (12, almost 14, and 16) while my darling diva daughter is almost 8, so I really do run the full gamut. They constantly say and do things to crack me up, as well as correct me on what is "realistic" when it comes to teens and preteens. In fact, they are the ones who gave me the idea for THE SAMANTHA GRANGER EXPERIMENT. They are so obsessed with technology, I swear they can't function without it. That's what gave me the idea for Samantha Granger. Her obsession leads to a freak accident and she becomes a walking, breathing piece of technology...aka Digital Diva.

Cassy - Do you have a particular writing method?

Kari - I used to be a total panster, but that lead to a lot of rewriting. Now with both of my series involving lots of action, adventure, and mysteries to figure out....I have become a plotter. I plot as much as I can before I begin, and then I plot as I go along. In the end, it saves me a lot of time. Something I desperately lack these days.

Cassy - Do you keep to a particular writing schedule?

Kari - I shoot for 10 pages a day (unless I've let a deadline get away from me....then it's more like 20 plus pages a day, which is sooo not fun, people!) And since I have the luxury of staying home (Thank God because I really don't know how people who have other jobs find the time to write) I write and handle publicity, etc, from the time my youngest gets on the bus at 8:45 AM until the oldest gets home at 2:30 PM. with evenings and weekends off...again, unless I'm behind on a deadline. I repeat, soooo not pretty, people! Word to the wise....stay on track!

Cassy - What are your favorite hobbies and activities, outside of writing of course.

Kari - I love to take pictures...just ask anyone who's gone to a conference with me :-) I also love to travel. I've been to Hawaii three times, Alaska once, the Caribbean and various other places. I also love to do anything with action adventure involved. I've been para sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving, zip-lining, kayaking, four wheeling, snowmobiling and I'm a biker babe! You name it, I will try it. Sky diving and bungee jumping are next on my list so stay tuned.

Cassy -What is your favorite "ah ha!" moment with your work?

Kari - I had a lot of ah ha moments involving the craft aspect, but my favorite ah ha career moment was when I realized I could sell off just a partial. I could hear the angels singing that day :-) Granted, editors had read my work and knew I could finish a book, but still....that thought of locking them in before I finish a book is oh so sweet. They may regret it after they receive the finished project, but it's still sweet nonetheless.

Cassy -Any good stories to tell about when Christine (our agent, folks) called you and asked to represent you?

Kari - The better story is before she called when I pitched to her at the New Jersey Conference. We'd met online and I introduced myself there. We hit it off and said let's go somewhere and talk. So I asked....can I bring my peeps? (they were standing right there anyway) She said sure. So we sat and talked and the crowd grew and grew behind her. Then after we pitched, I got up to leave. She turned around and saw how many people were behind her and looked at me with wide shocked eyes as she asked, "Are all these people your peeps?" To which I replied, "Um, no, I've never seen them in my life." Then I waved, smiled, and said, "See ya at karaoke." The sainted woman signed me anyway, but to this day she has never let me live that down.

Cassy -You have a fantastic book deal launching any moment. That's something we all aspire to having. But, has it made a difference in your writing? Or, in your work style?

Kari - It's insane! I truly mean it when I say be careful what you wish for, folks! While I don't regret saying yes to either of my book deals, it has opened my eyes. Getting published is hard enough...staying published is much harder. You can't rely on your publisher to do all the publicity for you. And if you sit back and do nothing, then chances are your numbers are not going to be good. Learning to juggle my hours between meeting multiple deadlines and promoting my books has been the hardest transition for me.

Cassy -What thoughts have you to offer to those who are looking to first find the dream agent and then to sign on the dotted line for a sale?

Kari - Don't give up! It took me 14 years to sell, but then my agent got me two three-book deals off just proposals only 5 months apart. The only people who will not get published are those who give up. That doesn't mean you can't help the process along. Be smart about your writing. Be aware of the market and think unique. Do your homework! Good luck to you all. I just know I'll see you on the shelves someday :-)


Kari Lee Townsend said...

I'm here I'm here I'm here...any questions :-)))

Donna Cummings said...

I don't know that I have any questsions, but I want to say Congrats, and I love how your enthusiasm shines through. :)

You were also very helpful and generous with information before I signed with Christine. After reading what a typical day for you is like, I'm even more grateful you had the chance to answer my email questions! :)

Mary Martinez said...

Great interview Cassy and Kari. Give my BIG Congrats to Barbie Jo! Woohoo.

Liz Lipperman said...

Ah, Kari, it's good to see you resurface. I guess it's really true about being careful what you wish for. The end result will be fantastic, though, as you will have series at both SourceBooks and Berkley.

Ive read your stuff, so I know how funny you are, but I'm really looking forward to the paranormal stuff.

Great interview, Cassy and Kari.

Lindsay said...

Hi Kari
Great interview. I detoured to check out the Digital Diva series. Sounds fun even for us older people. I can't wait for them to come out

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Thanks guys. I really do love both series:-) Let's hope they are a success! Good luck to you all in your own writing. This isn't an easy business we are in, so you really do have to jump on any opportunity.

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Hi Kari,

I just got a moment to catch up on my blog reading. Great interview. 20 pages a day is amazing. How do you do that? I have been fighting the panster/plotter thing. I plotted my first book and I'm trying to write it. I like the idea of an out line but I don't get my surprises. I feel like I'm writing a longer outline now instead of the story. Something I still need to find the balance on. Any tips you have regarding changing from a panster to a plotter would be great.