If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

November Interview Schedule: 11/7 Lane Stone, 11/14 Maggie Toussaint, 11/21, Joana Garcia (Rescheduled for 1/23/19)

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 11/3 Barbara Ross
WWK Satuday Bloggers: 11/10 Margaret S. Hamilton, 11/17 Kait Carson

Starting on Thanksgiving Day, 11/22, WWK presents original holiday offerings until New Year's Day. 11/22 Warren Bull, 11/29 Annette Dashofy, 12/6 KM Rockwood, 12/13 E. B. Davis, 12/20 Paula Gail Benson, & 12/27 Linda Rodriguez. We will resume our regular blogging schedule on 1/2/19. Please join us!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Grace Topping signed a three-book contract with Henery Press for her Laura Bishop Home Staging series. Congratulations, Grace!

KM Rockwood's new short story, "Map to Oblivion," has been included the anthology Shhhh...Murder! edited by Andrew MacRae and published by Darkhouse Books. It was released on Sept. 12.

Warren Bull also has a story in Shhh...Murder! Look for "Elsinore Noir," Warren's short story, in this anthology.

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Shari Randall's third Lobster Shack Mystery, Drawn and Buttered, will be available February 26, 2019.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

An Interview With Karen Cantwell

by Grace Topping

Combine the puzzle of a murder mystery with some good laughs and you have the makings for an entertaining book. And no one delivers a laugh-out-loud mystery like Karen Cantwell. After reading her first book, Take the Monkeys and Run, featuring suburban housewife Barbara Marr, I was hooked. Karen continues to draw readers to her humorous mystery series, romances, and short stories. Her short story "Sunset Beauregard" will be published in the upcoming Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, due out in April. Feeling depressed by the news of the world? Escape into one of Karen Cantwell’s books. You’ll be glad you did.

Welcome, Karen, to Writers Who Kill.

Your first book, Take the Monkeys and Run pulled us into the wacky world of suburban housewife Barbara Marr. She is such a terrific character. What inspired her? Could she be a bit like you?

Karen Cantwell
Prior to starting the Barbara Marr series, I had recently experienced a series of really crazy, strange events in my own life. Yes, I actually had a conversation with a woman claiming to be the wife of the mafia mobster who killed Jimmy Hoffa. It was… surreal. Since the universe seemed to be grabbing me by the collar and shouting, “Write, Karen, write,” I decided to listen. People ask me often if Barbara Marr is like me and I always say she’s very much like me in thought, and far BRAVER than me in action. I aspire to be as stupidly brave as Barbara Marr.

Your books make me laugh out loud. Did you start out to write books with humor?

First, thank you for saying they make you laugh out loud! That makes me so happy that I did a little jig. Literally, I’m in a coffee shop writing now and I danced in my chair. Now I’m getting strange looks and eye rolls from people. To answer your question, yes, I did start out to write funny books. As a young lass, I wanted to be two things when I grew up: Carol Burnett, and a writer. Turns out, there was already a Carol Burnett and she was darned good at it, so I decided I could try to be the Carol Burnett of writers. I love to laugh and I love making other people laugh. I can’t help myself. Even when I veer into more serious topics with my short stories, I find some bit of comedy creeps in.

What is the most challenging thing about writing with humor?

The amount of time it takes to create just the right comic image in the readers’ minds to make them laugh. For that reason, a sentence or scene that needs to be funny will take me much longer to write than other scenes. There is a lot of finessing and tweaking and wine drinking that goes on during my process of writing humor.

Okay, I just read that answer above and I make the task of comedy writing sound horribly depressing, so let me stress that writing humor is actually very enjoyable. And what is really fun is when someone tells me my books made them laugh out loud, or helped them laugh their way through a difficult time in their life. That makes all of the hard work worth it. And I get to annoy people in coffee shops.

You’re a USA Today Bestselling Author and an Amazon Kindle Bestseller. And you did this publishing your books independently. What led you to go that route?

Short answer: desperation.

Long answer: I had entered an earlier draft of Take the Monkeys and Run (then titled, Monkeys in My Trees) into the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and it had gone on to the semi-final phase. From that contest experience, I received really good feedback. I took that feedback, made some changes including the title, and had it professionally edited. Next, I tried finding an agent. Oy. Triple root canals are more fun that the process of agent querying. From the Amazon contest, I knew that Amazon had opened up ebook publishing to all authors, even those without representation. This was 2010. I didn’t jump on it right away, but eventually, with crickets chirping loudly on the agent query front, I asked myself this question: Did I want an agent, or did I want readers? Well, that was a silly question. I wanted readers. I reasoned that if I published myself, I might have a hard time finding readers, but at least I’d have a crack at it. I’ve been self-employed for nearly all of my adult life so being a self-employed writer seemed very natural. I like being my own boss. I’ve never regretted that decision.

Do you complete every step in the process yourself?

Mostly, but not entirely. I hire a cover designer ALWAYS, because even my stick figures are pitiful. I want really professional, eye-catching covers. I also always hire an editor and a proofreader. Other than that, I do the writing, the rewriting, the formatting, the uploading, the worrying that I uploaded my passwords file instead of my manuscript, the marketing, and the wine drinking.

What surprised you the most about publishing independently? 

That anyone actually bought my book! Despite my gritty and independent declaration that I just wanted readers, it still surprised the gosh-darn heck out of me that someone actually bought the book without having the power of a publisher behind it.

What advice would you give writers who are contemplating the same route?

I would say if you like running the show, go for it! There are so many resources out there now to help you through the process and to help you find cover designers, formatters, blurb writers, etc. Readers want a good story, so give them one. (She says with a smile.)

How do you handle the challenge of writing, publishing, and marketing your books?

Wine. Have I not made that clear?

Since writing your mystery series, what have you learned that you wish you’d known earlier?

Truthfully, nothing. The process of writing and publishing has been a journey of learning along the way, and I would not change that at all. I don’t think a person can ever know everything before beginning a venture. The fun for me is learning and improving as I go.

What writers have influenced you the most? Who do you read for pleasure?

Now let me state up front that I have no illusions of being a Hemingway, or Dickens, or Twain, but wow, did their works inspire me. Hemingway taught me to be economical with words, Dickens taught me to draw quirky and vibrant characters, and Twain taught me the impact of dry humor and wit. Coming to more modern times, John Irving, Paul Theroux, and Tom Robbins are big influencers for me. And most recently, Janet Evanovich showed me I could be wildly crazy and funny with my stories. In fact, after reading her book, How I Write, I was finally able to start and finish a novel, which eventually turned out to be my first Barbara Marr book. Who do I read for pleasure? I read many mystery and thriller novelists too numerous to list, but surprisingly, right now I’m reading outside of the mystery genre, totally captivated by George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series.

In addition to your mysteries, you’ve written some romantic comedies. Please tell us about your Sophie Rhodes series.

I enjoy reading light, humorous romances, so I thought I’d take a stab at it myself. I also have a fascination with ghosts and hence, The Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance series was born. Sophie is a twenty-something woman looking for a job, not romance, but she winds up finding both, despite the constant interference of two jealous ghosts. I throw a dash of mystery in the mix as well. Because really, what is a book without a body?

I’m a big fan of audio books. Are any of your books available in audio format? If so, did you manage the production of them?

I love audio books too! A few of my books are available in audio: the first three Barbara Marr books and the first book in my Sophie Rhodes series, Keep Me Ghosted, are published in audio format. That was not a difficult process, to be honest. Amazon’s audio publishing platform, ACX, is easy to use—they help you find a narrator/producer and once that is done, you can choose to pay them up front and keep all of your royalties or you can choose a 50/50 royalty split with the narrator and pay nothing up front. I chose the 50/50 split and I was lucky to find a couple of really top-notch narrators. Right now, I’m researching how I can narrate my own books and publish to a podcast. My goal is to get that done for at least one of my books this year in 2018.

What’s next for Barbara Marr? I hope we’ll see more books featuring her?

The seventh Barbara Marr novel, Risky Fitness, is in the planning stages right now and I will begin writing it very soon. Here’s a teaser: Barb’s overbearing mother, Diane, is arrested for murder and it is up to Barb to find the real killer before Diane is sent to the big house. Craziness ensues.

Thanks so much for inviting me to do this interview, Grace. It was super fun!

Thank you, Karen.

To learn more about Karen and her books, visit her web site: www.karencantwell.com.


Kait said...

Cabernet Sauvignon for me please, let's pull up some chairs and have a chat.

What a great interview. Writing comedy is HARD and I have huge admiration for those who can do it. You are an inspiration, to writers and to indies everywhere - much success and fantastic covers.

Jim Jackson said...

Your titles are great - they have the puns that so many cozies share, and yet the covers let you immediately know you should expect a fun time -- even if we're talking murder.

I found in interesting that among your writing inspirations is Tom Robbins. I always thought he was a crazy guy who managed to have millions of us pay to have him lie on our couch and tell us his insanities -- and I am jealous.

Best of luck for continued success.

Margaret Turkevich said...

Interesting information about writing comedy! I've tried it and it's tough to get it just right.

Art Taylor said...

Fine interview and good points about writing comedy. Thanks to Karen for the great answers and Grace for the great questions!

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Karen, for your terrific responses to my questions. It was a pleasure interviewing you. I envy the ease with which you inject humor into an otherwise serious subject and have it all fit.

Warren Bull said...

What fun to read about another independent and successful author.

Karen Cantwell said...

Thank you to Grace and everyone at Writers Who Kill for having me here - I had great fun with this interview. Grace, you made it so easy with fantastic questions. And thank you as well to everyone for the kind comments. Have a great day, and if you live in the Northeast, stock up on wine and batten down the hatches!

Shari Randall said...

Another Carol Burnett fan here and I totally get the comparison! Everyone knows how hard it is to write humor but you make it look easy. So glad for the success you've had with your books. Here's to more - your podcast idea sounds great!
battening down the hatches.... now where did I put that pinot noir?

Gloria Alden said...

Karen, I've got you on my list of books to order now. I also self-publish my books and am happy I decided to go that route. I'm working on the tenth book in my series, and I also wrote a middle-grade book, too.

KM Rockwood said...

What fun! I loved reading about your books! Now to read one...

Jen Sinclair Johnson said...

This was such a fun read I'm in a better mood having read it (not easy with Central Illinois' end-of-winter gloom). All this AND a fan of Tom Robbins and Carol Burnett? That's it. Clicking to order and looking forward to reading Karen's work. Thanks to Writers Who Kill for sharing the work. -Jen

dru said...

Great interview and I can't wait to read Risky Fitness.