From Short Stories to Longer Fiction - Author Karen Clarke on her Debut Novel
KAREN CLARKE ON THE WEB:
Karen, you've been successful as a short story writer and as I already mentioned that's really saying something in these days of shrinking markets. What made you want to become a novelist?
It sounds a bit greedy but I’ve always wanted to do both! Even before I sold my first story to a women’s magazine I was writing a novel too, and that hasn’t changed over the years.
Which form do you prefer, the novel or the short story?
I honestly love both. They’re such different disciplines, but it’s very satisfying tying up a story in a thousand words or so, and I like having several stories out on submission and the possibility of a sale. Novels take such a long time to write and rewrite (and rewrite) and although I enjoy the process immensely, it’s impossible to predict whether the end result will ever make it into print.
MY FUTURE HUSBAND was already published earlier,in Germany. How did that happen?
It was pitched it at The London Book Fair a few years ago, and created a bit of a stir. It went to auction in Germany and sold quite quickly to Random House/Goldmann, which was very exciting. We had high hopes for the same thing happening in the UK, but although I came close with a major publisher it didn’t happen in the traditional way. Instead my agent decided to submit my second novel, Put a Spell on You instead, and in the meantime published MY FUTURE HUSBAND as an e-book under her own digital imprint.
Can you tell us something about your main characters in MY FUTURE HUSBAND?
Sasha is a very organised person, whose motto is fail to plan, plan to fail so when her life is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of a man from the future a month before her wedding, she starts to unravel. Elliot is a reformed bad-boy with a tragic past, and Sasha’s best friend, Rosie, is loyal and funny, but her own love-life’s a bit of a mess.
How long did it take you to write the novel?
The first draft was pretty quick – around nine months - but rewrites and revisions took nearly another year.
From submission to publication, what was the length of time it took?
I was taken on by an agent at the end of 2009, on the strength of the first three chapters. My novel was submitted to publishers in 2010 and it was published as a paperback in Germany, and as an e-book in the UK in 2012. So quite a long time!
Did you get attached to your characters?
Definitely – they felt like friends (or at least people I knew well) by the time I’d finished, and there’s a part of me that would like to write a sequel. I think that’s normal for most writers though!
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write according to plan, or do you let it just happen?
I have to have a rough idea of where the story’s going and how it will end, but I don’t write a detailed outline – I’ve tried, but I get tied up in knots. I like to be surprised along the way, and it’s amazing how well that works –
most of the time.
What's your daily writing routine?
I wish I had a better one! At the moment I make myself go out and write in cafes for at least a couple of hours a day, because I’m not very good at motivating myself at home and will find other things to do. Once I get going I tend to forget what time it is, and have to force myself to stop.
Do you listen to music for inspiration when you write? Or do you need peace and quiet?
I can’t listen to music when I’m writing, and prefer peace and quiet at home,
but bizarrely when I’m in a busy, noisy café I can easily tune out the noise. I’m not sure what that says about me.
Karen has had over a hundred short stories published in women's magazines in the UK, Sweden and Australia. Her first novel, MY FUTURE HUSBAND was published by Random House/Goldmann in Germany in July 2012, and in the UK as an ebook by The Paris Press in December. She has recently completed her second novel PUT A SPELL ON YOU.
Karen lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, three children
and dog, and when she’s not writing she works part-time in a
library, which fits in well with her love of books and reading.
MY FUTURE HUSBAND
When Sasha meets Elliot a month before her wedding to Pete, the news he brings seems incredible. He claims to have arrived from the future, explaining that their timeline was knocked off course in 2010, preventing them from meeting, and begs her to find him in the present day. But Sasha’s wedding plans are underway and though she’s curious, Elliot turns out to be feckless, rebellious, and engaged to a glamorous and pregnant Belle. He’s not remotely her type and is instantly suspicious of Sasha’s motives for tracking him down, convinced his disapproving father has sent her to spy on him.
Sasha decides to ahead with her wedding, but a previous connection with Elliot’s father finds her doing the catering at a dinner party at his house. With the help of her best friend, Rosie, she soon discovers that Elliot has sadness in his past, and that Belle is up to no good.....