Derrick Ferguson: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
Kara Owl: I live in Tallahassee, Florida, and I tell the IRS I am disabled, because I am. I write because I can make my own schedule, and if I’m exhausted or flaring, I can skip a day without having a boss yell at me for it. I also write because I need to. The stories must go somewhere!
DF: Tell us something about your background.
KO: I attended Hollins University, where I had several professors tell me I should be majoring in English (I was a psych major) and encourage my creative writing. I took multiple creative writing classes despite my major, and also attended a seminar led by Jeanne Larsen. I don’t remember what the seminar was about, but Ms. Larsen made a huge impression. She was larger than life, confident, and everything I wanted to be. I’m still grateful for those encouraging teachers.
DF: How long have you been writing?
KO: I wrote my first “book” in first grade. It was an alternate ending to a story, because I hated the ending. So, I fixed it! I did that a lot, actually. I don’t remember that first book, but I remember reading “Jacob Have I Loved” in third or fourth grade and rewriting the ending to it. I would also write stories around episodes of my favorite TV shows. Fanfic, basically, though it wasn’t called that back then.
I am going to date myself horribly, but I recently found one of those stories. It was a very silly story based around the Thundercats episode “Safari Joe.” It’s terrible and yet I still love it because of what it says about chibi-me. I was always a romantic at heart!
I never thought about writing for other people, though. Even when I was writing a lot, it was mostly for me. Then, I had a novel idea hit me, and I wrote it. It wasn’t very good, but it led to a lot of conversations with my best friend and other novel ideas. After he helped me see what needed to be changed to make my favorite novel idea work, I settled down and wrote (and rewrote) the story that became BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN.
DF: What are your influences?
KO: Author influences are definitely those I read when I was younger: Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, etc. But I also draw inspiration from comic books, movies, and TV as well. I feel overwhelmed with all the awesome inspiration I see everywhere, recently. It is wonderful.
DF: What's your philosophy of writing?
KO: My philosophy is “if it works for you, do it!”
I write almost every day, though I don’t follow the ‘rule’ that you should treat writing as a job and write from 8am to 5pm or at a set time every day. I have chronic pain, and so I try to use my “best” time for writing, when I am feeling sharpest mentally. There’s no set time for that: it varies, and so does my scheduled writing time.
I also write very lean, so the “cut 10% rule” doesn’t work very well for me. Nearly all my editing notes include “add more here” in at least one spot, so I have gotten to the point where my first editing pass adds description and “meat” in the hopes of avoiding that note.
I do follow these truisms: write interesting characters, “people” that you would want to spend time with. Know the places you write, so you could find your way around inside them, so you can feel the air of your world on your face, and so you could describe it from the sky all the way to the earth beneath the grass. Use all five senses when describing your setting, though not all at once. Most of all, if you don’t love writing enough to deal with a LOT of criticism and rejection, don’t walk away, run.
DF: Tell us all about BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN.
KO: BLOOD OF THE CHOSEN is a novel about an elven family trying to stand against a darkness that is taking over their world. They must decide if keeping their land is worth a civil war, and if they don’t decide fast enough, they could lose everything…
DF: How did you develop your characters?
KO: The characters in this novel were developed over almost 20 years. We started off with a throw-away sentence about a character named after a famous warhorse thanks to a mix-up in the history books, and ended up with a fully-realized world. I used a lot of things to get these characters right, including role-playing, character questionnaires, and short stories. I wanted to know how they’d react in almost any situation, and I feel like I do now.
DF: You a plotter or a pantser?
KO: Definitely a plotter. Having an outline helps me to keep the story fresh in my head. My outlines aren’t horribly detailed; some of the chapters are one sentence guidelines. But I know when I need to start getting towards the ending, or when I need to drop in information that I need another character for, etc.
DF: Tell us about your future writing plans. Is there anything else you're working on that we should know about?
KO: I am working on the sequel to BLOOD at the moment, and it will be finished soon, I think. Once it’s done I’ll be sending it to the publisher, and then I’ll get to work on book 3!
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience out there for Kara Owl?
KO: I hope so. I am trying to reach the epic fantasy audience. My book is perfect for someone who wants elements of high or epic fantasy without the huge time commitment most of those books represent.
DF: What's a typical Day In The Life of Kara Owl like?
KO: I suppose a typical day is me getting up, feeding cats and the dog, and then evaluating the pain levels and brain to figure out what’s going to happen next. Depending on how I feel I might write for an hour in the morning if I am able. If not, I’ll do chores and then eat lunch and see how I feel after lunch. Keeping my writing time flexible enables me to do it when I am mentally sharpest, and that’s very good for me. Sometimes, I don’t write until after dinner! It all depends on my pain levels. After lunch, I usually take a little time to rest and figure out what we’re doing for dinner, then cook it. The husbeast and I go to the gym most days, because if I don’t work out my pain levels are even higher. (Odd but true.) We spend some time in the evening watching TV together, and then go to bed.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Kara Owl?
Kara Owl: I’m a passably good euchre player, I love board games and role playing games, and I dream of someday going to an NFL game at Soldier Field.