July 10, 2013

Hitting the 1920s with Debut Author Karen Barnett (and a Giveaway!)

Today I'm thrilled to welcome debut author Karen Barnett! Karen's book, Mistaken, just released from Abingdon Press at the beginning of this month. 

I thought you all might get a kick out of getting to know Karen and her inspiration behind Mistaken, a historical romance novel set in the 1920s during Prohibition. Also, Karen has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her novel, so see below for details and a chance to win. 

Here's Karen's bio: 
Karen Barnett lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband, two children, three cats, and a mischievous dachshund. For more information, visit her website www.KarenBarnettBooks.com.

Karen, tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were. How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?

Oh, boy. I think I was probably six or seven, and I remember writing a story about a group of stuffed animals that get sent to the Goodwill by mistake. I always had a tough time when my parents told me to sort through my toys. I still have trouble getting rid of things.

I do, too! I always think I'm going to need that thing for something in the future... Since that first story, how has your writing journey unfolded? Tell us about the lowest low and the highest high along the way.

It took me years of experimenting to discover my niche. I started out wanting to write picture books for kids. I had two poems published in magazines, but nothing beyond that. My first Christian novel was a book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, written for children. After some good advice, I rewrote it as a YA. On the suggestion of a publisher, I rewrote it as a historical romance for adults. I think of that novel as my learn-how-to-write assignment from God -- if I can write the same story for three different age groups, I can do anything. Since I'd already figured out my genre and audience, Mistaken was a much easier book to write!

Lows? Years of writing, and spending money on conferences with no guarantee of ever being published. I didn't keep count of rejections, but there were many. And moments of despair, thinking my dream would never come true.

Highs? Making countless writer friends. Having a short piece printed in Guideposts ("A Birthday Wish," February 2010). Signing with my dream agent, Rachel Kent of Books & Such, in 2010. Being a finalist in the 2012 ACFW Genesis Contest. Standing in line at a chocolate shop during the Christmas rush and answering my cell to discover my agent calling with the contract offer from Abingdon Press for Mistaken. And then, just recently, singing a second contract with Abingdon Press for a three-book series (remember the earthquake story?). Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about how good God has been to me.

That is an amazing story. So, what was the first piece of Mistaken that was solid in your mind before you started writing it?

The opening scene. The seed of the idea came from an old family story. My grandfather had told stories of rowing across the Strait of Juan De Fuca to buy Canadian whiskey during Prohibition. On one return journey, he was met by Prohibition agents waiting on the beach and had to flee for his life. In the first scene of Mistaken, Laurie confronts her rumrunning brother on that same beach.

Wow, that sounds exciting. I can't wait to read this book! I've often heard it said that, as writers, we add pieces of ourselves or people we know into our stories. So I'm curious: in what ways, if any, does your main character Laurie resemble you?

Laurie and I have much in common. We're quiet, observant, private, and introspective. Because she's hiding so many secrets about her family, she puts on an act for the world. I don't have any deep, dark secrets, but since I battle shyness, I've learned to put on a mask and pretend to be outgoing when I need to be.

Mistaken takes place during the Prohibition era. How did you go about doing research for this novel?

I started by reading everything I could about the time period, both from our local library and online. The truly fun part of research comes when you get out of the house. I visited old-time soda fountains and sampled ALL the ice cream drinks. I walked the beaches in Port Angeles (where Mistaken is set), dragged my kids through countless museums, and drooled over antique cars at auto shows.

That sounds amazing! I've been telling my husband I need to take a research trip to Nashville, where my next WIP is set. Hehe. Okay, one more question. What's the best thing about being a debut novelist?

The best part has been watching the process of my story being transformed into a real novel. I about fainted when I saw the beautiful cover art. And then seeing the galley proofs for the first time -- when the story is laid out how it will look on the printed page. Nothing could beat the sensation of holding the first actual copy in my hands. I said to my husband, "It looks just like a real book!" To which he replied, "It is a real book, dear."

I imagine that must be an amazing feeling, Karen!! Thanks so much for visiting with us here and sharing a little bit about your story with us. 

YOUR TURN: Readers: What has been the high of your 2013 so far? 

*We're giving away a copy of Mistaken to one commenter. Only those 18 and older with U.S. addresses are eligible. Post your comment by Saturday, July 13, at midnight. Extra entries for Twitter and Facebook shares! Be sure to tag me so I see your shares.

Since alcohol and Prohibition have made criminals out of every man in her world, Laurie Burke resolves to find at least one honorable man. Convinced that the handsome newcomer, Daniel Shepherd, is connected with her brother's rumrunning gang, Laurie scratches his name off the list. Federal agent Samuel Brown might be the answer to her prayers--or her worst nightmare!


  1. That is one beautiful cover and a great premise :)

    1. Isn't it pretty? I love awesome covers. They often draw me to read a book without even knowing what it's about!

  2. Fun, fun interview! I need to check out Karen's book.

    As for the high point of my 2013...honestly, there have been many: all the firsts that have come along with my debut novel, getting to see some of my favoritest friends from all around the country during various trips (including you, Lindsay!), every moment spent with my nephew Ollie...and I'm pretty sure another one is coming up in a couple months: ACFW and the release of Made to Last. :)

    1. I'll be at ACFW, too! And Made to Last looks fantastic!

    2. Yay! So glad you have had such an amazing year. I've been privileged to walk the road with you.

  3. Karen, I love hearing about your highs and lows--boy, can I relate! And how cool that your family had some experience with rum-running. :)

    Lindsay, I really enjoyed your interview style--thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thanks, Jill! I think my grandfather's involvement was more of a "lark" than anything. I don't expect he was into anything serious. But the idea made for a fun story!

    2. Thanks so much, Jill! And yes, it always makes me happy to hear about other writers' journeys.

  4. Karen, thanks so much for being my guest today! I so appreciate you hanging out with me here, and I can't wait to read your novel!

    1. Thanks, Lindsay! It's always fun chatting with other writers. :)