Writerly Questions with Karen Kennedy Samoranos

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

On this fine day we have Karen Kennedy Samoranos discussing her contemporary novel The Curious Number. This e-book hit the shelves March 9th, and is published by the Terpsichore Imprint.  She also has another book coming out on June 22nd, “Death by Bitter Water”, under the Polyhymnia imprint. 

 Karen Kennedy Samoranos lives in Northern California with her husband and four children and two grandchildren. Karen and her husband, a professional jazz musician, manage a small music education business  specializing in jazz performance for students ages 5 through 18.  She runs over three miles a day, and also enjoys fishing, hiking, and riding her motorcycles (dirt and street). You can check out her website saraville or her blog karenkennedysamoros.

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
The Curious Number (Musa Publishing – 3/09/12) is a richly layered tale of the tribulations of the Burich Family, spiced with sex and intrigue.

How long did it take you to write this book?
Approximately six weeks for the bones, and another four for the meat and potatoes.

How many drafts do you go through?
Countless—even up until it’s sent over to my editor, I’m working through a manuscript to make certain I’ve been precise.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
Because I handle the administrative side of our small music education business, I literally write any time I possibly can. That could be while waiting in the car, or at the back of a room filled with students plinking away on pianos or guitars.

Where is your favorite place to write?
Any place where I feel safe and secure from predators looking to steal my laptop. It’s made me a little paranoid.

Typewriter, computer/laptop, or pen & paper?
My preference is a computer, and specifically a laptop, due to its portability. I started on an electric typewriter, but it’s very difficult to edit and make major changes on a typewriter.

What do you drink or eat while you write?
I’m terrified of spilling on my laptop—though I’ll have tea or coffee, and keep it far away from the keypad.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
Instrumental only—Jazz or Bluegrass. Music with lyrics can be distracting.

What do you wear when you write?
Whatever’s in the moment—but never naked! That might be awkward when sitting in a car—and I’m sure I’d be arrested.

Do you have any other writing rituals?
No, but I do enjoy creating obscene names for random telemarketers who call me on my cell phone, thus interrupting my writing flow, and keep them catalogued for future use on caller i.d.  If that’s not a ritual related to writing…

How do you plot? Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines?
I begin by writing a bare bones outline, and then the synopsis, after which I start to write the actual story. Characters have a quirky way of changing the game, so a synopsis may be subject to minor adjustments. In The Curious Number, I used vignettes for each of the five main characters to tell parallel events that culminated in the enormous family issue that brought them all together. When the vignettes were completed, I then stitched them together linearly.

How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
It depends upon how I want to tell the story. In my novel Road Apples (Musa Publishing – 12/0-2/11), I used the narrative of the main character, Madeline Benités, which has the effect of creating a novel with a rather one-sided opinion. However, Madeline is a woman who works in a male-dominated field (general contracting), and has the rare gift of objectivity. In The Curious Number, it was crucial to become the narrator, so I could use every angle of the characters’ lives in order to tell the broader aspects of the story.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
I use names I like, and that seem to fit the predetermined features of a character. I have a really difficult time writing about characters with ridiculous names—which calls to mind a movie, “Soapdish”, and a character named “Bolt”. Very farcical! I also recall one of my favorite series, “Anne of Green Gables”, and how Anne loved complex, flowery names. I do enjoy old-fashioned named, like Fiona and Sophie, though I try to limit how many times I repeat more exotic named in my novels.

Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
My husband will read bits and pieces. He’s a great beta reader, because he’ll tell me the honest truth, without sugar coating it. I love that honesty. And believe me, he still gets lucky, so he never feels obliged to say, “It’s perfect, dear.”

 What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I was ecstatic—and I still am whenever Musa sends me a contract. It’s fresh and new every time. My experiences with Musa have been positive, and professionally gratifying.

 If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Betty White would be perfect for Marlene Burich—an attractive and horny elderly woman with a fearless mouth.  She would have to be very proficient with a shotgun.

 What is the first book you remember reading?
“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” We read it to our children, and now our eldest daughter has it for our grandkids. Dr. Suess is very multi-generational (I still enjoy “Green Eggs & Ham”), and his books are timeless.

 What book is on your nightstand right now?
“The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind”, by David Guterson (fiction), and “Beloved Child” by Diane Wilson (non-fiction). As a writer, David Guterson’s prose is earthy and eloquent. Diane Wilson’s narrative about giving Dakota culture back to the Native youth in Minneapolis—in order to spare them the generations of slow death by assimilation—is absolutely beautiful and haunting.  I do believe “Beloved Child” is a must read for everyone, Native and non-Native alike, to depolarize our understanding and acceptance of Native American culture, which has an emphasis on sacrifice to allow continuity to subsequent generations.

Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
“The Advisor” in my husband’s Playboy magazine. It’s a vicarious reminder that human sexuality is neither absolute nor definable.

How do you organize your library/book collection?
Most of my books are now on my husband’s Kindle, which I had to purchase so he could read my current novels published by Musa. I also put classics on his Kindle, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That’s a very terrifying novel, and one that transcends the traditions of its era.

Did you always want to be a writer?
I had actually wanted to be an artist or folk singer when in high school, but when I discovered the pleasure of writing short stories in my sophomore year. I had a creative-writing teacher, Ms. Bauman, who was very inspiring. She gave me priceless instruction, including the advice to keep my writing real and believable. I think this can apply to any fiction, be it Fantasy or SciFi.

If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
“Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier. I never saw the movie, but I absolutely love the book.

If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
Louise Erdrich, a contemporary author whose books pulse with life. I would ask Ms. Erdrich how she is able to create rich physical and emotive descriptive, such as the butcher shop in “Beet Queen”, or the description of the river at the close of “Love Medicine”.

 If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
That’s a tough one, because I love being me. But I might want to briefly be Katherine McLain Sumner (from my novels), because, as law enforcement endlessly repeats, “Never monkey around with Kate McLain”. To be as self-assured, compassionate and have such a steady hand—that’s priceless.

What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
That would be a laptop computer. I’d ask for one, but my 3-year old MacBook and I are currently having an emotional affair, and I could never part with it. Though, a few months back, it needed a heart transplant—I had to replace the drive. It’s humid in the Bay Area, and there was moisture intrusion that caused damage to the original drive. Fortunately, the writing angels were watching out for me—I regularly perform backups of my manuscripts, and didn’t lose a thing.

 What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
Don’t give up on the submission process. Rejections often give a writer rare insight. Objectivity if your best friend.

 What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I am an adoptee from the 1960s. In 1996, I was able to find and meet my birth mother, who, when I was a child growing up on the Peninsula south of San Francisco, lived only ten miles from me. Subsequently, I’ve met my two sisters, and my eldest brother. Our similarities are uncanny, given the fact that we didn’t all grow up together.

 Previous Interviews: JLA Interview,  Marie Landry InterviewAvery Olive InterviewPeter Lukes Interview

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Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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