Thursday, January 19, 2012

Interview With Karen McCullough by Jacqueline Seewald

Karen McCullough is the author of eleven published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent releases are MAGIC, MURDER AND MICROCIRCUITS, a paranormal romantic suspense now available in most electronic formats, her Christmas vampire story, A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, and A GIFT FOR MURDER, published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale Group Mysteries. She invites visitors to check out her home on the web at and her site for the Market Center Mysteries series,

Question: I understand A GIFT FOR MURDER will be available in electronic formats in February and as a mass market paperback from Harlequin Worldwide mysteries in June. Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and hero of your novel?

Answer: The main character in my mystery, A GIFT FOR MURDER, is Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Washington, DC, Commerce & Market Show Center. As assistant to the director, she spends a lot of time dealing directly with the exhibitors and attendees at the various trade shows and conferences that are held in the Market Center, fielding their complaints, helping them solve problems and just listening. She’s in her mid-twenties. She likes the job and feels fortunate to have it, since it pays reasonably well and the work is interesting. Heather is intelligent and sharp-witted, but the feature that makes her both good at her job and good at solving mysteries is that she’s the kind of person who makes others feel at ease, so they talk to her more than they would with other people.

Heather’s love interest is Scott Brandon, a former D.C. cop recently hired to be part of the Market Center security team. Scott’s past is a bit mysterious. Although he’s smart, well-spoken, and physically fit, he left the police force under a cloud, something he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s told Heather that he failed to keep his mouth shut when it would have been a better policy to stay quiet, but he doesn’t talk about the circumstances.

Question: What is the genre of your novel? Why did you select it?

Answer: Mystery, with a touch of light romance. I’ve always loved mysteries. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys before I moved on to Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, and Ellery Queen. The puzzle aspect of mysteries has always fascinated me.

Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: I worked as an editor for a series of trade publications for ten years or so, which means I attended quite a few trade shows. It always seemed to me that a trade show would make a fine setting for a mystery. It has a very limited time period and a limited number of people attend, including many who’ve known each other for a very long time as friends, competitors, even lovers, sometimes all at the same time. Plus the stakes are high for exhibitors at trade shows; many will write the bulk of their orders from retailers at the show or soon thereafter. It can literally make or break a business.

Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels?

Answer: Sure! I’ve published in a number of genres, ranging from fantasy to suspense to mystery to paranormal to romance. A lot of my books cross genres. I have two romantic fantasy novels, WITCH’S JOURNEY and WIZARD’S BRIDGE, published with ImaJinn books. My first four published books, three romantic suspense and one straight romance, were published by Avalon Books in the early 90s. I’m working on digitizing those to make them available as ebooks. I’ve had a number of other romantic mystery and suspense novels published since then, as well as a couple of paranormal stories. Of those, several are now available as ebooks, including romantic suspense novels, A QUESTION OF FIRE and SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and the paranormal romantic suspense stories, MAGIC, MURDER AND MICROCIRCUITS and A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL. (My only vampire story!)

Question: What are you working on now?

Answer: I’m writing the sequel to A GIFT FOR MURDER right now. It’s tentatively titled WIRED FOR MURDER and takes place at a business technology show and conference.

Question: What made you start writing?

Answer: Wow, it was so long ago, I’ve almost forgotten. From early childhood, I’ve always had stories floating around in my head. My very first attempt to write one down happened when I was around 10 and wrote a Nancy Drew type mystery story. It was all of three pages long.

It wasn’t until much later that I started writing seriously. It was kind of an evolutionary process. I spent almost 15 years as a computer programmer/analyst, but when I burnt out on that, I began writing software documentation to make a living. From there I moved onto writing articles for computer magazines, then broadened out into writing more general interest articles for a variety of publications and ended up as an editor for several trade publications. Somewhere in that same time period I tried my hand at a few stories, and had a bit of success selling them to small presses. One of them, though, kept growing and growing until it was a novel. A very bad novel, but a novel nonetheless. That one will never be published. But the bug had bitten and the seed was planted to deep. haven’t been able to stop writing since then.

Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Develop a thick skin. This is a tough business. If you’re writing for publication, be prepared for lots of rejection. And don’t think that being published once means the end of it. Even once you’re published, rejections happen, bad reviews happen, etc. It’s not a profession for the timid.

I also strongly recommend a critique group or critique partners while you’re writing those first few novels. It’s hard to see your own errors and helps to have others who can show them to you.

Don’t rush to get the first thing you write out to market. Once you’ve finished the first draft, let it sit a while, then go back to it. You’ll likely find all sorts of ways it can be improved, when you go back through it again after some time.

Question: Excellent advice! Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novels?

Answer: A GIFT FOR MURDER is currently available in hardback from the standard online sites, like Amazon and B&N. I’ll be releasing it in ebook form in February, and then it will be available as a paperback from Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries in June or July. My two fantasy novels are still available in both paperback and electronic formats, either from the publisher, ImaJinn Books ( or through Amazon, B&N and other online booksellers, as is a romantic suspense, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, available from the publisher, ( or the online booksellers. Most of my other available books are ebook only at this point, and available from Amazon for Kindle, B&N for Nook and Smashwords for other formats.

As for WIRED FOR MURDER, I hope to have it finished by the end of February, and from there it’s up to my editor and publisher.

Thank you, Karen, for being our guest at Author Expressions. We wish you continued success with your writing career.

Comments for Karen are welcome!


D'Ann said...

Super interview, ladies. Your books sounds great, and I'll check them out.

Kathleen Delaney said...

Have read Karen's latest book and loved it. My daughter ran a winery and did all the buying for their gift shop. I went to the trade show with her once. Karen has caught the essence of the show exactly as well as giving us an exciting mystery with a great touch of romance. I'll look forward to the next one
Kathleen Delaney

Jacqueline Seewald said...

D'Ann and Kathleen,

Thank you both for visiting and commenting!

Elysa said...

I've most all of Karen's books and I'm looking forward to reading more. She tells a great story.

Anita Page said...

Sound advice, Karen. Jacqueline, an interesting interview. It's my first visit to this site--elegant banner!

Warren Bull said...

Very good advice to new and continuing writers. Your book sounds like a good read.

Karen McCullough said...

Thanks, everyone!

Kathleen and Elysa -- you're both such wonderful writers yourselves that I'm doubly appreciative of your kind words.

D'Ann -- thanks for checking my books out. I appreciate it.

Anita and Warren -- Thank you for stopping by and commenting and seconding the advice.

Maryann Miller said...

How exciting to have your book come out in paperback and as an e-book. Hope it does well. I thought your advice to writers was spot on.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Just cruising by to say hello to Karen and Jacquie. Great interview, Karen. I'm glad you've found ways to keep A Gift for Murder in front of people.

Besh Wishes!


jenny milchman said...

Nancy Drew was an inspiration to so many! Though I did read every one of hers, it was Trixie Belden who inspired me most. It's great how your background professionally led to this story. Best of luck, and thanks for the interview!

Karen McCullough said...

HI Maryann-- Thanks! The advice mostly comes from my own hard-earned experience.

Maggie - Waving madly. Good to see you here and thanks forthe good wishes!

Jenny -- I never really got into Trixie Belden, but my daughter read the entire series, again and again until the books just fell apart.

Ellis Vidler said...

Good advice, Karen. I especially like letting your first draft sit for a while and then going back to it. Amazing how different it can look! :-)

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Hope to meet you at a conference sometime to compare notes on marketing and promotion, since we both write in the romance and mystery genres. I'll bet that would be an interesting conversation.