To celebrate the release of Karen King’s latest book, Perfect Summer, she has joined me to answer some questions about herself and her writing. If you think that you haven’t read anything by Karen King then it is quite possible that you are wrong. Did you read Jackie magazine when you were younger? Perhaps you’ve read one of Karen’s 100+ children’s book to your child at bedtime? Or maybe one of her young adult books? Karen King has been making a living by writing for many years, so the chances are that you have read something by her. But if you haven’t then you can read this Q&A and decide which of her many books you might want to start with.
Hi Karen, thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you for inviting me over, Rebecca.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, please? How did you get into writing?
I’ve been a published author for over thirty years. I started my writing career with the teenage magazine, Jackie and spent many years writing for various children’s magazines such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh before concentrating solely on writing books.
You have written many, many children’s books. How does writing for children differ to writing a book for adults?
Yes, I have, my last count was 120 children’s books. Whoever you write for, whether it’s children or adults, you need a credible, engaging character and a strong story plot so you start off from the same place but children’s books are shorter so the pace is quicker. When you’re writing for younger children you have to be aware of their restricted vocabulary and of the publisher’s limited word count. For children over 9 this is more flexible but even then the story tends to be fast-moving, with action and dialogue superseding description. When I write for adults I find that writing description is the most difficult to do, describing the beach my characters are sitting on, for example, instead of simply saying ‘they sat down on the soft sand’ – probably a result of writing for children’s magazines for so long, when the word count was so restricted there was no room for any description at all.
Can you tell us something that we, your readers, don’t know about you?
Gosh, there’s lots you don’t know about me. Let me think. Well, I can’t ride a bike. I tried when I was younger but I just couldn’t balance, or stop the perishing thing. After ending upside down in a litter bin I decided to give up trying!
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I don’t think so. I don’t have to use special notepaper or a certain pen, for example. I’ll write on anything, till receipts, shopping lists, the margins of magazines. I do like to buy pretty notebooks and pens though, but then I don’t like to use them.
If you weren’t an author what would you be?
A teacher. I really admire the work teachers do, it’s such an important job. I was all set to start training to be a teacher when I was offered regular writing work on children’s comics. As I had four young children I opted to write instead so I could work from home. Now I often visit schools to talk to children about writing, and my work, as an author which is great.
Do you have a favourite book that you have written and if so why that one?
Sapphire Blue. It’s my second YA and is about two teenagers, Sapphire and Will, who really love each other and promise to be together forever. Unfortunately, they both die in a car crash and are separated in the after-life. They’re determined to find each other though, and go through all sorts of danger to do that. The theme is ‘can love survive death’ and one reviewer from Ind’tales magazine called it ‘the best YA out there right now’. It’s the story that’s closest to my heart because I believe we carry on after we die, and that we’ll see our loved ones again.
Having written so many children’s books why did you decide to write adult romance?
I like writing romance stories. Back in the early days of my writing career I wrote romance for teens; photo stories and short stories for Jackie, Patches and Loving magazines. I’ve always been interested in writing a romance novel but was too busy earning a living writing children’s books for the first twenty years of my writing career. A romance novel is at least 50,000 words – my chick lit ‘I do?…or do I?’ is 75,000 – that’s a big commitment and as a full time writer I couldn’t spare that time until my family was grown-up.
Can you tell us about your new book, Perfect Summer and why we should read it?
Don’t be fooled by the title as this is rather a gritty book. It’s set about thirty years in the future when society is so totally obsessed by perfection that plastic surgery (now called body enhancement) is the norm and anyone who is slightly different, or disabled in any way is looked down upon. Morgan, the heroine, has a friend called Summer who is beautiful, rich, has cool parents and a seemingly perfect life whereas Morgan isn’t so beautiful or rich and her little brother Josh has Down’s syndrome. Morgan and her family get a lot of hassle from the Ministry who want them to put Josh in a Residential Learning Centre, where most disabled children are sent, but Morgan’s family refuse. Then one day Josh goes missing and the authorities aren’t interested so Morgan and Sumer decide to investigate. They, along with another teenager called Jamie whose little sister, Holly, has gone missing too, uncover a sinister plot involving the kidnapping of disabled children and find themselves in danger. Can they find Josh and Holly before it’s too late? Expect a few shocks and to shed a tear or two.
I got the idea for this story when I read an article about girls as young as four and five being worried that they were too fat or too ugly. That’s really sad. I started to think how far this obsession with perfection would go, would it get so bad that people who didn’t have perfect looks would be shunned from society? And how would disabled people be treated? I hope people will read it and start to question whether people should be judged by their looks and that girls, in particular, will stop worrying about having perfect looks. The dedication inside the book says ‘For everyonewho thinks they aren’t beautiful, thin, clever or good enough. Celebrate your uniqueness. There is only one you.’ That’s the message I want to get across.
And finally, where can readers find out more about your books and connect with you on social media?
Thanks for inviting me over to your blog, Rebecca.
About the author:
I’ve had over one hundred and twenty children’s books published. I’ve written for many children’s magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. Some of my short stories were featured on Playdays BBC and some of my poems on the BBC One Potato, Two Potato website. I write for all ages and in all genres. YA, story books, picture books, plays, joke books, I’ve written them all.
I also write contemporary romance and have recently signed a 3 book contract with Accent Press. My first book I DO – or DO I? was released in May. Accent Press have also re-released my romances ‘The Millionaire Plan’ and ‘Never Say Forever’ with brand new covers. Book 2 is in the process of publication and I’m now working on Book 3.