Cara Connelly chats with Award-Winning Author Karen Rock

Author Karen Rock

Author Karen Rock

Cara: Karen Rock is one busy author, balancing writing, editing, and promotion deadlines as she works on not one, not two, but three series. So when she came to CR-RWA to talk to us about writing quickly while maintaining quality, we were all ears. She knows what she’s talking about, and she gave us some great advice and take-home tips.

She was also nice enough to sit down with me for an interview, so all of you can get to know her too. Let’s start with some background. An award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author, Karen holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and has published six novels with them and has three more upcoming in 2016. She’s also a new Blaze author with the first book in her military series coming out in September 2016.

Her first novel for Heartwarming, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the 2014 Golden Quill Contest. Another Heartwarming novel, A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, was awarded best contemporary romance in the 2015 National Excellence in Romance Fiction awards and the 2015 Booksellers Best.

Hi Karen! Thanks for coming on the blog. Let’s start back where it all began. When did you join RWA, and how has membership affected your career as a writer?

Karen: I joined RWA in 2012 when I sold my first book. Since I live in such an isolated spot, being a member of a community of romance authors gives me such a warm feeling of having a place to belong. Reading other author’s writing tips has helped me grow in my craft and in areas I knew little about at all, like promotion through social media. I also love hearing news about other authors and chapters and always feel excited when the RWR magazine arrives in my mailbox!

Cara: We loved having you visit our chapter. You can come back any time! ☺ Can you tell us what genre you currently write, and if you’ve considered other genres?

Karen: I currently write YA romance and clean/sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming. Next month, I’ll begin writing the first book in my military Harlequin Blaze series, No Defenses. It’s going to be fun, but challenging to switch between these three types of romance, but, in the long run, I believe it will keep my ideas and voice fresh and keep me inspired and motivated. I would love to write suspense and have that on my radar given my obsession with the Investigation Discovery channel ☺ Joe Kenda is my ultimate Homicide Detective!

Cara: Honestly, Karen, with your writing schedule, I don’t know how you have a spare moment for watching TV! What made you want to write romance?

Karen: I actually began as a contemporary author but found myself drawn to love story plot lines and spending much more of my writing on them. I’ve been reading romance since the 80s when my grandmother passed me paper bags full of Harlequin Presents and historical “bodice-rippers”. Lots were over-the-top with crazy premises and very Alpha males whom, even then, I wanted to punch… but I love a good love story and ultimately I decided there was room in Romance for all kinds of voices and mine could be one of them.

Cara: Who are some writers who’ve inspired you?

Karen: When I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (I think around age 12), I finished it in three days… and I’d never read a book all the way through before that. Wow! The power of fascinating characters in a rich, developed world with compelling action and romance… It was incredible. I read it again and again and again and I think my fastest time reading it was a day and a half! As a young teen, I loved the historical setting and romance. As a writer, I’m in awe of her ability to give us such nuanced, complex characters with gripping and unpredictable growth arcs and romantic arcs. As an adult, I read a lot of JoJo Moyes, Rainbow Rowell and Lianne Moriarty (an Australian author) who always deliver such intensely romantic and unique stories. I want to grow up and be them some day!

Cara: You’re well on your way! What else do you like to read?

Karen: I love reading all genres with the exception of westerns (unless they include a hunky cowboy and some romance ☺) I adore suspense thrillers by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad) and Gillian Flynn. I recently read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which was amazing. I love historicals by Phillipa Gregory, women’s fiction by Elizabeth Strout and YA authors like John Green. As for Romance, I’m JoJo Moyes’ biggest fan. If I ever met her, I would pass out. Seriously- as in concussion…THUNK.

Cara: Hmm, I haven’t read JoJo Moyes, but you’ve convinced me to give her a try. Now please tell us about your latest book!

Winter Wedding Bells cover jpeg

Karen: My latest book is WINTER WEDDING BELLS, an anthology of three novellas that all involve the same, Christmas Eve, destination wedding at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid NY. Each novella is written by a different author (mine is the first- THE KISS) and feature different, key players in the wedding. Mine includes a bride who runs into her ex and takes the ultimate gamble. After that, I have a full length Heartwarming novel, HIS KIND OF COWGIRL, coming out in March 2016. It will also be available in Walmarts in April, 2016.

Cara: That sounds like a fun anthology…I’m putting it on my TBR. Thanks again for stopping in to chat!

Karen: Thanks so much for inviting me! If you’re interested in reading more about me and my books, please stop by my website, If you’d like to connect, please follow me on twitter, or facebook 🙂

Cara Connelly chats with CR-RWA’s own Marie Lark

Cara Connelly chats with CR-RWA’s own Marie Lark

ML_third take is the charm_coverlg

Cara:  I met Marie Lark when she joined our chapter in 2013, and since that time I’ve learned that she’s scary smart, incisively funny, and totally passionate about romance. Her latest book—Third Take is the Charm—released in August, and I persuaded her to stop by and tell us about it, and to give us a window into her journey to publication. Welcome, Marie!

Marie:  Hello, and thank you so much for inviting me to the blog! I joined RWA and the Capital Region chapter in November of 2013, just before my first book (Indelible Ink) released. It was, without a doubt, the best career decision I’ve made since taking a writing class in college. Not only I have I learned a ton from all the workshops my chapter has hosted, but I’ve had the opportunity to attend conferences where I met and learned from writers, editors, agents, and other industry professionals. I cannot emphasize enough what a resource the RWA network is.

But beyond that, joining the chapter introduced me to about three dozen ladies (and a few gents) all doing what I’m doing—making a go of this professional writing gig. I’ve made so many friends in the group and been enriched both personally and professionally by everything they have to offer.

As for how I ended up writing romance, I’d never been particularly drawn to the genre as a young reader or writer. I studied political science in school, so I’m very used to writing for an academic audience. But in my favorite genres—YA, SciFi, and Fantasy—I am always drawn to the relationships, be they romantic, platonic, or a really well done set of siblings. I love stories about all the messy ways people relate to each other.

And it doesn’t get much messier than sex and love.

Currently, I write LGBTQ contemporaries, with a sprinkling of New Adult themes, but I’d love to branch out into other subgenres of romance, particularly more speculative ones. Sexuality—who we’re attracted to, who we love—isn’t as sharply defined as it used to be and exploring how people, particularly young people, experience attraction, love, and sex will never go out of style, whatever genres are selling well at the moment.

In my new book, Third Take Is the Charm (on sale now with Loose Id!), the heroine, Melody, sets out to capture on film the kind of love story she’s never had. In the process of creating the movie, in working with the two men she’s cast as her leads, Melody learns that she’ll never be able to tell the perfect love story unless she can also experience it herself.

I like Melody for a number of reasons. First, she’s an artist, which means she’s an excellent observer—to the point that she doesn’t always understand how to interact and be in the world she observes. So, second, she’s a bit like an author herself, attempting to create something that didn’t exist before. I tend to over-identify with my primary POV characters, and I sympathize with all the contradictory feelings she has—introversion and voluntary hermitage right alongside the deep desire to be known and loved. Third, I like that, to her, the obvious solution is—sleep with both of them and see where we get! Melody is unafraid of sex and unapologetic in her fascination with it, which leads to misunderstandings, more than a little trouble, great sex, and eventually her own Happily Ever After.

Thank you again for having me!


September 2015 Meeting

Join us this Saturday, September 12, 2015, at the East Greenbush Library for conversation, networking, and an exciting program. There will be a board meeting at noon (members are invited but not required to attend), followed by our business meeting at one. At two pm, author Karen Rock will present a workshop on how to consistently meet tight deadlines without sacrificing quality.

We hope to see you there!