Today featured author is Karen Ginther Graham, who hails from San Diego county but has lived in Oklahoma so long she consideres herself an Okie. These two locales are often reflected in her writing. She is married and has one wonderful son, now grown. Finding Rose Rocks is her debut novel and she is working on another one about a girl’s coming of age amid strife and beauty.
NAN: Tell us what you are currently working on or promoting.
KAREN: I’m promoting my debut novel, Finding Rose Rocks, published May of 2016. It began as a contemporary women’s fiction about a divorced woman of 45 who embarks on a journey, internal and external, to find her emotional happy place. However, almost immediately the story became an autumnal romance between Jennifer, an owner of a failing apartment rental business, and Troy, 50, a silver fox and rugged rancher.
NAN: What genre(s) do you write in?
KAREN: I surprised myself by writing romance because I’d always imagined being a straight fiction writer. I have an idea for another autumnal romance, and am also working on a coming-of-age tale involving a girl in a dysfunctional family.
NAN: What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?
KAREN: I’m told I have a flair for description. I love words that flow in an almost poetic fashion. This skill of mine can be a double-edged sword because readers want action and dialogue. I have to take care in my writing to stay in the scene, to keep things lively.
NAN: How do you keep sane as a writer?
KAREN: I’m a big exercise person. It helps me sleep, keeps me slim, and keeps me on an even keel. I’m a nicer person because of it. These days yoga is my favorite form of exercise, augmented by swimming laps in an indoor pool. I alternate them five days a week. I take weekends off to spend with hubby.
NAN: What do you like best/least about writing?
KAREN: The thing I love best about writing is when I become almost obsessed with the story, when my desire to sit at my computer and write overtakes me at the expense of almost everything else. Hours fly by and it’s just me and my story. I love that—being in the “zone.” What I like least is the business side of things, the marketing. It is essential but laborious.
NAN: Did you learn anything from writing your books, and what was it?
KAREN: I learned a great deal about myself. As an older person and someone who for many years struggled with low self-esteem, I didn’t think I could write an ENTIRE book. Instead, I wrote a novella. I discovered there wasn’t much of a market for novellas so I pushed on and expanded what I’d written until I had a novel-length story. How pleased I was!
Also, during the process of writing I learned that magic can appear in a very quiet way. An owl arrived outside my window and stayed during all those late nights of writing. It promptly left when the book was done. I wrote a short story about that experience.
NAN: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
KAREN: I’m not sure I do. In school, writing came easily to me. I published a poem in my high school paper. At my twenty-fifty reunion, someone came up to me and recited that poem verbatim. I think that planted a tiny seed in my mind. In college, I majored in English and loved all the papers we had to write—easy A’s all—and doing so planted another seed. After college, I didn’t write but rather raised my husband’s and my son and ran our family business. I always thought that once a person has a book published, that’s the mark of a writer. I can check that off my list, but now I feel like I need multiple published books before I can claim that status. Am I a writer? I don’t know.
NAN: Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
KAREN: Please Buy My Book!
Besides that, it means so much to writers to have readers take the time to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites. We don’t ask for the full five stars and high praise if you’re not inclined, but only for a heartfelt opinion.
NAN: What would be your dream vacation?
KAREN: I’ve traveled quite a bit in the United States but very little outside of it. My dream vacation is an extensive trip to Europe. Also, I’d like to go to an uncrowded beach in Mexico that has big waves where I can body surf like when I was a kid in San Diego. No warm water. I find it unnatural.
NAN: What do you do in your spare time?
KAREN: I mentioned my exercise regimen. That takes a lot of time. The gym I go to has become sort of a social mecca for me. Beyond that I love to read, and I garden in the spring, summer, and fall. I can’t say I love it but I love the results of my labor —pretty flowering plants and shade trees on my half acre slice of solitude. I like getting together with my women friends. We have a Kaffee Tante group that meets monthly, organized by—you guessed it—a German lady in our midst.
NAN: Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?
KAREN: Yes, my life has been changed by reading. There are so many really great books that have deeply affected me. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and White Oleander by Janet Fitch made me almost hurt with longing to write like that. Their prose is the most beautiful ever. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls reassured me that I could overcome an impoverished childhood steeped in familial dysfunction. And indeed I have.
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Finding Rose Rocks
When Jennifer Ellis’s business fails, she decides to leave Oklahoma in a cloud of red dust and return to her San Diego roots. Then Troy Stanhope comes along with a solution to her company’s woes, and she falls for his velvety voice and appealing confidence. As their relationship deepens, she is called to the west coast on a family matter and decides to stay for the summer. She meets a new man and is drawn to his irresistible charm. Her newfound self-awareness mingles with salty ocean breezes and eucalyptus-scented air to place her in his arms. Their liaison is heartfelt but brief, mid-life’s last hurrah. Jennifer realizes her heart is back on the southern prairie, but she may be one adventure too late.
Jennifer refused to let Ben’s ordeal revive her old jellyfish phobia. She changed into her swim suit and grabbed a towel. She’d be most visible in front of the lifeguard tower so it’s where she entered the surf and forded the mild current until she reached the choppy calm beyond the breakers.
Alone save for a curious seagull, she let the sea rock her in their guarded reunion. There were fellow creatures in the water with her but she’d ignore them and let them do the same. Children’s squeals and deeper adult voices carried over the waves and reached her submerged ears in wavering echoes. She was at peace here. From time to time she drifted off course and a dozen lazy back strokes realigned her with the lifeguard tower.
Her astrological element was water, emotional and intuitive. She’d grown up with her mother’s belief in such quirky notions and she could never quite shake them. Troy was earth, strong and steady, grounded, of the land. Water and earth were compatible elements. She should have nurtured him, supplied him with life-giving sustenance rather than running off to let him face the summer’s drought without her.
Ben was air. She’d never asked him his sign, but she knew. He was a rare winged creature too elusive for her with his almost indiscernible touch and hint of scintillating breath on her bare breasts. She held herself to blame for his accident, at least in part. Before she’d come along he didn’t go into the ocean, instead content to stroll its shoreline. He’d wanted to be with her and followed her into her watery realm. She’d led him to danger like a siren. He’d mentioned bee stings in an off-handed way, making little of it. She should’ve honed in on the subject, asked what he carried in his faded blue backpack. The signs were there and she’d paid no attention.
Jennifer checked her position in the water, found all to be well, and returned to her thoughts. If she went back to the Lazy J Ranch, would she and Troy reunite or would she end up back in Oklahoma City where she’d started? Trading California for a cowboy? She’d have to be crazy, or crazy in love with a man whose only connection to an ocean were waves of flaxen wheat and a prairie’s endless sea of tall grass.
Something brushed her leg and she bolted upright. A piece of kelp bobbed beside her and she flung it away. She’d become chilly anyway, and made her way to shore.