Name: Karen A. Chase
What you Write: Historical Nonfiction & Fiction, Travel Essays
Agent: Amanda Jain
Why BookEnds?: Like many authors, I searched for the right agent first. Amanda Jain had a good track record with my genres, plus an unwavering desire (via her #MSWL) to publish untold women’s stories. The fact she was also part of the BookEnds team sold me on working with her. The agents don’t work in silos but are a sounding-board team for one another. I also wanted to be with a full-service agency that embraced working with hybrid authors—writers that publish both traditionally and indie—which will enable my writing career and our agent/agency relationship to have greater flexibility and endurance.
What genres do you write? Read?
In my teens, I was primarily a one-genre gal preferring historical fiction, but that’s expanded over time. I’ve been in a book club for over 10 years now, and we’ve read just about every genre—from YA to autobiography to sci-fi—with the exception of perhaps horror. (Although The Lost City of Z with those flesh-eating insects… I still have nightmares).
I write in a few genres, plural. Travel essay. Historical fiction. Women’s fiction. And my latest, narrative nonfiction. I’ve always admired authors who could genre-leap and write well regardless of category. Elizabeth Gilbert, Margaret Atwood, and even Stephen King are examples. In today’s transparent internet world, thankfully we don’t have to construct a pen name anymore—unless you’re JK Rowling and you’re trying to prove a point (but she can do anything she wants to now, I’m pretty sure). It’s more important to convey a theme throughout my stories. For me, that’s the notion that including travel and chasing histories in our lives expands our awareness of ourselves and others.
Plotter or pantster?
Oh, I’m plotter all the way. I create chapter-by-chapter outlines, character studies (with far, far too much time picking actor headshots online), and location studies, and it all helps me generate a list of “topics I know I don’t know.” That gives me a to-do list for research (especially helpful for the historical works and helps me prioritize travel, as I visit all the places I write about.
I also have a couple story-development methods I employ—the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson and the indispensable Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey—to help me predict or correct story or character arcs.
Synopses, love them or hate ‘em?
Hate is too strong a word to use (really, ever), but I don’t love synopses. They’re not flashy teasers like movie trailers, and they’re riddled with spoilers. While they can still have the voice of the author, they lack the depth and nuances of language and character development and boil a story down to an oversimplified version of the real thing. It’s kind of like the comedian John Mulaney’s stand-up about the movie Back to the Future; what Mulaney says is true (and funny), but if you never see the film you’re missing all the magic.
Do you have a writing playlist or a vision board? If so, what’s on them?
I have writing playlists for each of my works, and most of them are based on classical (no words) movie soundtracks. I watch a lot of movies and I’m a visual thinker—crafting scenes more like a director—and visuals for me are triggered by music. If I’m writing a fantastical scene, I’ve a Danny Elfman station (he composes for Tim Burton films) on Pandora. Rachel Portman pieces, like her The Cider House Rules soundtrack, are reserved for quieter scenes. I buy the albums that suit a book best, and I’ll play a song on repeat while crafting a scene so I stay in the mood required.
As for vision boards, over the life of creating a story or book, I build private Pinterest boards. They become catalogs of information for me, and upon publication I turn them public for readers who want to dig deeper. I built two boards for my last book, Carrying Independence. One is a collection of research books, and the other is just history bits, bios, and imagery. I also created a board for my author brand. I’ve been in branding for 25 years, and I return to this visual reference to ensure my website, social feeds, and posts stay consistent.
Drink of choice when writing? When not writing?
I’m currently on this kick of trying to drink a gallon of water a day… Hold on, I have to go again!… Whew. I drink coffee only in the morning and prefer iced tea at lunch. I love Chardonnay or Bourbon, but I’m no Hemingway because… (See next answer.)
Day or Night writer?
I’m a morning writer until about 1PM. I try to keep business bits—email, social media, and public relations—to the afternoons. Evenings are for play, reading, and home time. By 9:30, I’m usually kaput.
Twitter or Instagram? Or Facebook? Where can we find you?
- I share behind-the-scenes pics from my research and conduct give-aways in my monthly newsletter, Chasing Histories.
- My KarenAChaseAuthor page on Facebook is where I love to engage with readers and I share of-the-moment photos from book talks and events.
- My Instagram is a visual jam where I hang out with like-minded history nerds, reenactors, and American Revolution period folks.
- I’m on Twitter @KarenAChase for comic relief, book promos, and lurking in fan groups (#TURNamc, #SanditonSisters, etc.). The gifs allow me to exercise my silly Mel Brooks/Tina Fey side (the side that secretly wrote a musical comedy script for the stage and stashed it in a drawer).
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you want to meet and why?
Mel Brooks and Tina Fey. My script needs help. It previously garnered the response shown in this gif.