BookEnds Talks to Karen MacInerney

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 02 2007

Karen MacInerney
Book: Dead and Berried
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Pub date: February 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

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Karen MacInerney lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two children, and a house rabbit named Bunny. When she’s not writing mysteries, she likes to read, drink coffee, attempt unusual recipes, and hit the local hike and bike trail.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Karen: In this delicious follow-up to Murder on the Rocks, ruthless developers, a new ghost, a former fiancé—and a coldblooded murderer—are stirring things up on Cranberry Island. It’s up to innkeeper Natalie Barnes to solve the murders . . . or she may find herself on the killer’s menu next.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Karen: When I’m writing, I like to write five days a week (I take weekends off), usually first thing in the morning. My first book was written longhand, then typed into the computer; these days I type directly into the laptop. I give myself a quota—it used to be 1,000 words, but I recently increased it to 1,500—and don’t let myself get up until it’s done. (Unless I have an urgent call of nature, of course.) For the first fifteen minutes or so, I revise yesterday’s work, in part so I don’t have to do the whole manuscript later and in part to get me back into the story; then I write the new scene. I do outline a little bit, so that I at least know where I’m going that day, but I am always open to new—and usually more interesting—directions. Every book is an adventure. All I have to do, it seems, is show up at the laptop. (Usually at the local coffee shop, incidentally. I love a busy background!)

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Karen: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, and have always loved “cozy” feeling books. I’m also a big fan of cooking, so including recipes at the end of each Gray Whale Inn mystery was a natural fit. (I particularly love the strata in Dead and Berried . . . but I can’t make it too often, or I won’t fit into my jeans!) Another thing I love about cozy mysteries is that they always transport me to wonderful places. I wanted to write a book that would take my readers—and me—to a rugged, beautiful island, with lobsters and craggy rocks and lots of interesting people. And lobsters. Did I mention lobsters?

BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Karen: I (well, Jessica, really) recently sold a new werewolf series to Ballantine; I’m doing the final edits on the first manuscript, which features reluctant werewolf Sophie Garou, and was a howl to write. (Okay, I know. Bad pun.) The tentative title is Howling at the Moon: Tales of an Urban Werewolf, and it should be in stores next spring; I can’t wait!

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Karen: I write in first person, and I think there’s a lot of me in all of my protagonists, largely because when I write I put myself in that person’s shoes and ask myself questions like, “If I were running a B&B and an annoying guest named Candy Perkins kept telling me I was getting chunky, what would I do?” Obviously Natalie can’t dump a bowl of butter-laden batter on her head, so she’s got to come up with something else. And so it goes. . . .

BookEnds: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Karen: Think of yourself as a career writer, with a bazillion potential books in your head. I tell myself that Nora Roberts has written 180 books, many of them doorstoppers, since 1979; I may not be able to write six a year, but I can manage one or two! Knowing you have more books in you helps you let go of each piece when you finish it. Get a few opinions on it, preferably from people who like to read your kind of book, and if you hear the same comment more than once, consider going back and taking a look at that particular issue. But once you’ve gone over it a few times, start sending it out to agents. (With a well-crafted query letter, of course.)

And then, as soon as that first batch of queries goes out—this is the important part—start the next book. As soon as possible. (After, of course, you’ve browsed the bookstores to see what interests you and what new twists you can come up with). Because your next book will be better than your first—and it will help ease the sting of those inevitable rejection letters. Just don’t make it the sequel to the first book . . .unless it’s already sold!

BookEnds: Is there anything we missed or anything you would like to add?
Karen: I think one of the biggest problems we writers have is that we get too attached to what we write. After all, our books are our literary offspring—of course we want them all to be golden children! As much as possible, though, it helps to let yourself get absorbed by the writing itself—and stop obsessing about how the final product is going to be received. Because that way lies madness (and a nasty case of writer’s block). That’s not to say we should be sloppy writers, though! Our job is to show up at the page, do the best work we can, and then move on. Because who knows what will come next? You may start out writing about coffee cakes and end up brewing wolfsbane tea! (Literarily speaking, of course; the stuff is pure poison. Hmm. Maybe I could work that into the next mystery. . . .)

To learn more about Karen MacInerney, see Our Books at

2 responses to “BookEnds Talks to Karen MacInerney”

  1. Avatar Laura K says:

    ::waving at Karen:: I just see you *everywhere* these days!

  2. ::waving back at Laura::

    I see you everywhere, too! And it’s always a delightful surprise… 🙂