Karin, Un-Caged. Lizzy Ford interrogates prolific author Karin Cox

Karin’s had 28 books published. Yes, TWENTY EIGHT. She’s also an editor, works for a publishing company in Australia, and is raising a family. So, what does Karin do when she’s not taking over the world? She self-publishes! The best description I can give of Karin’s work is that she captures and shares the innermost workings of the soul. She depicts emotion in its rawest form in both her poetry and her short stories and can take you from happiness to tragedy to hope within a few lines. Her writing is technically flawless and engaging, her short stories brilliant in their thoughtful portrayal of complex emotions. My favorite: “Cage Life,” the short story bearing the moniker of her short story collection, whose twist I never expected and which left me thinking: wow, just wow.

Karin’s Books:

About the Author

Tell me what readers should know about Karin Cox, the woman behind the books.  And by books, I mean something crazy like 28 of them!

When it comes to both reading and writing, I’m completely incapable of sticking to any one genre.

What inspires you to write?

Everything! I find that I am an “ideas” person, so I have four WiPs at present, some of which have been waiting more than a year for my attention and, you know, actual writing time.

If you had a perfect writing outfit, what would it be? 

I do have a perfect writing outfit (adjusts pajama top guiltily), but it should probably be a straightjacket. 

How do you define success as a writer? 

Success is fleeting. I felt enormously proud when my first ever book was published more than six years ago, but after the initial ecstasy it wasn’t enough. To me, success comes in knowing that others enjoy what you’re doing, and that you continue to enjoy it too.  

Does your family read your books? 

My family definitely read my natural history books, and my nieces and nephews love my children’s books. My dad has always enjoyed poetry, but weirdly my mum has read more of my poems than he has. I think maybe some of my poems are too personal for Dad’s tastes. My partner hasn’t read any! He prefers movies, so he’ll have to wait until I get a film option on one or until I write one about him (evil laugh).

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d like to give indie authors, from both the editor perspective and the indie writer perspective? 

Don’t rush it! You need to allow your manuscript some rewrite time to make it the best it can be, have it edited, carefully consider cover design and generate at least a little marketing hype before you release it. Putting out an inferior product will only disappoint your readers—and you in the long run.

 What’s the most challenging part of writing a book, in your opinion? 

Definitely the editing. Even as an editor, sometimes I hate to have to take a hacksaw to my prose and dismember my darlings, although I know it is for the best.

I believe you may have started out as an editor?  What made you interested in becoming an author, too? 

I was always an author, the problem was it didn’t pay very well (and sometimes still doesn’t). Editing, however, was a profession that enabled me to capitalize on my love of writing and actually earn enough to scrape together each week while I continued to write. I published my first books while I was still officially an editor, and was eventually fortunate enough to be offered a full-time position as an inhouse author for an Australian publisher. Believe me, I know what a luxury it is to be paid to write. However, I still love to edit (just not my own work!) and I have always freelanced on the side because there is something delightful about taking a book and releasing its awesome potential.

Karin’s Books

For this interview, I focused on your two indie published books, Growth a poetry collection, and Cage Life a collection of two short stories.  These are in addition to the works you’ve had published through a traditional publisher.  I can honestly say your catalog of titles is one the most diverse I’ve seen: from children’s books to non-fiction to poetry to various genres/ sub-genres of fiction.  What is your inspiration behind your projects?  Do you choose what to work on, or does your project choose you?

 Sometimes I choose it, and sometimes it chooses me. The first book I wrote was a memoir—the life story of an 83-year-old prisoner of war. It was an incredible tale and gave me a really good initiation into writing fiction, even though it was creative non-fiction. Without having to worry about the plot so much, and having “real” characters, I could focus on my portrayal of scenes and concentrate on setting and dialogue. The next books were non-fiction, travel guides, and then natural history. I love writing natural history because it has a mission—to educate people about nature and conservation, so that writing inspires me on a different level.

Some of the kids books I have had published are working for hire to a theme. My publisher tells me, “We want a story about a wallaby using these pictures, go to it.” It’s hard to write an engaging story that way, so when I write children’s picture books for myself, the story comes first then the illustrations (and many of those ones rhyme).  When it comes to my fiction, the stories definitely choose me and are usually sparked by the simplest of ideas and snowball from there.  

Your short story duo deals with tough emotional situations that plunge the reader into the dark side of human nature yet highlight people’s resiliency.  In the short story entitled, Cage Life, you show how some good can still come out of the ultimate tragedy; while in “The Usurper,” you show sort of the opposite, where hope and good intentions turn into despair. These are tough themes to tackle, and dark emotions can be difficult on the writer.  While reading them, I wondered about your fascination with human nature.  What are the most effective ways you’ve found for building such comprehensive characters? How do you recommend other writers learn to portray the landscape of human nature as you do in your short stories?   

Oh, that’s a hard one. I think often it is just about being an inquiring mind. Maybe the poet in me (or, if you believe loosely in astrology, the Scorpio in me) is responsible for that. I’ve always been interested in plumbing the emotional depths and mining them for stories. My belief is that all good storytelling is about emotion. Make the reader feel something (anything apart from boredom!) and you’ve achieved something in your story.

I like to watch people, too, and I take some elements from life experience. I suppose the advice I would give is to write characters with plenty of flaws but still give them virtues and/or hope of redemption. I am not sure how to do that, exactly, but I think one of the ways is to try to add a solemnity or gravity to even the smallest or most everyday actions. For instance, think about the different ways a joyful person might prepare a meal compared to a sad and lonely person. I think the actions the character performs, along with dialogue, should tell the reader something about their inner, emotional core. Sometimes, it’s even nice to have the characters outer face (shown by their dialogue) in direct opposition to their emotional state, to reflect a sense of turmoil. 

What are your upcoming indie projects?

Oddly enough, I’ve got a half-finished chick-lit romance novel I started about 18 months ago that I’d like to publish, and I need to go into “surgery” on a YA novel too and completely rewrite the first chapter from scratch. Like all authors, time is of the essence. When will someone invent a cloning machine?  

Cage Life 

What’s the story’s main message?  

Not to take anything for granted, whether that’s people’s intentions, financial security, intimacy, your own liberty and freedom to be you, or your family.  

Who is/are the main characters? 

Chloe is the main character and the story is told from her first-person point of view. Her husband, Damien and daughter Kat are also important characters, although they act more as a foil for her inner turmoil. Liz also plays a part.

 Which character do you admire from this book? 

I don’t think I admire any of these characters to be truthful. I feel sympathetic towards all of them—Chloe for feeling lost and not appreciating what she has, Damien for confusing “providing” with “being there”, Liz for being ill. Kat is probably the most admirable character in this story because she is the innocent party. 

What did you learn about yourself while writing this story? 

Funnily enough I wrote this story long before I became a mother. I’m not sure I could write a story like this now that I have a child. I think the thing I learned about myself is that I have a tendency to get a bit “florid” at times, but I didn’t mind that for the purposes of this story as it showed a certain indulgency in Chloe’s character.  

The Usurper

 What’s the story’s main message? 

That sometimes things are not exactly as they seem and appearances can be deceiving.  

Who is/are the main characters? 

Basil is the protagonist and the story is told in his voice. It was fun to write him in the kind of waffly, old-fashioned language of an octogenarian. I think I was trying to channel a character similar to Charles Arrowby from Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea.  His paramour is Carla, a much younger mistress, and we see her, and her lover Simon, only through Basil’s eyes.

Which character surprised you when you wrote him/her? 

Definitely Basil. I didn’t know where the story would end up when I wrote it and then he just kind of defined himself. It’s probably a trite and overdone denouement, but I couldn’t help it with Basil.

If you could be stranded on a desert island with one of your characters from this story, which one and why? 

It would definitely be Basil, because he knows how to garden.

Which one would you definitely NOT want to be stranded with and why? 

I definitely would not want to be stranded on a desert island with old Mrs MacEvoy (busybody!).

Where can we find your books?

 Amazon: Growth; Cage Life

Barnes and Noble: TBD

Smashwords: Growth; Cage Life

Steve Parish Publishing 

Where can we find you? 

Your website

Your blog

Amazon Author page

Goodreads

Facebook Author page

Smashwords

Twitter

Karin at Steve Parish Publishing

One thought on “Karin, Un-Caged. Lizzy Ford interrogates prolific author Karin Cox

  1. Pingback: Guest blogging with the best of them… « Karincox's Blog

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