#TuesdayTalk with Karen Krossing. Karen’s new YA novel, Punch Like a Girl, launches this month.
Karen, what do you look for in a good story?
I look for a compelling character in an intriguing situation. I want the premise to be unusual or a new twist on an old idea. But, ultimately, it’s the character who will pull me through a book to the end. If I’m fascinated by that person, I won’t be able to put down the book until I’m done.
How do you come up with topics for your novels?
I get my story ideas from the world around me—maybe news stories or something that happened to me or someone I know. My plotline for Punch Like a Girl was inspired, in part, by my volunteer work at the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto. Although the characters and situations in this book are a work of fiction, my experiences there helped make this story more authentic.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Apparently, I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid of about ten. I was always making up stories, and I lived in a world of my imagination. Giants were real. Witches, too. I suppose, they still are. That’s the fun of being a writer. If you can imagine it’s real, then it becomes real.
Do you have a writing ritual?
Strong, black, decaf coffee. My computer on my lap. Silence or the white noise of a cafe. I don’t wait for motivation to strike me; I write every day, whether I feel like it or not. I don’t have to write well, but I do need to write regularly. The revision process will talk care of any poor-quality writing.
What was the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I’m hopelessly ordinary, or at least I think I am. My weirdest job was proofreading magazines like Camera Canada and the Holstein Journal for a typesetting company. I’d never read an advertisement for cattle sperm before—it was an eye-opener.
If you could hop on a plane to anywhere, where would it be?
I’d love to go to India. I’d like to walk to Great Wall of China. Basically, I’d be happy with a world tour that never ends, as long as I still have time to write. I want to experience as much of the world as I can because it feeds my story ideas.
Any favourite books from childhood that stayed with you?
I’ve always loved the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne. Even when I was in middle school, I read them aloud with my mother, each of us taking turns reading the characters’ voices. I liked to be Piglet and Tigger, and my mother can still do an excellent Eeyore.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Hone your idea before beginning to write. A brilliant premise, deeply developed characters and at least a rough plot are the foundations of great writing. Once you have an exceptional idea, remember that the craft of writing lies in the revision process. I like to get constructive feedback from fellow writers whose opinions I trust. I evaluate their feedback to determine how to polish the work to a professional level, including rewriting multiple times.
Karen Krossing grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, with a family who loved to read. What could she do but read, too? Karen began to create stories when she was eight, and she continued this habit by writing poetry in high school. By then she was hooked on books, so she studied English at university then became a book editor and a technical writer. After Karen had kids, she began writing fiction for children and teens.
Karen studied English and drama at university before she began to write novels and short stories for children and teens. Karen also encourages new writers through workshops for kids, teens and adults. She lives with her family in Toronto, Ontario. For more information, visit www.karenkrossing.com.