Karen had grown up with parents who fought constantly and bitterly. She'd been sexually molested as a young child. But losing her son was when she decided to stop "living unconsciously," pretending that everything would work out OK. It was the beginning of a journey toward inner peace, of learning when she was responsible and when someone else is.
In her debut memoir FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS (Beacon Hill Publishing Group, 2009) Karen skillfully weaves scenes from her past with wisdom gained years later. More than a memoir, this book is a warm and wise journey about learning how to believe in yourself so you can work on the things you can change while accepting those you can't.
Karen, what advice would you give to someone who's thinking about writing a memoir?
Don't do it! Only kidding. Writing memoir is not for the weak. If done well, it pulls at every part of us to tell our truth and tell it in a compelling, healing way. You have to have done all your emotional healing prior to writing, because otherwise you'll come off resentful, angry, hurt; whatever feelings you haven't resolved will appear on the page—and not in a good way. You'll either make yourself sound like a victim or make the others in your life appear to be villains.
How do you know whether to write what you know as a memoir or use it as the basis for a fictionalized novel?
That's a good question, Michelle. I tried fictionalizing one part of my story when I went back to college to get my degree. The feedback I got was, "That character doesn't ring true—no one would behave or think that way." It cracked me up because it had happened exactly as I had written it. I was the character.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Reliving the painful past, no question about it. But it was cathartic as well.
What message in your book do you hope will most resonate with your readers?
To listen to your intuition. Those little niggles and whispers that let us know what we are about to do might not be such a good idea. Or the opposite—that we should go for that dream.
What marketing have you found works best for your genre?
Blogging and building up a following.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism came from an online reader who chose to write a review (this was not someone who normally writes book reviews) who proceeded to personally attack me for the choices and decisions I'd written about. But that was one person out of many others who recognized that I was writing about a journey where I grew from someone who made poor choices to someone wise enough to know better.
Can you share a little about your current work with us?
In fall 2009, I visited Scotland and Ireland on vacation with my husband. While there, a voice came to me and said, "Tell my story." I've been discovering who and what that voice is every since. It is a novel set in pre-history. That's all I can say, except it is the most extraordinary journey I've undertaken so far. I am also working on a nonfiction book on aging and pondering a sequel to my memoir, which would focus much more specifically on healing from sexual abuse.
Thank you so much, Michelle, for these thoughtful questions and for supporting authors the way you do.
Thank you, Karen, not only for being here today but for your empowering and liberating words. Reading FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS was like having a loving mother, sister, best friend, religious counselor and self-help therapist all in one. And I loved your message that everyone is a work in progress but that inner voice is always there and always on our side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After more than 30 years in marketing and public relations, Karen Walker began writing full time in 1999. Before FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS, Karen's published work included essays and articles in newspapers and magazines.
She writes, sings, folk dances, plays the guitar, reads voraciously, hikes, and "loves hanging out with friends, laughing, talking and playing games."
Karen lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband, Gary, and their dog, Buddy.
Visit Karen at http://karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com/.
FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS is available in paperback and as an eBook.
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