Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On Tour: Author Karen E. Olson

Greetings, and welcome to my first ever blog hosting experience. First let me extend a warm welcome to my regular visitors and to any new visitors who may be stopping by for the first time. Our guest blogger today is Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mystery series. As I am a crime fiction reader who enjoys reading about strong female protagonists, there is little wonder that I took to this series from the start. Karen is here today to tell us what inspired her to develop such a heroine and offer us a glimpse of her creative process.

Karen E. Olson has teamed up with several authors at the First Offenders blog, maintains her own blog at Amazon as well as her own website, and has somehow found the time to author three novels: Sacred Cows, Secondhand Smoke, and Dead of the Day.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Karen E. Olson.

I didn’t start out wanting to be a crime writer. In fact, until my early 30s, the only mysteries I read were Nancy Drew books when I was in fourth grade. I always associated “mystery” with Agatha Christie, and I tried one of her books when I was in high school and promptly decided it wasn’t for me. I am not one of those crime writers who read Hammett or Chandler, aspiring to their noir tradition. I wanted to write the Great American Novel — it says so right in my high school yearbook —so in what I thought was preparation for that, I read the classics through college and, during the ‘80s, all those Oprah books.

The first Oprah books were weighty tomes about women who were victimized and managed to pull themselves up out of deep holes. They were about abused women, both mentally and physically, who didn’t know a Glock from a .22 and rarely used a four-letter word. By the end of these books, I was so depressed and emotionally spent that it would take days to get up the energy to move onto the next one, worried about my gender and what its future held.

The last Oprah book I read was Wally Lamb’s “She’s Come Undone.” It undid me. That poor girl in that book; if one more horrible thing happened to her, I was going to have to commit myself. While I was wallowing in her misery, a friend gave me two paperbacks to take with me on vacation in the Caribbean, two mysteries. One by Sara Paretsky. The other by Marcia Muller.

I told my friend I didn’t read mysteries, but he urged me to try. I packed them in my suitcase and they went to the beach with me. I read both of them twice in one week. I couldn’t get enough of them, their sassy, kick-ass women private eyes, VI Warshawski and Sharon McCone. These women didn’t take any crap from anyone, and they were in charge. They took a beating, too, but they gave it back even more than they got. They solved the crimes, caught the bad guys. I felt empowered by these books that gave women such power and didn’t make excuses.

I began reading every woman crime novelist I could find: Sue Grafton, Lillian O’Donnell, Patricia Cornwell, Jan Burke, Karen Kijewski were just some of them. Fortunately, they all wrote series books, so I had more than just one book to savor. After about a year, it dawned on me: This was the type of book I wanted to write. I wanted to write about a woman this strong.

It took a couple of tries, but then Annie Seymour was born. She’s a tough-talking (yes, that means she uses four-letter words) crime reporter. She has a healthy appetite for food and sex and is someone I could definitely see hanging out with. She’s got strong ethics but doesn’t take herself too seriously. She can kick some serious ass.

And she most definitely never comes undone.

Thank you Karen and thank you all for coming to the site. Be sure to come back tomorrow for my review of Karen E. Olson's new book, Dead of the Day. You can also find my reviews of her prior books on this blog, Sacred Cows and Secondhand Smoke.


  1. Hi Karen (and, of course, Literary Feline)!

    This is terrific! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your journey to writing about Annie. It makes perfect sense. :)

    My plan is to read Sacred Cows in December. I'm looking forward to it, even more so now.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a great interview. It's inspiring to a NaNoWriMoer that after a few tries and really working things through good stuff can come from it.

    I can't wait to get my hands on one of those books.

  3. What a great post, and what a way to find your niche! I admire your reasons for finding your way. :)

  4. Ok. You guys have sold me. Looks like I need to head out and find one of Karen's books!!

    Great post!

  5. Joy, I hope you enjoy Sacred Cows!

    Nik, it took a couple of tries before I found Annie, but it was so worth it.

    Heather, I had no idea what would happen once I read those first two mysteries my friend gave me!

    I'm thrilled to be here today, and all my thanks to Wendy for such a great introduction!!

  6. Well, now I'm all kinds of curious. Looks like I'll have to give this series a shot.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed the guest post! I need to get a hold of Secondhand Smoke and catch up with Annie's adventures.

  8. Thanks Wendy for hosting this!

    Thanks to Karen too for sharing her story. It's inspiring. I'm definitely picking up your books after this. Annie sounds like my girl.:D

  9. Thank you, Karen! I enjoyed this opportunity very much.

    And thanks to everyone for stopping in!

  10. This was great! I can relate to the comments about reading novels of women who have been kicked and broken vs. the novels with strong women who do what it takes when things get tough. I love stories about women who kick butt! I sat here nodding my head in yes fashion all during this interview. I'm finishing up a book (of the first variety) for a book club meeting this month. I can't wait to finish it and read Sacred Cows!

  11. What a great post!

    I am more or less new to mystery. It was only recently that I discovered that, contrary to what I expected, I actually enjoy it a lot. Karen E. Olson is definitely an author I want to try.


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