Karen S. Bell likes to tackle social issues to which we can all relate in her writing. In her latest book, When a Stranger Comes, Bell explores the pervasive greed in modern society that directly impacts the health of our planet and all living species. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about this book and how her characters inspire her work.
Please give us a short introduction to what When a Stranger Comes is about.
The publishing business is daunting for a writer with no connections to get recognized. So, as a lark, I played with the idea of what it would be like to be a successful author and all that comes with it. The narrative quickly morphed into a story about greed and its accompanying insecurities. My MC, Alexa Wainwright, is fearful of losing her place as a best selling author. Would she be willing to make deal with devil to maintain her status? After a lightning bolt bursts from an otherwise blue sky, Alexa, is transported to an alternate universe where she signs an amazing book deal that is perhaps with the Devil himself. Alexa's pact with the Devil is also an allegory for the evil lurking in our midst. The social decay of modern society with its excessive greed, the ignorance of our political leaders, our indifference toward the survival of all species from the effects of climate change, among other environmental pressures, are perhaps brought forth by the darkest forces of human nature.
Although this is a thriller, the book also has elements of fantasy. Why did you take this approach?
I am always drawn to magical realms in my ponderings of the meaning of life. My two other books have mystical elements such as time travel, spirit guides, and the like. I am a seeker into the unknown aspects of life beyond science. My normal mundane routine removes me from this thinking, unfortunately, so it comes out naturally when I create characters and incidents from my imagination.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
Yes, definitely. Not so much as refuse but lead me on to different paths I hadn’t planned. When that happens, it validates my writing as perhaps a way of channeling spirit entities who speak through my stories and characters.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I create my own kindle books, print books, and covers. Some would suggest I get my covers done by others, but I’m too cheap. I also have created an audible book myself and I’m working on the one for this book. I taught myself how to edit the sound files. It’s quite fun but a slow process.
In this book you’re dealing with so many difficult themes – as a writer, do you feel a sense of responsibility? If so, how do you deal with this?
I like to address the difficulties we face in life. My debut dealt with the stresses of working while raising a family but had lots of humor. The MC finds herself in predicaments that are akin to an I Love Lucy kind of way. However, it somberly makes the point that maybe it's time society became matriarchal instead of patriarchal so that blending raising a family and having a career is easier with social programs to help. For example, in Germany a woman gets one year maternity leave and her job is held for three years. In my second book, I deal with the death of a spouse after just a few years of marriage but also how some women are absorbed by their marriages and lose their identities.
How do you come up with such brilliant ideas for conflict? The way the plot goes is just never what you expected it to be, you never know what might happen next!
These are the mysteries of writing that keep me enthralled. Plot twists just come to me as I write or whenever. I don’t plan ahead. When I’m in the zone so to speak ideas come all the time. So when I’m doing something other than writing a sentence will spring into my head or elaboration of an idea, or even the name of a character.
Have changes in your own life affected any of your characters?
Definitely. My latest book is being written in the third person but my other three are written in the first person. You could say I'm the star of all my works. Some aspect of myself. It’s funny whenever I get review where the reviewer didn’t like the main character, I take it personally, haha. My debut was inspired by my experiences in the workplace, the second was a cathartic exercise because my first husband died young.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
The money. Being rich in NYC and living well and buying whatever you wanted.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
I have terrible writing habits. Mostly avoidance techniques. I love the Pages software. It lets me write in my iMac and then at my lake house on my iPad. It opens the file right where I left it on either machine. Mind-boggling technology. After I sit down to write, I go shopping online, then I try some promotion sites for my latest book, check Facebook, check twitter for political tweets that make me mad then….I start a sentence or two. Usually, I rewrite my recent stuff to get going.
What are you working on right now?
I believe this will be my last project. It will be a trilogy or two book series about a magical B&B in Vermont. More importantly, it will address the dystopia brought about by climate change and how empowered women or goddesses, the feminine Divine will save the world.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?