Please welcome Karen Wojcik Berner, who is on a blog tour with WOW (Women on Writing). For her other appearances, see her blog events at her site at the bottom of this post..
|Author Karen Wojcik Berner on a trip to England|
Caroline: For those readers who didn't meet you on your first visit to the blog, tell us about yourself.
Karen: I grew up in Elmwood Park, a small city-suburb on the border of Chicago. Although it was technically the suburbs, it felt more like the city. We took public transportation, not like in the true ‘burbs where I live now, in which everyone drives to everything.
I’m an only child who was definitely considered more of a bookworm in school. Not blessed with the hand-eye motor skill coordination necessary to play most sports, I spent my time reading on the front stoop, or singing and dancing in my room.
My husband and I have been married for almost twenty-two years. We have two sons, one in 7th grade and one who just left for college. Sniff. ((Wipes away small tear.))
Caroline: Oh, I know you miss the one who is in college. How long have you been writing?
Karen: Pretty much my entire life. My career began in early grammar school with the production of “The Car,” my beautifully colored and hard-bound with cardboard classic about a family coming to grips with selling the beloved family automobile. It sold one copy…to my parents.
The journalism bug bit me junior year in high school when I started writing for the school newspaper and became editor my senior year. Deciding to major in English and communications in college, I set out on my great adventure.
Over the years, I have written everything from newspaper articles to press releases for clown college to a restaurant menu to Mozart educational packets for a symphony orchestra. A magazine editor for ten years, I decided to take a break when I was pregnant with my second son. That’s when I got the idea for my first novel, A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (The Bibliophiles: Book One).”
Caroline: So your books are a series?
Karen: While I was writing WHISPER I fell in love with the book club members, the Bibliophiles, and thought it would be fun to write each of their stories. There will be six books, each of which will have a different “star” or two. For example, the first novel tells the stories of Sarah and Annie, which you might remember from my last WOW! blog tour. This time, Catherine Elbert takes the stage.
UNTIL MY SOUL GETS IT RIGHT is the second novel of The Bibliophiles series of stories about the lives of fictional suburban book club members.
Caroline: Certainly I remember FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, and I love series books. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Karen: I have three present-day authors who greatly influence and inspire me, my literary trinity, if you will. Anne Tyler is my guide for realistic fiction. Joyce Carol Oates is the writing beast, a fierce and prolific force, unafraid of any subject. And Maeve Binchy was the heart. And, of course, being an English major, I have a soft spot in my heart for the classics, particularly Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf.
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
Karen: Usually, you can find me in my upstairs office, which I grabbed before anyone else in the family when we first moved into our house several years ago. I am a firm believer in women writers having rooms of their own a la Virginia Woolf. Unless one of my kids gets there first to his homework. Or practice guitar. Or violin. Oh, well.
Believe it or not, I write everything out long-hand first on legal pads. I know, I’m a fossil, but I love the physical act of writing. When creating, I don’t want to have to think about typing. I like to let the words flow. After a couple of edits, I enter the work into the computer.
Caroline: Oh, your poor hand. Tell us something about you that would surprise or shock readers.
Karen: Oh, scandalous! There are no tabloid-worthy tidbits lurking in my closet. The most shocking thing about me would probably be that I think Marilyn Manson rocks. Her music tells many ultimate truths. One does not expect that of a forty-ish, short, round woman.
Caroline: Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?
Karen: Right now, I am putting the finishing touches on a digital holiday short story with Sarah and Annie, the characters from A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (The Bibliophiles: Book One). It will be released November 1st.
After that, it’s all about book three of the Bibliophiles, which will feature Spring, the leftover flower child, and Thaddeus, a computer programmer with the heart of a poet.
Caroline: Oh, I love holiday stories, especially those set at Christmas. What’s a fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you?
Karen: I host Flash Fiction Fridays on my blog, Bibliophilic Blather, every week. I don’t know if you are familiar with the form, but it is sometimes referred to as micro-fiction. On my blog, it is 1,000 words or less on any topic, penned by authors of all genres. The only theme months are October (horror), December (holidays) and February (romance).
If anyone is interested in contributing, there is a tab on my blog with all of the details. http://karenwojcikberner.blogspot.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Caroline: Sounds interesting. Do you have a quote that sums up how you feel about life?
Karen: Since I am fascinated by people’s backstories and what made them who they are today, I’d say one of my favorite quotes is from David Byrne, former frontman of the Talking Heads, from their song, “Once in a Lifetime.”
“You may say to yourself: ‘Well, how did I get here?’”
Caroline: I liked that song by Talking Heads. Would you share a blurb about UNTIL MY SOUL GETS IT RIGHT?
Karen: Sure, the tag line is: You can’t run away from yourself
Catherine Elbert has never been good at making decisions, whether it was choosing an ice cream flavor as a small child, or figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The only thing Catherine knew for sure was there had to be more to life than being stuck on her family’s farm in Wisconsin.
While watching a PBS travel show, Catherine becomes entranced by Portland, Maine. The ocean. The lobsters. The rugged coast. Nothing could be more different from the flat, nondescript farmlands of Burkesville.
Despite her parents threatening to disown her and her brothers taking bets on how many days until she comes home, Catherine settles on Peaks Island, off the coast of Portland.
She is finally free.
Or so she thought.
Caroline: What a great tag line, and it is so true. None of us is ever totally free, are we? Can you share an excerpt of the book to tempt us further?
Karen: Sure, Caroline. Here is the beginning of my second novel, UNTIL MY SOUL GETS IT RIGHT (The Bibliophiles: Book Two).
It takes a lot of effort to be ordinary-looking. Catherine performed the same morning routine the pretty girls did. The same shampoo, conditioner, blow dry, style, spray. The same moisturizer, concealer, foundation, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick. She checked herself out in the mirror. Ugh, still me.
Still a senior in high school who hesitated to use the term “farm girl” for fear of it being too clichéd after her English teacher defined the term as “the lack of thought.” Clearly, nobody aspires to be a stereotype, but, really, is everyone that original?
Who hasn’t grown up knowing the bitchy cheerleader, a dumb jock, the computer nerd, an overbearing mother, a distant father, a misunderstood old person, or an alienated artist, writer, musician or dancer? If everybody knows these people, are they really clichés or merely categories? Maybe the various cities, towns, neighborhoods, and blocks are really replicating microcosms? The same strands woven together to create one large tapestry of life?
Still living in boring-as-shit Burkesville, Wisconsin. The entire town consisted of a bank, post office, drug store, gas station, church, two schools and four taverns, all within a four-block area. Anyone could walk through it in about two seconds unless old Ben got a hold of you. Ben practically lived on the third-from-the-left bar stool at Pat’s Bar and Grill, Burkesville’s only real restaurant.
One day, Catherine and her friends were there for pizza and old Ben started blabbing to anyone who’d listen about how Bart Starr was the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Then this guy, Ernie, who usually goes to Padowski’s, but it was closed because the furnace broke, piped up with “Well, what about Dan Marino?”
Ben turned to Ernie like he was going to beat the shit out of him for even thinking of someone besides Starr, (a) because he’s a Miami Dolphin and (b) he’s not a Packer. Heaven forbid! Like there aren’t any other teams in the NFL. Catherine could not have cared less about the Packers. Who would wear green and yellow together anyway? Vomitosis.
“Moooooom! I hate sunny-side up.” There was something about the way the yolks jiggled, like teasing, googly eyes. Eat me, Catherine. Eat me.
“Everyone else likes them well enough.” Vintage Clara Elbert. Don’t deviate from what the men in the family want for breakfast. Eggs. Bacon. Homemade bread, toasted. Would it kill her to buy some fruit?
By nine o’clock on Saturday morning, her father had already put down fresh hay for the pigs and milked the cows. “Here ya go, Clara,” he said, placing a filled pitcher in front of her.
“Thanks, Hank. Boys, wash your hands.”
No matter how old the brothers were, Clara always referred to them as “the boys.” Of course, since they acted like little kids, maybe she was right. Catherine fiddled with her eggs, eventually covering the oozing yolks with bread. “So, Mr. Leary is nagging me about ‘my future plans.’ How am I supposed to know what I want to do with my life? I’m only seventeen.”
Russell smirked. “Yeah, like you’re so good at makin’ decisions.”
“Remember Dairy Queen?” Laughing, Peter pulled his sleeve over his left wrist and ran it across his face. Ma shot him a pulverizing look. He grabbed his napkin and wiped his mouth properly.
“I mean, really, even if I do go to college, what am I supposed to major in?”
Hank glanced at his wife, then at the boys. “You could work with us here.”
How could she tell her family that staying on Elbert Farm was the only thing Catherine was certain she could never do?
Copyright © 2012 Karen Wojcik Berner
Caroline: I loved the excerpt. Where can we find your books?
Karen: At these sites:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/until-my-soul-gets-it-right-karen-wojcik-berner/1110805199?ean=2940014423250
Caroline:: How about letting us know your links?
Karen: Here they are:
Author website: http://www.karenberner.com
Bibliophilic Blather (blog): http://karenwojcikberner.blogspot.com
Thanks for sharing with us today, Karen.
Readers, thanks for stopping by! As we say in Texas, all y'all come back.