Finding the Mystery Behind Mystery Author Karen Dudley

Hey folks! I got the chance to pick the mind of Karen Dudley this past week. For more outstanding advice to emerging writers and other interesting things check out her beautiful website,

And don’t forget to come down and spend 100 minutes with Ms. Dudley, Saturday, May 1 @ 1:30pm in the Carol Shields Auditorium, Millennium Library, Downtown Winnipeg!

Kate: Hey Karen, thanks for chatting with me. You are an award winning writer of mystery novels and children’s educational books, two very different genres, do you see yourself writing in any other genres?

Karen: Writing in other genres can pose a bit of a challenge. It’s funny that you ask this question because I am currently working on a fantasy novel, though there is a murder in it, so I guess it’s more of a crossover than a completely new genre for me. Having said that, I’m having a great time writing the fantastical elements of the story. I’m not sure yet how it will be marketed (that’s not really up to me), but my feeling is that it’s more fantasy than mystery. And having said that, I’ve really been labeled as a mystery author than a non-fiction (or fantasy) author, so that can make a difference in how the book sells and how it’s marketed. All of this marketing stuff does sort of lurk in the back of my mind, but ultimately it doesn’t dictate what I write. It can’t, really. You need to love what you’re working on, or you’ll never finish it. In my case, I just wanted to write this particular story. If it comes out as a fantasy, I’ll deal with that then.

Kate: On your website you give some advice on writing, i love the Lawrence Block quote you mention, “the only way to write is to apply bum to seat and fingers to keyboard” do you have a disciplined writing schedule? Or is it more when you have the time, or when inspiration hits?

Karen: I used to be much more disciplined about my writing schedule before I became a mum. Now it’s a lot harder to find the time. I can really only write when my daughter is in school, so during the school day, I try to ignore the messy house, the dirty dishes, the chores that wait reproachfully for me, etc. Some days I’m successful, other days, not so much. It would be nice to write when inspiration hits, but quite frankly, that isn’t my life at the moment. The one thing I try to do is to write a bit each day–or at least, look at what I’ve already written. This way, the book stays fresh in my mind, so when I get a longer stretch of writing time, I’m not wasting it attempting to get back into the world and its story.

Kate: You also mention rejection letters, the bane of every emerging writers existence. Were you at it for a long time before you got your first novel published?

Karen: It felt like a long time, but I was really one of the luckier ones. I think it took about a year, maybe a year and a half, before I sold my first novel. When I was starting the process, I read an article about the author who had won the Booker Prize that year. This woman had received 155 rejection letters before she’d finally sold the book that went on to win this prestigious award. After reading about this, I told myself I wouldn’t get depressed until I’d received 156 rejections. Fortunately, it didn’t take that long. I sold Hoot to Kill after 41 rejections.

Kate: Your website is great – funny and engaging – on it you have an extensive list of books that have inspired you – but what, if you had to chose, would be your favourite book of all time?

Karen: Oooooo…hard question! I just finished re-reading John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, which is fabulous. I love the early Orson Scott Card stuff, the Belgariad by David Eddings, and then there’s absolutely anything by Sharon Shinn and Jennifer Roberson. Hmmm. I don’t think I can narrow this down. Oh yes, and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, Barbara Hambly’s Darwath books, Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, and…arrrgh! I don’t think I can choose a favourite! If I’m ever stranded on a desert island, it had better be a very, very large island!

Kate: It IS a hard question isn’t it? Oh well, thanks for trying. Thanks so much Karen. See you next Saturday!

Katherena Vermette

One Response to “Finding the Mystery Behind Mystery Author Karen Dudley”

  1. Hilary says:

    Another great interview, Kate! I love the questions you ask – and, of course, the answers you get.
    Karen’s approach of ignoring everything else that you *should* be doing when time to write appears is a good reminder – I’m going to start working on not feeling bad about my messy apartment right away!