Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interview with author Karen Cantwell

I just had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Take the Monkeys and Run by Karen Cantwell. A great start of a new mystery/cozy series starring Barbara Marr, a suburban, movie-loving housewife. This book is filled with laughter and mystery to keep readers hooked.

Karen Cantwell has graciously agreed to be interviewed at Socrates’ Book Review Blog. Please join me in welcoming her and giving us a chance to see what makes her tick…

KC: Thank you for having me! I’m thrilled to be here.

1. Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

KC: I knew I wanted to write a mystery about a soccer mom who gets in over her head and I wanted to include a mystery about a long-vacant house. I have a friend who lives next to a house that has been vacant for over 30 years and is owned by someone else (a very CREEPY someone else) who lives in the neighborhood. Every time I would drive by that house, I would think, “How many people are buried in that house?” THEN, just before I started planning the story, my own neighbor told me the story about her first week in her house (this was back in the early 1970s) when her kids saw monkeys on the roof of their house and in the trees in their yard. She called the police, who never came, but strangely, an unmarked van did, scooped up the monkeys and disappeared mysteriously into the night. Well, my writer’s mind just went berserk and holy cow, Take the Monkeys and Run was born! Wow. That was a long answer. Hope I didn’t bore you!

2. Is Barbara Marr based on anyone specific that you know?

KC: Well, we’ve all hear of “Everyman” – I like to think of Barbara Marr as “Everymom.” She’s based on many moms I know, including me. :)

3. Who is your greatest influence in writing?

KC: Wow – that’s a tricky one. I’m going to say it’s really five authors, and I’ll list them in order of my discovery of their work:

Jane Austen, Mark Twain, John Irving, Tom Robbins, and Janet Evanovich.

I would say there are others, but those five to some degree or another impacted my own style of writing. I love their use of humor and they all have a gift for creating characters that are memorable.

4. Did you do any research for this book? What did that entail?

KC: Yes, I actually did do quite amount of research for this book. I knew really nothing about the FBI, so to stay as true as possible to the reality of what an FBI agent can and can’t do, I read a couple of different books on “The Bureau.” And some of what I learned did not appear in this book, but will in the next. Then it was on to the subject of laboratory animals – especially monkeys. That research was all conducted on the internet, and trust me, it’s not a pretty subject. I tried to put some of my own disgust with the subject into the book without making the story too serious, but truthfully, there are instances of excessive cruelty in laboratory animal testing that I think should be stopped. Finally, I knew nothing about the Mafia. For that, I consulted Mafia for Dummies. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Mafia for Dummies!

5. What is involved in your writing process? Do you outline the book ahead of time?

KC: I do outline ahead of time. I tried writing without one, but found I would paint myself into corners. Outlining helps me avoid that. That’s not to say that I don’t OFTEN veer from the outline once I get going, but it’s a general guide that helps me tremendously.

6. Where do you do your writing? A special room in the house? Outside your home?

KC: I write where ever I can – sometimes it will be in bed at night before I go to sleep, or at my kitchen table after the kids have gone to school. One of my favorite places is the county library near my house. I can reserve a room there for four hours, and I still have access to the internet for research and the ever-necessary, Dictionary.com! Of course, I have this dream writing studio – a separate little cottage with a state of the art computer and monitor, a treadmill, and a cabana boy to wait on me hand and foot while I toil. Like I said, it’s a dream!

7. How does your family feel about your writing?

KC: They think it’s cool that I’m selling books, but they’re annoyed when it takes my time from them.

8. What other books have you written? Have you written other genres?

KC: Take the Monkeys and Run was my first novel. Prior to that, I had written several plays and short stories, but had never been able to finish a novel. It was really a failed purpose of mine, actually. Once I decided to write a mystery however, it just clicked and I could FINISH that novel. I think it was because I had a clear ending to write toward. Now I love writing mysteries. I would also like to write middle grade books. I have one in the works.

9. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

KC: Not necessarily – I actually always wanted to be an actress, yet I loved writing and was much better at it than acting. At some point in my life – in my twenties I think – I decided that I wanted to be a published writer.

10. Do you have any idea how many books will be in this series?

KC: Not exactly, but I know it will be more than three but probably less than ten. I think that sometimes a series can wear itself out – a character can only do so much and then it gets old for the author and the reader.

11. Any hints for the next Barbara Marr adventure?

KC: The next book, Citizen Insane, is nearly complete. As for hints . . . well, you’ll meet most of the same characters – her daughters, her husband Howard, Colt, her mother and her friends Roz and Peggy. There are some new characters as well. She and Howard hit another bump in the marital road and . . . let’s just say, there’s some trouble in the local PTA.

After Citizen Insane will be Silenced by the Yams. I think that one sort of speaks for itself!

12. When can we look forward to the next Barbara Marr story?

KC: Right now I’m set to release Citizen Insane in April of 2011.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I look forward to the next adventure in Barbara Marr’s life.

KC: Thank you again for having me, Yvonne. It was fun!

Check out Karen's website at www.karencantwell.com and her book video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlCJKr9xvlE


  1. Terrific interview! Great questions and answers. This book sounds quite entertaining.

  2. Wonderful questions and answers. I've read the sample of Karen's work and love it and it's definitely on my soon TBR list. Wishing her the best of luck with her new book.

  3. Thank you Suko! It was a fun book to write.

    Thank you so much, Linda. :-) I hope you enjoy.


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