Monday, May 28, 2012

Scene of the Crime with Author Karen E. Olson!

I have a friend with whom I share a lot of reading DNA who recommended the Tattoo Shop mysteries written by this week's featured author. Now... I'm about the last person you'll ever meet who will get a tattoo-- in fact I think the only reason I would get one is if someone told me it was the only way to save my husband's life. But a detail that insignificant isn't going to stop me from reading mysteries set in a tattoo shop, especially when they come highly recommended. (If I only read about things I liked, I wouldn't be able to answer the stray boxing question on "Jeopardy.") Lo and behold, I read the first of Karen E. Olson's Tattoo Shop mysteries, enjoyed the information about tattoos and their creation, liked the story, and loved the characters. Tomorrow you'll be able to stop by and read my review of the second book in the series, Pretty in Ink, but today... let's learn more about the author, Karen E. Olson.

Karen E. Olson
Karen, the creator of two mystery series, finds herself at a bit of a crossroads. She told me:

My fourth and last tattoo shop mystery Ink Flamingos came out in June 2011. I have written another crime novel, it's not a cozy, but much darker, and my agent's shopping it around. I am also working on a young adult book that I'm really excited about, and even my 15-year-old daughter loves it (and she is my harshest critic)! I have loved writing both my series, and I get emails all the time from readers asking for more. But I can't continue the Annie Seymour series because I can't write about newspapers anymore. They've changed too much, and I've been out of the business for six years. And I feel that while I enjoyed writing about Brett Kavanaugh and her tattoo shop, that series came full circle for me and it's time to move on. In some ways I feel that I'm at a crossroads, but in a very good way.

If you'd like to learn even more about Karen, you can visit her website, her blog, or her Facebook page. For more on her books, you can visit her page on Stop, You're Killing Me!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

I was a voracious reader as a child and read so many books. But the one that really affected me was Little Women, which I read when I was 9. I loved the four sisters, Jo in particular for her spunky character. By then I desperately wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I could really relate to Jo's dream of being a writer.

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

I work part time editing a medical journal at Yale and I have a 15-year-old daughter whom I have to take to various activities after school, so I don't have a lot of free time activities outside writing. But I still read a great deal. I always have at least one book going at all times. I've been reading a lot of YA books, since I'm writing one at the moment, and I have an obsession with Henry VIII and Tudor England, so I have quite a few biographies that I dip into from time to time.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

Wooster Square  ©selam dafla
I've lived in and around New Haven, Connecticut, most of my life. I used my Annie Seymour mystery series to show readers what the city is like (I used to be the travel editor at the New Haven Register, so I pulled those skills into my fiction) by writing about the restaurants and neighborhoods. If you were to spend one day in New Haven, I'd tell you to take a tour of Yale (the Gothic buildings are incredible), eat lunch at Louie's Lunch, home of the first hamburger, maybe take in a matinee at Yale Repertory Theater or the Shubert, check out the shops along Chapel Street, take a walk through Wooster Square (especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom!), and have pizza on Wooster Street.

We have a pizza war in New Haven: Modern Apizza, Sally's, and Pepe's. People are pretty much dedicated to one of the three. My dad grew up eating at Sally's, so that's where I usually go. It's amazing pizza, with a thin crust and the most amazing, buttery tomato sauce.

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

Parker Posey as Annie Seymour?
I have no idea. I have never thought about it. I was asked once who would play Annie Seymour in the movie, and I picked Parker Posey. I think she'd do a super job.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I have no favorite, but so many. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone, Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller, Jeff Shelby's Noah Braddock, Lori Armstrong's Julie Collins, JA Jance's JP Beaumont. The list could go on and on.

Name one book that you've read that you wish you had written. What is it about that book that made it come to mind?

I just finished reading Defending Jacob by William Landay. It was an amazing book and I actually said to a friend after I finished it that I wished I had written it. It's got great characters, an incredible plot, and an ending that hits you with a two by four.

How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published? What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

I went out to dinner with my family. I was on cloud nine, since it was my dream to someday be published. I have no recollection of the first time I saw one of my books in the bookstore, but I remember vividly reading my very first Publisher's Weekly review at the Apple Store in San Francisco. We were on vacation and had popped into the store, and I was playing around with one of the Macs and found an email from my editor with a link to the review, which was so stellar. I left the page up on the screen so others could see it, too, although I'm not sure anyone else cared.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

During one of my book events for one of the tattoo shop mysteries, I was talking about how some people get tattoos of their pets. A woman in the audience jumped up, came up next to me and lifted her pant leg to show everyone the very elaborate tattoo of her cat on her calf.

What's the best thing about eBooks? What's the worst?

I love my new iPad. I love reading books on my iPad. It's like reading a real book, and I can even download library books. But the worst thing is when I'm reading and really into the book and I get the message that there's only 10 percent of the battery left and perhaps I need to power it up. You don't have to do that with a print book.

On Sale Now!

Thank you so much for this opportunity to get to know you a little better, Karen. We certainly appreciate it-- and you have to know that we're looking forward to your next book!

May your book sales do nothing but increase!


  1. How many thousands of young girls identified with Jo in Little Women? All of us who dreamed of becoming writers, I guess. Lovely interview with a lovely woman. She's right about the tour of the Yale campus. It's one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world for my money. We used to have season tickets for Yale Rep when we lived in CT, but some of the plays were a little out of our league.

    1. I'll have to keep that in mind about the Yale campus!

  2. Great interview, I have the 1st tattoo book and haven't read it yet but they continue being recommended to me also.

    I wonder if Karen has any tattoos :-)

    I was just in New Haven this year, would definitely go back, I may have went to one of those pizza joints or at least walked past.

    I look forward to your review.

    1. It's funny to see how many of us have our favorite pizza joints. My favorite is a little place down in Bisbee, Arizona, which is good for me because it means I only indulge twice a year!

  3. GREAT interview and post.

    I love the Scene of the Crime Posts.

    Stop by my blog if you like.

    Giveaway going on at my site:


    Silver's Reviews

    1. I'm glad you like the series, Elizabeth. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Thanks so much for having me over here! And just to answer a question posed: I do not have tattoos. Not a one. After the research I did, I decided I was too chicken!

    1. Thanks so much for letting us know, Karen; you've made some inquiring minds very happy!


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