Monday, September 02, 2013

Scene of the Crime with Author Karen Charlton!

After growing up with two genealogists in the family, I enjoy mysteries that involve shaking family trees in order to dislodge secrets and crimes. (The fact that I'm related to Black Bart and Jesse James may also have a bearing on my interest.) Authors like Charlotte Hinger in the U.S. and Steve Robinson in the U.K. know how to use historical documents to discover whodunit. This week's featured author, Karen Charlton, may not have a character who's a genealogist/ sleuth, but she does know how to search for fascinating tidbits in her own family history and use them in her books. Today, you'll be treated to my interview with Karen. Wednesday, she'll be a guest here on Kittling: Books to tell us how she uses family history as a framework for her novels, and on Thursday you'll be able to read my review of Karen's latest book, The Missing Heiress, on the day of its release in the U.S. Welcome to Karen Charlton Week here on Kittling: Books!

Karen Charlton
I've done a bit of my own research in order to provide you with some links so that you can learn more about this talented writer:

I'm so pleased that Karen is my guest this week, and I refuse to wait any longer-- on to the interview!

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

I can’t remember the first book I ever read – but I do remember the first book that made me cry:  J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit.   I was enthralled by Tolkien’s imagination and the wonderful world of elves, dragons and hobbits he created.  Sadly, at the end of the story my two favourite dwarves were killed in battle and I burst into tears in the classroom.  I was about eight years old at the time, and I can still remember the concerned teacher asking me if I was alright.  This was an unforgettable incident; I had no idea how powerful literature could be before then. 

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

Apart from my interest in genealogical research, I enjoy reading, the theatre, and a weekly trip to the village pub quiz.  My quiz team rarely win but we have a good chat, drink a few beers and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

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.)

The Ship Inn, Marske-by-the-Sea
I live in a small, sleepy fishing village on the North East coast of England called Marske-by-the-Sea.  Our village was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, that great survey of England and Wales which was instigated by William the Conqueror.  Sadly, nothing of the original medieval village remains but parts of it are still very quaint and olde-worlde, and we have a fabulous eight mile stretch of golden sand on our doorstep.  So if you fancy a bracing walk beside the North Sea anytime Cathy, please just give me a call!

[It would be my pleasure-- and not my first bracing walk beside the North Sea!]

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

Dame Helen Mirren
For my life story we would need an incredibly versatile and skilled actress who can flit backwards and forwards from comedy and the down-right ridiculous to grim tragedy in a couple of scenes.  For that reason, I would cast Dame Helen Mirren as me.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Sherlock Holmes.  His genius is undeniable. 

If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

 I would love to own a signed first edition copy of the first book in the Poldark series by Winston Graham:  Ross Poldark.  I loved that series and read it over and over again.  Graham was a master at reproducing the sights, sounds, smells and dialect of late eighteenth century Cornwall.  He could spin a good plot too and created many memorable characters that still people my imagination. Apart from those brilliant main characters, Ross, Demelza, Elizabeth and the brooding George Warleggan, I thoroughly enjoyed the minor characters:  the crude and hilarious Paynters, the lecherous Sir Hugh Bodrugan and the tragic Morwenna.  A master storyteller, it would be an honour to own a signed first edition of one of Winston Graham’s novels.

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? 

It was quite late in the evening when I first discovered that a publisher was interested in my debut novel, Catching the Eagle.  Knox Robinson Publishing sent me an email which requested the full manuscript for consideration.  I had already gone to bed when my husband, Chris, spotted this email in my inbox.  Snoozing is a favourite hobby of mine and I tend to be rather unpleasant when disturbed in the middle of the night, so this situation threw Chris into a terrible dilemma; did he leave it until the morning to tell me – or should he risk a barrage of abuse and wake me up? 

Eventually, the brave man decided to go with the latter course of action.  He came upstairs, shook me roughly on the shoulder and hissed in my ear:  "Don’t shout at me.  You need to come downstairs and see a message on the computer."

Half-asleep, I grumbled (but didn’t shout) and padded downstairs in my slippers and nightie to read the email.  We were ecstatic.  It was only a request to see the full manuscript – not an offer of publication - but I had got a baby toe in the door of a publishing house.  We were too excited to go back to sleep and stayed up for hours drinking tea in the kitchen and celebrating.

Name one thing on your Bucket List.

Greece, perhaps?

I would love to own an apartment (complete with swimming pool) somewhere in the Mediterranean.  This summer has been glorious in the UK, but unfortunately this meteorological phenomenon only happens once every thirty years. The weather in Britain can get me down –especially in the winter - and I would love to have a bolt hole somewhere in the Med where I can sit and write books in warm, winter sunshine.

You've just received a £100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?

Guisborough Bookshop.  It is a small, friendly and privately owned little store which has supported me ever since I became a published author.   I did my last book launch there and am regularly invited back to do book signings.  Lovely people.

Available September 4!

Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Karen. It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you a little better. May your book sales do nothing but increase!

Don't forget to stop by on Wednesday and Thursday as Karen Charlton Week continues! Karen will be telling us how she uses family history in her books, and I'll let you know all about her latest book, The Missing Heiress!


  1. Thanks, Cathy, for an interesting interview. I look forward to reading more about Karen Charlton, her writing techniques and her latest book.

  2. What a nice interview, and I love the idea of a walk on the beach by the North Sea and stopping by the pub. Now, that pub thing the British have is quite a good idea -- wish that happened in my city. The nearest coffee shop doesn't quite make it.

    1. Here in the States, we try to have pubs, but it's something we just can't seem to do. The Lancashire Lad who lives here tried going to the George and Dragon, which is about two miles away. Even though it calls itself an English pub, Denis doesn't agree!


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