Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Blogger: Karen Rose Smith

Please join me in welcoming Karen Rose Smith to the playground today! We're really excited she joined us on the swingset for a discussion of her latest book The Bracelet. It's an August Everlasting Love release that looks absolutely fabulous! Our very own Playground Monitor has gotten an early preview and raves about the journey of this hero and heroine through a lifetime of love. Welcome, Karen.

My latest book--THE BRACELET--is different from the storylines I usually write. It is a love story but in a much broader context. THE BRACELET is a book conceived in my heart with a plotline that flowed easily because of my experiences in the 1960’s. Although fiction, it is set in my hometown of York, Pennsylvania and has more of “me” in it than any book I’ve ever penned. It's my 59th. I know--what took me so long? Maybe the passing of time and the right venue.

Every novelist writes a book at some point in her career that is quintessentially “hers”…that book which reflects her life experiences in pure fiction yet pure feeling. I attended college in the late sixties and early seventies. I was part of the moratorium day for peace that swept the country, especially on college campuses. As I wrote to a serviceman in Vietnam, I waited hopefully and fearfully for each letter from him. In 1969 my husband and I faced the draft lottery. The plotline of this book unfolded so naturally that at times the emotional depth of it and the memories that rushed back were overwhelming.

This book is a personal book. My childhood neighborhood is my heroine's childhood neighborhood. Brady's childhood neighborhood is where some of my friends lived. Each landmark I named--like the hospital, the library and the Yorktowne hotel--has a personal significance for me. That's why I included pictures of them on my website ( I also included a photo album of the Vietnam Memorial for the same reason.

Although THE BRACELET practically wrote itself, capturing the devotion and the turmoil in my couple’s thirty-three year marriage was a challenge that sometimes left me breathless with the joy of writing. This book might look like a “category” romance on the outside, but THE BRACELET is a novel about the Malone family, how the Vietnam War affected Brady Malone’s life as well as impacted his future. It is a novel about Laura, the woman who loved him deeply enough to be devoted to him for her lifetime in spite of what he experienced…in spite of the tears in their marriage…because of the bond with Brady that enveloped her heart the first day she met him at an anti-war demonstration on the York, PA courthouse steps.

What happens in the past, stays in the past? Never. Brady’s experiences impact every relationship he has. Suddenly he realizes he could still lose Laura if he can’t finally form a bond with their eighteen-year-old adopted son.

THE BRACELET is an emotional family story as well as a love story. I know I will probably never write a book that affected me as much as this one did. And now that I've written this type of book, I know I need to write more of them to keep me creatively alive. I like writing category romances and I can't see ever giving that up. I love plotting the perfect couple and a wonderful happily ever after. I've always been able to include secondary characters in my romances. But now I want to explore them more completely. I want to delve into the relationships that in category I'm forced to keep on the surface.

I wrote THE BRACELET as a single title. In its original version, there was more emphasis on Brady's and Laura's son Sean, his POV and his life. I had to change that because my editor wanted more emphasis on the couple. I made the changes because there was so much more to this book that was important to me to see in print. But next time, I want to do it all.

For 59 books I thought I was writing the books of my heart. But now I know what that phrase really means.

I'm going to sign off with a few questions for you to think about or post on. Are you writing what you want to write? If not, what keeps you writing what you are writing? Do you know what you want to write or does it change from season to season, year to year?

Peace and love,
Karen Rose Smith

One lucky commenter will receive an autographed copy of THE BRACELET plus this beautiful one of a kind Swarovski crystal bracelet in pastel shades. Other commenters will be selected to receive discount coupons good toward the purchase of THE BRACELET, which will hit the stands on August 1st.


KRS said...

Hi! Just wanted to try this out. I look forward to blogging with you.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I've read an "Everlasting Love" book, but as a child of the '60s, I look forward to reading "The Bracelet."

As I was reading the blog, I remembered two bracelets from that era. One had the name of an MIA soldier and the other is a lovely charm bracelet given to me one Christmas by a boyfriend. He said each charm had a special meaning and combined they told a story. However, we broke up before I learned either the meanings or the story.

At least with your "bracelet," I'll know the story.

PC's Mom

cas2ajs said...

Beautiful bracelet and I look forward to reading "The Bracelet". Thanks for talking with us today.


Jen said...

Karen, what a lovely, lovely story and I think it's interesting that for 59 books you thought you were writing the book of your heart. I think sometimes it takes time for the book of our heart to evolve or surface.

Angel said...

Welcome to the Playground, Karen!!! I'm glad you've joined us today.

What a wonderful story about how this book came to life. Often to me, hearing the "story behind the story" enhances the reading experience. And as a writer, I just love to hear how other writers work. :)

Funny, I have struggled with this very thing lately. We're often told to write with a target in mind. But not too close, you might lose your voice. As a category author, how do you find the balance between writing for the line and making it your own?


Nini said...

Hi Karen...

Your blog maks me want to go out and buy the book right now, pajamas, no make up, and hair looking like a rat's nest.

Am I writing what i want to write? You know, i thought i was a few weeks ago. I was typing every day and then all of a sudden, i couldn't see them anymore. I couldn't see where i wanted to go, what i wanted to do. They weren't talking to me. I heard new voices in my head. So.....

I put away the other ms and began work on a short story. It's about love through time and i'm loving every minute of writing it.

I'm a new writer, so to speak. I've been writing small pieces for a few years, but got serious about it, within the last year or so. I'm pre-published (love that word instead of not an author), and am still hoping one day i will be post published.

Thanx for this:

But next time, I want to do it all.

Me too...i want to do it all!

Nini :)

Instigator said...

Great to have you on the playground, Karen!

I think each and every story has some piece of me and my life inside...some more than others.

Aside from the inherent differences in story, what has been the biggest challenge in writing for several different lines over the course of your career?


KRS said...

I've always loved jewelry. I started collecting it when I was a teenager. My dad might have had something to do with that. He gave me a diamond chip necklace on my 16th birthday and a tiny gold heart one Christmas. So each piece has memories attached to it. What has become very symbolic to me is a peace charm my mother-in-law gave me after my husband and I got engaged. After wearing it through the 70's, it lay in my jewelry box until recently when I began making jewelry. The time seemed right again to wear it, and I incorporated it into a necklace that I now wear often.
Anything about the 60's still draws me in. That's when my couple met and fell in love. Doing research for the book, I dug through my old boxes of keepsakes and found a SEVENTEEN magazine from 1969, along with a RAVE from England. I was deep into the British music scene. It's amazing how all the fashions are back right now. Hairdos too. Everything truly is cyclical.


Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Karen. I'm interested to read your book for several reasons - one, that was a really interesting period in history, two - I'm interested in knowing how you can span a 33 year marriage within the confines of your pages. Seems like an impossible task, so congratulations on achieving it. I'm looking forward to it.

As to your question, yes, I write what I want to. I don't sell what I want to, but I do write it. :)

What's next for you? Are there more Everlasting Love releases on the horizon?


KRS said...

Angel--When the Everlasting Love line was first introduced, it was likened to Nicholas Sparks's books. So I had no pre-conceived notions when I began the proposal and wrote it as a single title. After 58 category books, I understand the genre well. In my category romances, I soften real life. THe focus is always on the romance, not on any particular issue or topic. My last series for Special Edition included the wild horses of Wyoming because I feel strongly about their preservation. But the three books were focused on babies. My heart belonged with a marketable theme.

In THE BRACELET I wrote with no rules, no subconscious guidelines. That's why it was such a challenge, yet a joy. But I don't think I can make, in fact I know I can't make, every book this personal.

So to answer your question, in category I try to find some aspect that excites me and I feel deeply about. Then I combine that with marketability. But THE BRACELET is not a category novel to me. Maybe it's just my perception of it.

Nini--How you write and what you write depends on why you write. I still love writing, but this is a job for me. I get more excited about some books than others. Some are a breeze and others are a real chore. But if they're under contract, they have to be finished.

Last winter, I worked on a continuity book that should have been easy for me. I created the heroine in a previous continuity series where she was the secondary character. But that was part of the problem. I didn't create her to be a heroine. She gave away her baby and I had trouble relating to that in a heroine. On top of that, in the continuity plot the editors gave me a hero who was 17 years older. The heroine was 21. Along with that, I had had double eye surgery. Each sentence of that book was like slogging through mud. But the finished product came out okay and did well, unlike some books that are closer to my heart (I wrote one about a trauma make-up artist earlier in my career that tanked).

This is a crazy business, maybe because we can't cage our muse so he or she is there when we need him or her.


KRS said...

Instigator--I liken writing for a line to the way I studied and responded to teachers in school. I always spentr the first few weeks in a class trying to learn to know the teacher--how she thought, what she wanted, how she gave testes. If I could figure all that out, I could do pretty well in her class.

Whe I started writing, there were many category lines. The trick was to figure out how one was different from the other and what the editors of each line wanted. Before I submitted to a line, I read many many of the books in the line. No so with Everlasting Love. No books were yet published.

Now I have an instictive grasp of what I write best and how I have to work. When Silhouette Romance closed, I was asked to submit to HR. But my gut instinct saw the new guidelines and a little voice inside kept crying, "No, no, no!" I listened, and I'm glad I did because I wrote the Everlasting Love instead.

Smarty Pants--I don't know if there are any more Everlasting Love releases on the horizon. Special Editions are my main focus right now, and I'm finishing a new series that begins in February. But I've also written a proposal for a single title which is making the rounds. I want to write family dramas...women's fiction. Because that's what I like to read. And that's the challenge I want for the future. So we'll see what happens next.

I've been married 36 years. In every marriage there are turning points and key situations that describe the marriage. THE BRACELET is probably half-contemporary, half-flashback, but all interwoven. I can't wait to see what everyone thinks about that.


diane said...

Hi Karen,
I enjoyed your fascinating and interesting blog. The Bracelet certainly is an enthralling and wonderful story which I look forward to reading. It is so inspiring and beautiful. Thanks for being here. I remember receiving a unique charm bracelet many years ago when I was a child, from my mother and I still cherish that special bracelet.

sharon said...

Welcome Karen,
I enjoyed reading your blog today. I found it extremely interesting and I know that this book will be captivating. I have been married 37 years and there are many stories to tell but I know that I will enjoy The Bracelet greatly and I will cherish this special book.

Kathy said...

Love spanning 3 decades, driven by a compelling need to see a loved one safe, to guide a loved one back to peace. The Bracelet sounds like a great book and brings back many memories of my childhood. Recollections of when my Dad served in Vietnam, MIA bracelets, soldiers arriving home to get spit in the face, my Mom being told she was married to a baby killer, my Dad suffering horrible nightmares for years. As a child watching the news and wondering if the dead soldier on the TV screen was my Dad, I saw the world a little differently back then. And over the years we've all seen vets who haven't been able to make the transition from war to peace.

What excites me about this book is that struggle... to find love, to feel free to experience it and reconnect with it and one woman's persistent legacy to prove her hero was worth it.

Just hearing your description gives me goosebumps. I write what I want to write. Perhaps that's my problem, but that gives me joy. When you write from the heart how do you deal with emotions that rise during the process? And like children who grow to adulthood, how easy is it for you to let go?


pearl said...

Your meaningful blog has definitely resonated with me today. I know that this book will be memorable and I can hardly wait to enjoy this story. I can only admire someone who can write a book of this type from your heart.

Playground Monitor said...

I used to think I knew what I wanted to write. I wanted to write for a particular line. I started two books and got a few chapters in and realized I really didn't know what happened next nor how to figure it out. Then they changed the guidlines for that line and those books won't fit it any more. I started looking at another line and it closed. Meanwhile I took a detour and began writing short stories for magazines. I've sold a dozen or so.

Then last week I began plotting a new story and the more I got into it, the more I realized it wasn't a short story at all. It couldn't be told only in the female POV; we had to be in the hero's head too. And as I've delved further into it, I'm about 99% sure that this really isn't the heroine's book after all. It's the hero's book -- his story is the real one to be told and the heroine's circumstances just trigger it. Only... I'm not sure yet what his backstory is.

So now after reading over 250 books for a line I don't even like any more, I'm having to start reading a new line so I can get the feel for it. I've read a few books and am pretty sure I've got the right place for the story. I just have to conquer the fears and write it.

Did't mean to turn this into a tome. I just have a lot of plotting to do and the other Playfriends will help I'm sure.

I'll still write the short stories because I can make a little money to offset my expenses.


Playground Monitor said...

Oops! Forgot to mention the book.

I was lucky enough to read it early and all through it I knew people would relate to the story -- especially folks who grew up during the 60's and 70's. I started college the same year the hero and heroine of THE BRACELET met.

I've only read a few of the Everlasting Love books; I have a couple on my TBR mountain. They are classified as category romance but they do have a more single title feel to them because they cover more than a few weeks or months of the characters' lives.

I've already seen THE BRACELET on the shelf in a few spots around here, so those of you who want to read it might be able to snag a copy now. Of course somebody's gonna win a copy and that gorgeous bracelet.


ruth said...

When I read your blog it brought back memories of those times. I am enmeshed within that era now and have great fondness for that time. I live in a community that seems to be in that timewarp which I welcome. Your novel will be my summertime book to savour. Thanks for this great introduction.

KRS said...

I'm reading all of your comments very carefully. Thank you for expressing your opinions. I'll respond specifically to any who have asked questions. When I began THE BRACELET I didn't realize how relevant it was to we are repeating so much of what happened in the 60's and 70's. Back then I didn't have the courage to be fully a part of the anti-war movement or women's consciousness-raising (though I did belong to a group for a while where we talked about whether women should take their husband's last names when they married and how our bodies were our own responsibility). The ironic thing is now I do feel ready for it, yet physically can't participate in it. I ask myself the questions...why aren't we seeing the war on TV like we did in Vietnam and why aren't there more protests? Servicemen leaving the service with problems from war affect all of us. I know I can't understand the PTSD our veterans must face, but I was diagnosed with it a long time ago and can fully understand my hero's panic attacks, nightmares and hyper-vigilance.

Kathy--You asked how do I deal with the emotions that arise during the process. That's the part that was very difficult, yet therapeutic, too. I write with a tape recorder. I would turn it on and just let the words and emotions flow. I didn't let go of them as much as embrace them and I remembered so many beautiful things from back then, as well as the difficult times.

No matter what the guidelines for a line, you still have to write the story that is right for you. I'm not talented with comedy. I can get to the bottom of emotion. So when I chose a hero and heroine and their story, I look at the emtional aspects of their lives and include those.

Ruth--I'd love to be in that kind of timewarp. This year I'll be attending my 40th high school reunion. Last winter I learnied that my classmates were getting together once a month. They "found" me, and I've been participating in the gatherings. They have been such a gift with the renewal of friendships and sharing the memories that bonded us together. It was one of those serendipidous things that I never expected to happen, but just seemed so right.


Pat L. said...

I love an emotional read. This one sounds great.

The bracelet is very pretty.

jenna said...

Your story is exceptional. I am becoming more and more nostalgic as the years go by and this book has the emotions and the characters that tear at the heartstrings. I treasure books that create that emotional pull.

Stacy S said...

Congrats on the 59 books!! WOW! I will have to find this book. My fil served 2 tours in Vietnam. And about 2 years ago found out he had cancer. They say it was from the agent orange. He's doing good now.

robynl said...

For me this had brought back memories also. I love the concept of your story and how it came about; looking most foward to reading The Bracelet.
I LOVE the bracelet you are giving away; I have a charm bracelet from the 70's and now have an Italian charm bracelet that seems so popular. The bracelet itself with the charms can tell a 'life story' so to speak. Love it!!!
How exciting for you to feel you have 'arrived' so to speak with this story.

Sue A. said...

Karen, I can't help but think that the times we're facing makes the timing of the quintessentially "you" book more poignant and that much more meaningful. So many families are now dealing with their own fears resulting from the separation and the uncertainties brought about during times of war, that I feel the book comes at a time when we can feel, need and understand it more deeply.

Maureen said...

Congratulations on book 59. That is quite an achievement. I was in grammar school during the Vietnam War but I do remember that it was a scary time.

sabrina said...

Congratulations on this book release. You have touched upon an important topic. I love the entire premise for this story and it is close to my heart. Your use of the flashback and the present are wonderful methods. I enjoy that type of approach. The bracelet is enchanting and unique.

KRS said...

Stacy--I didn't go into Agent Orange in detail. There are still lots of questions about it. The veterans who helped me with my research did go into it with me. But in the story, the heroine has had miscarriages and one of their children died of SIDS. SIDS has possible connections to Agent Orange. This is something the hero blames himself for.

My charm bracelets were started years ago. They're one of the things that gave me the idea for this book. It was a great device for slipping into the flashbacks because it does tell the couple's story.

When I started making necklaces and bracelets, the Swarovski crystals took my eye right away. They catch the light and sparkle. I can't wait to give this one away.

Our son is coming home tomorrow from across the country. He'll on;y be here for the weekend. So I'm trying to finish up work today. I finished a chapter on a continuity book I'm working on and just marveled at how much easier this book is to write than some others. This one wasn't my story and I can't say it's a real "book of my heart," but I like these characters so much and the conflict just seems to push them forward. I love when writing is easy and I can stay on schedule. Now I'm going to bake scones.


Playground Monitor said...

As an interesting little aside...

One of our very own Heart of Dixie RWA members, Clifford Gissell, helped Karen with her Vietnam era research. He was a special forces member and when Karen was looking for someone to contact, he graciously agreed to help her. Aren't romance writers the greatest?


KRS said...

PM--Once I found you, everything got easier. Your comments on the manuscript greatly helped my eyes. And when you put me in touch with Clifford, the accuracy and reality of my hero's experiences came alive. When I first started writing the book, I couldn't find Vietnam vets who would talk about their experiences. I even contacted VFW's. And I respected that. But Clifford was open with me and helped with technical issues. He even read the few snipits directly concerning Brady's experience. It was shortly after I e-mailed with him that a teacher at my husband's school put me in touch with a Vietnam vet who was a friend of hers. After a long conversation with him, I had even more reality. About that same time, I found oral journals that someone doing a paper at a local college had kept. All of it was fascinating, wrenching and opened my eyes even further. I'm grateful for all the help I received to make this book more than a romance.

I'm curious what you all think of the cover. If I get a few comments, I'll tell you how I feel about it. I guess my question is, what would you expect when you pick ed up this book if you hadn't talked with me or heard about it beforehand?


Cherie J said...

Lovely bracelet. The Bracelet sounds like a wonderful story. I loved your story about how this book came into being. I am not a writer so I can't answer your Questions about writing the story of my heart but I can stay that in this stage of my life I am doing what I want to do, raising my 2 kids. A true labor of love.

Playground Monitor said...

Ah, the cover. If I had no clue what the Everlasting line was about, I'd think this was about a man who gave a woman a bracelet as part of his attempt to woo her. It would cover the span of a few weeks or maybe even a few months.


KRS said...

Cherie--With my son coming home this weekend I'm trying to get ready by cooking, cleaning his room, etc. He's 35 and the whole way across the country. So I miss him a lot. The truth is--I just said to my husband tonight, I can't write and get ready for him and visit with him at the same time. Both require all my heart and attention. So I understand why you love raising your kids and your life as it is.

PM--There are so many themes in this book that could have been expressed by the cover...or even with symbols on the back--a snap of Brady in combat gear, a peace sign, flower power and ribbons. I'm just hoping readers will give the book a chance with this cover on it. But I think I could have reached a lot more with a different cover.


KRS said...

I just want to thank everyone for commenting on my blog today. It was a pleasure being here with you. Good luck to all of you who are pre-published! I wrote for six years and finished 13 manuscripts before I sold my first one back in 1991. If writing is a passion inside of you, you'll find an outlet for it.

Have a great rest of the summer.


catslady said...

I always hear that writers should write what they know and I think that always makes the best books!!